Blame it on the buggy: do first-time parents need to spend so much?

Expectant parents who want to spend less needn’t compromise on safety or quality – with a little research and planning they can get everything they need for under €1,500

If you stick to disposable nappies, make a point of piling your trolley high whenever they are on special offer and you will cut your bill in half

If you stick to disposable nappies, make a point of piling your trolley high whenever they are on special offer and you will cut your bill in half

Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 01:00

First-time parents are – generally speaking – clueless. It’s hardly their fault. They want to do the best for their children and are overcome with excitement and nerves – not to mention sleep deprivation. They are also constantly bombarded by messages about what they need to do and buy from long before their little darlings are brought kicking and screaming into the world.

One of the first victims of the befuddlement is budgets. Not even Pricewatch was immune. In the heady days of 2006 – when we were all being assured that the boom times would last forever – my first baby buggy came within weeks of buying my first car. The buggy cost nearly twice as much as the car – which was, admittedly, a clapped-out piece of junk – and came with a manual thicker than a phone book. At a cost of almost €1,300, it was just one more thing on a long list of hideously expensive items, some of which – like the powder-blue Lacoste dress bought in a moment of madness in BT2 for €70 – were barely used by a child happily oblivious to her dad’s stupidity.

Have things changed?
But have things changed for Irish parents since the credit dried up? Are people more canny?

It depends what you read. A survey carried ahead of the Pregnancy and Baby Fair, held in Cork and in Dublin earlier this month, claimed Irish parents spend up to €5,000 on getting their house – and life – in order ahead of their first child’s arrival.

The survey, carried out by SMA in conjunction with the event organisers, found that 62 per cent of those polled splashed out €2,000-€5,000 on their first child, with buggies and car seats making up the bulk of the spend.

Last week, Pricewatch put it to Twitter, and most respondents suggested these sums were about right. But it seems like an awful lot. Does the spend have to be so high?

A separate pricing survey, carried out by Mothercare, suggests it is possible to get all the essentials for significantly less. We totted up its figures and found that a baby can be kitted out with everything they need for no more than €1,300 – or the price of a boom-time buggy.

“Although times are tough, Ireland still has the highest birth rate in the EU, and just because parents want to spend less does not mean they need to compromise on safety or quality,” says Mothercare’s marketing director, Laura Ward. She says parents are getting more clued in, and are doing their own research, turning away from big-name, big-price brands in favour of own-brand alternatives.

“More and more parents are moving away from the designer pushchair and towards our own-brand travel systems, such as the Xpedior for €319.99. Any area where there’s choice presents big decisions, even on items such as baby monitors, where parents can spend anywhere from €35 for a great digital monitor up to 10 times that for video, movement and sound monitoring,” says Ward.

She adds a caveat about car seats. It is one area where popular brands retain an edge, although it’s still important to do your homework and not just splash out on the dearest model. “If a car does not have Isofix anchorage, then there is no use buying an Isofix car seat,” she says. “What’s the point in purchasing a branded pushchair if it doesn’t fit in your car boot or is too heavy to lift on or off the bus or is too wide for a narrow hallway?”

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