RAISING a child is one of life’s most joyous experiences, but it’s also one of the most expensive.
Aldi is donating 80,000 essential baby items from its Mamia range to charities and food banks across the UK in a bid to support new parents on low incomes.
There is also other help available, if you know where to look and you may also have rights to free childcare, prescriptions and Healthy Start vouchers.
To help you save money, we’ve rounded up the best deals for parents and how you can access them:
Baby banks and food banks
Families who are struggling to pay for meals are often referred to food bank run by the Trussell Trust or another community organisation.
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The Trussell Trust runs a nationwide network of around 1,200 food banks across the UK.
You need to be referred to by organisations such as GPs, schools, or help organisations such as Citizens Advice to gain access.
However, specialist “baby banks” run by local organisations and charities cater specifically for parents who need to get essentials for their children.
Baby banks typically hand out free toiletries and essentials purchased from donations, as well as distributing secondhand clothes, toys, and other items such as prams.
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There’s no up-to-date tool listing every baby bank in the UK, so your best bet is to google what’s available in your local area or ask charities such as Citizens Advice and Trussell Trust for information.
Children’s charity Little Village has an interactive baby bank tool of more than 200 baby banks UK-wide.
How to access a baby bank’s service depends on the centre itself.
Some may allow struggling families to contact them directly, while others require referrals from officials.
The best thing to do is get in touch with your nearest centre to find out what their policy is.
Free nappies and wipes
Making sure essentials like nappies and wipes are fully stocked for your newborn can be costly, but some brands do offer freebies.
For older tots, you can also get a free DryNites pyjama pants from Huggies.
The tester could be a good way to try out the pants before buying a whole pack.
You’ll need to fill out a form on the DryNites website to register for your freebie.
When you’re filling in your details, you’ll be able to choose from 3-5 years, 4-7 years or 8-15 years.
If you’re looking for a more sustainable option, Pura is giving away a free 24-pack of its 100% biodegradable baby wipes.
To get the freebie, sign up to the Pura website – this is free to do – and simply add it to your basket.
You will, however, still pay 99p for delivery. Pura usually sells a box of 28 packs of 24 baby wipes for £22.10.
Parents who download the Pampers Club app will get a free pack of Pampers Baby-Dry dry when they buy ten packs.
To claim your free pack, you will need to enter a code from inside the packet of nappies into the Pampers Club app.
The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or from the Google Play store on Android.
Once you have entered the code, you will be given a stamp on a virtual loyalty card.
Once you’ve hit ten purchases, a free pack will be delivered to your home.
Free baby food from Ella’s Kitchen
Sign up to Ella’s Kitchen through its “become a Friend” loyalty scheme and you’ll be sent a free weaning pack with vouchers and other goodies.
The vouchers can be redeemed for free pouches of Ella’s Kitchen food, and you’ll also be given a weaning chart so you can track the progress of your baby’s development.
A single pouch from Ella’s Kitchen typically costs £1.10 from Tesco.
To sign up, you’ll need to provide your name, address and details about your little one.
Free baby clubs from Asda, Boots and more
Mums-to-be can join free baby clubs for discounts and offers that are tailored to parents.
With the Asda baby club, you can enter competitions to win free products as well as exclusive offers for parents.
Shoppers will also be notified first for when a baby sale is due to hit stores.
Boots’ baby club lets you earn eight points for every £1 spent on baby products, plus it offers free gifts at key stages of your baby’s development.
You’ll also get parenting offers via the Boots app.
Tesco used to have a stand-alone baby club but it’s now part of its Clubcard scheme.
If Clubcard holders make a lot of baby-related purchases, they’ll be offered specific parenting vouchers depending on what they usually buy.
Free prescriptions and dental care
You can get both prescriptions and NHS dental care for free while you’re pregnant, as well as for 12 months after your baby is born.
Prescriptions in England currently cost £9.35, while NHS dental costs vary by location.
To claim the free care, ask your doctor or midwife for a maternity exemption certificate (MATEX).
Free milk, infant formula, vitamins or fruit and veg
Look out for Healthy Start vouchers, which allow you to claim free fruit, vegetables and milk.
They can also be spent on vitamins for mums-to-be or babies.
They’re currently available to mums who are at least 10 weeks pregnant, or have a child under four, and get income support or other benefits.
You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any benefits.
Most eligible parents get one voucher per week, except those with children under one who get two vouchers per week.
Free £500 Sure Start grant
You may be entitled to a Sure Start grant of £500 if you’re on certain benefits and expecting your first child, or expecting more than one baby.
To claim, you need to fill out the following form on Gov.uk and get your doctor or midwife to sign it.
The one-off payment doesn’t need to be paid back and it won’t reduce your monthly Universal Credit payment or tax credits.
The Sure Start grant is available to parents in England, Northern Ireland and Wales who are expecting their first child.
In Scotland, you may be able to claim up to £600 under the similar Pregnancy and Baby Payment.
Free 30 hours of childcare
Parents of three and four-year-olds can apply for up to 30 hours free childcare a week.
To qualify you must work 16 hours a week on average at the national living or minimum wage and earn less than £100,000 a year.
But keep in mind you’ll need to reconfirm your eligibility every three months.
This is in case your circumstances, such as your income or living situation, have changed.
You can register by creating a childcare account on the Gov.uk website.
You may also be eligible to get up to £500 every three months – or £2,000 a year – through the government tax-free childcare scheme.
The scheme sees parents get £2 for every £8 paid toward childcare for kids under 11 – and you can claim this on top of your 30 hours free childcare.
You can apply online via Gov.uk.
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Parents who work 16 hours a week on average on the national minimum wage or living wage, and with less than £100,000 each, should be eligible.
To claim, kids need to be 11 or under or 16 and under if they’re disabled.
What other help is available?
If you’re struggling, there is help out there for you and your family.
For example, there is the Household Support Fund, where councils hand out grants for residents to spend on essentials.
It was only due to run until March, but has since been extended until September.
Each local authority has can dish out the cash to people in their area and the help available depends on where you live.
And because each individual council is in charge of what they do with the money, there are different rules around how to apply for help.
How you apply for help and what you can get will depend on where you live.
The first thing to do is find out which authority is responsible for your application.
Many councils have published guidance on their websites, so once you know your council, it’s probably best to google and see how to apply.
You can do that using the government’s local council checker tool by inputting your postcode.
You should also make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.
Charities such as Turn2Us provide a benefits calculator for you to check what extra help you might be able to get.
EntitledTo’s benefits calculator also lets you check and get an idea of your entitlement.
Low-income families may be eligible for charitable grants to cover essential costs.
As grants are typically different to loans, most do not have to be paid back.
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Turn2Us has a tool that can help you check out grants available near you on its website.
You can find their contact numbers below: