Children are expensive. Parents spend an average of £165,668 bringing up a child until the age of 21 - the price of a house in some parts of the UK - according to a recent survey by the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society.
Typically, the most stretched time is in the early years, when many families drop an income. The Cost Of A Child Survey also claims parents will spend nearly £8000 by their child's first birthday on food, nappies, clothes, toys and associated costs.
This is why it's vital you're in control of your money. Other than getting a better-paid job (hardly realistic right now!), the best way to improve your finances is to cut down on luxuries and shop around for better prices on the services you pay for.
It's estimated that £31bn a year is blown on apathy, mainly through failing to take advantage of the best deals on the market for everyday services such as mortgages, credit cards, phone calls and household utilities. The good news is, with just a little
initiative, it doesn't have to remain this way. We meet three families who've taken action to reduce their bills. The new parents WE SLASHED OUR PHONE BILLS
Glen Killourhey, his partner Catherine, both 28, and their 1-year-old son James, live in Bristol. The couple were keen to save money so they targeted phone costs as an easy way to reduce their bills. They saved more than £400 a year. Glen's advice
The family of four WE CHANGED MORTGAGES
- If you want a better deal, aid your negotiating position by researching the market to see what other deals are available.
- Don't be afraid to switch suppliers to get a better deal.
- Remember, the suppliers want your business. Often, if you want a better deal, you just have to ask.
Christine Beaumont, 43, is a payroll assistant and lives with her husband Phillip and two children, Adam, 2, and Francesca, 8, in Chester. They switched their mortgage supplier last year and are set to save over £1000 a year. Christine's advice
The single mum I CHANGED MY CAR INSURANCE
- Produce a monthly and annual budget - it's vital you know where you stand financially.
- Where you have to, give up luxuries - it's hard, but worthwhile.
- Claim all the benefits that you are entitled to.
Admin manager Jane Seel, 30, lives in Little Sutton on the Wirral with her 1½-year-old son Max. She shaved £421 off her car insurance by changing providers. Jane's advice
- Save as much spare cash as possible for the unexpected.
- Be disciplined.
- Look around for the best deals.
Where to wise up
Investing a bit of time comparing prices could save you money in the long-run
- www.moneysaving expert.com. Each week you can find a list of the best deals on all consumer goods and services.
- www.uswitch.com is a price-comparison website for credit cards, loans, household utilities, broadband and home-phone services.
- www.money supermarket.com lets you compare and apply for all financial products, including mortgages and insurance.
- www.saynoto0870.com. Phoning an 0870 number can cost you 15p a minute. But this site lists the regional number of the company you need, which is generally cheaper.
- www.entitledto.co.uk is a great site for young families considering claiming the various benefits available. Simply fill in all your financial details and the website will automatically tell you what benefits you are entitled to.
- Contact O2 on 0870 225 7879; TalkTalk 0870 444 1820; Abbey 0800 783 0100; Liverpool Victoria 0800 514 514.