It’s Frugal Friday! The time when we take a few moments to focus on tips and hints for frugal living.
It’s no secret that raising kids is expensive. As a mom of four, I’m definitely aware of this, and try to stretch every penny so that we can provide for our family the modest budget that allows me to stay home with them right now. A recent government study estimates the average cost to raise a child from birth to age 18 is $222,360. Note that this does not include college costs! The study found that the average annual cost of raising a child in a middle-income, two-child family ranged from $11,650 to $13,530 a year, depending on the child’s age. This included factors such as childcare and housing, but I can honestly say that if we were spending that much per child in our household…well, we’d have issues!
I’m not sure what our actual “number” would be per kid, but I know it’s lower than that. I admit that a big factor for us is not paying for childcare–with three in school full-time this year and one home with me, it’s just not part of our equation. But there are other factors that can help cut the costs of life with our little blessings, allowing more time to enjoy them, and a little less time working so hard to pay for them! Here are a few ideas to help keep the costs manageable:
- Moderation for Baby Gear: If budget is a consideration, be aware that there’s a whole industry out there trying to convince you that your precious new baby needs the best, most expensive, and most wonderful of everything. After raising four babies through toddlerhood, I’ll give you a hint–most of the time they don’t care what they’re wearing, riding in, or chewing on as long as they’re fed, snuggled, and not poopy. Try not to fall into the trap of “needing” the latest and greatest–people have been raising babies for an awful long time without most of these things. Except for where safety is an issue (like car seats), hand-me-downs and consignment shops are a great way to get bargains on items that are costly, but only used for a short time.
- Diaper Deals: Check our weekly matchups to find the best deals on diapers at grocery and drug stores. We’ll tell you where the sales are and which coupons are available so you’ll know where to go to get the most bang for your diaper buck. Ask for help on this one–the more people who can help you gather coupons, the better! Amazon also has some great deals on diapers, especially if you do the Subscribe and Save option. Cloth diapers are another frugal option, and they’ve greatly improved in recent years. Many cloth advocates even recommend checking out “diaper swaps” where you can score bargains on diapers other kiddos have outgrown rather than buying new–a great idea if you want to give cloth a trial run before going all the way.
- Clothes and Shoes: Always avoid paying full price. Stores really want your business, and there are plenty of ways to get deals on cute clothes for your kids. Most stores start to offer discounts shortly after a new season’s clothes come out. Online retailers frequently offer promo codes for discounts and/or free shipping. I like to look for high-quality items at good prices, and tend to steer clear of things that are too expensive (still just as easy to get stained!), or too cheap (if it’s not well-made and won’t last). Again, consignment shops are great options, especially for lightly-worn dress clothes, play clothes, and even jammies.
- Activities: I like the rule of “One activity per kid, per season,” both for the cost factor and the family sanity factor. Kids can still have a chance to try new things to see what they like, but we don’t have to feel like we need to keep up with everyone else who’s doing everything.
- Family Fun: A day at a theme park can cost a bundle, but even the little outings like going to the movies or Pump it Up can add up (hooray for Groupon, right?) Some of my family’s favorite outings don’t cost anything. We love to go for hikes and experience some of the great nature centers in our area (in Stark County try Sippo Lake in Perry Twp., the Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center south of Alliance, Quail Hollow in Hartville, and The Wilderness Center in Wilmot!). Camping in the back yard, movie night at home, building a living-room tent; all free, and all great opportunities to spend quality time having fun together.
- Include them in the conversation: Kids don’t always need to know the exact deals of your finances, but there are age-appropriate ways to help them understand that money is a finite resource, and it doesn’t get magically dispersed from that cool machine at the bank. We don’t want to scare them or make them feel insecure, but it’s OK to say that we can’t afford something right now, and we’ll have to save for it; or that something’s really expensive, and we’d rather spend our money on X, Y, and Z instead. The sooner kids can start to understand this, the better they grasp that we’re not saying “No” to something because we don’t love them, but rather we say “Not right now” because we care enough for their present and future to raise them in a financially sound way.
How do you reign in the high costs of raising kids? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments or on Facebook. Thanks for sharing!
If you’re just joining the Frugal Friday series, check out these other posts:
- Tracking Your Spending
- Creating a Budget
- Making Frugal Choices
- Fighting Spending Envy
- Could You Cut the Cable?
- Saving on Food Expenses
- Schedule to Save (keeping track of due dates to avoid fees & penalties)
- Staying Organized with Holiday Shopping & Rebates
- Frugal Lovin’ (Love & money, plus date night on a Shoestring Budget)
- Waste Not, Want Not (buying what you’ll use, and using what you buy)
- Frugal Fashion
- Frugal Beauty
- Frugal Cooking tip: Prep Once, Eat Twice!
- Budget Check-Up
- Plan ahead for Christmas
- Creating an Emergency Fund
- Getting by on a Single Income
- Reducing Fixed Expenses
- Free Printable Frugal Living Resources (meal planners, expense trackers, and more!)
- Saving on Gasoline
- Tips for Tax Time
- Healthy Eating on a Budget
- Frugal Fitness
- Save with Second-Hand
Megan has been frugal most of her life, but has been really honing her frugal skills as the chief home economist for her family of six, surviving and thriving on a single (teacher’s!) income. If she can do it, you can too!