Wondering how to save money with children? Wonder no more! As a recovering cheapskate and forever-saver, I can tell you with confidence that we didn’t spend more than $500 on our son during his first two years of life (he was born in 2006) – and I’m pretty sure that number is overblown. And while he has gotten more expensive as he’s grown older, we don’t spend nearly as much on him as the average middle-class family spends on each child per year.
And no, he’s not unhappy. Au contraire.
So if you need some ideas on how to make children fit into your monthly budget without blowing it, following are twenty-two ways to save money with kids that most anyone can do.
*1. Use cloth diapers. I know, gross, right? But as long as your baby is consuming only breastmilk, their feces is not a horror to contend with. If you’re feeding them formula, or once they start eating solid food, that’s when the poop gets…interesting.
Breathe through your mouth and deal with it. How to “deal with it” is beyond the scope of this article, and I’ll readily admit that there were a few months before our son turned two and poop-potty trained himself when we used disposable diapers. However, if you really need to save money, using cloth diapers instead of disposables will help you a lot.
*2. Purchase baby items from kid consignment stores. Cribs, changing tables, clothes, baby toys, bedding, all of these can be purchased second-hand at consignment stores for much cheaper than the in-store prices.
*3. Don’t buy a changing table. If you have lower back problems, skip this one. If not, you can change a baby on a bed or on the floor.
*4. Practice co-sleeping. Letting Baby sleep in your bed is a highly personal, and therefore somewhat volatile, issue. But if you don’t buy a crib, you save some money. One popular co-sleeping method is temporarily putting the bed frame and box spring mattress in storage, and sleeping on the mattress on the floor. As your child grows, you can put a crib mattress on the floor next to your mattress.
*5. Hold a baby shower, and register for absolutely everything you think you’ll need for the next three years.
Yes, I said three years. Imagine not having to worry about buying clothing until your child is four years old!
*6. Breastfeed your baby for at least a year. Join your local La Leche League to get the support you need in order not to give up on it sooner. The women who lead those meetings have a wealth of experience and a passion to help mothers keep their babies on the breast.
*7. Don’t force your baby to wean. Wait until they are “asking” for regular food. At this point, they will more than likely have several teeth and be mature enough to know how to eat non-pureed/blended food. Our son was eleven months old when this happened, and he ate a small piece of apple.
*8. OR, make your own baby food. Blend apples into applesauce, peas and corn into mush, and so on. It’s a lot cheaper than buying jarred baby food, and doesn’t take long to prepare.
*9. On gift-giving holidays, give toys from garage sales and thrift stores. Unless they have older siblings or cousins telling them otherwise, they won’t know the difference.
*10. Keep gifts simple. When he was a toddler, our son had more fun playing with the boxes and wrapping paper the gifts came in than with the gifts themselves.
*11. Or, abstain from starting gift-giving traditions altogether. There’s no law stating that a child must receive gifts on their birthdays, Christmas, or Chanukah.
*12. OR, limit the gifts. No one receives more than, say three gifts on their birthdays or other gift-giving holidays. Keep this the rule every year in perpetuity.
*14. Never take them into toy store or toy aisle of department store. Out of sight, out of mind.
Along those lines…
*15. Don’t let your children watch television programs that are loaded with toy commercials. What they don’t know about, they can’t ask about.
*16. Purchase plastic dishes from thrift stores. Plastic won’t break with the usual dropping/falling accidents.
*17. If they’re picky about fashion, purchase brand-new for clothes that they’ll wear in public. Purchase at-home clothes from thrift or consignment stores.
*18. Budget “fun” spending for each child each month, and stick to the amount. This could be in lieu of gift-giving at holidays.
*19. Take advantage of craigslist for large ticket items, such as bicycles or computers.
*20. Find online coupons for everything possible, from entertainment venues to restaurants to online purchases.
*21. Feed your clan homemade meals and snacks, made from whole foods. For example, breakfast cereal can be homemade muesli or oatmeal or rice topped with fruit and/or honey and/or cinnamon or Allspice. Snacks can be a piece of fruit, a few nuts (if they’re old enough to chew them properly), or cookies that you bake yourself using natural sweeteners and low-gluten flour (such as einkorn or emmer). Make restaurant food (take-out, slow, or fast) a rare treat.
*22. Always wait until late summer to purchase school supplies (glue, pens, notebooks, etc.), even if not used specifically for school use, and stock up then.
*23. Buy season passes to favorite entertainment venues (water parks, science museums, etc.).
*25. Take advantage of local public playgrounds and recreational areas, such as state parks.
*26. Make same-gender siblings share a bedroom. Contrary to popular belief, there is no law anywhere stating that every child in a given family must have their own bedroom. Embracing the “shared room” idea can save you big money when purchasing a house.
*27. Purchase evergreen toys. These are toys that a child is likely to come back to for years. Generic Lego® sets is a popular one. Girls will often play with dolls into their early and mid-teens (though they’d never admit that to their friends). Balls of all shapes, sizes, and materials. I could go on, but you get my drift.
The average cost to raise a child to age eighteen doesn’t have to be your family’s cost. Put on your cheapskate hat, pick some of these ideas on ways to save money with your children, and once you put them into practice, you just may find you finally have space not only to create, but work toward, financial goals.
PS – Many of the above ideas can be tweaked to help anyone of any age to save money. For over 300 ideas to help you simplify your life, be sure to check out my book, Crazy Simple: 307 Ways To Save Money, Your Health, And The Planet.