It’s no surprise that raising kids can be expensive.
“Middle-income, married-couple parents of a child born in 2015 may expect to spend $233,610 ($284,570 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter and other necessities to raise a child through age 17,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s before considering college costs.
Sticking to a budget isn’t always easy but every little bit you can save now can benefit you later on. Here are seven tips that could help you save on activities, necessities and planning for your kids’ future.
One of the biggest expenses associated with having kids is childcare. Not everyone can be a stay-at-home parent or have the opportunity to work from home. In these cases, childcare may be a necessity.
First, look into whether your employer offers a childcare voucher. There are also government and local programs that could be worth looking into.
Try swapping babysitting duty with family or friends. This way, you’ll rest assured knowing who’s watching your kids without having to spend a penny.
Once the kids are in school, consider after-school activities. Things like art club, mathletes and other extracurriculars can be inclusive and free or possibly cheaper than other options.
Sports can be worthwhile as well, but equipment can be expensive. Consider buying used equipment and/or limiting to one pay-to-play sport per child or season. Running around trying to make it to too many activities can be overwhelming for both kids and parents.
2. Birthdays, Holidays and Vacations
Toys typically go on sale in January, after the holidays. Consider stocking up on a few gifts for kids’ birthday parties throughout the year. Timeless gifts can even be saved until the next holiday season.
You don’t have to go on a big, expensive vacation every holiday break, or even every year. Consider mixing in “staycations.” Go for quality over quantity. Genuine family time is priceless, and kids that are too young won’t remember elaborate trips.
When it is time for a family vacation — whether it’s yearly or every other year — look for discounts, family packages and consider going off-season to save on cost.
3. Food Planning
Takeout can be expensive. While homemade meals are almost always healthier because you can control what you put in, home cooked foods are cheaper too.
Start with setting up a menu. Meal planning saves time later on; you won’t be searching through the cabinets wondering what to make. Plan at least a week in advance. Save money by using what you already have, which will also reduce food waste.
Have a couple of go-to favorites, like taco Tuesdays. Some meals can be made in advance while gadgets like slow cookers and instant pots will do a majority of the work for you.
Have a budget and track your spending as you shop. Save by skipping pre-cut and prepared foods. Use weekly circulars from your grocery store to take advantage of sales, as well as coupons and apps. Don’t go overboard with snacks, only buy what you need and never go grocery shopping hungry.
When you do dine out, save any leftovers. This way, you’re getting all of what you paid for. Leftovers make a good lunch or possibly dinner for the next day.
4. Invest in Reusables
The idea behind reusable products are to pay a little more upfront — compared to cheaper throw-away items — in order to save money in the long run. Reusable items are more sustainable and better made for this reason.
Rather than using plastic baggies for kids’ snacks or school lunches, consider reusable bottles, containers and bento boxes. They are eco-friendly, come in fun colors and designs and are typically dishwasher safe.
Though clothing may not be a stereotypical reusable product, clothes do fit the bill. Young kids are always outgrowing clothes. Ask family and friends for hand-me-downs and consider buying certain items secondhand. A major exception would be car seats, which should be newer in order to meet safety regulations.
When it comes to buying new clothes, shop when there are sales. February and August are good months for purchasing kids’ clothes thanks to back-to-school sales. Also, consider investing in unisex clothes if you plan to have another baby or someone close to you is.
5. Family Activities
Just like family vacations, not every outing has to be extravagant. Plenty of family and kids’ activities can be enjoyed in and around the house, with little to no cost at all.
Home movie nights and family games — both digital and classic board games — are fun and affordable, sometimes free. Utilize your local library for everything from books and movies to classes and audiobooks.
To get some fresh air, camp or picnic in your own back yard. For more physical activities, try family bike rides and games like hide and seek, tag and scavenger hunts.
6. Be Green
Saving on utilities by turning off lights, only cooling/heating certain parts of the house and reducing water waste have become energy-saving no-brainers to most adults. Take some time to teach these skills to your kids, and then they’ll be helping you save too.
Try gardening or planting with your kids. Teaching them how to nurture a living thing and/or giving them the job of watering your plants can teach responsibility. Growing some of your own food can lessen the amount of groceries you have to buy.
When decluttering, donate or sell things you don’t need rather than throwing them away. Sell with a yard sale or through apps like eBay, LetGo and Facebook Marketplace to make a little money. Meanwhile, donating can show your kids the importance of giving, which you can later include during tax time.
7. Save for Their Future
Open a savings account in their name, preferably a high-interest savings account. Contribute to it as regularly as every other paycheck or annually on birthdays, depending on your financial situation. When it comes to saving, every penny really does count.
Take some time to sit down and talk to your kids about money. Explain the value of it and the importance of saving. As kids get older, have them pay for things they want on their own, whether that means doing extra chores, babysitting or finding a part-time job.
Finally, when it comes to higher education — whether that means college, trade school or other training — look into every option for saving on costs. Consider scholarships, grants, online classes and community college. There’s also student lending.
With so many different expenses, it can be overwhelming to think about how to save money when you have kids. By planning ahead and saving smart, it’s a more obtainable goal than it may seem.
Do you have any other tips on ways to save when you have kids? Share them in the comments.