Many future parents are worried about the costs of raising children. I certainly was. However, with three little kids running around my house, my wife and I have discovered that there are some simple actions or attitude changes that greatly reduce the cost of raising children. Since our family decided to live on one income, it became necessary to minimize our expenses. We have practiced (or currently follow) all of the ten suggestions. It has literally saved us thousands.
Consider Cloth diapers
My four year old is old enough to know it’s nasty. Recently, my four year old inquired, “Mommy, why are you putting your hand in the toilet?” Mommy explained, “Because I need to rinse out your sister’s diaper”. To which my daughter responded, “That’s nasty”. It might be nasty, but it sure is cheap. 36 diapers and $50 will give you a 6 – 12 month supply. By the way, if you are going to go with cloth, consider a Snappy (replacement for safety pins). I never quite got the old safety pin thing. They require focus, determination, and a lot of luck. Cloth diapers would never have worked if a friend did not point us in the direction of a Snappy.
Forget your brand allegiance
Seriously, do you think your baby will be happy just because they are wearing Huggies? Perhaps children who are washed with Johnson and Johnson body soap will be more adjusted in adulthood. Everyone knows only Carter kids enjoy their childhood. When it comes to babies, brands really play the trust card and leverage love. Brands want you to ask yourself, “You do really love your kid, right?” As a result, we feel like if we love them we need to give them the best so we somehow think spending more money on them is giving them the best. Avoiding brand names saves money. Start clothing kids close to free.
Buy used furnishings
When we were expecting our first, we went and bought a used crib and change table. Some folks were concerned about the safety because standards change and we didn’t know the condition of the items. Seriously, what is going to happen if the baby’s crib breaks and she falls a foot to the ground and lands on a mattress? I think worse things will probably happen. By the way, our third child is now enjoying the same furniture and it is still holding up.
Reuse items for all your children
I am the youngest of three boys. I got used clothes. Now that I am all grown up I still buy used clothes. I don’t think I am ‘damaged’ because of the experiences. All parents could benefit by being resourceful. Until you know that you are done having kids find a place to store all your baby products, toys, and clothing, because they will come in handy again.
You are probably not the first person who ever needed a crib. In fact, there is probably someone at work or church who has a last child growing out of a crib. They want nothing more than to find a good home for it to open up some space in their room. Take the initiative to form your own frugal community. Take notice of families who are a stage ahead of you and let them know if they are ever interested in selling used items that you would appreciate being notified. We got our first car seat from a friend whose last baby outgrew his car seat around the time our baby was born. Our rocking chair was given to us from a teacher friend who didn’t need it in the classroom anymore.
One of the results of fatigue is increased spending. Typically, things that are more convenient cost more. After a busy day and a cart full of crying kids you are more likely to find convenience foods. Consider asking someone to take your kids for a while in exchange for taking theirs at a later time. This time could be used for grocery shopping, catching up on house cleaning, and yes, just resting.
Skip the Happy Meal
Does a two year old really need all that food? What we do when we head out is get a cheap sandwich, cut it in half and have the kids share fries. The advantage is we save money, save food, and the kids leave full (which, by the way, is the goal of the fast food dining experience). The disadvantage is that the kids don’t get a little toy that they will play with for about 6.8 seconds. Better yet, save money by eating at home. Eating at home can be just as enjoyable and a lot less expensive.
Focus on Creating Memorable Experiences
Once a week we used to take our kids to a sit down restaurant because we wanted to have a special experience. On my day off we have a family tradition of eating lunch on the porch. One day our daughter said she likes eating on the porch much more than at the restaurant. We learned a valuable lesson that spending more does not mean it is more important to your children.
Understand the relationship between toddlers and toys
Our bathtub is fully of cute little bath toys. We have a pudgy little pig that squirts water. There is the happy hippo. And of course, the cute cow. In order to wash the kids’ hair we have a plastic cup we got with a meal at Olive Garden and a free promotion plastic cup I got from some event. Want to know what the kids love to play with? The cups! Sometimes they also fight over an empty liquid soap container. Kids are so creative and naturally playful that they can play without a ton of toys. We have a Rubbermaid container where we store their toys. The rule is that all the toys must fit in the container. If they get new toys, then something from the toy collection must be given away.
Set appropriate gift boundaries
From the start, sit down with your spouse and decide on the function of gifts. I know that sounds silly, but why do you give gifts? What do you hope to communicate? What does it reveal about yourself? Gift giving expectations are created; they are not naturally there in children. If you give large gifts (beyond your means) each birthday or Christmas, the kids will expect just as large of a gift. You may need to cut back on gifts. Remember, cutting back on gifts is not cutting back on love. You can still show your children love and not give expensive gifts to them. With Christmas around the corner this is especially true. Here are 50 Homemade (and cheap) Christmas gift ideas.
You can also start saving for college as early as possible by opening a tax-free savings account, such as an RESP (for Canadians). You and anyone else can contribute any amount you wish, at any time, until your child starts post-secondary.
Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography.
What have you done to minimize the cost of raising children? Got any of your own money saving ideas?