Raising kids on a budget seems like an oxymoron these days. When thinking about having children, it seems like it’s not enough just to be financially stable. If the thought of multi-hundred dollar strollers, a full-time job to balance the cost of daycare and saving for college frightens the living crap out of you, take a deep breath and remind yourself you don’t have to spend your life savings on your kids. There are really smart and efficient ways to raise your children on a budget without sacrificing their fun or your freedom.
1. DIY your toys
There are so many tutorials online about how to make your own toys out of anything. While your kids are still young enough to not particularly care about what brand they’re playing with, it’s easy to DIY some fun and creative toys with them. It can also be a really fun bonding experience with your kids. I remember so vividly building my own Barbie Dream House out of shoe boxes and cardboard with my Mom and it’s one of my favorite memories. I looked forward to playing with it every day! What would it have cost my Mom if she went out and bought me a Barbie Dream House? At least $180.
2. Buy Secondhand Clothing
Buying new clothes for each of your children is absolutely unnecessary. While they are growing at the speed of light and not particularly picky about what they’re wearing, it is perfectly acceptable to go to a secondhand clothing shop to buy cheap preowned clothes for your kids. You may even find some well-known brands but for a fraction of the price. Hand-me-downs are also crucial to saving money when you have multiple children. Your little girl might actually love the idea of getting to wear her older sister’s dress. If you have one boy and one girl, look to your friends and family. It’s almost guaranteed that people have a closet full of clothes their kids have grown out of, never worn, or don’t want anymore. Share the love and spare your bank account!
3. Join Amazon Family
This one can be a great money and time saver! Joining Amazon Family does require an Amazon Prime membership, but it certainly can be worth it in the long run. The Family discount saves 20% on diaper subscriptions which any mom will agree is a huge selling point. Additionally, they offer coupons for more savings on things like baby food, clothing, toys, books, games, and even groceries. Imagine being able to cut down on the grocery store trips with your kids and being able to ship discounted food to your doorstep in just two days… what a dream! For only $12.99 a month (or $119 a year), having a Prime Membership to add Amazon Family (for free) can be a huge beneficial budget savor.
4. Kids Eat Free nights
There are so many restaurants that offer coupons for kids. You’d be surprised how many of them offer a “Kids Eat Free” day or even select hours for free meals every day! Most of them are right under our noses, we just had no idea of their discounts. Below is a list of 50 different restaurants that have discounted or free meals for kids, ranging from TGI Friday’s to even IKEA. (Another tip for saving money while dining out is to have your little ones share their meals. We all know they won’t be eating the whole thing and getting two for the price of one is a big money saver).
5. Consider breastfeeding
While every Mamma has the right to decide if she wants to breastfeed her children or not, it is certainly the cheaper option of the two. Nothing beats a free meal! It’s no secret that breastfeeding has great nutritional benefits for your child but it also saves a great deal on formula. Additionally, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are required to cover the cost of electric pumps for mothers or other nursing women who need them. Of course, while this is a great way to save some money during the first year of your baby’s life, no Mamma should feel guilty about choosing (or needing) to formula-feed their child.
6. Keep special occasions simple
Everyone wants to throw their kid the best birthday party on the block. While this can be a fun event for everyone, try and hold off until they can actually tell you what they want for their birthday. Party planning can be exhausting and very expensive, so keep the first couple birthdays for close family and forgo the huge invite list and a strange man in a Barney suit. If they’re too young to tell you they want a dinosaur themed party, odds are they wouldn’t remember it in the first place. Instead, save up and plan the ultimate 5-year old’s birthday extravaganza!
7. Go to the grocery store alone
I’m sure we can all picture the dreaded grocery store trip with 3 kids hanging on your arm, fighting over who gets to sit in the cart and who gets to ride on the back while one is sneaking cookies under their shirt and another is throwing a temper tantrum because you told them they can’t have chocolate milk for dinner. Sound familiar? While this may seem like a weird tip for saving money, it can actually be super beneficial to leave the kids behind while you’re buying food for the house. Keeping the distractions at home is an easy way to get in and out of the store with only the things you need. Not having kids convince you with those baby eyes and the never-ending “pleeeeeease” can save some serious cash on random and unnecessary items. Plus, you’ll get some much needed “me” time. Who knew the grocery store could be so therapeutic?
8. Cut the extras
When was the last time you used your home phone? Probably before it was considered weird to still have a home phone. When you’re trying to raise kids and cut down on unnecessary expenses, the first places you should look are your bills. What are you paying for every month that you don’t even use anymore? With Hulu and Netflix and streaming services available for cheap, it may be time to cut the cable. Odds are your kids can find plenty of their favorite shows and movies on one of these. Are you still receiving mail subscriptions for baby magazines that you don’t even read and more often than not end up in the recycle? Take some time to purge! Your wallet will thank you.
9. Skip juice boxes
This is a quick and healthy way to save money. Juice boxes are expensive and can really put a dent in your grocery bill. They also contain a lot of sugar and have very little nutritional value. Get your kids used to drinking water at a young age to not only save money but to also build a much healthier habit. Treat juice or soda as a treat, and not an everyday drink option. If your kids are demanding some extra flavor, consider adding real fruit or MEO to give their water more pizzaz for a low cost.
10. Plan a stay-cation
As much as every kid deserves to go to Disney World at some point in their life, you’re much better off waiting to spend a pretty penny until they’re old enough to fully enjoy it. Odds are, they’re going to end up sleeping for half the day and will be too small to go on all the rides. Saving up for a big vacation a couple years away can be great, but don’t let that stop you from taking time off with your kids and having fun. Take a week off and enjoy the fun attractions around you that don’t require you to buy a hotel. If your hometown isn’t the best vacation spot, plan a weekend “camping trip” with S’mores and campfires in your backyard. The memories will be just as precious as a luxurious vacation but will cost much much less.
11. Buy age appropriately
It’s definitely exciting thinking about all the things you can give your children when they’re young. If you loved your barbie car as a little kid, it’s only natural that you want to drop a couple hundred bucks the day you find out your unborn child is a girl. However, there is a strong chance she ends up either wanting a different Barbie car or not wanting a barbie car at all. The only way to avoid buying toys that your kids may hate or never use when they finally grow into them is to wait until they ask for them. That way you’re not dropping unnecessary cash and you’re not starting a never-ending pile of unused toys.
12. Create a support system
If you’re trying to raise your kids on a budget, creating a support system is crucial. Babysitters, daycare, house sitters, etc. can really break the bank. If you have a strong group of family, friends, and neighbors you can turn to when you need help watching the kids or the dogs for a few hours, you don’t have to rely on expensive alternative services. You won’t have to worry about dropping a ton of money and you’ll be more comfortable trusting the people you’re closest within your life to watch the things that are most precious to you.