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On the day you decide to have kids, you are essentially deciding to spend more money. Let’s face the facts; with children comes great responsibility. And greater spending.
In fact, informing you on how expensive children can be, will probably be one of the first things friends and family will tell you…after congratulations of course.
Upon the arrival of your bundle of joy you’ll have an instant influx of fees from hospital bills, formula, diapers and more. And just when you think your baby can’t possibly need anything else, there is yet one more thing to buy.
I’m not here to deter you from having children, but I won’t lie and say that babes don’t cost money. They certainly do, but it doesn’t have to break the bank to raise little tykes.
Here are some key ways you can save money with your future children or the kids already in your life. Having a family doesn’t have to affect your bank account more than is necessary.
I’ve broken down these tips into three categories, starting with ways to save while expecting, then ways to save with infants and finally ways to save with toddlers and older children.
Saving Money Before, During, and After Conception
Before making major life changes, it always helps to start with a plan. Think of this as a small road map to get started with saving money before, during and after conception.
1. Start Saving
As soon as you decide you are ready to start a family, that is when you need to start saving. No, this doesn’t mean you need to start a college fund (though that can’t hurt), but you should start setting aside a monthly allotment you are comfortable with that will go toward all things baby related.
This is just to cover any of the potential expenses that can arise during pregnancy, such as doctor’s visits to follow-up care. Either way, the extra funds will come in handy.
You can also look into Acorns, a robo-investor app that gives you a $5 bonus to start investing in your future. Unlike most brokers, Acorns allows you to execute trades for free and even automates your trading.
2. Take Advantage of Grocery Store Rebate Apps
There are several handy apps available that offer cashback on items you may frequently pick up at the grocery store. This is especially handy when you have kids, as often you’ll see items like cereal and fruit snacks offering cash back.
Some of the best cash back grocery apps include:
- Ibotta ($10 bonus when you sign-up and redeem your first receipt)
- Drop (earn extra cash back and get a $1 bonus when you link your debit/credit card)
- Trunow (1% cash back on all gas purchases and get a $2 bonus when you sign-up with promo TOF19)
- Fetch Rewards
- Dosh ($1 sign-up bonus when you link your first debit/credit card – earn cash back when you spend money with your card and shop online)
3. Check With Your Insurance
It is always a good idea to check with your insurance company before you plan any major life change. You want to make sure of what your insurance will cover and not cover during pregnancy and after the delivery of the baby.
It’s better to know everything up front so your insurance company doesn’t blindside you with medical bills after nine months. That’s the last thing you will want to be dealing with.
4. Make A Budget
Take the time to sit down and clearly define your expenses. This needs to include all money coming in and all money going out.
From there you’ll be able to see where you can work to save more and where more money needs to be set aside for the baby.
This could mean less eating out or less entertainment. This doesn’t mean you need to give those things up forever, but by cutting back for a few months, you can end up saving a lot more for some of the big ticket baby items you may need later down the road.
Here’s a list of some of the best budgeting tools out there to help you:
- Trim (tells you where you’re wasting money)
- Acorns ($5 bonus to start investing in your future – for free!)
- Mint (great app/website for tracking your expenses)
- WealthSimple ($50 bonus when you deposit your first $500)
5. Have a Baby Shower
While some may moan and groan over the thought of having a baby shower, don’t stop any friends or family members from throwing you one. A baby shower is an excellent way to get key baby items for free!
And don’t be afraid to include everything you could possibly need on your baby registry. This includes cribs, bassinets, strollers, car seats, etc. Even though some of the items can be expensive, friends and family can go in together on a gift.
A baby shower will take a lot of weight off your shoulders over how much stuff you’ll need in the beginning. After the shower, be sure to hold onto your receipts as more often than not, there will be things you will want to return. Most stores will offer you store credit if you keep your receipt.
6. Check Out Your Local Thrift Store
If you read that title and thought gross, just wait a moment. It may sound yucky to buy your little baby used items, but in reality this is a really smart way to save money.
Babies grow fast, and you can lose a lot of money trying to keep them in clothes. Instead, you can check out thrift stores or Craigslist to get baby clothes at a really good price and sometimes even free! These pieces won’t be in perfect condition, but perfectly wearable.
Craigslist and thrift stores are also a good source for things like cribs (the frame only, it’s best to buy a new mattress), baby toys, books, blankets, shoes, and other small knickknacks you may want.
If the gross-factor of used items still bothers you, just make sure to thoroughly wash everything you get in soapy hot water. That should kill any nasty germs lingering around.
7. Don’t Splurge on Maternity Clothes
Don’t get fixated on the cute maternity clothes you see in the stores. The fact is, you wear these clothes for such a short amount of time, it’s not worth the financial drain to pay full price for maternity wear.
If you have friends or family members who’ve recently had babies, ask to borrow their maternity clothes. If that isn’t an option, then take a note from tip number 5 and head to your local thrift store or check out Craigslist.
For the budget conscious, you will only need a few pieces: 4-5 shirts, 2-3 bottoms, 1 dress and then repeat, repeat, repeat. No one will care what you look like, they’ll only see the beautiful pregnancy glow.
Saving Money With Your Baby/Infant
So your baby has arrived and you’re overwhelmed by them and all the stuff they seem to need. Don’t panic, you can still save money and treasure your bundle of joy.
8. Get A Convertible Car Seat
A car seat is one of those must have items for baby. There’s no avoiding that. What you can avoid is paying more money than you need for a car seat.
Some people opt to start with an infant car seat and then buy a toddler car seat at a later date. I advise you to skip all of that and go straight to a convertible car seat.
A convertible car seat essentially allows you to use the same car seat from infancy until your kid is ready to sit in a booster seat. That could be a good six years. That one item will have saved you at least $100 or even $200 bucks as car seats are not generally cheap.
9. Get A Convertible Crib
Following the same rules of the tip above, a convertible crib will save you more money than buying a standard crib.
A convertible crib allows you to use the crib during the infant stage and then later convert the crib to a toddler bed. There’s no need to buy a separate mattress or sheets as you’ll already have everything on hand. Simply toss on a blanket and a pillow and your kid has a whole new sleep set-up.
This one is a no-brainer instant money saver. If breastfeeding is an option for you then you will save a lot of money since you won’t need to spend extra on bottles and formula.
The prices and types of formula can vary, but in general most folks who do formula feed can end up shelling out nearly $2,000 by their baby’s first birthday. Add in the cost of bottles and that’s quite a bit of an investment.
If direct breastfeeding doesn’t work, you can always rent or buy a breast pump and feed your baby that way. This allows you to still save money and just worry about the cost of a set of bottles. And bottles are something you can throw on that baby registry I mentioned above in the first section.
11. Make Your Own Baby food
A typical jar of baby food can cost as low as $.99 if not found on super sale. While one jar won’t break the bank, multiple jars can start to get pricey.
Instead opt to make your own baby food. All you will need is a vegetable or fruit of choice, and a blender or food processor.
The process is very easy. You first need to steam the vegetables or fruit until soft enough to pierce with a fork, and then throw that in a food processor until smooth. Wa-la, instant baby food. And you can make multiple jars off of just one banana or one apple, for less than $.99.
12. Borrow From Your Friends
If you have friends or even family members who have had kids before you, than you can ask them to borrow items such as clothes, burp rags, blankets, and more.
Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff. Most often these would have gone to Goodwill at some point, so you are just helping them out by taking that task off their hands.
13. Buy Second Hand
The one thing to keep in mind when you have kids is that they will only be small for so long. So don’t go crazy in buying a bunch of new stuff.
Instead opt to buy items secondhand and used. This could be at thrift stores, consignment shops, garage sales, or Craigslist.
A great source for secondhand baby items is the Freecycle Network. Freecycle is made up of over 9 million members around the world who are getting and giving stuff for free. Membership is free and everything listed is free with the caveat that you pick the items up directly.
The best part about Freecycle is that it is not just baby stuff. They have anything you could need from a bike light, to a piano. If there’s something you really need, that you’re not quite ready to shell out the money for, Freecycle might just have what you’re looking for.
14. Wait for Sales
This may seem obvious, but I’ll put it out there anyway. If you can anticipate your baby’s needs in advance, than you can take advantage of seasonal sales.
This means that if you know you’re having a winter baby, pick up winter gear at the beginning of summer when prices will be at an all time low. If you’re having a summer baby, snag items in the winter. If your baby is already born, you can still shop seasonally, as there are things they are going to need anyway.
Just remember to keep a budget in mind and the longevity of the pieces you are purchasing. Sometimes when you wait for sales, it’s best to shop a few sizes up so you can get more long term wear out of them.
15. Cloth Diaper
Before you write off cloth diapering, you should know it’s nothing like it was years ago. Gone are the days of safety pinning nappies around a babies bum.
Mainstream cloth diapers can be cute, as easy to use as a disposable, and cost you a lot less than using disposable diapers in the long run. There are several ways to cloth diaper a baby and this site is a good source to get started with the basics.
People who choose to cloth diaper for at least two years (or more), can expect to save up to $3,000 that would have been spent on disposable diapers. While cloth diapers can cost anywhere from $200-$800 up front, depending on the style of diaper used, you’ll save money by simply washing and reusing versus always needing to buy a new box of diapers.
And you don’t have to worry about a huge jump in your electric and water bills. You only need to wash diapers a few times a week and in the summer time, if you have the space, take advantage of air drying.
Cloth diapering isn’t for everyone and if you are curious and want to give them a try without the investment, you can check out Cloth Diaper Trader for used diapers at a cheap price. Just wash them thoroughly once you receive them and they’ll be ready for use immediately.
16. Buy in Bulk
If you opt out of breastfeeding and cloth diapering, than bulk shopping will be the next best thing for saving money.
Bulk shopping is perfect for items such as formula, diapers, wipes, and baby food. Just make sure to look for expiration dates on formula and food before stocking up.
17. Save All Your Baby Items
If you are planning on having more than one child, then set aside a few storage boxes so that you can hold on to things as your baby outgrows and out uses them.
If you have a lot of gender neutral clothes than you’ll be all set for the next baby, but don’t be afraid to put a girl in a blue shirt or a boy in a pink shirt. They’re babies and they won’t care.
The same can be said for a car seats, strollers, high chairs, rock-n-plays, and pack-n-plays. If the items are functional than they are worth keeping.
If you aren’t planning on more than one kid, than save items for a friend or family member, or donate them to Goodwill, a church or use Freecycle.
18. If You Can, Work From Home
Some people may have the option to stay at home with their kids and that’s great. That will save a lot of money that would have gone to childcare.
But more often than not, having kids means your day job becomes even more important. If you are in a position that offers some flexibility with your time and schedule, than opting to work from home once or even twice a week could go a long way toward saving money.
But, since you’re kid might distract you throughout the day, you might need to utilize naps and bedtime to play catch up on any projects or emails you may have missed.
Saving Money With Your Toddler or Older Child
I’d like to say that children become less expensive as they get older, but oftentimes this isn’t true. As your kid grows they’ll only get more involved in activities and those can cost quite a bit of money.
But not everything has to nickel and dime you as you’ll see from the list of saving tips below.
19. Don’t Give Them Options
Yes you read that correctly. If you want your kids to accept things as you offer them, do not give them any other choice beyond the one you present.
This means that when you cook dinner, don’t cook a meal for you and a meal for your little. Instead make a dinner that you know will appeal to you both and stay firm about that being the only meal available.
The same goes for toys. Don’t get roped into getting them everything they ask for or feel the need to constantly keep up with the latest toys. Instead teach them how to value what they have and not to always want more.
20. Use Coupons
In addition to using cash back apps, you’ll want to use in-store coupons as well. If you become affiliated with a grocery store, they will often send you coupons in the mail for your favorite or frequently bought items.
You may also receive the occasional coupon book in the mail. Before throwing this away, browse through it and set aside any coupons of interest.
You could find coupons offering a free entree with the purchase of one entree or you could find coupons to kid friendly places, like Dave and Busters. Either way, the coupons will help you save more money and may allow you to splurge on activities once and awhile.
21. Let Friends and Family Babysit
Babysitters can get expensive if you plan on going out for more than an hour, which face it, if you’re getting a babysitter you’re expecting to be gone long enough to enjoy yourself.
Babysitting rates can vary, but typically you’ll pay as low as $14 an hour. And that’s money spent on top of whatever activity you’re out of the house for.
If you have really great friends or family members nearby that you trust enough to leave your child with, than it is okay to ask if they would babysit for you…for free. As long as you don’t take advantage of their friendliness too often, this is a great way to save money and enjoy some you time.
22. Buy Generic VS. Name Brand
It is no secret that generic items are cheaper than name brand. And it shouldn’t surprise you that there isn’t much of a difference between the generic item versus the brand item.
Some brand name items will boast better ingredients, but more often than not, when you compare labels the ingredients are the same, just rearranged or named differently.
I promise the product will still work even if it’s just generic and sometimes the difference in cost can be as much as $3-5! That definitely money that can be put toward better things.
23. Make Toys/Crafts
There are so many do-it-yourself (DIY) projects out there that require little more than some paper and glue. Pinterest offers a host of crafts and toys you can make on a budget using items you already have at home.
For some instant ideas, you can save your toilet paper rolls and link several of them together to form a long chain that your child can play with using their imagination (it’s a snake…no it’s a dragon!). You can make swords out Amazon boxes or build a dollhouse out of cereal boxes.
Plus, if you include your child in the actual construction of the project, not only will they have more fun since they are bonding with you, but they’ll treasure the item even more.
And at the end of its use, all you have to do is recycle. Talk about helping your environment and your wallet.
24. Cook More
Cooking at home is fundamentally cheaper than eating out or even ordering in. And this doesn’t just apply to dinner. Making your lunch will go a long way to saving you money as well.
As a parent of a toddler, life can get busy and time can run away from you and before you know it you’re standing in front of the fridge wondering what you all are going to eat.
The best way to avoid this is to meal plan in advance to prepare for the week. When you make your grocery list, include everything you’ll need for a full week of lunches and a full week of dinners. And don’t be afraid to repeat meals or provide the same lunch every day.
This way you’ll avoid any hasty decisions to just go out for dinner or to order pizza. Plus if you plan your meals in advance, you can center your meals around how much time you want to spend preparing them and the quality of ingredients that go into them.
In the end, you’ll feel better about the money saved and the clean eating your family is doing.
25. Find Free Activities
Entertaining a child can seem like a huge feat sometimes. This is especially true with older children who are always looking for the next best thing.
Despite the ever growing cost to do stuff like amusement parks and movie theaters, there are several activities you can do for free with your kids.
You can browse your local newspaper for free events that are kid friendly or you can contact your library. Some libraries play movies on the weekend or host an activity club for free. You can even reach out to local museums to see if they offer a day in the month that is free to the public.
If all else fails, activities like hikes and going to the park are always free of charge and will help your child burn some energy too.
26. Donate Old Toys
At some point kids outgrow toys. This is the perfect time to take advantage of donating to a good cause or company, like Goodwill.
Donating your used toys, and even used baby/toddler items, can help earn you a tax break down the road. Just make sure to save your donation receipt.
Saving money with a family is all about finding balance. You’ll have to measure your needs versus your wants and set realistic expectations for what your family can afford.
If you set a budget up front, than raising a family doesn’t have to make you live beyond your means. Plus all that money saved can later be used for something fun like a family trip. Or something responsible, like a college fund.
Whether you already have children, if you’re expecting, or if you know you want kids some time in the future, hopefully these tips will have helped! Let me know in the comments below and happy frugaling!