So I had a friend email me asking the average cost of a child per month in her and her husband’s attempts to have her stay home for at least the first year of her daughter’s life.
It got me thinking about budgeting and things small tips I would include in a “ways to stay home and stay on budget to best benefit your family,” guide.
Since Matt and I have been perfecting this skill for over two years now, feel free to laugh at my newbee-ness to this whole concept. But there are certainly some seriously wonderful diamonds in the rough that I have found along the way.
- Cloth diapering verses disposable diapering budgets
- Basic essentials – though I’d add a good baby carrier to the list, you know one of those ones that straps baby onto you so you can carry on with life and supply their need to be snuggled. And i never had a Bumbo seat, despite the hype, and my kids don’t have flat heads nor were they socially deprived. 😉
- Hit up those $15 for all-you-can-fit-in-a-bag sales that come in the Spring and Fall at Once Upon a Child. We fit almost $250 of clothes into a bag for $15 (onesies can roll up to smalled than a toothbrush size).
- Check out Kidz Again if there’s one in your area. They have clothes for kids up to 12 years old for cheaper than Once Upon a Child and even match together outfits for your “the baby is screaming and we have to leave the store right now” moments for as cheap as $2. Their toy selection is also wonderful (we found a $40 reading system and 2 $10 books for $8.50 all together).
- Check out the Thrift Stores (like Valley Thrift or Goodwill) and you’ll be surprised how “my kids don’t look like we shopped at the Thrift store” your kids will look wearing their second-hand name brand clothes.
- Check out freebies for new moms and new-again moms offered through Similac (for those of you that are going formula for feeding) and other companies. Many of the companies will mail you a “sample” of their formula which is a regular sized container in hopes to hook you on their brand.
- Breastfeeding is free-er than formula (just saying) so give it a good shot if you can. =)
- Second-hand is a WONDERFUL addition to any child’s wardrobe, especially for play clothes.
- Don’t be afraid to set up a budget of what you need, be serious, and then add on a little “play money”.
- We have “allowance money” each month to spend on whatever we’d like and it makes budgeting our other funds realistic.
- Always include a date night fund – unless you ABSOLUTELY cannot. Even i it’s $5 for a movie once/month and then you have free date nights in between. But by setting aside a date night fund you are placing it as a priority to invest in your spouse. Free date nights can include walking around the mall, going to a local park, walking the neighborhood, a movie night in, etc. Be creative and just try to be “just us” to keep things sane. =)
- Happy Homemaker Cindy does the couponing and store ads work for you (compiling multiple sites and researching all the large grocery store chains weekly). She even has a section on her site with bulk cooking recipes and meal plans to help drive the cost of each meal down. She has practical and useful tips as well in grocery store management and budgeting well in the food category. (You will need access to a printer and paper to print specific coupons so count that and time into the cost of couponing.)
- Make a list – and force yourself to only buy what’s on the list (And don’t bring a pen in to write more things on the list while shopping – that’s cheating).
- Don’t grocery shop hungry or with a cranky baby if it can be avoided. Take the time needed to really weight the cost and do the math.
- If your name brand picky know what areas matter and what areas don’t. Ex. Toothpaste may be a “hill to die on” but applesauce may not matter. And some things really are better name branded because they last longer and are the one with the versatile features you really want.
- Set up a monthly meal plan and then only buy accordingly instead of buying weekly and having to run out and buy the extra sides you forgot.
- Planning is most of the battle.
- Think about bulk cooking – it can save time on weeknights that you would otherwise be spending in a drive through line, wasting your money on overly-priced-but-nutritious foods, or cheap-in-nutrition-and-price foods.
- Seriously consider child labor – just kidding! Only testing to see if you’re still paying attention.
- They don’t know the difference between name brand and non-name brand until they are exposed to the need for name branded toys and characters (usually television over other kids). If you promote a one-character only toy explosion you will find yourself replacing more toys when the fad is over and the child has moved on to something else. We have found great joy in our “built to last” generic toys while finding the balance of adding on a few specific characters only as the phase continues. For example, buying a child’s clothing line in Dora wear is only as helpful and frugal (if the character print shirt was indeed cheaper) as the phase is long.
- Some toy name brands are indeed better and worth looking for – but don’t settle for one store’s price. Look for the item on sale or better yet – at a garage sale or craigslist. Being willing to wait for the quality item to be in your price range will save hundreds over last minute “we have to have this tomorrow” buys.
- Again, planning is most of the battle.
- Creativity and resourcefulness are very helpful in keeping your cost of living down. Check out “how to” videos on youtube or google search to see if there are ways you can make or practically substitute household tasks/organization/products. I’m not talking about using tree bark only in substitution for soap, but I am saying there are many practical and cheap methods to fixing problems verses buying an expensive organizer or product. Ex. Concentrated lemon juice ($0.89 a bottle) and sunning on the laundry line helps get those “impossible to get out” stains from clothes instead of buying a new shirt or buying an expensive stain remover product.
- Where there is a will, there’s a way. And there’s also a whole lot of people out there with good ideas on how to “cut the corners” of “must have” expenses without cutting on quality and end-product.
- There are also a lot of really bad and “much more expensive” ideas out there too, so be sure to check out how other people are rating the idea before putting all your eggs in one basket.
- The local library – a HUGE resource bank and financial friend with movies (not just the old or dumb ones), CD’s, audiotapes, and of course books.
- Redbox your movies over expensive rentals.
- Netflix is quite nice allowing an $8 a month subscription with many local kids show episodes (excluding Disney for the bottom line subscription), great documentaries, and all kinds of movies. Plus, no commercials means the kids are less encouraged to be “I need that” oriented.
- Bunny Ears (Rabbit Ears) on a TV allow for basic channels without paying to watch TV.
- Less TV = more activity and free outdoor play. (I’ve found monitoring TV also cuts down on whining and neediness due to encouraging creativity and self-entertainment, let alone the family perks of doing fun things together).
- Check out a local site for free/cheap entertainment. In our area, activedayton is a great site to research local events with price listings and kid-friendly vs. non-kid friendly listings.
Again, where there is a will there’s a way.
Seek budget-friendly advice, cheap and fun entertainment, and look at value of experiences and products for duration and durability and lasting memories. When you start weighing the value in things, it allows you to invest in those things with the most lasting joy for all family members.
It’s about being intentional with your budget to serve your family the best you can with thankfulness for all you have been given.
– Hope this was helpful in some way to you.
And please, please, do share your tid-bits of wisdom with me in the comments section. I always love learning new tricks of the trade. 😉