My daughter just turned two on January 4th and my second daughter is already 2 months old. I can’t believe how fast time flies with kids! Some may call me cheap, others may call me frugal, but I track every dollar that is earned and spent because we have some pretty lofty financial goals and are zealous to achieve them.
Since I track where all of our money goes, I went through our excel sheet after my daughter turned one to see how much of our spending that year was child-related. I find it a bit ridiculous to read the average cost of raising a child and was determined that it doesn’t have to be as expensive as the experts claim.
In year one, our total was $2,230 for child expenses. This total doesn’t include medical bills but it does include monthly contributions to a college savings fund. Now that year two has come to a close I decided to take a look and see how much different year one looks from year two. We added another child to the mix in November so with two kids our total child expenses in 2015 was $4,063 of which includes $2,300 toward college savings.
3 Tips to Keep Child Expenses Low
As a disclaimer, I’m not an expert in child-rearing and I do understand that there are many factors that affect child expenses, one big one being a stay-at-home mom like me versus a working mom who utilizes daycare services. Also, I only have experience with infants and toddlers so that’s the vantage point I’m coming from. With that said, I’d like to offer 3 tips that can help keep child expenses low.
#1. Don’t buy it
Chances are, whatever you are about to buy will either be outgrown within a few months or your child will find something more entertaining if we are talking about toys. I know it’s hard when there are so many cute outfits and gadgets, but for the price you pay it’s not worth it. The temptation is lessened when you avoid the kids’ clothing or toy section altogether. More on that below.
#2 Ask first
Here’s one situation when social media can be a great blessing: If you do find that you are in need of something for your child like the next size up for winter coats or boots, put up a status with what you are looking for before you run to the store to buy something brand new. Chances are if you are a parent you have plenty of friends who also have kids that are constantly outgrowing their clothes as well.
I did this with newborn items like a baby carrier. I didn’t want to buy one so I just asked if I could borrow or buy one off of a friend. This was especially helpful because it gave me a chance to try out a couple carriers and decide which I’d prefer to use. We even got to borrow a bike and kid-sized car from a friend that we will simply give back when the girls outgrow them.
There’s a higher cost associated with convenience. Yes, those pureed veggie pouches are great and kids love them but when would you ever pay $1 for the equivalent of one pureed carrot? And those veggie cereal puffs… what an expensive way to keep your child occupied. They are doing nothing to satisfy hunger and you have to eat 1,000 pieces before they offer any real nutritional value.
Making baby food can be done with ease at home for pennies but I’d take it a step further and say that you don’t even need to make baby food. I started off with easy to mash foods like avocados, bananas, and sweet potatoes for my daughter’s first foods. As a dietitian I’m always advocating PFC- protein, fat, and carbs at every meal. The same applies to our children but the good news is you don’t have to make or buy special food for them!
A big money saver comes from breastfeeding so food was more for tasting rather than nutritional value during months 6-9 until my daughter started eating more in one sitting. As she got older and wanted to eat more food I would offer her whatever we were having for dinner. I never ask for a kids’ menu because, again, we just give her what we are having.
The only downside of sharing my meal is that even though I like spicier food I’ll tone down the level in my dishes or get spicier salsa on the side at places like Qdoba. No dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, Dora the Explorer fruit snacks, or juice boxes here. On-the-go snacks include real food like raisins, string cheese, or homemade pumpkin pancakes I keep in the freezer so I can throw one in a ziploc before heading out the door. This tip may seem crazy but you’ll thank me down the road when you don’t have to plan two different meals for dinner just so everyone is happy.
Kids don’t have to be expensive
If you haven’t taken a glance at your child-related expenses I recommend it. There are plenty of tips I could give you to save money while raising children (like swapping childcare with friends, using cloth diapers, or taking advantage of diaper deals for disposables) but these three were the biggest tips that impacted our budget. Implementing one small change from any of these tips can have a significant impact on your expenses and save you a lot of money!
What tricks do you use to keep child expenses low?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.