Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


13 Ways to Raise a Family Without Going Totally Broke

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset
Photograph by Twenty20

Parenting, as you've probably noticed, is crazy expensive. As Kimberly Palmer, author of "Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family," says, "If you actually think about the costs before becoming a parent, you will be tempted to put it off indefinitely—so we have to to make choices that will save us more money in the long run."

She suggests that instead of skimping everywhere we can, we instead think—and save—strategically, spending money on the things that will improve our quality of life (whether that's annual vacations or weekly grocery delivery) and saving in ways that help our bigger financial picture. "Starting a new tradition of making pizza on Friday nights instead of ordering it in saves our family about $1,200 a year," shares Palmer.

"Signing up for flex spending through workplace benefits (of yourself or your partner) can shave hundreds of dollars a year off your transportation, health care, and child care costs. Setting up a 529 college savings account can save you thousands of dollars off college tuition expenses because of the tax benefits."

RELATED: 10 Sneaky Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

By taking advantage of opportunities for saving in this way, we can spend less in our family lives without compromising in the areas that matter to us most. Read on for more ways to save cash while raising kids:

1. Give Guidance on Gifting: "I may not win any Miss Manners awards, but I've saved a lot of money by asking for specific gifts. I don't have time, space or patience for a million crappy toys. So, I ask family members (and close friends) for specific gifts for my son that we actually want. This way, we've received a lot of zoo, aquarium and children's museum memberships, which saves me money all year long. Class and sports registration fees can also fall into the grandparent gift category. Family members actually really appreciate the guidance on gifting—many of them have no idea what to buy—and they love hearing how much we're using and enjoying what they've generously given us." – Natasha Howell, mom of one, Seattle, WA

2. Get Your DIY On: "I feel obligated to buy all of the eco/green/organic cleaning stuff, which is ruinous on the budget. So I stopped buying dishwashing detergent, and started making my own. It's just a tablespoon of baking soda put directly in the soap part (I splash a little water on to pre-dissolve), and 3-4 drops of the dishwashing soap you'd use to hand wash. Additionally, a bottle next to the sink with three to one water to dishwashing soap ratio, which I pour into a small bowl for use with an IKEA scrubbie on dishes, keeps soap usage way down. I make liquid hand soap out of bar soap and water (one bar makes a half gallon). And I make vinegar, water and essential oil concoctions for wiping surfaces. OK, sometimes I resort to bleach, but it better be really a big deal. In general, my homemade products go the distance." – Nicole Labry, mom of three, Austin, TX

3. Check Online: I love me some Amazon Prime, and order certain specialty items like probiotics and ghee from food retailers online. I have a pretty good sense of what these items cost elsewhere so can shop around for the best deal; when buying from Thrive Market, I buy a few of each item—knowing we'll go through them—instead of adding in extras to meet the minimum amount for free shipping. Hot tip: I've seen high quality prenatals there for a third of the usual price.

There was a time in my life when I would hand over $20 several times a week for yoga classes in swanky studios. Those days are definitely over.

4. Skip the Gym: There was a time in my life when I would hand over $20 several times a week for yoga classes in swanky studios. Those days are definitely over. I now do what I call YouTube Yoga, following along at home with classes online each evening while my husband gives the kids their bath. This saves me money and travel time, so I can get that fill-my-cup mama-time fix and then bounce right back downstairs to make dinner. My favorite channels are "Yoga with Adriene" and "Yoga by Candace."

5. Thrift Strategically: My friend Dena is a master thrifter. She scores incredible deals by shopping in certain areas (read: the wealthy ones) and at certain times of the year (post-holidays = jackpot). From the best educational toys to brand new, high-end appliances, she consistently kills it in on the thrifting scene. Same goes for consignment shopping: last year's hot stroller, barely-used organic Ergos, Keen sneakers—it's all out there, for a steal, if you know where to look.

6. Check Out Community Events: "My community has so many fun, free activities for families, so I make sure to check out the local events calendar. This summer, I plan to take advantage of the great children's library programs, as well as free and $1 children's movies offered in the morning at local theatres. In addition to free summer activities, there are monthly art walks, free concerts and more. Holidays are a good time for family events, too. Last Easter, we had two weekends full of pony rides, petting zoos, bounce houses and egg hunts—all free." – Jill Robertson-Li, mom of two, Daytona Beach Shores, FL

RELATED: 9 Failproof Ways to Save Money at Target

7. Don't Pay the Babysitter: I trade date-night babysitting services with a close friend, so I never have to pay a teenager to watch my Netflix and raid my fridge. I actually feel a lot better about another experienced mom—one my kids already know well—watching my kids than I would a 16-year-old. It feels good to mutually support each other in this way, gets me regular time with my hubs, and saves us some extra cash for ordering dessert.

8. Plan Your Purchases "I spend less each week on food and household items when I take an hour or so every Sunday to go through coupons and store circulars, plan our meals for the week, and see if any of the things we usually buy are on sale. Stores like CVS and Rite Aid that have rewards cards are beneficial because if you're savvy, you can get cash back. There are also coupon apps like Ibotta that you can combine with paper coupons and store discounts" – Maria Olsen-Hoek, New York, NY

9. Make Your Own Takeout: You guys, have you gotten on the slow cooker bandwagon yet? I know this sounds kind of gag-level Suzy Homemaker but that's only because you're yet to discover the magic of throwing a few things into the crock sometime around mid-morning and busting out a steaming hot bowl of perfect pho (or General Tso's chicken or fall-off-the-bone short ribs … whatever your ready-made pleasure) come dinner time. It's a whole lot cheaper—and healthier—than takeout, but feels just as easy when the witching hour rolls in.

RELATED: 25 (Nearly) Free Ways to Entertain Your Toddler

10. Libraries: They're More Than Just Books: In addition to offering an endless supply of books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, e-books and more, libraries across America are increasingly offering cultural events and community services within the neighborhoods and cities they serve. From homework help to Diwali celebrations to multi-language story times to craft tables at the farmers market, libraries offer a little bit of something for everyone.

11. Find Out About Free Days: Many museums, zoos, aquariums and other family-friendly city sites offer "free days" or "family days" with special presentations and activities for the kids once a month or so. Memberships often include free guest passes as well, so even if you don't feel like buying in, chances are a friend can hook you up for a full day of fun. Ask around!

12. Find Local Buy/Sell Facebook Groups: "We buy almost all clothes and toys from a few local Facebook groups for parents who want to buy, sell, trade or simply give away their used kid stuff. Also, I've been to a few big consignment sales at preschools or through a couple of organizations here who often have a huge selection and amazing prices—a perfect combination if you're looking for specific baby gear or a season's worth of clothes for your 5-year-old." – Sarah Macdonald, mom of one, San Francisco, CA

13. Target Specific Stores (Get it? "Target"?): "Grocery shopping at Trader Joe's with a meal plan and detailed list cut our grocery bill in half. I don't buy food anywhere else now! I like going to a specific Target store, too, (a less popular one, since a new one opened up) right after the holidays. The clearance deals are awesome; I got a ton of Lego storage containers for 50 percent off after Christmas last year." – Valerya Rose Baker, mom of four, Tijeres, NM

Share this on Facebook?

More from lifestyle