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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
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."
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:
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
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
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
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.
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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
– Sarah Macdonald, mom of one, San Francisco, CA
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