Having children is expensive! From diapers to food, braces to sports activities, the costs can add up quickly. In the U.S., to raise a child to age 18, for a middle-income family, it will cost an average of $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation). Of course, this number fluctuates depending on where you live and your spending habits. Saving money as a family may be more complex than budgeting as a single adult, but it can be done successfully.
Saving money doesn’t have to mean drastic reductions in spending. Rather small, targeted steps can lead to substantial savings. No matter the size of your family, use these tips to help create healthy habits:
First and foremost, hold family budgeting meetings. Like any good business that needs financial stability to be profitable, your family will thrive with a clearly defined and agreed upon budget. Schedule regular family meetings and use organizational tools like a spreadsheet, app, or budgeting binder that can be easily edited.
Focus on four main topics:
1. Review past spending patterns and compare them to the current budget. There are some great budgeting apps like Wally, Mint, and GoodBudget that can help you easily visualize the breakdown of what categories you spend the most on. 2. Establish spending for the coming budget period. 3. Identify any current problems and potential issues with the budget and brainstorm solutions. 4. Define your goals and track the progress of your current goals like paying off your eldest son’s braces or putting away a certain amount toward college.
Take a staycation. When every one of your kids’ friends are bragging about their upcoming spring break trip to Disneyland, the beach in Florida, or skiing in the Rocky Mountains, it’s hard to tell your kids that they’re staying home for their week off. But, that’s precisely what you should do. There is plenty to do in your own community and nearby metro areas. Take some days off of work and between free museum days, outdoor activities like hiking or bike riding, and movie theater matinees, a staycation will still be filled with memories and quality time together.
Embrace energy efficiency. We all know that turning off the lights after you leave the room, using energy-smart appliances, and taking shorter baths/showers is good for the environment. But, it’s also good for your wallet. Even if you don’t have the resources right now to install new appliances that use less water and energy, the entire family can still conserve energy and thus, money. Make it a game to turn off the TV when not watching, unplug electronics, and turn the faucet off when brushing teeth. Start with a couple of energy-saving techniques and then add a new one to focus on every couple of weeks.
Meal plan. After a long day at work, the easiest dinner option may seem like a pizza, fast food, or Chinese takeout. But, it is expensive and unhealthy. Meal planning may feel time consuming at first, but after a few weeks you’ll have it down to a science. Over the weekend—Sunday perhaps—plan what your family is going to eat for the week. Make meals ahead and stick them in the freezer or do some shopping to get ingredients for the week. Buy in bulk whenever possible. Luckily there are some apps to help with this process like Plan to Eat, Cook Smarts, and even Pinterest.
Find the free.
Check your community’s calendars for free things to do. Often you will find free story times, music, and outdoor activities—especially for kids. And don’t forget that the kids eat free or half priced at some restaurants. A nice meal out together with some time at the park and you have yourself a fun-filled, inexpensive, child-friendly day!
Plan your purchases.
It may seem commonsense, but most things from winter coats and sweaters to outdoor grills and inflatable pools are sold seasonally. You can usually find the best discounted prices on many items right after the season is over. For example, buy Halloween costumes for the next year right after Halloween this year. Same goes for holiday décor and swimsuits.
Do date night on the down low. You need time away from the kid(s) to reconnect with your partner, but, that doesn’t always have to mean dinner at a restaurant and a movie. While those things are fun, see if family or trusted friends will take the kids while you and your love have a cozy night in making a nice meal and watching a new movie on Netflix.
Resources 1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/cost-of-raising-a-child_n_5688179.html 2. http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/12-habits-of-phenomenally-frugal-families 3. http://www.busybudgeter.com/family-budget-meeting-step-step-guide/ 4. https://www.policygenius.com/blog/smart-financially-savvy-mom/ 5. http://shalommama.com/money-saving-tips 6. http://www.goodfinancialcents.com/simple-money-saving-tips-for-families/
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