As a new parent, you learn many lessons rather quickly.
First, you realize how small a human being can be. You learn how many toys it takes to keep their attention. You learn how to protect every square inch of your home, how to sing every nursery rhyme, and how to walk around the messes so that you avoid stepping on a Lego.
And you also realize how much money it takes to raise a kid.
When you are raising your children, you spend much of your time in the trenches, just trying to survive till bedtime. However, after time passes, you may realize that the bills are piling up, the trips to Target are becoming more frequent, and the budgeting strategies you've used before are no longer working.
This will cause you to need to reassess ways to save your money now that kids rule your life (and seemingly your wallet). Be realistic with yourself, and your children, to stay on track when you create a reasonable budget and make a few adjustments to your spending habits.
There are a few tips to help you actually save your money when you have kids.
Take the Time to Meal Plan
As a mom myself, I can't stress the importance of meal planning enough. Carve time out of your week to sit down and prepare a list of meals for the week. At the same time, write down the grocery list you'll need to prepare the meals. This way, you'll be ready for both the shopping and the cooking for the entire week ahead. I can't tell you how many times I've stood in front of an open fridge, staring down a pile of ingredients only to close the fridge and order take-out minutes later. This isn't budget-friendly. But, when you prepare a list of meals, you will know exactly what's for dinner each and every night, which can prevent you from reaching for that drawer full of take-out menus.
Invest in Reusable Items
The amount of materials needed to raise a kid is astounding. From bottles, to sippy cups, to water bottles, they will go through these items quickly. When you invest in reusable items, you will save money on constant replacements. Food containers and snack holders are at the top of my list. Having these containers ready-to-go every single day is the way to save money without having to buy individually-bagged snacks and still keeping my kids happy. Because, as we all know, kids always want snacks.
Dining at home is always more cost-effective, whether you have kids or not, but it may not always be feasible. When you choose to dine out to celebrate an event or to take a break from the kitchen, choose a restaurant that offers family-style meals. These meals are served in bulk so that the whole family can share, and they are often much more budget-friendly than ordering individual entrees.
Order a big haul of chicken nuggets for the kids (because that's probably all they eat anyways), and then get you and your spouse something to savor and enjoy together.
Make Your Home More Fun
Entertaining kids can be time-consuming and expensive. Theme parks, zoos, children's museums, waterparks, and sports events are fun for kids, but they are also hard on the wallet. To avoid taking your kids to every entertainment zone in your state, you can create entertainment in your own home. Get items to amuse your kids, such as game systems, playground equipment, tents, yard games, toys, and other items that will make your home more fun. You'll spend more time having fun at home, and less time out and about, where spending seems inevitable.
Don't Be Afraid to Say "No"
Shopping at the store suddenly becomes like a battlefield when you have children in your cart. They want everything that isn't on your list, and they want it now. We've all been that parent, whose picking up their kid off the floor after a tantrum at Walmart. Even though it may be difficult, saying 'no' is still one of the best ways to save money on expenses that you don't really need. When you learn to say "no" to these extras, you may have to wipe a few tears, but you'll still be able to stay on budget.
If you are one of the lucky ones who can shop alone, that's always the better route. You may even steal a chance to listen to something other than Baby Shark on the drive there. Now that'd be something.
But Say "Yes" to Secondhand
It's time to start saying "yes" to hand-me-downs offered from friends and family. Clothing, toys, books, and other items can go a long way, especially when your kids' sizes are constantly changing. No one understands the phrase 'growing like a weed' better than a parent does. Check out local events, such as consignment sales and yard sales, to score some great, gently-used secondhand items. Instead of paying full price for stuff you'll only use for a few months, save your money and get them less than half-price.
By making these small changes to your lifestyle, you will start to save money. Saving money for college, paying your bills, investing money in other ventures, and living more comfortably will suddenly become possible once again.
Happy kids don't require empty wallets.
Creating family memories doesn't have to break the bank.
Raising kids may be expensive, but it is still possible to make smart financial decisions along the way. Stop feeling financially overwhelmed by the burden of raising children, and start to make the right decisions for your family.