Wondering how to save money while raising a family? You are not alone. I can't tell you how many moms have told me they can't save money because their kids always need something. I can relate. I have three kids that are continually growing out of clothes and shoes, wearing a hole in their backpack, or any number of other things. With that said, it's absolutely possible to save money while raising a family.
Related post: How to Create an Annual Household Budget
First and foremost, successful saving starts with commitment. Saving consistently and automatically is essential to reaching your financial goals, but you won't be successful without a goal. Consider the following:
Once you have your goal in place, automate those savings deposits. You can do this in a couple of ways:
That also means that you can't dip into your savings anytime you want a little extra spending money. Post that goal somewhere you'll be reminded why you are minimizing your household expenses.
Your grocery budget is likely one of the most significant line items in your budget. As your family grows, so will your food budget, which means careful planning is necessary.
My kids are now 7, 10, and 12, and I was just commenting to my husband about how we never have leftovers anymore. Their appetites are definitely growing, which is reflected in our bank account as well.
Start with a meal plan for the week. Not only will you be more likely to eat at home (saving you money), but when you head to the grocery store, you'll have the opportunity to purchase all of the ingredients you need, minimizing food waste for the week. Remember: when you throw out food, you are throwing out what could have been your savings.
Don't leave the house without your grocery list. It should include every item that you need to complete your meal plan. Take the time to check your list against what you already have in your pantry. There's nothing worse than spending money on an item only to find you already had it.
Hopefully, you have a budget for your groceries, but if you don't, now is the time to create one. Determine a weekly (or monthly amount) and then stick to it. I suggest using cash for a few months so that you can hone in on the exact amount you are spending. You might even surprise your kids with a reward at the end of the shopping trip (movie, anyone?) if you manage to stay within your budget. For older kids, this might be incentive enough to help you find the best prices at the grocery store.
Speaking of best prices, if you have several choices of stores to shop at in your area, you might want to check out the ads for each. I know that I was having a tough time sticking to my food budget until I switched to shopping at Aldi. I get a lot more on a limited budget there. You might have a similar situation in your area.
If it isn't on your list: don't buy it. It might be tempting to see an item on sale and want to purchase it, but if you didn't need it, it's only eating into your budget. Keep in mind: if it's not on your list, it's not necessary.
When it comes to clothes, sell those items that your kids only wore a few times. I use ThredUp, but you can also sell them at a local kid's resale shop or even at a yard sale. If you've spent a lot of money on clothes, you might as well take the opportunity to get some of it back.
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While I'm on the subject of buying clothes, know that you can save lots of money by letting friends and family know you would greatly appreciate their gently used clothes. Stocking up on new clothes at the end of the season for next season can also be a great way to save. When my kids were younger, I used to have boxes and boxes of clothes stored away for when they grew into different sizes.
Keep your savings consistent by putting a little money aside each month for clothing and shoes. Your kids might not need a new item this month, but the money will add up and, hopefully, be enough to cover clothing expenses in the future.
One of the most significant expenses for parents can be centered around birthdays. It's important to remember that birthday parties are about celebrating life, not about showing off to your kids' friends or their parents. One of my daughter's favorite birthday memories was the year we did "make-your-own pizza and cupcakes" with her friends. The kids had a blast adding toppings to their mini pizzas and decorating their cupcakes. Not only that, the food served as both the food and the activity.
Another birthday memory my kids loved was dressing each other up like mummies using toilet paper for a Monster High-themed birthday party. We got lots of great photos, and the kids had a blast.
When in doubt, keep it simple, and you'll save a lot of money in the process.
Set reasonable expectations with your kids (and extended family) when it comes to gifts. If you have a lot of family participating in events, split up the list so that no one person is responsible for the weight of the entire list. I know a lot of families that allow their children to pick one "big" gift for Christmas or birthday. Not only does it help the child learn to appreciate what he or she has, but it helps to save on cost (and storage) over time.
Set a budget for extracurricular activities and stick to it. I've seen clients who want to support their kids spend thousands and thousands of dollars on travel teams when their kids are in high school. If you have the money and you can afford it, that's great. If it means you're racking up credit card debt or you're not saving for your retirement, that's a problem.
In addition to the fees and travel costs, there are also the clothing and equipment requirements. Take it all into consideration before committing to the activity, and spend some time reworking your budget if necessary so that you don't have to dip into the emergency savings or pull out those credit cards.
I'd love to know what your biggest struggle or success has been when it comes to saving with kids in the home. Leave a comment below. You never know - someone else might need to hear what you have to say!
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