5 Budgeting Tips for New Parents

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If you are a new or expecting parent, I hope you have been saving. That’s because the cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 is estimated to run you a mind-boggling $233,610! That’s according to the USDA’s latest Expenditures on Children by Families report.

If anyone could use a few ideas on how to cut costs, while still providing a happy and healthy childhood, for kids it’s us, parents! There are many ways to cut everyday costs, but here are some of my go-to tips for new and expecting parents.

Plan, plan, plan ahead!

Start small. For example, if you get take out or go out to dinner often try to schedule time for cooking at home, and when possible bring lunch to work. Instead, take that money you would spend on takeout or lunch and put it in a jar instead.  Watch the savings add up!

Wait to shop for items until you know you need them! If you can test baby gear products from a friend or family member, do that first.  I can’t tell you how many parents-to-be shell out big dollars for things their baby didn’t end up liking or using.

When it comes to clothes, visit second hand shops, especially when your child is going through a growth spurt and his or her size is likely to change within a few months. Look to neighbors and friends for hand-me-down clothing. Kids grow so quickly that you’ll likely find a plethora of barely worn outfits.

When it comes to childcare

Consider all your options, research and budget out all possibilities such as childcare co-ops with friends/family, at-home day care, or an Au Pair, etc. Don’t forget to run the numbers closely – some parents find that it makes more financial sense for one parent to stay home.

What about groceries?

The supermarket is a great place to cut costs. One of the more important things to remember is stick to your list! People often spend extra money on unplanned buys so remember – if you don’t need it, don’t buy it!

Pay attention to sales as most stores have patterns for when specific items are marked down. For example, if your go-to market has a sale on ground beef every other week, stock up on mean during those times and then and freeze the extra until you need it.  A wholesale club membership is another great option. You can purchase items in bulk and can also often find great prices on clothes, furniture and other home items.

Finally, don’t forget the classic coupon. Dollars and cents add up! Check the Sunday paper and coupon sites for deals – they change every day

What about cutting costs on clothing, extracurricular activities equipment and other miscellaneous items?

When it comes to clothing, don’t dismiss the idea of hand-me-down offers from friends and family. Those offering the clothes will likely be thrilled to see their purchases worn again on someone they know.

In addition, sports and after-school activities equipment and tools can get expensive. Therefore, used sports gear shops or buy-sell-swap websites are a great starting point, especially if your child is just considering a new activity.

When it comes to activities: check your local community center for free programs, discounts for early registration or registering multiple family members. Often times these discounts exist but are not publicized. If you or your partner have time, volunteering with organizations can often reduce or remove participation fees. It’s a double win – save money and spend quality time with your little one!

Family vacations? How to create lasting memories while on a budget?

It’s no secret that family trips and adventures can be the highlight of childhood memories. Think back to some of your own family trips as a child.

There are several ways to work your budget here. First, plan early and do your research! Many attraction tickets and passes have coupons online or offer discounts on advance purchases. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts.

Remember to also consider the timing of your trip. If the kids can miss a day or two of school around a holiday break, you might be able to save big on travel costs by flying outside of weekend dates.

Once your trip comes, try to bring lunches and snacks with you on your daily outings. The kids will likely enjoy having a friendly peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and you will love the lack of a $50 lunch bill! If your kids want souvenirs, set daily budgets they need to stick too. If a souvenir falls outside the budget have him or her look for something else.

Liz Vaccariello is the Editor-in-Chief of Parents Magazine of the Meredith Parents Network. Prior to that, she was the Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest. Originally from Cleveland, Liz, her husband, Steve, and their pre-teen daughters – identical twins, Sophia and Olivia – now live in the greater New York City area.

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