Becoming a parent is wonderful—but it’s not easy on your wallet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, raising a child costs an average of $233,610. Of course, the investment of giving life brings returns that far outweigh any financial losses. But saving a bit here and there really does add up (and gives you some peace of mind, too).
Read on for our 7 unconventional ideas to save you money as a parent.
It’s easy to get lost shopping for the many things you *might* need, so checking out consignment shops and keeping baby gear to the bare essentials definitely helps. Get gender neutral baby clothes, if you plan to have more than one child. Buy things in the off-season—stock up on birthday toys, coats, and wrapping paper during the post-holiday sales, or swimsuits as summer wraps up. And of course, look for discounts using coupon sites or tools like Ibotta to save while you shop online.
Simplify your menu
When it comes to baby food, you have a few more things to think about. If you’re formula feeding, you can always ask your pediatrician’s office for samples. We recommend Enfamil because they have developed an entire family of formulas to meet your baby’s changing needs. Once your baby is ready for solid foods, pull out the blender and make your own! Use ice trays to stock up on baby-sized portions, or try a baby-led weaning approach.
Do it yourself
Baby gadgets often come with a high price tag, but there are plenty of ways to minimize the blow to your bank account. Instead of a fancy diaper bag with all the bells and whistles, outfit one of your bags with a portable changing pad and an insulated insert for bottles. Use recipes from DIY Natural to concoct your own baby bath products. Find makeshift child-proofing solutions, like band-aid outlet covers, elastics for cabinet “locks,” Tupperware door knob covers, or pool-noodle corner protectors. Get even more DIY parenting ideas here.
Use what you have
Maintaining a budget also means getting creative and resourceful with things you already have. Use warm water in a bowl instead of a bottle warmer. Rotate toys every few months—suddenly, your kids are getting brand new toys several times a year. A laundry basket makes a great baby/toddler bathtub (and for a newborn, do a sponge bath or share a shower). Use a kiddie pool as a “playpen.” Or break out the tent for a shaded sandbox.
Save on daycare
In some dual-income families, one parent’s entire salary is barely enough to cover daycare. To get the most out of your pay, use these ideas to trim childcare costs. Ask your daycare about sibling discounts or other offers. Shop around for church or in-home daycares, which tend to be less expensive. If feasible, form a babysitting co-op and trade childcare services with families in your community.
Choose inexpensive activities
Focus on creating family experiences that are meaningful and memorable, not expensive. Have a picnic, take a hike, go for a drive, visit a park with a splash pad. Use the kids’ play zone at a restaurant, or enjoy storytime at the library. Do some research to find events happening near you. Lots of museums, libraries, bowling alleys, fun centers, and even stores will often host children’s activities that cost little to nothing.
Plan ahead for vacations
Just because you try to save on family experiences doesn’t mean you can’t travel now and then. Avoid holidays and schedule your trip for a less-busy season. Score a cheaper hotel stay or flight by planning in advance—or by being spontaneous and booking at the last minute. Look into home swap options or Airbnb instead of expensive hotels.
If you’re not sure where to start to improve your finances, check out my simple budgeting tips here. You might be surprised how much you can save by making just one small change at a time.