A few years ago a good friend and co-worker of mine said to me, “You DINKS don’t know how easy you have it.” If you’ve never heard the term DINK, it stands for Dual-Income, No Kids. And my friend was right, I didn’t know how easy I had it. If you don’t have kids, let me tell you something you might not know – Kids are expensive!
First, there’s the whole cost of just bringing them into the world. I’ve heard the average cost of having a kid from conception until they send you home is about $10,000. It’s closer to 3x that if you need to use IV to conceive. And then once you have them there are all sorts of expenses:
- You can’t even bring the kid home without a car seat, so you need one of those right off the bat.
- Then you’re going to need a buggy/stroller and maybe a travel stroller if you’re going to go anywhere with them.
- Bed-side crib for the first six months, then a crib/toddler bed for them to sleep in once they’re big enough for their own room.
- Clothes. Loads of clothes. Kids grow exponentially and it constantly seems like everything is getting to small, so you’re always out shopping for them.
- Diapers are amazing and amazingly expensive. And you’ll be using them for at least a couple of years.
- And then you’ve day care. It costs a fortune, but without out, you’re going to be a one-income family.
And I’ve not even touched on things like books, toys, glasses, braces, and college. I’m not sure what the cost of raising a kid is until they leave the house once and for all, but I’ve been told it’s as much as $250k.
In this article we’ll go over a few tips for how to save money as a parent as well as the calculation that all parents should do to see if childcare is worth their while.
Saving Money on Clothes
Clothes are one of those necessities that can cost you a fortune if you let them… and clothes for you kids are no different. However, there are many ways that you can save money when your kids are little. Here are a few of the pro-tips:
- Use hand-me-downs. Since kids grow out of clothes so quickly there’s not often a lot of time for them to rack up a lot of wear and tear. So, you can often get freebies from friends and family that are almost like new. Also, so many parents overbuy clothes, especially those for newborns, that you can often get clothes that are good as new.
- Along the same lines of hand-me-downs scout out second-hand shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army. A lot of parents donate clothes once their kids have outgrown them, and a lot of times you will find outfits only worn a couple of times. My wife recently found some clothes for our kids that still had the tags on them.
- Head to the big-box stores like Walmart and Target instead of going to specialty stores like Baby GAP. The big box stores have made a lot of progress in getting in more fashionable clothes for babies and toddlers and are significantly cheaper.
- Dress your kid for comfort and play instead of like a baby accountant. Yeah, it’s super cute to have a few outfits that make your kid look like a baby businessman or a cute dress for the baby girl, but most of the time t-shirts and jogging pants are what you’ll be dressing them in. It’s just easier and more convenient. So, only get one or two of those super cute outfits and the rest of the time go super casual.
Save Money on Toys
Kids love toys and parents love seeing the look on their kids face when they bring something new home for junior. However, if you give into your parental urges and your kids desires you’ll end up with a mountain of toys and big bills to show for it. So, here are a few of the best tips we’ve received on saving money on toys:
- Buy the classic toys that are built to last. The solid wooden toys will last for years and can be handed down from child-to-child. They can also take a beating from your little ones and live to see another day.
- Avoid handheld electronic games. These are overpriced and are semi-disposable. They are designed to only last for a few months and it’s not a question of if they’ll break but when. Go with phone or tablet apps if you have to give them something with a screen.
- Don’t waste money on disposable/throwaway toys. These are the ones you get a fairs, the circus, or events. They flash and spin and die in a few hours of use. Teach your kids the value of money and patience and avoid these money traps.
It’s never easy to say no, but in doing so you are making sure that you make future toys more special. If your kids are older you can have them earn the toy by having them do chores either for an allowance, or for points if you don’t want to give them money, so that they can learn that getting toys is a trade-off for hard work.
Save Money on Big Items
The real savings are in the big money items. It’s not uncommon now to see baby buggies go for over $1000, strollers for hundreds, and travel and specialty strollers like jogging strollers can set you back a few hundred dollars. Bed-side cribs, toddler beds, and changing tables can also go for several hundred dollars. Needless to say, if you buy all of these new you can easily have a few thousand in costs in the first year.
Much like baby clothes a lot of these items can be bought second-hand. For cribs and bed-side cribs buy them second-hand and get a new mattress. Mattresses are one thing that you should get new. Studies have shown that there is a potential link between used mattresses and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), so why take the risk. Also, as a parent even though I can say that my kids’ mattress looks clean it has been put to the test… kids get sick, bring home germs, and don’t always wake up in time before they are full potty-trained. So, yeah, go with a new mattress.
For buggies and strollers the key is to find something that meets your needs and that will last. You’ll likely be using your stroller or buggy for two years, so it needs to be good quality. The best ones will often come with a carry-cot, a stroller seat, and will also take a car seat. It’s better to spend a little more and get something that will last instead of needing to replace it right away.
When it comes to specialty strollers like joggers you really need to weigh if you need it or not. They can look awesome, but unless you are going to use it regularly then it can be a bad purchase. Think about a jogging stroller. These can often cost $300-400. When you buy it you may have all the good intentions of using it every weekend, but you don’t know if you’re going to like it or if your kid will. If you only use it half a dozen times that means you just paid $60 per run. Even if you use it 30-40 times that is still about $10/run. Think about buying used if you can and selling it once you’re done.
Selling and Donating Items
If you’re not yet familiar with Ebay or Craigslist you should check them out. They are a godsend for parents looking used goods or looking to sell items that their kids have outgrown. You can sell items big and small. These are huge platforms with lots of reach. There are a number of community apps out there that can help you sell. Also, don’t overlook your own circle. Post on Facebook or Instagram and you can potentially cut out the listing fees you’ll get on a platform like Ebay. A lot of community organizations like schools and churches sometimes also host community yard sales, giving you a good chance to reach a broader swath of your community.
Children’s items actually hold value really well compared to a lot of other categories, and best of all there are always willing buyers out there in the form of parents to be… and they want to buy the best for their kids. This is why buying quality can end up being cheaper in the long run – higher quality items hold their value for longer and will have a higher resale value.
Another thing to consider is donating some items to charity. First, you can score yourself a nice tax break when you give them to a charitable organization like Goodwill. Second, charitable organizations that sell items at low cost provide an avenue for lower-income families to buy the things that their kids need. Your donations can make a real difference.
Childcare or Stay-at-Home
Although many of you are probably thinking of course childcare is what I need, I want you to sit down and do the math. With one kid it can be easy. 1 kid at $1200/month = $14,400/year. So, that is easy enough… Childcare is the right decision if you make more than that. But what about with two kids? Now we double that amount. This sets the income bar higher, and you have to start asking yourself, if one parent only makes $30k/year after tax, and childcare costs me $28,800 is it worth it? The answer for many starts to become “No.”
A friend of mine who was a teacher and who’s husband was and engineer once told me that with three kids she had the choice of being a stay at home mom or paying $15k/year to work. That’s right, her job didn’t pay enough to cover the cost of having 3 kids in day care where they lived. When they dropped down to two kids in day care (and the other in school) she still opted to stay home because not being with her kids wasn’t worth the 40 hour work weeks and stress. Now that the kids are back in school she’s resumed her career and doesn’t regret the years off in the least.
Every parent needs to do the math on how much childcare costs versus how much they earn and determine if the difference is enough to justify them going into work everyday. If you have the option to do part time, then that my be an option worth considering even if it is close to breakeven as it keeps you in the workforce, keeps your experience fresh, and gets you some time away from the kids and with your fellow adults.
Kids are expensive, but you can minimize costs without having to make sacrifices or letting your kids do without. Use a combination of buying quality and selling once you are done and buying second-hand when appropriate.
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