This is a guest post by Kelly Whalen. Kelly is a mostly stay-at-home mom to her 4 kids. She writes at the ¢entsible life about family finances, and her family’s journey to get out of debt. If you like this article I highly recommend you stop by and check out her blog and subscribe to her feed.
As a parent you want the best for your kids, but that doesn’t have to mean breaking the piggy bank. I’ve included my top 5 tips for parents, and would love to hear your tips and tricks.
- Buy used: Chances are likely that Junior will outgrow that cute outfit you bought him (for a steal!) that cost $30, on sale!, rather quickly. Why not purchase used clothing instead? My favorite place to look for used clothing is consignment sales. Churches, schools, and mom’s groups hold them in our area. Be sure to go without the kids in tow, and bring a list. Getting there early means betting the crowds, getting there late means a bag of clothes for a quarter! Same applies for toys, games, and equipment. If you can’t find a local consignment sale try to find a friend, neighbor, or family member with a slightly bigger child. The mere mention of needing something for your little one may be enough to spur someone to give away what you need. Offer to pay if you can afford to.
- Reuse: This is something I preach to the kids often. They can often find new purpose for many items, or pass it down to someone who can use it. Lately they have been gathering old toilet paper rolls, and flowers to make their artistic creations. I wouldn’t have thought to keep the TP rolls (I recycle them), I’m amazed by how my kids can come up with ideas for reusing old things.
- Give time to your kids: Most parents realize at some point or another that their kids are growing up too fast, or they are doing so much each evening and weekend that there is no “down” time. Carve out 15 minutes for each child, each day. It makes a huge impact on their day, and in our house can miraculously turn a crying child into a well-behaved, calm child. It’s the one thing your child will remember, and look back on fondly as an adult.
- Give $ to your kids: I know I just told you that time is the most valuable thing you can give your child, but you can also give them the training and opportunity to make mistakes early and learn how to fix them. Once your child reaches age 3-5 consider giving them a small allowance (we like to do it by age in our house). They may spend their money on junk toys, or even junk food, but allow them to make their own mistakes. I loved that on a recent trip to Target my 3 year old was looking at some thing on the shelf and said, “I can’t buy that, Daddy said I couldn’t afford it.” We also encourage the kids to sell their own things at a twice yearly yard sale. They use that money to purchase other yard sale finds.
- Plan ahead: With careful planning you can have a better day and be ready for anything your kids might throw at you. Planning meals, bedtimes, and routines cover the basics. Other ideas include planning ahead for messy clothes (including ones for mom and dad), sticky hands, thirsty and hungry mouths, and silliness. Plan one silly thing you can do to lighten the mood if everyone is having a bad day. Favorites of my kids: silly faces, walking outside, and dancing. We keep a calendar on the fridge with all our major activities, and the kids love to look at it and count down to things they are excited about. Planning ahead seems like a drag sometimes, but when you plan ahead you can save a small fortune. I know I’ve saved a bundle when we are on outings by bringing along our lunch or dinner, or even just a simple snack.
- Use memberships to save money: I posted about this at my blog, and it is a great way to save on admissions to local attractions, museums, gardens, etc. Buying a membership is often a great way to give you something to do on those days when you want to do something fun with the family. Look into the reciprocal benefits before you buy. You may be able to get discounted or free admission to other local, national or even worldwide venues. This has been a huge help to us over the years, since we pay a one-time fee and then go as often as we can for a year.
- Make your own: With 4 kids we have a ton of birthday parties to attend. I encourage the kids to make their own cards for friends, make their own gifts, or even their own wrapping paper! Recently my daughter needed a gift for her teacher and spent about an hour coming up with a poem, and writing it down, and drawing an accompanying picture. We could have just gone to the store, but by making something we both saved money, and created something that is meaningful.
What are your favorite frugal tips for families?