2. Find ways to reduce your money spent on clothes and shoes.
Another way to raise kids without going broke is to save money on clothing. If you have close friends or family members or fellow church members who have kids around the same age as you, see if you can set up a clothing co-op, where you trade clothes around. I’ve done that with three of my sisters (the other one’s children were older that the rest of ours), and it worked so great. Whatever clothes we bought or received as gifts from baby showers or from doting grandparents we would just use until they were outgrown, and then we would add them to the collective pool, where whoever needed clothes next would just take the appropriate size of clothes and use them as needed and then return them and grab the next size up. It meant we have all had to buy a lot fewer clothes than we would have otherwise!
Other ways to save money on clothes include buying them from second-hand kid stores (like Kid to Kid) or thrift stores, or buying them from online classifieds. This works especially well when you need a whole season’s worth of clothes that someone else’s kids have outgrown, and you can buy them in bulk and save a ton of money.
Read this article for more ways to save on clothing.
3. Buy inexpensive furniture.
When you have young children, it may not make sense to have fancy or expensive furniture. There is a high probability that your furniture will get thrashed or at least worn out while your children are young. (In fact, when we just replaced our 15-year-plus-old furniture with newer used furniture, my five-year-old said she wished we still had the old furniture—I think because my husband doesn’t let the kids eat on the furniture much anymore.) You can save a bunch of money buying used—the three gently used pieces we got were $25 each from a second-hand store (they were having a half-off sale).
4. Keep your spending on toys and gadgets in check.
Another thing you can do to raise your kids without going broke is to save money on toys and gadgets. It’s fine to buy your children some of the toys and electronics you think or know that they want—as long as you can afford it. But afford is a funny word. Sometimes people think if they can buy it without going into debt (even if they’re not saving any money at all for emergencies or larger expenses or retirement) or if they can pay their minimum balances on their credit cards, then they can afford it. Don’t fall into that trap—or if you’ve been in it before, don’t fall for it anymore. Reasonable toys and electronics and so on are fine, but don’t let your spending on those things (for your children or for yourself) put what should be more important financial priorities in jeopardy.
5. Find ways to entertain your children for cheap or for free.
And you can definitely find inexpensive ways to entertain your children that will help you raise your kids without going broke. There are a ton of fun things that you can do with your kids for cheap or for free, from walking to hiking to biking to playing at the park to going to the library to baking and cookie making and more. See this huge list of ideas for fun free and cheap activities to do with your children.
And also check out this article with more ideas on how to save money on entertainment.
6. Keep the birthday parties and gift giving reasonable.
I don’t know if the situation with birthday parties and gift giving is the same everywhere in the U.S., but I would guess that it is. Not only has the party throwing for and gift giving to the little birthday guy or gal gotten over the top, but so have the party favors and expectations for the guests. It’s almost like we feel that we have to give those who come to the party a gift for giving a gift. And though that’s a nice sentiment in theory, somewhere the trend of spending and spending has to stop. In our (extended) family, gift giving by the aunts and uncles or cousins to the birthday boy or girl is optional, not required, and when our kids are a little older and start to have parties with more than just a couple of close friends, I think I am going to ask that the kids bring no gifts at all.
That’s not because a heartfelt gift isn’t appreciated. Or that my kids wouldn’t love to have another fun toy to play with. But they already have enough. They already have bins of toys—they don’t need any more. Having kids come to play and have fun spending time together with the birthday person should be the true gift—that should be enough. So though we’re only one family in the sea of humanity, maybe we can start a tiny little ripple against the consumerism that seems to have completely taken over our country.
For more information on this topic, read this article on gift giving.
7. Save money on entertainment and vacations.
You can also find ways to raise your kids without going broke by saving on your entertainment and vacation expenses. Family entertainment that provides opportunities for time spent together and also family vacations where children and parents can strengthen relationships are important. And fortunately, they can be done fairly inexpensively. Check out this list of many free and cheap activities you can do with your kids.
And some of my favorite memories of growing up in my own family are our family vacations—even when things didn’t always go exactly as planned. Or maybe especially when they didn’t. 🙂 But you can save money on vacations, too! One of our favorite ways these days to save on vacations is to use Airbnb to book our accommodations. It’s more personal and even more enjoyable than staying in a hotel or even a vacation condo, and it’s less expensive! Triple win! For our last vacation, we stayed in a couple of great places with awesome pools and hot tubs and playgrounds, and we paid about $40 per night. And the places were definitely better than the pretty ghetto (most unfortunately!) hotel rooms in the same price range. Sign up for an Airbnb account here to start saving on your vacations and to receive $40 to go toward your first stay. Pretty awesome!
Learn more about how to save money on entertainment.
8. Make good dental hygiene a priority.
For another way to raise your kids without going broke, make sure that you brush your children’s teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. Otherwise, you could be spending big bucks for dental work down the road.
Our son hasn’t had any cavities so far, but our girls have had 10 cavities between them—and our younger daughter just started to go to the dentist this year! And we may have to have an anesthesiologist put her under in order to fix the rest of her cavities (for $400; at the first dentist’s office we went to, they wanted $500!), since the last time the dentist tried to work on her teeth, she got nervous and things didn’t go so well. And the anesthesiologists in the area apparently aren’t covered by insurance (at least with the two pediatric dentists we’ve visited so far—if we have to actually go the route of anesthesia, I’ll definitely do more calling around to see if one is covered at one of the dentists around). All of that to say, avoid the problem of cavities if you can! We brush and floss our kids teeth every day, but when they were younger toddlers I think there were nights where we wouldn’t brush their teeth again if they wanted something else to eat later (because they didn’t eat enough dinner) or if they had fallen asleep before we had a chance to do so. We’re working to be more diligent now because, man, paying several hundred dollars out of pocket on top of dental and health insurance isn’t cool!
*Update: My daughter was able to get her dental work done without anesthesia at her last dentist appointment—but that was one down, and we’ve still got one more to go. Fingers crossed that all will go well!
9. Don’t automatically supersize your vehicle (and if you do buy a larger vehicle, buy it used for cash).
Another big step you can take as a parent to raise your kids without going broke is to save money on vehicles and related expenses. I know of a family who, as soon as they had their first little one, went out and bought a minivan. Now I guess if you needed a different vehicle anyway and knew that you wanted to have a few children then this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea (and I don’t know if that’s what they were thinking), but if you don’t need another vehicle, stick with your car and keep on driving it! A minivan will generally cost more for gas and insurance, let alone the fact that the price of the actual vehicle itself would often be more.
When you do buy a minivan or other larger car to accommodate a growing (or grown) family, plan to buy it with cash. (Learn here how to never have a car payment again!). And if that means that you swap your car for a van worth the same amount or just a little more, that’s OK—it’s better than getting yourself into a ton of debt to buy a depreciating asset (that may depreciate even more if your sweet little angels are rough on it).
Read this article to learn more ways to save on transportation.
10. Let your children pay for their own gas and car insurance—and don’t buy a car for them.
When they get to the point where they are old enough to drive, allow them the opportunity to pay for their own gas and auto insurance. I got in a (literal) scrape or two as a young driver, and I might have been more careful with my driving (and almost certainly would have appreciated the privilege of driving more) if my parents had required me to pay my portion of the insurance premium, which may very well have gone up during my teen years because of said scrapes.
And don’t buy them a car. If you don’t have one that they can use on occasion, buy an inexpensive third family car that everyone can share as needed. And if they have a job where they actually work a lot of hours and “need” a car of their own because of that, give them the opportunity to pay for it. They’ll take care of it so much better when they do.
11. Stay in a smaller home.
Here, again, don’t go rushing to buy a bigger house when your kiddos come along. Most families lived in small homes for literally millennia—until the very recent future. Let the kids share a room, and stay put in your 1,500-square-foot starter home to literally potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s what we’ve decided to do (our house is even smaller than 1,500 square feet), until we can purchase our next home with cash. So unless you’re in a two-bedroom home (which I would not advise buying if you plan to have children, by the way) and your kids are getting old enough where they really shouldn’t be sharing a room if they’re opposite genders (by about age eight), stay put! And invest all of that money you will save either for retirement or to go toward the purchase of you next larger home when you are in a much better position to really afford it (and maybe till you can do the 100 percent down plan, like we’re planning to do!). Yes, it’s possible that your home may feel cramped at times, especially during the winter months when everyone is cooped up inside, but keep your eyes on your bigger financial goals, and you’ll get through it. We have.
12. Have a single shared cell phone for the kids (and a cheap one at that).
Maybe it shouldn’t, but it still surprises me when I see tweens or young teens with smartphones. I know that smartphones don’t have to be that expensive (we have an inexpensive plan from Republic Wireless or you can also check out Mint Mobile or Xfinity Mobile), but kids and teens and tweens don’t need smartphones. Put that money toward their college educations instead, and consider buying them a cheap, basic (not smart) phone that your kids can share when they have a true need to use a cell phone (which is very rare because of the fact that their friends and teachers will all have cell phones, so they can use those during school activities and things). The potential to get into trouble is a lot less on a dumb phone than on a smartphone, for example. (Yes, I know there are filters and things that can help prevent that—but you won’t have to even worry about that if you don’t give them a smartphone in the first place.)
Now if they get a job as an older teen then that might be a good reason to let them have a cell phone (I still wouldn’t give them a smartphone, for reasons, like I mentioned above, beyond just the financial ones), but then they can pay for it themselves. Yay!
*Update: We just switched over to Xfinity Mobile because, since we don’t use much data at all, it’s even cheaper than Republic and Mint Mobile! We pay just $3.51 per month per line for our smartphone plan! Awesome! We’ve been with Xfinity just a couple of months now for our internet and cell phone service, and so far things have been great! Currently we pay a 12-month introductory rate of just $40 per month for internet (the same price we were paying before but for internet that is literally 30x faster than our older internet), and then it will go up to $65 per month—but you can bet I’ll try to lower our bill when that time comes. 🙂 If you’re interested in signing up for Xfinity Mobile, use the referral code 1RQ4SP to save $25 to $100 when you sign up.
Find out how to save money on your cell phone service.