I often hear that raising kids is sooooo expensive. I honestly don’t think that has to be true. Yes you will spend more than you would if you were childless but it doesn’t have to break the bank. It is all in how you choose to live. Frankly if you do not raise kids in a consumerist driven home environment and you do not fall into the trappings up keeping up with the Joneses and the Joneses children, you can manage quite well financially. You can manage quite well AND give your children a good life.
This may mean that your kids don’t eat at restaurants very much. It may mean that movie theater trips are not very frequent. Extra curricular activities that are accompanied by a healthy price tag may not be on the table. Kids can still thrive when we aren’t throwing money at their entertainment desires. Sometimes the answer is no and sometimes you just find a clever way to achieve the same result without the expenditures. Not only will you save money, you will raise better kids, in my humble opinion. Are you up to the challenge?
Ways to Raise a Family and Not Go Broke
No Unnecessary Baby Stuff – In our culture when we find out we are expecting a baby it is not unusual for the excessive spending to start. We need lots of baby clothes, burp rags, receiving blankets, bouncy chairs, baby swings, bibs, baby toys, pacifiers, a custom designed nursery, a fancy stroller, an fabulous crib..the list goes on. Well, you don’t need any of it. Really you don’t. All that cute baby stuff is mostly a vanity purchase by parents. The clothes will be outgrown in weeks. The baby won’t play with toys for a few months and even then they would rather play with the measuring spoons from the kitchen and not the silver baby rattle you bought. They will hate the baby swing and your fancy stroller will be such a pain to lug around solo that you will decide it is ultimately too much trouble to use. Skip all the baby purchases and buy the bare minimum. Co-sleep, wear your baby, and buy used clothes and toys as you need them. Easy peasy.
Nurse Your Babies & Make Baby Food – Why spend a year or longer buying baby formula when you can breastfeed? Not only is it a hundred time healthier than sugar laden, heavy metal containing baby formula, it is FREE. Breastfed babies are sick less often and they find great comfort in the act of nursing. It is also more convenient. No need to be in the kitchen warming formula on the stove at 3AM, you have milk warm and ready in seconds when you breastfeed. Store bought baby food is also a huge waste of money. Just puree regular foods and freeze servings in ice cube trays so you always have some on hand. This healthier and cheaper.
Hand Me Downs – You will have to buy some stuff, that is true. If you hang on to these items you can pass them on to future children and not worry about starting from scratch with each child. Even if your first child was a girl and she had pink onesies, your new baby boy can wear them around, at the very least around your own home. Why buy new stuff because it the wrong color? Use what you have instead of buying new.
Conserve Resources – With every person that enters the home we use more resources..more power, more water, etc. We need to recognize this and stay on top of it. More people means more laundry so it may be time to start line dry clothes, at least some of them time. Electric clothes dryers are one of the worst energy sucks in your home. Lights that turn off automatically when you leave a room are handy because small kids won’t remember to turn off lights. Teach kids that when it is yellow let it mellow and when it’s brown flush it down. This little act can save tons in the toddler years when they have to pee every ten minutes. Also use a shower bucket (or bath bucket) during all those frequent toddler baths.
Public Schooling or Home Schooling – Yep, no pricey private education. With parental assistance kids can get a good public school education. If there are learning gaps you can address those yourself or seek outside help as needed. It would still be cheaper than a private school. If the environment worries you then homeschooling is an option but in all honesty the environment you want to shield them from in public schools is the same environment they will have to function in as adults. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to pay for private schooling because others in your faith or community do. That is just another way of trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Annual Passes – The best ways to experience local entertainment usually is with annual passes or memberships. A yearly membership to the zoo, the science museum, the play museum, or the waterpark often pay for themselves in one or two visits. And you don’t need to get them every year. If you visited the science museum ten times last year because you had a membership then go for a zoo membership this year. We all want our kids to have fun experiences and this is a way of cheaply providing it.
Thrift Store Shopping – Most of your home purchases can be made at second hand stores. You can buy clothing, back to school gear, dishes, bedding, toys, decor…you name it. Just make a pact with yourself that whenever your kids need something you will look at thrift stores first. Chances are you will find what you need and save yourself lots of money.
Music Lessons Online – Many parents want their children to learn some sort of musical instrument. If your public school does not have a free or low cost option there are always online options. Youtube is full of instructional videos. The Hoffman Academy offers free online piano lessons, The Violin Lab offers online violin instruction for only $6.50 a month. In my area we were able to get a violin for our daughter for $21 a month and that goes 100% towards the purchase price. We are basically renting to own with no interest. There are many, many options.
Cook At Home – When you need to keep costs down, eating out is a rare luxury. This is okay though because I think it is valuable to teach kids that making food at home is the norm and they can learn to do the cooking themselves. It is a truly wonderful thing when your teen children can cook for themselves, their siblings, and for the whole family. Eating out can kill your budget in a matter of days to get used to home cooked meals and packing lunches.
Modest Holidays & Birthdays – Just take a look at Pinterest and you will see the crazy amount of time and money that many people put towards birthdays and holidays. I personally chose to not fall into that trap. We have always done modest Christmas celebrations of maybe $100 per child and decor that we sourced exclusively from yard sales and thrift stores. Halloween decor is sourced the same way and costumes can be made at home. Easter baskets were filled with thrift store finds. Birthdays are also modest…a dinner of their choosing, a home cooked cake, and a gift worth about $50. We don’t host holiday or birthday parties either. We makes these times special and memorable without spending lots of money.
Smart Shopping – For groceries we shop at Aldi almost exclusively if you have one near you I highly recommend you check it out. We also use Amazon Prime for the low prices, the free two day shipping, the music streaming, and video streaming, etc. I do a lot of price checking before I make purchases. There are also apps that reward you with cash back for buying certain products. There are loyalty programs that pay you with gas credit. There are credit cards that give anywhere from 1% to 5% cashback on purchases but you have to be disciplined enough to not carry a balance and pay interest. There are lots of tricks you can use to shop smarter and it is actually kind of fun to do.
No Snacking & Simple Meals – In our house we essentially avoid snacking. We all get our three meals and then perhaps fruit if they get hungry in between but I do not buy snack foods in general. Our meals are also fairly simple with cheap ingredients, definitely not Pinterest worthy. We eat a lot of leftovers, we eat a lot of salad, and we eat a lot of whatever proteins I could find the cheapest that week. I like to keep dinner costs at or below $10 per meal or $2 per person. If I go over $10 a meal then that meal needs to provide leftovers for packed lunches.
Garden and Homestead – You can make your grocery bill go further and put your home to work by gardening and homesteading. Homesteading basically just means that your home is “productive” rather than just a money suck. It produces for the family in some way. Start a garden that provides a couple hundred pounds of fresh produce a year. Plant some fruit trees so that you don’t have to buy things like apples, pear, cherries, or peaches anymore. Raise some animals on a small scale such as chickens, rabbits, or quail and then you have a low cost supply of eggs and/or meat. When times get tough you will be happy that you have this resource and its great for kids to be in this sort of environment.
Cheap or Free Community Entertainment – If you look, you will often find lots of free community events that you can take the family to such as festivals and block parties. There are also great park systems to be had in cities and also at the state or national level depending upon where you live. Look for places to hike, picnic, camp, etc. Look for local waterfalls and swimming beaches. City pools are also very affordable usually. I know in Columbus they are about .50 cents per person per day whereas the pools in the suburb areas are $10 a person/day. Really learn about your community as much as you can and find all the hidden gems.
Libraries – I am raising readers. My husband and I also love to read. Instead of buying books we use the library and we request books so that they are delivered to the library closest to us. Libraries also have free events for kids of all ages.
Modest Vacations – We are not going to be that family who does a six day park hopper pass to DisneyWorld and stays at one of the on location luxury resorts, with a dining plan, and breakfast with Mickey. I am okay with that. It is not worth the money in my opinion. We don’t vacation every year and we actually rarely vacationed when the kids were little and not old enough to value the experiences. They were happy just going to the fair to see fireworks.
We chose to do a few weekend trips that took us to various parts of our home state rather drop a few grand on a week long trip out of state. We stayed in Motel 8s rather than resorts. We brought food with us when we traveled so that we didn’t have to eat out. I also took children with me on business trips if I could. My oldest got to go to DC with me once and my daughter went with me to New York City where we did lots of sightseeing. Now that the kids are older we are traveling more but we still do it on a tight budget.
If you are tight on money do not feel as though your kids are missing out on anything. They aren’t. You can provide a wonderful life for them while on a budget.
Only two to three years ago I was mainly shopping at Giant Eagle and Trader Joe’s for our food and household needs. I still love Trader Joe’s and will stop in whenever I am in the area but my heart has changed. I am an Aldi convert. The bulk of my grocery shopping is done there and I do not see that changing as long as I am within 50 miles of an Aldi. Luckily I have one about five minutes away from me currently.
Two years ago I was spending $1200 a month easily at grocery stores. Nowadays the top end up of my grocery budget is $700 a month. That is a HUGE change and it is do to some diet changes (less paleo centric) and shopping different stores. Pretty much all of my food and household extras (like toilet paper and dishwasher soap) are bought at Aldi. I shop elsewhere for most of my meat purchases and via Amazon Prime for a few other toiletries. Gone are the days of going into Giant Eagle and dropping $300 on a shopping cart full of groceries. Now I go up to the Aldi checkout with an overflowing cart and only spend $100. It is an amazing thing.
The crazy thing is that I have lived very close to Aldi for six years now and did not go there until 1-2 years ago. Why? Because I envisioned it to be like shopping at Big Lots or dollar stores for food. Right or wrong I have always had an attitude about stores like this and imagine their food to be old and the stuff no bought that gets funneled to the cheapy stores. My husband encouraged me to visit Aldi and I refused with my nose stuck up in the air. The very first time I went, tagging along with my husband, I was hooked. I was like a kid discovery DisneyLand. No kidding. These days I have even been known to buy a few things at Big Lots if I am in the area. Oh, how times have changed.
But why is Aldo so great? In my opinion the regular prices at Aldi are equal to or better than the best sale prices at other grocery stores.
Why is Aldi So Much Cheaper?
There are quite a few reason why shopping Aldi saves you money. Here are a few of them that add to big time savings for the customer.
- They offer a narrow selection. They do not have 20 different options for barbecue sauce and 10 different mayo choices. They have two. Not having to fill their store with every option available means they spend less money to stock their stores and waste less money having to deeply discount stuff just to get it out the door. All their products have a high turnover or they don’t sell them.
- You rent shopping carts for a quarter. Aldi doesn’t have to pay people to round up carts because the customers return them on their own. You have to insert a quarter in a cart to unlock it and then you get your quarter back when you return it. You always return it because you want that quarter in your car and waiting until your next Aldi trip.
- You bag your own groceries and you bring your own bags or pay for them. Yes! This company does it right. They scan all the groceries and put them back into a cart. When you have finished paying you take the cart over to a long table and bag your groceries in your own reusable bags. If you forgot them you can buy reusable bags or paper bags at the checkout. They do not have to pay associates to bag groceries or pay for bags in general, saving you money.
- Aldi private label products have many barcodes (like 4-5 on a single product). This makes checkout super fast, it is actually amazing to watch. They get customers checked out way faster and therefore they require fewer checkout people. My Aldi only has four checkout lanes and the most I have seen running at the same time is two.
- Because everything is so efficient they have little need for lots of employees. Usually they only have 3-4 working at any given time. Can you imagine a grocery store staffed by only four people? It is amazing and it ends up being reflected in their prices.
- Stocking shelves is easy because they leave everything in the bulk boxes they are shipped in. Items like milk and eggs stay on huge rolling carts with shelves. Sugar, flour, and heavy items are left on pallets. All of these little changes mean less time involved stocking shelves.
- Produce is not sold by the pound so there is no weighing and extra time involved at checkout.
- They have great clearances and sales to make way for new and seasonal products. Loved that peppermint silk pie they had around the holidays? Well, that $6 pie is $2 after the holidays and you can stock up for birthdays and special occasions.
I am simply amazed by the prices. $.69 cents for eggs. $1.50 for milk. Cereal for $1.29 a box. Real orange juice for $1.99 as carton. It is crazy! Produce prices are always the best in town and they have plenty of organic and gluten free products that cost a bit more but are still cheaper than anywhere else. I also stock up on seasonal and sale items. Once I had been eyeballing a cheesecake sampler box for $6.99 every time I went in and then after a few weeks I saw the samplers for $1.99. Needless to say I bought them all for future parties and entertaining. Recently I went in right at opening because I am an early riser and discovered all their whole chickens had large discount stickers on them making each bird only $3 and some change. I bought a bunch and froze them. I have also bought hams after the holidays for about $5 a ham and they are huge hams that are bigger than my six quart crockpot.
Adli Meal Plans
Another HUGE cost savings is available via bloggers who have done the legwork and figured out the best ways to leverage Aldi. I adore the Aldi meals plans from I Am That Lady. I think I have all of them and a $150ish dollars and one day spent prepping and freezing meals will result in meals for two weeks or so. When I buckle down and do these plans I save even more, dropping my food budget down to $400 for a family of five with two teens. There are grilled food plans, crockpot plans, dump meals, gluten free meals, etc. They come with shopping lists organized by aisle number too. I highly recommend the Aldi meal plans!!
Another great resource is a book you can find on Amazon,
It has been awhile since I did a frugal friday share but I am really trying to amp up my frugality and finance savvy recently. Primarily I am so obsessed with all things finances because we bought our house last year a bit before we were ready. We caught house fever as Dave Ramsey would say. We let emotions and a wee bit of anger about our rent going up make us jump into a big decision.
I love our house and I do not think we have bought a money pit or anything but we just should have waited until we met some other financial goals first.
In the past six months I have managed to pay off both of my cars, build up an emergency fund, cash flow a vacation to Florida (Disney & Universal), and pay down some other debt. We have definitely made traction but it is just going too slow! We have to get gazelle intense.
This week we got notification that our mortgage payment was going up by $265 a month! Say what???!
After a phone call to the company they explained that our homeowners insurance doubled (they don’t have to notify us), the required FEMA flood insurance went up a small bit, and they increased the PMI payment, saying the amount on our loan paperwork had been a mistake. Well, they gave in and fixed the PMI issue since they agreed to that amount and cannot change it after the contract is signed. If we hadn’t called or fought it though they would have gotten away with it! We also hustled and changed homeowner’s insurance and car insurance. The homeowner’s is still about $300 more than last year’s but it is far better than double. And we did file a large claim last year which resulted in us getting a brand new roof (valued at about 14k). We opted to reduce our car insurance to liability only and self insure a replacement. That saves us about $560 a year on that. So all in all we may come out a bit better off but the experience was downright scary and showed me that we need to make more progress with our financial goals.
One thing that is really helping is the Every Dollar program. It took me awhile to plunk down the $100 to get the paid version but it is so worth it. Now I can really track every penny and the time investment is almost nothing. I use the software to make a new budget every month and every transaction is entered automatically. Love it!
- Participated in a focus group and earned a $100 gift card, which I then used to pay my cell phone bill.
- Packed a lunch to work all week!
- Saved on groceries by planning more simple, summery foods and fewer meatcentric crockpot meals.
- Sent away two Menard’s rebates worth $25. I usually forget!
- Harvested radishes, lettuce, parsley, and cilantro from our garden.
- Worked overtime four days this week.
- Not my failure but we did recently lose a rather large work bonus because our oldest child stuck the wrong car keys in my purse and without their keys “someone” missed work as a result. Ouch! Thankfully I don’t budget for or rely on those bonuses.
- I spent way too much last week in the cafe at my work.
Hoping for more successes this week!