• Katie Zurawski

How to Stay on Budget While Raising Kids

Raising kids is not easy… and it’s not cheap.  It seems like there is always something I need to get or replace or repair for my three little ones.  But I HATE spending a lot of money.  And I NEVER want to pay full price for anything unless it’s a birthday or Christmas gift. So how does a mom have her kids dressed in styling clothes, sleeping in comfy bedrooms, and entertaining themselves with fun toys while still staying on a budget?  It takes a lot of learning as you go.

Lucky for you, I have compiled some of the best ways I’ve discovered to be a frugal, money-saving mom over my 8+ years of parenting.  And they DON’T include spending all weekend hitting the rummage sales.  (Side Note: although I use to love my yard sales, they are now more of a hassle than anything))  In fact, these lessons helped my family and I pay off over $28,000 of debt in just 18 months.  You can read that story here.

To get started on your money-saving skills, check out these tips on how to stay on budget while still being super mom!

[spacer height=”20px”]Buy Simple Comforters

I use to buy my first son the complete character bedding set.  I remember his first one was a cute Toy Story theme with the comforter and the sheets and the pillows and the whole nine yards.  The problem is kids are fickle.  What they absolutely love today is quickly replaced by the next big thing the tomorrow.  And those character comforters are expensive.  I started buying a neutral comforter and then pairing it with fun sheet sets underneath.  For my son, I got him a blue comforter (light blue on one side, dark blue on the other).  He has had Scooby Doo sheets underneath and now Star Wars sheets underneath and the comforter has stayed the same.  Better yet, my youngest son could easily use it one day.

[spacer height=”20px”]Go Neutral for Big Ticket Baby Items

It is so tempting to go all BLUE or all PINK when you have that little bundle of joy to prepare for.  But if you plan on having more than one child, steer clear of buying those big tickets items in gender specific colors.  Opt for car seats, strollers, bassinets, baby carriers, diaper bags, and high chairs in cute neutral colors like cream, gray or white.  They will be more timeless when baby #2 comes along.  I do though love gender specific baby clothes.  Who wants to dress their little cutey in yellow duckies every day?

[spacer height=”20px”]Steer Clear of Characters

Sure that Angry Bird bike was cute when I bought it for my first son but my second son will be asking me what Angry Birds are when it comes time for him to ride it.  That Doc McStuffins character set — already dated.  And don’t even get me started on Dora the Explorer.  I can think of a handful of characters that are timeless – Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse and Scooby Doo (and maybe Barbie too although she has transformed over the years).  The rest seem to come and go with whatever the stores want to pitch to you at the time.  You can now find Frozen items in literally every aisle of Walmart.  They are cute. They are novel.  But are they timeless?  Will you be able to use them for more than a couple months before they get dated?  And will you be able to sell them if you want when your kids are through with them or will no one want an old Barney backpack?  I don’t buy character backpacks, shoes, clothes, raincoats, strollers, or winter gear anymore.  My kids really don’t care.  They are happy with a Hello Kitty kite from the dollar store or a Star Wars plastic cup.  Keep the character-themed items in check.

[spacer height=”20px”]Don’t Buy Books, Dvd’s and Video Games

I understand having a few favorites you purchase for your kids but don’t waste money on buying the newest movie or game that comes out.  Or getting the whole Diary of a Wimpy Kid book collection.  Why buy these things when you can borrow them from the library?  Your local library often has the latest and greatest movies and books and games out there.  And if you can’t get them there you can often rent them from a Redbox or off your tv.  Why spend $10-$20 on something they may only read/watch/play once or twice?  Many neighborhoods now also have free libraries where you can take book and leave a book.  This is a fun way to get something new in exchange for something you already read.

[spacer height=”20px”]Keep Clearance Deals in Check

I hate to brag but I will anyways – hehe.  I am a super-duper clearance shopper.  Target, Children’s Place, Gap, Gymboree, Carters.  I score deals at them all and rarely spend more than $5 on any one item.  The problem is that I use to go overboard on my clearance buys.  If I found $1.50 short-sleeve t-shirts for my son at Target, I would buy 10 of them.  Clearance shorts?  My kid needs at least eight pairs.  I would buy way too much.  Your kids only need so many shirts and pants and shorts.  Buy only what you need and leave the other great deals for someone else to find!  Oh and some clothes is on clearance for a reason – because their ugly.  Don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal.  My son once wore bright red nylon pants for all of Kindergarten.  They were hideous but he loved them.  Your kids will pick out ugly clothes if you buy it for them… in fact they will become their favorites.

[spacer height=”20px”]Borrow One-Time Use Items

I use to be to prideful too ask for help or to borrow something.  I would search and search to find a great deal on an item or scramble at the last minute and spend way too much. I’ve learned to be humble enough to ask if anyone has one I can borrow.  Things like a kid’s dress suit, golf clubs for a three-day lesson course, a baby walker for those two months when you baby actually uses it.  People are happy to share and I return the favor when the opportunity arises.  Try to borrow something you will only need to use once or twice.  And remember to return it in the same condition you received it.

[spacer height=”20px”]Invest in Timeless Toys

Is it just me or are toys built even cheaper than they were five years ago?  In a world of plastic and disposable and collect-them-all, save money by investing in well-built, timeless toys.  Yes, their price tag may be a little higher but they won’t break after the first week.  Tinker Toys, wooden blocks, Legos, and Little People are timeless toys that hold up well to rough play and are playthings kids of every age can enjoy both now and ten years from now.  Sure you can buy cheap and save a couple bucks but I would rather have a few quality pieces then a bunch of crap that doesn’t work.

[spacer height=”20px”]Go on Simple Trips When They’re Little

Water parks and Disneyland and Six Flags seem like fun until you have a bawling, sun-burned two-year old trying to break-free from the stroller with ice cream running down their face all while you’re trying to make it back to the car in one piece.  Why do we spend the big bucks on expensive trips when our toddlers are just as happy playing at a park or a sandy beach?  I get that older kids want to experience new things but those little ones don’t care.  And they don’t care that you spent $65 a ticket to take them there.  Enjoy small, inexpensive trips with them.  These excursions are less stressful and often less crowded.  And you can leave early without feeling guilty about the wasted money.  Save your dollars for those big trips down the road when they can actually enjoy and appreciate them.

And my best tip for being a money, savvy super mom is to always remember that your time is what your kids really want.  They don’t need the best clothes or the latest toys.

They need you – your attention, your love, your hugs & kisses.


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