Not to state the obvious, but kids cost a fortune. In fact, the USDA estimates the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 to be $233,610–around $12,980 per year. And while your bundle of joy comes with a pretty hefty price tag, don’t worry, they are worth every single penny (but you already knew that!). If you’re hoping to tighten your belt this year, or adopt a more frugal lifestyle, we’re sharing our favorite parent-approved tips for saving money.
Here are 30 easy ways to curb your spending and embrace frugal family living.
Since becoming a parent, you’ve probably consumed more takeout and convenience foods than you’d care to admit. While there’s a time and place for having your fav restaurants on speed dial (especially when you’re a new, exhausted, and hungry mom or dad!), eating out can really gouge your wallet! Avoid the sticker shock and learn to meal prep and plan. Need a few tips?
Seriously frugal families have a budget and stick to it! Check out Mint, You Need a Budget, EveryDollar, Qapital, or NerdWallet to see if an online budgeting tool could be useful–or go old school and track your dollars in a spreadsheet or on paper.
Bonus tip: Adopting a budget means saying “no” to A LOT of little expenses (daily lattes, for example), so jot down the amount of money saved every time you resist an impulse purchase (and give yourself a pat on the back each time you curb those cravings!). At the end of the month, add it all up and get excited about all the money you saved. Some online budgeting tools allow you to put money towards certain spending goals, so it’s extra satisfying!
As your little one grows, there will be unexpected needs and expenses galore–like a new high chair because you ended up hating the one you registered for, or three different sleep sacks so you can find the best fit, or a video baby monitor because (as much as you hate to admit it) you ARE the kind of parent to wants to watch your kid’s every move while they sleep. Instead of paying full price for these unexpected items, search Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Poshmark, Mercari, ThredUp, or your local Buy Nothing Facebook page. For something your kiddo won’t use for long anyway, save your dollars where you can!
PS: Check out our guide for buying used baby items here.
Back to the topic of eating out–because we know it’s one of the biggest frugal living pitfalls. If your family needs an outing, and it must revolve around food, eat your main meal at home and stop for ice cream or a visit to the coffee shop as your dining activity. You’re still eating out and getting out of the house and enjoying life–and spending money, but a whole lot less!
The easiest way to avoid spending money? Stay home! Of course, this requires a little prep, too. Make sure you’re stocked up on groceries and activities for your kiddos (and YOU!) to do.
If there are fellow parents in your neighborhood, get to know one another! You can share hand-me-down clothes and gear, plan play dates, babysit each other's kids, carpool, and swap money-saving tips.
Before throwing away anything, ask yourself if it can be transformed into something else that will, in the future, keep you from spending money.
A few examples:
Identify your budgeting pain points and make a challenge out of it. Do you typically spend more money on the weekends while out and about? Implement a spending freeze one weekend per month. Trying to eat more healthfully? Tell yourself that you’re only allowed to shop the perimeter of the store with the goal of buying more whole foods and less pre-packaged ones. Make a list of certain items you know you can live without (new clothes, restaurants, entertainment) and avoid buying them for an entire month. Here’s where an online budgeting tool can come in handy (see tip #2)!
We know you get PLENTY of exercise chasing after your kids, bending and squatting to pick them up, playing on the floor, and pushing them in the stroller. But, if you’d like a more formal exercise plan, try out online fitness videos, tutorials, and guides before buying a traditional gym membership. You can’t beat the convenience of working out in your home (plus the cost savings!!). And if you need an accountability partner, team up with another parent friend and keep each other motivated.
Not everyone can afford a yearly theme-park vacation, and that’s OK! If you’re cutting back on travel this year, you can still enjoy the benefits of a family trip (minus the stress of traveling with kids). If your kids are old enough to play along, go ALL out! Decide on a “destination,” create an itinerary, plan a menu, dress the part, and watch a movie that fits with the theme of your “trip”.
Become a family who reads and you will NEVER be bored. As your kiddo gets older, find a book series that everyone likes and use your library to get the books on audio (or in the physical form if that’s your preference). You’ll save money by using the library and keeping your family entertained.
Speaking of the library, check out your local branch to see what other resources they offer. In addition to books, most libraries also offer DVDs, board games, magazines, CDs as well as weekly activities for little ones!
If cooking is not your forte, but you know it could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run, get your family involved as much as they’re able and willing. While your baby might be too young right now to contribute to the weekly meal prep, start teaching them about food and preparation while they’re young. As they grow up, they’ll be more empowered and interested in helping out in the kitchen. We love the folks at Chop Chop Family and their new Eatable Alphabet for this very reason. They’re dedicated to teaching families how to cook and eat real food together (check them out here!)
You are LONG overdue for some “me” time, but you don’t have to pay for a massage, pedicure, or a facial to get it. Carve out some space for an at-home spa night and use whatever supplies you already have – no need to splurge on fancy soaps, body scrubs, and face masks. Here are some ideas:
As you prep for your next holiday gathering, explore the idea of a “no gift” or “DIY gift” rule. If that’s just not realistic in your family, see if your friend group or coworkers are interested.
At some point, every parent takes a good look around their home and realizes they have WAY too much stuff! Maybe it’s barely-used baby gear, clothes you bought for your 4th trimester that still don’t fit quite right, or books you always planned to read…until you had a baby. When it’s finally time to clear things out, use online platforms like Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp to sell your gently used items. Donate everything else!
If you’re often “influenced” into buying products you see advertised online, you’re not alone! Unfollow any accounts that are particularly tempting for you (such as your favorite clothing store that seems to always have sales and deals!) and start following more frugal living pages and groups for inspiration.
Here are a few we love on Instagram:
A well-stocked diaper bag or emergency kit can keep you from spending unnecessary money when you’re out and about. Aside from the obvious supplies, pack your bag (or bags) with bandages, granola bars, towels, nail clippers, blankets, all-purpose wipes, activity books, sunscreen, lotion, and anything else that could help you survive an outing to the mall or trip to the beach. ;)
While not all mamas choose (or are able) to nurse, it is by far the most economical way to feed your infant. For breastfeeding support, connect with a lactation consultant through your pediatrician’s office or check out the resources on La Leche League’s website. And while you could go overboard buying breastfeeding supplies, start with a few essentials (like a nursing pillow, nursing bra, and reusable nursing pads) and only buy specialty items when a true need arises!
If you're pregnant, resist the urge to buy ALL the darling baby clothes ahead of time. Once your wee one arrives, you’ll have a better idea of which brands fit them best and which styles make sense for your lifestyle. After you’ve dressed a newborn in the middle of the night for a time or two, you’ll know real fast if you’re on Team Zipper or Team Snaps. ;)
Before and after your baby arrives, you’ll be inundated with gifts, gifts, and more gifts. If you receive duplicates, or anything unnecessary, return it ASAP so you can use the money on something you genuinely need for your tiny human.
When your baby enters the world of solid foods, it can add a whole new level of expense. Or not! Adopt the mindset that, almost always, your baby can eat what you eat with a few easy modifications. Roasting vegetables for dinner? Mash or puree them for your baby. Adding avocado to a salad? Smash some with a fork and offer it to your little eater. Feeding your foodie can be simple!
If you plan on having another baby in the future, aim to re-use as much of your baby clothes, gear, and supplies as possible. With every new purchase, opt for gender-neutral designs and colors so your kiddo has a universal wardrobe and baby items that can be passed on to their next sibling, regardless of gender.
If you’re a parent-to-be who’s creating a baby registry, think practically. Your baby likely won’t need a fuzzy bathrobe, cute shoes, or a fancy crib mobile (FYI, they’ll probably sleep better without one anyway!). Utilize your registry for more “must-haves” and less nonessentials. Unsure what qualifies as a must-have item? Ask a few of the parents in your network!
Pro tip: Your parents didn’t have access to all the fancy-schmancy baby tools and gadgets on the market today. For a different perspective, ask your folks how they got by without it all, and what items they remember using and loving.
When your baby is under the weather, call the nurse's hotline through your insurance or your pediatrician’s office for a quick consultation before scheduling an appointment. You’ll get free and fast advice, and avoid a costly trip to the doctor’s office if your baby’s symptoms can be treated at home.
In the weeks leading up to your sweet baby’s birthday (yay!), encourage monetary gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and anyone who asks for ideas. It’s never too early to start a savings account for your little one–or put the money toward some of those big ticket items your baby will need in their next year of life.
Make sure to practice self-care. Yep, this is an integral part of frugal living! Not only do people tend to spend more money when they’re stressed, anxious, and feeling burnt out, it’s all too easy to fall into the retail therapy trap at the end of a long day with your kiddo! Find cheap (or free!) ways to take care of your physical and mental health–whether that’s through a daily mindfulness practice, exercise, or a weekly hangout with friends.
Remember, time is money. It’s OK to order grocery or diaper delivery if it means you are able to do something else productive and constructive with the time you’d save going to the store. If shopping is your least favorite chore, consider it an act of self-care (see #27)!
Childcare is one of the most expensive parts of having a baby. If you’re lucky enough to have trustworthy family members nearby, ask if they’d consider babysitting on a regular basis (for free or a reduced price)–even if it’s just once a month so you can have a night off.
Need help affording diapers for your little pooper? Create a Diaper Registry Fund through our website, and share the link to your fund page with friends and family. Diapers are one of the most practical gifts a new parent can receive, and we've made it easier than ever (for the gift-giver and the recipient!).