Raising Kids on a Budget: It Doesn’t Have to Cost a Quarter-Million!
Becoming a parent was no doubt the greatest thing that ever happened to me. However, I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t also say that once I found out I was going to be a mom, I started getting more stressed out about money. My financial situation needed a ton of improvement and structure at the time. Plus, everyone made sure to remind to me that kids don’t come cheap!
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child through age of 18 for a middle-income family in the U.S. is approximately $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation).
Over the past seven years, my parenting journey has taught me so much about kids, family, myself, and just life in general.
One of the first lessons I learned? There’s a ton of pressure on parents to do the “right” things.
We worry that our kids will be unhappy unless we buy them designer clothes, send them to private schools, throw them lavish birthday parties, buy them all the latest video games, give them a huge backyard to play in, and more.
I personally don’t sweat the “small” things because I know my son won’t really remember them (or care if he remembers) when he becomes a responsible adult. Instead, I keep the unimportant to a minimum and focus on what’s good for him, like health care and good food.
I wanted to know whether I’m alone in that mindset, so I spoke to three other moms to see how they’re faring.
Get Involved and Entertain on a Budget
Melisa Boutin, the founder of Your Money Worth, a personal-finance resource blog for millennials, knows that it’s possible to afford extracurricular activities and still remain on-budget.
“As a mom of an active toddler, I am always on the hunt for extracurricular activities that don’t break the bank,” Boutin says.
“I have found affordable options like swimming classes from my local school district and sporting programs at my local YMCA. For other activities, the library can serve as a place for free family fun with movie nights and arts and crafts sessions for kids.”
When your finances are tight or you just have other goals to meet, activities and entertainment expenses can be the first to go right out the door — unless you get creative and find cheaper options.
Keep Your Housing Affordable
Housing is a huge expense for any family, with or without kids. When you have children, you may feel pressured to upgrade.
Brynne Conroy of Femme Frugality, another mom I spoke to, is glad that she and her husband didn’t rush into a new, expensive house. Instead, they chose to optimize the space they had.
“When we had our last child, we considered moving,” Conroy says. “We wanted more space, but it was going to cost a lot more money. Instead, we learned how to be comfortable in our small place while we save up money to purchase a home.”
Use Family for Childcare Services
Conroy also reveals that she saves on childcare by living near her family, who offer to help from time to time.
“We made a conscious decision to stay near our family,” Conroy says. “We value having our children grow up near their extended family; and sometimes one or the other of our parents have taken over the bulk of childcare duties. Our family’s generosity has allowed us the time we needed to complete school and hustle extra hours so we could improve our economic situation.”
Don’t Let Social Media Sway You
Social media is big, and it can dictate to you what is best for you and your children. Never compare your life with what someone else is doing or showing on that tiny screen.
Natasha Ptomey, who runs a blog site called Inspiring Single Mothers, raises a good point: Most of the time, we only see the good parts of a friend’s posts and not the debt they may have accrued because of their trips and expensive hobbies.
“Oftentimes we tend to feel a slight bit of envy, especially if we’re not in a good financial place to… do the same,” Ptomey says. “But know that your time will come — with a solid financial plan. Enjoy your friends’ posts, but decide what’s in the best interest for your family and not social media.”
The Bottom Line
In all honesty, raising children can be costly, but it’s hard to put a total dollar amount on what you can expect to spend because everyone’s situation and values are different. When you’re a parent, it’s important to develop a realistic budget based on your own needs and values. Try not to give your kids the world by buying them everything in sight.