A guide to Help You Parent on a Budget
Everyone wants to give their kids the best of everything. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a parent say their children don’t deserve the world. I’m going to share my secrets on how I manage to parent on a budget without feeling guilty!
It’s ingrained in us to make sure our kids are taken care of, and part of that is feeling like we owe them the best of everything. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made, and that’s ok.
Just because you are on a tight budget, doesn’t mean you can’t provide a good life for them. Get that out of your head!
When you have a baby, of course you want to feed them what’s best. For some its formula, for others its breastmilk.
I’m not here to say which is best.
I nursed some of my kids and fed some formula. I did what worked for us. I found out with my oldest that formula is EXPENSIVE, so nursing was the obvious choice for us at the time.
However, keep in mind that when you are breastfeeding you may have dietary restrictions. For instance, with my youngest, I couldn’t eat dairy because he had a milk sensitivity. That was fun.
So, either choice could be the better choice when it comes to saving money, depending on your circumstances.
As they get older, the kids tend to get more picky, which can make feeding them seem like a chore.
I wrote a handy post about how I save money when grocery shopping for my family of seven to help solve that problem. Here you go:
Clothing Them on a Budget
I’ve got five kids, so making sure their wardrobes are up to date can hit my wallet pretty hard.
I love shopping thrift stores, so that’s where most of our clothes come from.
I am always able to find brand new clothes with tags while I’m shopping at the local Salvation Army.
When I buy clothes for the kids, I try to take into account the current fashions. If I do buy pre-worn clothes, I always make sure they at least look new.
I have never been one to keep up with trends. I don’t pay much attention to brand names, I just buy what I like.
I have been very lucky that my children seem to follow in my footsteps in that area.
I manage to parent on a budget with a sense of humor!
Aside from that one year that my 13-year-old son insisted he had to have the new Nike Jordans (which he received as a birthday gift. I’m not spending $100 and not letting it count as a gift!), they don’t really care about major brands.
This has been a godsend! I definitely recommend not worrying too much about major brands, and teaching your kids the same. It will save you a ton of money!
Keeping Them Entertained
Ok, so it’s not our job to keep the kids entertained. But we have to at least provide them with some tools to keep themselves entertained.
Baby and toddler toys are pretty easy. They’ll play with anything! My 3-year-old was obsessed with toilet paper rolls for a while.
When they were babies, my kids loved whatever they could grip in their tiny hands. Obviously you want to be sure it’s safe, with no small parts they can choke on.
Plastic kitchen utensils like serving spoons were always fun for my kids.
As my kids got older, it became apparent that video games would rule their world.
The cost of these can add up quickly when you consider the price of the console, accessories, and games.
I don’t recommend not giving them electronics (because let’s be real, they can be a saving grace when you need to keep the rascals busy!), I just recommend limiting what you buy.
Video games can get expensive!
My boys have an X-Box One, which they received as a Christmas gift. If they want fancy controllers or accessories, they spend their birthday and Christmas money on those.
I don’t allow in-game purchases, and this saves a ton of money! (I’ve seen what some parents spend on those Fortnite skins, it’s ridiculous!) Most of the games they have were bought used at Gamestop, or on Ebay.
Shop Garage Sales
Garage sales are a great place to find toys for kids really cheap! I have gotten everything from baby toys to toddler slides and video games at garage sales.
If you want to save even more money you can try to haggle for a lower price. This is where I fail.
I am always so afraid of offending someone that I usually just pay what they’re asking. For some people, bargaining is the best part of shopping garage sales. If that’s you, by all means, haggle away!
Tap Your Resources
Sometimes we get lucky and there are things laying around the house that we just know the kids will love. Tupperware bowls are always a favorite, along with dollar store cups.
I always buy plastic cups for the kids to drink out of anyway, so they’re always on hand. The kids loved building towers with those, and watching them fall was the best part!
I am lucky enough that my husband runs his own online comics and collectibles business, Izzy’s Comics and Collectibles (pass this on to your husband if he likes that kind of thing!).
Whenever he gets open toys in a trade, or something just isn’t selling, I get to “go shopping” for toys for the kids! It’s a life saving when you’re on a budget!
Ok, this is an area that can get expensive, especially if you have more than one kid!
Every year it seems like the supply list gets longer and longer, which means we spend more and more money.
Buying school supplies when you’re a parent on a budget isn’t cheap, but it’s do-able!
One way to save money is (as I always recommend) to buy generic items. The teacher isn’t going to care if you buy the store brand tissues instead of Kleenex.
They aren’t going to look down on you if you buy the Great Value brand sandwich bags instead of Glad Ziploc ones.
Most of that stuff ends up in the classroom closet anyway, so nobody knows who brought what.
If you can’t get everything on the list, don’t beat yourself up
There have been times when there was just no way I could get everything on all of my kids’ school supply lists. While I was a single mom, this was a huge struggle for me.
To be honest, this was one of the only times I really felt guilty. It was that year that one of my son’s teachers told me not to feel guilty if I couldn’t get it all, if any.
She said she understood my situation, and the other parents would be none the wiser. What a lifesaver!
Send additional school supplies when you can
Because I wasn’t able to get all of their supplies all at once, I started to buy some here and there when I had a little extra money.
I would send paper towels one month, then maybe a couple of boxes of pencils the next. It took away some of the guilt of my kids not going to meet the teacher with bags full of supplies.
I would ask their teachers to send a note home if they were running low on something, and I was usually able to send some of what they needed.
I still follow this rule, even if the kids do have all the supplies at the beginning of the year.
Re-use backpacks, pencil cases, etc.
It’s a nice picture: first day of school, crisp new clothes, awesome new backpack. But wait, why are we buying brand new school supplies, if last years are perfectly fine?
If the kids really insist on getting a different one, just have them switch with one of their siblings! It’s really not a big deal. Of course, my kids seem to rip or break every backpack they have, so I don’t get to follow this tip very often!
Most years the kids will bring home unopened packs of crayons or notebooks that didn’t get used during the school year. Put those away until next year!
Don’t be afraid to reuse pencil cases, binders, etc., either. I seriously doubt anyone in school remembers that your kid had that same black binder last year!
Now let’s talk about the holidays. When I was growing up, on Easter we got a chocolate bunny and some jelly beans in a basket of fake grass.
These days people go all out, acting like it’s Christmas. I got caught up in that for a couple of years until I realized I was overdoing it and checked myself.
Now we do a few different candies and maybe a Dollar Tree toy or notebook, and the kids still love it! It’s really the egg hunt they love the best anyway!
Christmas is the holiday where parents tend to feel the most pressure. Each year it’s like we have to outdo ourselves.
I’ve noticed as the kids get older, their Christmas list gets shorter and shorter. That sounds great until you realize the one thing they really want is the cool new tablet on the market!
I don’t always have that much money to spend on each of them, so I ask for an alternative just in case.
They understand this, and that’s where my lesson on saving their money comes in handy! If they save up, they can buy that $300 tablet themselves!
This year we’re trying something a little different, and I’ll be sharing a post about that soon!
A Popular Trend
I’ve seen one idea floating around that lets you limit the gifts you give by buying one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, one thing to read.
This is a great idea, especially if your kids are young and haven’t grown accustomed to being lavished with gifts on Christmas morning.
Experiences They’ll Remember
Another great way to save money is to gift experiences instead of material items.
I’m not talking a family vacation to Disney World or anything crazy like that. I’m thinking more along the lines of camping at a local lake, visiting a free museum in a town close by, or even having a family movie night with all their favorite snacks.
Of course, not all holidays involve giving gifts. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
I love that I get to cook for my family and just enjoy time with them.
I have a helpful post about how to host Thanksgiving on a budget, you might find that handy! Check it out:
Now you know how to Parent on a budget (without feeling guilty).
So, I’ve let you in on my secrets to parenting on a budget without feeling guilty. I hope this eases some of the guilt you feel if you are living on a tight budget.
I know some moms, especially new moms, feel like they’re failing if they can’t keep up with the Joneses.
Please don’t underestimate the value that you bring to your child’s life just by being there.
At the end of the day, your love is what they need. And I promise, as they get older you will start to see them appreciate this more and more.
If you enjoyed my take on parenting on a budget, please visit the rest of my blog here! There might be something that’s exactly what you are needing to hear at this moment!