One of the top things I get asked about is how to live cheaply with kids. A thing I just recently heard about (from CBS4’s Money Saver Suzanne McCarroll) is a company called LessonUp. It’s a Colorado based company that is growing quickly. It’s kind of like Groupon but it’s specifically for kids lessons and activities. They report that most of the activities are offered at a 40-70% discount. What a great idea!
Whenever I talk to my good friend Shayla (we were room-mates in college) she tells me about all the things she has been doing to save money with her two little ones. She writes the blog Pauley Parade and she’s here today sharing her top tips for saving with a family. She’s got a lot of great ideas and she knows how to make a one-income family work successfully.
photo courtesy of shayla
And Then We Saved: How has your spending changed since becoming a mom?
Shayla: Spending has changed quite a bit since I became a mom. For one thing we went down to one income. Also, there are more expenses with kids as well so I naturally spend less on things like pedicures and clothing for myself and more on activities for the children. It’s still fun and entertaining but just in a different form.
ATWS: What are your top tips for saving around the house?
Shayla: I’m sure every family has their favorite ways to save. Mine may not be for everyone but the top tips that have been great for my family are:
There are many benefits to breastfeeding including financial because formula can be pricey.
2. Use cloth diapers
It’s more up front initially but saves in the long run.
3. Make things from scratch
A few ingredients can make a lot of things. With pre-packaged items you pay for the packaging. An example of this is pancake mixes. (Here’s an easy pancake recipe)
4. Meal plan
I’m not perfect at meal planning but I try my best. This keeps you on track and then you are less likely to be at a loss for dinner and resort to take-out which can add up and be less healthy. We eat dinner at home every night expect for the rare occasion when we eat out on a weekend.
5. Shop around for best price
I’m not a fan of driving from one store to another to get the best price because honestly getting two kids in and out of the car multiple times is not worth it to me. However, I do take a mental note when I am at different stores to see who carries what cheaper. When I am in need of those items I can plan my outings accordingly.
6. Shop garage sales, consignment stores and discount stores for kids toys and clothes
Even if you want brand name clothing you can typically find them in great condition at a lot less at a consignment store. It does take more research to find the best stores but it’s worth it. Kids outgrow their clothes so quickly that it’s nice to not spend full retail all of the time. I will admit it took some time to adjust to this concept, it was one thing I did not like doing at all before I had kids but now its sort of like a fun scavenger hunt for the best find. I found a barely used Pottery Barn Crib Bumper for $5 at a garage sale last month. They retail for $100. I was super stoked about that find!
7. Exercise at home (or with the kids) instead of having a gym membership
Every once in awhile I start thinking I want to get a membership and there may be a time when I get one again but right now we live in a place that has pretty good weather the majority of the year and I am able to take advantage of that by running outside for my exercise. Another favorite of mine is to put on music and have a dance party…..just like back in my college days with Anna!! The boys love it and dancing around with a baby in my arms and a toddler on my back is definitely exercise and a great stress reliever!
8. Join moms groups
This has been invaluable to me. Having other moms to talk to and to have that support is so helpful. It also opens doors of savings you may not think of. One thing I did was I started a Babysitting Co-op with one group that I belonged to. It came in so handy when I unexpectedly got called to jury duty for an entire week when my first son was around a year old.
9. Use the library
Our library allows the child to get their own card. At our library the kids cards don’t incur late fees so this is an extra benefit. We checkout books and DVDs on a regular basis and that way we never grow tired of reading or watching the same things over and over. Of course we still buy books to add to our personal library and have our favorite stories but it’s nice to keep things fresh.
10. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Nick (my husband) and I are recyclers and want to instill that in our children. In general I was raised in a “waste not, want not” type of home so it carries over into how I run my household. Some examples are: I use cloth napkins. We can wash them and they make a set table look pretty. I still use paper towels for things but also using cloth helps me cut down on how many rolls we go through. We never buy water bottles unless we are having a party with a lot of guests. I can sew, so I mend things that are mendable. We eat our leftovers. The last example sounds silly but I know a lot of people who don’t like leftovers. Which I understand but with a little creativity you can actually change the leftovers enough that they seem like a new dish.
ATWS: What are your favorite free (or cheap) activities to do with kids?
Shayla: My favorite activities are nature based. We love to go to parks, go on walks, and to go camping. We’ll go on nature walks and then we’ll use our discoveries to make crafts. This is one of my all-time favorite things to do. I also love to utilize the free and cheap activities that the cities we have lived in offer.
ATWS: Do you use coupons? Do you have any tips about how to use them, and where to find them?
Shayla: I do use coupons. I don’t use them on every shopping trip but on occasion I will see great coupons and I will include those items in my grocery list. For example, last week Target had $1 off fresh vegetable and $1 off fresh fruit, they also happened to have bagged organic baby carrots marked down from $2 to $1 so with my coupon I was able to get them free. The same thing happened with organic bananas on that same trip. I got 2 pounds for free. I also check the coupons that Target gives out along with the receipt. They often have great coupons that when paired with coupons from the mail coupons can end up getting me free Starbucks. That is my favorite coupon of all! I mostly save by checking the flyers the grocery stores send out. The grocery store I go to the most has a lot of in store sales that I take advantage of. We are lucky to have some great local produce open air markets that I shop at as well. They are locally grown fruits and vegetables and other products that are more cost effective since they are not being shipped as far. Nick and I also like to use Groupon for dinners out, entertainment tickets and other non-grocery items.
ATWS: What’s the biggest challenge with being thrifty and having kids?
Shayla: I guess the biggest challenge is wanting to give our kids every opportunity in life. For us that ends up being programs that I feel are particularly important but cost money. Music class, art programs, gymnastics and other similar programs. We know we want them though so it just becomes part of our budget.
What are your top tips for saving around the house and living inexpensively with kids?
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Great tips..but one I do not agree with is the gym :( I used to try and exercise at home but that only led to my toddler deciding I was the perfect thing to climb on, which meant I could not do anything on the floor…no crunches, no stretches, nothing. And cardio, forget about it!! He'd get underfoot and I'd almost step on him! Playing with baby and dancing is decent exercise, but if you are really trying to lose significant poundage or want a really good sweatfest, you can't get that at home with kids on your heels :( Luckily, we have a few gyms here that are super cheap. I pay $10 a month for unlimited use of the machines and weights and also classes like Zumba (which I adore!) and pilates, yoga, and kickboxing. I pay an extra $10 a month for unlimited use of the kid room. He loves going and playing with his friends and it's helped him socially too. I skim on other things each month so we can have this one luxury! :)
I absolutely love your website and this article! I have been stopping by every once in a while to stay motivated- we are doing a February Fast ;)
I highly agree with most of the savings tips for kids- especially #1 and 3.
that’s good to hear! since we’re not parents yet i have to trust all of these parent tips to my friends;)