It’s no secret that raising kids is one of life’s most expensive undertakings. According to CNNMoney, it can cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars on average to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18—not including college tuition. The good news is there are ways to ease the strain on your bank account by reducing both daily expenses, such as food, and also larger ones, like housing.
These tips can help you save money while raising your family.
1. Cook at home
For the first time last year, Americans spent more money dining out than buying groceries. Takeout and restaurants are convenient for tired families, but the costs of prepared food can pile up quickly. Eating more home-cooked meals is one surefire way to limit food costs. Cook in bulk so you can lean on leftovers on busy nights.
2. Shop secondhand
Kids outgrow clothing and toys quickly, but you can stop the cycle of constantly buying new items. Arrange a clothing and toy swap with other parents, accept hand-me-downs from friends with older kids, buy clothing from consignment shops, and keep an eye out for local, online yard sales on social media. You may be surprised at how easy it is to find a pre-owned version of what you need—at a fraction of the price.
3. Set limits on extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities like sports leagues and art and music lessons can do wonders to enhance a child’s skill set and social circle. However, out-of-school activities tend to be costly. While it’s typical for parents to cover these expenses, it’s not unreasonable to set limits. For example, offer to enroll your child in piano or guitar lessons, but not both.
4. Keep housing costs within your means
Housing is likely the biggest expense in your family’s budget. The trick is making sure your housing costs are not consuming an outsized portion of your income. Many financial experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your after-tax income on housing. As your family grows, it may seem like you need more square footage, but that may not be the most practical resolution. Rearranging furniture and clearing out clutter can do wonders to unlock new space in your existing setup.
5. Look for alternatives to your existing childcare
If housing isn’t your biggest budget item, childcare likely is. The Economic Policy Institute reports that most families live in areas where childcare is unaffordable, or the cost exceeds 10% of the average family’s budget. To find the best option for your family, compare the cost of a few choices—daycare, nanny or nanny share, or even having one parent stay at home full time—to see what makes the most sense. Find out if your employer offers a Dependent Care FSA PDF Opens in new window., which allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars toward daycare costs, and ask your accountant whether you qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
There are a number of ways to cut the cost of raising a family, but even so, you will likely find that those costs only rise as your kids get older. One way to get ahead of future expenses may be to make regular deposits into a savings account. When a large expense rolls around, you’ll thank yourself for having extra money on hand.