One of the greatest joys in my life is being a dad. I cherish the responsibility of raising my two sons. I often feel as if there was nothing that I would not do for them.
I know I am not alone. Many parents understand this feeling. But actually following through with this feeling is not always best for them or you. And it is definitely not always best for your family budget.
Kids can be expensive, but often we allow them to take over a greater piece of our budget than what is necessary. There are many ways to reduce the expenditures you make on your kids while still providing an awesome childhood. Here are eleven ways to stop letting kids ruin your budget:
1. Stop thinking that the amount you spend on your kids indicates how much you love them.
We feel good when we can give our kids what they want. But spending money on our kids will never be an indicator of our love for them. There are a lot of terrible parents who give their kids everything they could desire. And there are a lot of great parents who can barely provide food and clothes.
2. Stop trying to give them everything you had or didn’t have as a kid.
Comparing the amount of money your parents did or didn’t spend on you is always dangerous. More than likely, your financial picture is different than your parents. And so you should not expect your kids to have the same childhood you did. Remember, they have only personally experienced one childhood—theirs. And they are probably pretty happy with it.
3. Limit extracurriculars
The costs of extracurricular activities can quickly erode a checking account balance. To manage these expenses, set your budget and prioritize the activities. You probably will not be able to do everything. And there is nothing wrong with that.
4. Take advantage of free opportunities
Most cities and towns have a number of free activities they offer throughout the year. Often, these include parks, concerts, movie nights, and other family activities. Instead of going to the movies theater, see what free activities are available in your town. In addition to saving money, this is a great way to help your children be involved in your local community.
5. Do not shy away from using hand-me-downs
And not just within your immediate family. Parents are usually looking to unload outgrown clothes, toys, and furniture. If a family has a child that is a year or two older than your child, make sure they know you want to be their go-to person for unloading.
6. Sell a toy, buy a toy
Many parents find themselves surrounded by their kids’ toys. They fill the closets. They fill the storage. And they are always on floor, waiting to be stepped or stripped over. If this is you, the next time your child wants another toy, have him or her sell an existing toy first and use the funds for the new toy. It saves money and doesn’t create one more toy to trip over.
7. Bunk beds are fine
If you can afford it, there is nothing wrong with having a house where everyone has their own bedroom. But there is also nothing wrong with the opposite scenario. Sharing a bedroom will not make or break your kid’s childhood. Don’t feel the pressure to take on an almost unaffordable mortgage payment just to avoid bunk beds.
8. Put a cap on gift spending
Birthdays and Christmas gifts can get out of control. Set a budget ahead of time, and don’t go over it. In addition, teach your children to think of how they can give to others during these times.
9. Limit name-brand clothing
Because paying additional money so that your toddler can have a well-recognized logo on their shirt was never about them anyway.
10. Have family meals. At your house.
Family meals provide an excellent opportunity to share stories, laugh, and connect during what is a typically hectic, disconnected day. Dinner is usually the best time to have a family meal. And having them at home is a great way to avoid restaurant prices.
11. Know that the best thing you can give them is you
If it can be purchased, it can never be a stand-in for a parent. Do kids want stuff? Sure. But do they need stuff? No. Kids need parents. There is no substitute for you.
When your heart wants to give your children the world, it can be difficult to say ‘no.’ But caring for your long-term financial picture is caring for your kids’ long-term financial picture. Because it is probably your children that will take care of you when they are adults. And your decisions today can make that more or less financially stressful for them.
What about you? What are some ways that you, as a parent, save money? Please place your comments in the section below.