Think it’s expensive to raise kids? You’re right. In a report released a couple of years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the average cost of raising a child to age 18 is more than $245,000. And that doesn’t include college.
Some of those average total costs from the USDA’s report include:
- Housing — $73,260
- Transportation — $34,710
- Child care and education — $44,400
- Food — $39,060
- Health care — $20,130
That bill might be tough to absorb, but there are ways to soften the financial blow. Here are some areas where you might be overspending — and tips for curbing those costs:
1. Paying too much for child care
Child care is an expense that catches many parents off guard. If you don’t properly research options, you could end up paying hundreds more per month than you have to for the same level of care.
Don’t know where to start? Take a look at “13 Simple Ways to Save on Child Care” for a comprehensive list of alternatives worth considering.
2. Taking lavish vacations
If you can afford splashy vacations without compromising your budget, go for it. But if not, find less costly options now and save the big trips for later, when the kids are older and can appreciate the experience.
Does it make sense to dole out $1,000 or more on a Disney vacation, only to spend much of the time wrestling with a stubborn child who throws tantrums at the thought of going anywhere near the Dumbo ride? The long lines and exorbitantly priced cuisine only add insult to injury.
Instead, take your little ones to a cheaper attraction closer to home, such as the local zoo. That way, you won’t be disappointed if they don’t enjoy their stay.
3. Buying everything at full price
From diapers to sneakers, it is a mistake if you never give the clearance or sales racks a chance, or if you forget to check for coupons.
In truth, it is not even necessary to clip coupons to save money. Instead, stick to a simple rule: If it is not on clearance or on sale, don’t buy it.
This practice should result in funds left over to indulge in the little pleasures your children desire — but only if there is a deal out there.
4. Going overboard on birthday parties
This is a touchy topic for many parents, but is it really necessary to spend well into the hundreds of dollars on a single birthday party? Most children are more interested in the company of friends than the pricey decor. So plan wisely, and your wallet will thank you.
5. Leaving home to entertain your kids
Visiting a movie theater or theme park isn’t the only way to entertain your children. Try having a family game night or renting a movie from Redbox instead. This will drastically curb your costs.
If you feel a strong need to escape the confines of your home, visit the neighborhood park or recreation center, or search for free local events taking place in the community.
6. Overspending on summer camps
Some children are more athletically or artistically inclined than others, but that doesn’t mean you have to sign them up for every camp you can find. If they’re young, there’s plenty of time for them to sharpen skills and develop talents.
In other words, a talented 6-year-old need not attend six football camps in a two-month window if it’s going to set you back $3,000. See ” 7 Tips to Find an Awesome — and Affordable — Summer Camp.”
7. Preparing meals your children despise
Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Spending hours in the kitchen whipping up a meal your child won’t eat isn’t doing your pocketbook any justice.
Some children will eat whatever you place in front of them, and others like only a handful of items. There is no point in preparing a large or exotic dish of a vegetable or meat a child despises. Stick to cheaper, healthy basics the child loves.
8. Never buying secondhand
Ditch Toys R Us and search for toys at yard sales and local thrift stores. Many times, you will find items that are in good shape and offered at a fraction of retail cost. Consider shopping secondhand stores for children’s books.
Also, give Walmart’s used electronics inventory a shot. Or head to Amazon, eBay or a store clearance aisle.
9. Turning over tutoring to the pros
Every parent has had the experience: You glance at your child’s homework and think, “There’s no way I can help with this!”
Take a deep breath, head to Google and bring yourself up to speed so you can assist.
If all else fails, hire a high school or college student. They’re usually much cheaper than pricey tutoring agencies.
10. Relying on electronic baby sitters
If video games and other gadgets play an essential role in your child’s world, you can find yourself spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on the latest gadgets.
Not only are such devices costly, but they may not be great for your child’s health, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cellphones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.
Switch it up with books and other educational activities that will stimulate your children’s minds and keep them occupied. If you’re really ambitious, get them an educational gift. For ideas, check out “8 Great Gifts That Teach Kids Math and Money Savvy.”
What tips have you used to control the rising costs of raising a child? Share your tips by commenting below or on our Facebook page.
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