When I saw the average cost of raising a child, I nearly fainted. It’s a whopping $245,340 (that varies based on your city and income) from birth through their 18th birthday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And that doesn’t include college.
Here are some of the average total costs from the USDA’s report:
- Housing — $73,260.
- Transportation — $34,710.
- Child care and education — $44,400.
- Food — $39,060.
- Health care — $20,130.
While this may be a tough pill to swallow, there are ways to soften the financial blow. Here are some areas you may be overspending on and how to curb those costs:
1. You Don’t Properly Research Child Care Options
Child care is the one expense that completely caught me (and many other parents, from what I’ve heard) off guard. If you don’t properly research your options, you could end up paying hundreds more per month than you have to for the same level of care.
2. You Take Young Children Along on Lavish Vacations
If you can afford to do so without comprising your budget, go for it. But if not, find less costly options now and save the big trips for later, when they’re older and can actually appreciate the experience. I know of several parents who have doled out $1,000 or more on a Disney vacation, only to spend much of the time wrestling with a stubborn child who throws tantrums or has no desire to go anywhere near the Dumbo ride. The long lines and extensive wait times, coupled with exorbitantly priced cuisine, add insult to injury.
It’s your prerogative, but it may be wiser to take your little ones to an attraction that’s closer to home, such as the local zoo, so you won’t be disappointed if they don’t enjoy their stay, and you won’t break the bank.
3. You Buy Everything at Full Price
From diapers to sneakers, all of your children’s items are purchased at full price. You never give the clearance or sales racks a chance, and coupons aren’t even on your radar.
Coupons can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s not necessary to clip coupons to save money. And many stores now accept electronic coupons, eliminating the need to clip. The rule in my home has always been simple: If it’s not on clearance or sale (for food items), we don’t buy it. And it’s worked like a charm.
In fact, I mastered the art of shopping for deals at a very young age from my mother, and I’ve definitely made our budget stretch over the years. My children have everything they need, and we often have funds left over to indulge in the little pleasures they desire, but only if there’s a deal out there.
4. You Toss Everything Your Children No Longer Need
What if another child is in your future? Or what about selling the items in stellar condition via Craigslist, the flea market or a community garage sale to earn some extra cash?
At some point, your children will have more items than they need or their rooms have storage space for, but don’t go on a cleaning spree and dump everything on the curb for trash pickup. Instead, get some return on your investment, even if it’s just a few dollars. And going forward, slow down on the spending so you don’t keep encountering the same issue every year.
5. You Go 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, particularly if you’re strapped for cash? Most children are more interested in the company of friends than the pricey décor, so plan wisely and your wallet will thank you.
6. You Think You Must Leave Home to Properly Entertain the Children
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, to drastically curb your costs.
And if you feel a 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.
7. Your Children Are in Competitive Sports Leagues
Unless they’re older and your wallet can withstand the registration, equipment and travel fees associated with competitive sports leagues, it may be smarter to switch to more cost-efficient options.
In my area, some parents easily dole out $1,000 or more per season for a 7-year-old when the community league can accomplish the same objective without all the extra travel for less than $100 per child.
8. Your Children Attend Prestigious Summer Camps
Not just one, but multiple camps. Are they really benefiting? 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 and scramble to find the funds to cover the costs. If they’re young, there’s plenty of time to sharpen those skills and develop those 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 and place a big dent in your savings account.
9. You Prepare Meals Your Children Despise
Let’s face it: Some children are more selective than others when it comes to food choices. Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Spending hours in the kitchen whipping up a meal they won’t eat isn’t doing your pocketbook any justice.
In our household, we have one child who will eat whatever we place in front of him and another who only likes 10 items. As much as I wish the picky eater would eat other foods, I see no point in preparing a large dish of a vegetable or meat he despises.
10. You Never Buy Secondhand
As a mother of two, I completely understand parents’ desire to give their children the best of everything. But is it really necessary to buy items like Legos and books directly from the store? Over the years, I’ve ditched Toys R Us for yard sales in upscale neighborhoods and local thrift stores. The items I find are usually in good shape and offered at a fraction of the retail cost.
And on those rare occasions I can’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll give Walmart’s used electronics inventory a shot, or we’ll head for Amazon, eBay or the clearance aisle.
11. You Leave the Tutoring to the Pros
Did you take a 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 try to bring yourself up to speed so you can assist.
And if all else fails, hire a high school or college student. They’re usually much cheaper than the pricey tutoring agencies that have overhead costs to cover.
12. You Rely on Electronic Baby Sitters
If video games and other gadgets play an essential role in your child’s world, you could find yourself spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on the latest gadgets, as well as exposing them to major problems. Says 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.
My advice: Switch it up with books and other educational activities that will also stimulate their mind and keep them occupied.
Bottom line: Parenting is expensive, but it’s totally possible to give your child a great life without breaking the bank.
This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.
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- 8 Ways to Pay Less for Baby-Sitting
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