5 New Money-Saving Tips for Parents

Kids are expensive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a child born to a middle-income family in 2010 will cost $226,920 to raise over the next 17 years. But there are ways to reduce the financial burden. As a perk, many of the ideas listed here are also good for the health of your family and the planet.

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how to save money while raising kids

1. Eat Cheap

After housing, food represents one of the largest costs of raising a child. Fortunately, there are many great ways to save on food costs that start when your child is a newborn. Breast milk is not only free, unlike expensive baby formula, it's also universally recognized as healthier than formula.

With older children, consider making dietary substitutions to save money. For example, drink tap water instead of sugary juices and sodas. Also, try having vegetarian dinners at least once per week. An easy way to make this switch is to swap ground beef in a favorite recipe with beans. Canned beans are far cheaper than beef, while dry beans are cheaper than canned beans.

2. Budget Your Meals

Since food is such a significant expense, look for additional ways to save on what you eat. In general, it's always less expensive to cook at home instead of going to restaurants. It may help to plan out the week's meals before heading to the grocery store. Also, making a list and sticking to it at the store will help you avoid impulse purchases.

At home, you can save time by cooking several meals on Sunday to eat later in the week. By cooking food in large batches and distributing it over several meals, you'll make better use of your purchases. This can be as simple as cooking twice the amount you'd need for one dinner and stretching it into two, or repurposing leftovers into a new dish.

3. Network With Your Peers

Let's face it: you need to buy things as a parent. From strollers to backpacks, plus the never-ending need for clothes, some purchases are unavoidable. But you don't always need to buy new things. Look for opportunities to find second-hand items at garage sales, community sales or websites like Craigslist and the Freecycle Network. While children can be hard on some of their clothes, they outgrow others quickly enough to make second-hand children's clothing a great bargain that doesn't sacrifice quality.

4. Stop the Disposables

Disposable diapers, bottled water and plastic sandwich bags are just a few items you may go through in vast quantities as a parent. Yet none of these are essential and more frugal alternatives are available. Cloth diapers you wash at home can save thousands of dollars and, if you'd prefer to avoid the hassle, diaper cleaning services can still be cheaper than disposables and require no more effort than tossing dirty diapers in a bag.

You should look for other single-use items that you can swap with reusables. In addition to reusable water bottles, consider washing and reusing sandwich bags, replacing them with hard plastic containers or repurposing plastic bags from other sources; for example, there's no reason you can't wash and reuse the plastic bag your bread, cereal or other food items are packaged in. These bags are essentially free and would otherwise be wasted, making reusing them a cost-effective and earth-friendly choice.

5. Clean with Green

Kids are messy. There's really no getting around that. But you shouldn't feel compelled to spend countless dollars on fancy cleaning products. Most household cleaners for cleaning everything from windows to clogged pipes can be made using common household ingredients. Vinegar, for example, is a natural cleaner that is easy on the budget and the planet.

You can also make your own laundry detergent with just three main ingredients: soap, washing soda and borax. To protect your clothes and the environment, you can use a natural soap, like Ivory, while washing soda, or sodium carbonate, and borax, or sodium borate, are both naturally-occurring and inexpensive. Homemade laundry detergent allows you to wash the endless loads of laundry every parent faces for pennies instead of dollars. Furthermore, making your own detergent can be a fun project that involves the whole family.

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