10 Ways to Save Money on Kids
According to the USDA, in 2015, the average cost to raise a child from birth to age 18 is $304,480. You love them; they’re just expensive!
Find the 10 best ways to save money on everything your kids do below. In the 5-13 range, there are certain expenses that every kid has – you’ll be able to reduce costs in each category by following our guidelines below. Spend the extra money on the kids, yourself, or do the responsible thing and put it into savings – your choice!
#1 – Groceries
Chances are, as a parent, when you go to the grocery store, you waste a lot of money.
- You pay full retail price for items you buy in bulk (e.g. snack foods)
- You end up buying items you don’t eat, which is basically setting money on fire
If you go to the grocery store, set a budget and create your list beforehand. This’ll prevent impulse buying food that you won’t end up eating. If your kids are with you, limit them to one or two special purchases per trip. This will help teach them discipline and save money for their other expenses.
For the parents looking to take it to the next level, buying food online is almost always cheaper than in stores, especially because you can buy packs of 3, 5, or 10 and save in bulk. Go somewhere like Amazon’s food section, search for the foods your kids always eat, and you might be able to knock quite a bit of money off your monthly grocery bill from those bulk savings alone.
#2 – School supplies
There are plenty of companies making binders, folders, pencils, markers, and other school supplies that an elementary- or middle-school kid will need.
If you go to a typical big box store like Staples or Target, you’ll find two varieties of companies – the most expensive ones, and the cheapo ones that your kid won’t want. Neither of those is a great option.
A better route is getting the list of necessary school supplies in the mail, then going online. There’s more competition among lesser-known brands making high-quality supplies so you can pick up a bargain. This approach isn’t as entertaining as going to the store, but you can still get basic items like folders at the store if you want the “school shopping experience”.
One example of a cheap online alternative is the Blue Hills Marker Pack– a set of 60 professional fine-tip markers with a stand for just under $30. The same pack from Crayola is almost twice as expensive!
#3 – Clothing
Your kids have probably begun to acquire a sense of style – gone are the days where you could dress them up in anything. Now, it’s your job to find affordable, durable clothing that they will enjoy wearing – it’s quite the task.
Start by saving on the clothing they don’t care much about – socks, underwear, undershirts, etc. You can find multipacks on Amazon for far less than name-brand items on the shelves at regular retail stores.
The important articles of clothing (shirts for guys; anything for girls) will be harder – we’d recommend setting a maximum price you’ll pay per item when you shop in person or online. For example, $15 could be the cutoff amount for each shirt, perhaps with an extended $20 limit for one that your kid really likes.
#4 – Hotels & general travel
Look for hotels with special rates for families, especially those with two or more kids. Often times, you can get a cheaper rate on your room if you’re a family, but you do have to ask, as the discounts usually aren’t advertised online. Give the hotel you’re considering a call – it never hurts to see.
On that same note, always call the hotel to book directly rather than going on a travel site like Expedia. Seeing as Expedia (or any other site) takes a cut for booking the room, you can remove the middleman by contacting the hotel, quoting the Expedia rate, and waiting for them to either upgrade your room or reduce your rate substantially.
#5 – Eating out
Whenever possible, find restaurants where kids eat free. Usually, these are classier restaurants with better food, so you’ll get a better meal at the same or a slightly higher price.
As far as ordering goes, stick to water unless it’s a special occasion, and try to not order the most expensive things on the menu. If everyone (including every kid) gets a cheaper dish, the bill stays low.
#6 – Health insurance
Your kids are on your policy… so, when was the last time you checked your policy? Especially if you’ve had a kid since you signed up with your current insurer, you might be able to get much cheaper rates for the same exact plan.
With services like NerdWallet you can input your current rates and find cheaper alternatives. Sometimes, all it takes is a call to make significant savings every month. Those Geico commercials aren’t lying! (Though Geico isn’t always the absolute cheapest.)
#7 – Playdates and other activities
Tired of doing the same thing every weekend? Look on Groupon and other “daily deal” sites to find inspiration for new activities. The specials are discounted 50% or more, so you can have some fun, unique activities with your kid and their friends without spending a fortune.
#8 – In general, try to buy used
There are certain things that you need to buy new – shoes and underwear for example. But other things can be purchased used, and your kid will have no idea of the difference.
Sporting equipment is a great example of this – a used lacrosse stick over a brand new one for a kid who just started playing lacrosse won’t make any difference. Now, if your kid was on the varsity lacrosse team, you’d definitely have to buy him or her something new, but in the 5-13 range, used is still A-OK.
Musical equipment is always better to buy used. Most kids will jump from hobby to hobby in a short space of time and this can be really expensive.
#9 – Get rebates wherever you shop online
There are two types of coupons – the ones each company puts out (that you might find on the official website or third-party coupons like RetailMeNot), then, there are the rebate sites – these sites gives you coupons that can be used an unlimited number of times on any type of purchase.
It sounds too good to be to be true, but it’s not. Check out a site like eBates. The rebates aren’t huge, but they do get up there – as of writing this, Macy’s has a 8% rebate that can be stacked on top of the official 20% coupon, which is a pretty substantial discount on any name-brand clothing.
#10 – Learn how to say “No!”
Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying “No!”, even if it’s to something small like a soft pretzel at the mall. Remember, even if they’re upset, take heart knowing the money is going towards the really important things in their future.
That’s about it – if you’re overwhelmed right now, try tackling one category at a time. On your next vacation, stay in a family-friendly hotel, or at your next restaurant, make your kid order water over soda, no matter how much he or she objects. It’s the healthier choice, too!
In the long run, small changes make a big difference in your monthly expenses. Good luck and happy saving!
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