When my husband and I had our first child several years ago, we felt financially prepared. We had to dip into our savings for fertility treatments and related medical expenses, but I was steadily freelancing as a writer and editor to supplement the loss. Our bank account was in solid shape when our baby boy was born. We were a little family of three.
A few days after our son's first birthday I took a pregnancy test, assuming it would be negative. It wasn't. It was a wonderful surprise, but this time our balance sheet wasn't looking so good. We were in the middle of home renovations, and our savings had taken a dive due to unforeseen renovation extras. Here are five lessons I learned to help cut down on the costs of bring a parent.
After our baby girl arrived, I'd walk out of Babies R' Us with a receipt totaling $300 or more and feel like I bought nothing. Kids' essentials like nappies, wipes and formula add up lightning fast, and it's easy to blow your monthly budget.
I've since learned to shop around for the best deals so my family can better stretch our dollars. These are the tactics that help me - and can help you - save big when you have small kids taking a bite out of your bank account.
Budget Buster: Baby Formula
Buying formula gets pricey. Of course, nursing is the cheapest option, but that doesn't always work out for every new mum. A wide range of baby formula is available, and some of it is very expensive. One of our babies has a cow's milk intolerance, and the formula we use in its place is pricey: $25 for a 340ml can is the cheapest we've found.
To slash the cost, we buy direct from the manufacturer's website which provides free delivery when you buy a six pack. Our pediatrician also helps us. She offers us sample cans that were given to her practice by the manufacturer. Formula expires, so they need to keep the supply moving. Whenever we're in the neighbourhood, we check to see if she has any to spare.
You can also ask your pediatrician for a prescription if your child uses a specialty formula, which shifts some of the cost to your insurer (if you have one.)
Monthly savings: $10 - $80.
Budget Buster: Groceries for a Family of Four
When I'm in a grocery store, I can be a big impulse shopper - it's like I'm afraid the zombie apocalypse is about to hit and we won't be prepared. (Of course we need a 2kg bag of rice, dried beans, four bottles of wine and four pints of ice cream!)
Fortunately for my bank account, there's online grocery shopping: although you get slugged with a small delivery fee, the likelihood of wasting money on impulse buys is much smaller.
Ordering groceries online allows me to buy only what I need. I also save on meal planning by purchasing meat and vegetables that I can see are on sale. (It's possible to get most items half-price by shopping on deals sites like Ozbargain.) I spend around $150 per weekly trip this way. In store, I'd drop at least $200.
Our wholesale club membership also helps us keep a lid on our food budget. We make a trip once a month to purchase meat and fish in bulk.
Monthly savings: $150 - $200.
Budget Buster: Nappies
Buying nappies for two kids costs us $200 to $250 a month, but fortunately there are some ways to cut that back. You can usually get bulk-buy nappies on special which effectively doubles your savings. It also makes sense to go for cheaper brands - as long as the fabric is watertight, breathable and comfortable your toddler isn't going to care if it's not Huggies.
Monthly savings: $40 - $70.
Budget Buster: Kids' Activities
Family memberships are the way to go. A few times a month, we take the kids to either the zoo, the aquarium or a large children's play centre. Because we bought memberships, we save hundreds of dollars annually on costly entrance fees.
Monthly savings: $70+.
Budget Buster: Clothes for Growing Kids
One money-saver idea is to stock up on family essentials like pajamas, T-shirts and jeans during big holiday sales events (40% to 60% off). Also, buy a year ahead. At the end of a season, you can snag huge discounts on clothes kids can wear the next year. Who wants to pay $15-$30 for a jacket next winter when you can get one for under $10 on clearance now?
Also, never shop without a coupon. Whether online or in store, kids' clothes coupons can always be found. Sign up in the shop or via email or social media to be in on regular deals.
5 Tricks This Mum Uses to Save Big Money on Kid Essentials [LearnVest] Image by Janko Ferlic via Unsplash.