Becoming a parent is such a life changing experience that explaining this reality to friends without children is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, one particular area that many new parents seem to struggle with is money management. Having kids certainly adds to your monthly budget and being able to keep the checkbook balanced and in the positive can be a constant challenge. Here are some basic — but often overlooked — money saving tips that just might help your bottom line:
1. Set a Monthly Budget
Having a budget is the number one tip for all parents. Knowing what is coming in and going out each month can be a real eye opener. You never want to spend more than what you make. In fact, spending less so you can save is ideal.
2. Pay Down Your Credit Card Debt
If you have credit card debt, don't wait to pay it down. Interest accumulates quickly and, with average interest rates in the mid-teens, every $1,000 of credit card debt could cost you $150 or more per year.
To reduce interest expenses and expedite the process of getting out of debt, consider using a 0% APR balance transfer credit card. First, estimate your potential savings with a balance transfer calculator. Then, if you discover a savings opportunity, compare offers and seek out credit cards with low fees and long introductory periods.
3. Prepare Your Own Food
Simple, fresh healthy meals are the most budget friendly. Avoid eating out, bag your lunch for work, and stay away from making a stop for coffee every morning. If a new baby is only slightly breaking the budget, cutting out $15 lunches and $3 cups of coffee can restore balance to your finances.
4. Use Hand-Me-Downs
Share kids clothes with friends and family when you can. This can be a huge means of saving money and ensuring you have enough clothes available to prevent the washing machine from running on a 24-hour cycle.
5. Buy Second Hand
Check out garage sales and your local Craigslist especially for items you won't be using a long time. You can usually find great deals on bikes, sports equipment, baby gear, and especially toys.
6. Shop Sales
When you can't buy second hand, make sure you shop the sales. Buying your clothing at the end of the season for the following year when possible can be a huge cost savings. Just make sure you account for how much your baby will grow and buy age-appropriate sizes.
7. Grocery Shop With a List
Never head to the grocery store without a list. It is best to meal plan before you go so that you know what it is that you need to purchase. Clipping coupons and shopping the sale items is another great way to save.
8. Shop Your Local Farmer's Market
Another way to save on your food bill is to shop locally for what is in season. Your local farmer's market or CSA may offer great prices for fresh local produce which not only saves you money but also has the added bonus of being healthier.
9. Don't Purchase Every New Toy
Your kids may beg you for the newest and greatest toys, video games, etc. Learn when to say no. Most kids today have so many games and toys that they really don't know what to play with next. Keep it simple and let your kids use their own creativity instead of spending money on expensive toys.
10. Use Your Local Library
Your local library can be a great resource and it is free. In many places, you can also borrow magazines, music, movies and more. Borrow books and see what your child likes, then go to Amazon and get his favorites used.
11. Stop Buying Disposable Items
Another great way to save is to go green. For example, instead of bottled water, invest in water bottles and a water filter. While the initial investment might cost a bit, the long term savings will more than make up for it.
12. Clear Out Your Home
The final tip is to clean out your home and get rid of stuff you no longer use. Having a garage sale or selling on Craigslist is a great way to get some extra cash and to get rid of the clutter, especially for new parents who have to fill the basement with items that are no longer child-friendly.