My wife and I tried to prepare financially for a baby. We really did. We saved and budgeted.

But in the insightful words of my grandfather, "If you wait until you have enough money before having kids, you'll never have them."

How true.

Between day care, a college fund, extra life insurance, mommy-and-me classes, and all of the food, toys, and goodies that babies and toddlers demand, we added hundreds of dollars to our monthly budget.

It's a common scenario for many working families — how to stretch a dollar.

How can we expose our son (and our next child, hopefully) to the arts, traveling, museums, sporting events, and other worthwhile activities without overspending?

It's a daily juggling act for my family. Is it for yours?

Steps You Can Take

We've made several adjustments to give us a whiff of financial breathing room. To help out with family finances, put some of these to work in your own household:

  • Cut back on things like home phone service and newspaper delivery. Consider keeping weekend  delivery of the paper, in part, for Sunday coupons.
  • Troll the Internet looking for deals. Try never to go to a  museum, park, or play area without a coupon in hand.
  • Take lunch to work at least three days a week to save money.
  • When eating out as a family, visit less expensive restaurants.
  • Limit spending to necessities. For big items — like bikes, for instance — wait for Christmas or birthdays.
  • Search for activities that are free or low-cost. Museums have free days and parks are free during the week in South Florida, where we live. We live in a community with a pool and spend lots there and taking long walks around our neighborhood. We've learned that a worthwhile activity doesn't have to cost money.

Decisions, Decisions

It certainly isn't easy. We have taken these steps, and it can lead to stress between my wife and me. Occasionally, we'll differ on whether a purchase is necessary. We try to find a compromise and fit the item or activity into our monthly budget.

There are several items we prioritize. Saving, for example. And a college fund.

With another child due in April, my goal is to pay off my student loans and other debt before the arrival. That will free up money to add another college fund and pay for twice as many diapers.

We face other challenges — like should I pick up a part-time job? If I do, that leaves less time to spend with the family. We've also debated having my wife return to work full-time. If we do, it would significantly increase our day care costs.

Every decision comes with a price, and each family has to be willing to pay that price. For us, having my wife home is more important than a full-time job.

Whenever money gets tight in our house I'm reminded of another example from my grandparents. This one is visual, not verbal. They raised four daughters on his blue-collar salary, sent them to private school and saved for retirement. Today, they are enjoying their well-deserved golden years.

Maybe someday we'll follow in their financial footsteps.

This post was included in the Carnival of Financial Planning.