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When it comes to saving money and living a frugal lifestyle my children are not exempt. Although much of what we are doing in terms of looking after our money is for the benefit of our children, we do feel it necessary to spend excessively on them.
My husband and I have made huge changes in our lives to give our children the best start including both working part time. To do this we need to be careful with our money and we are constantly looking for ways to save money.
Plus, children do not need lots of money spent on them. Yes, there are things that they need but these can be bought at a reasonable price. For young children what they want is largely time with people that care about them, plenty of food, practical clothes and time outside. Once I figured this out being a parent became a lot cheaper. Here are my 9 things that you can save money on as a parent:
We don’t have one! Well, we do but it is unplugged and hidden in a room upstairs. I found that my kids were more annoying when we had a TV and I was far less productive. Both as a parent and in general.
Don’t get me wrong, my children do watch the occasional film. We’ve just introduced film night. And they do watch something every now and then on YouTube, but not every day. And almost never more than once a day.
The decision to get rid of our TV meant that we could review our TV subscription. I got rid of Sky along time ago and we had Netflix and Now TV. We also had a TV licence so that we could watch live TV and access BBC iPlayer.
We decided that we didn’t need most of these, as a result we now have no Netflix and no TV licence. Our children just watch YouTube or films through NowTV. Now TV only survived the cut because we are getting it free now anyway.
I’m not big on fashion. This is mostly because I like to feel comfortable in my clothes. For me, clothes need to allow me to do what I want to do in them. For example, if I’m going running I will wear clothes that allow me run freely and stay cool. Or if I’m going for a walk along a beach I want the option to dip my toes in the sea without effort.
I choose my clothes to suit the activities I intend to do. For my children, they spend all day and every day running, climbing, jumping, painting, rolling on the floor, swinging from trees and generally playing. Therefore 99% of their clothes need to suit this purpose and meet this need.
My children consequently have a streamlined wardrobe that consists of a few pairs of trousers, tops, a couple of jumpers, a coat and some boots. We have a few specialist items for extremes of weather and different activities. But largely that is all they need. I am shocked when I see children wearing elaborate outfits. I worry that they are scared to play for fear of damaging their clothes.
This isn’t a complete truth here. We do buy nappies. Or at least we DID buy nappies, but we bought reusable ones. I bought a set of nappies before my eldest was born and we have used them both children now. Once we are done I will sell on any that are still in good condition.
This has saved us a fortune. If you are in a position to afford the initial cost, then I strongly urge you to consider this as a money saving option. Naturally there is an ongoing cost in the cost of cleaning, but we get around this by washing overnight when we have Economy 7 and drying nappies on the washing line.
I understand that this may not be an option for everyone. But I urge you to think very careful about your circumstances and see if you can make it work. We do not pay childcare because we don’t use it.
My eldest now attends a nursery because she wants to, and she enjoys it. This is paid for by the Government. My youngest is looked after either by myself or my husband. We made the decision early on as parents to be at home with our children and it has worked out well for us financially.
As we both work part time we have taken a cut in pay but the savings we have made by not paying for childcare have offset this. Plus, we get the added bonus of lots of time with our children.
Before you start to worry, we use the library. I stopped buying books for my kids ages ago. This is because they are a) expensive and b) boring after being read 500 times. When it comes to books I’m a believer that variety is the key, so we use our library.
We get to read so many different books. Some are amazing and obviously some are terrible. But every one generates conversation. It would be ridiculous to buy as many books as we read, so to us the library is a necessity.
Our house is small, so we have to be savvy with our space. But, our kids don’t need lots of stuff. We have far fewer toys than many people I know, and I still must do a toy rotation to keep things from being ignored. As the children are getting older I’m making more and more conscious decisions about the toys we have in our house. This is true example of less is more.
When I ask my eldest what she wants to do her answer varies between “the roundabout park” or “two parks”. Basically, the roundabout park is our nearest park and then we have another one that is slightly further away. When she asks for “two parks” we visit both. These are free! And absolutely top of my children’s list of days out.
Normally when we ask this, we are open to more elaborate suggestions like swimming, skating or adventure parks, but no! They just want to spend time with us at the local park. To me this speaks volumes! We do not need to spend a lot of money to entertain our children. Doing something cheap together is just as good! Clare at My Money Cottage has a great list of frugal activities to do with kids.
Since they were eating solid food, my children have eaten the same as us. We did baby led weaning and served them up small portions of whatever was on the menu that day for us. To this day, we still do the same.
It is a rare day when we buy food that is specifically aimed at children. We avoided jars of pureed food completely. The benefit of this is more than financial! My husband and I began eating healthier as we reduced salt and sugar content in our own meals to make them suitable for our whole family.
There’s a lot of stuff out there that is basically normal stuff but made into kids’ stuff with a logo or bright colours. We discovered that they don’t need this. They are more than capable of using adult versions. They prefer using adult versions as it makes them feel grown up. Plates and cutlery are a good example of this. Just give your kids normal stuff. Yes, you might get one or two broken plates, but this is how they learn.
If you are feeling like taking this further, I wrote a post about how you don’t need cots and prams too.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.
Looking After Your Pennies is an eco-friendly personal finance blog written and managed by Charlotte Jessop.
I write on a variety of topics including frugal lifestyle, eco-friendly living, money making ideas and generally how to make your money go further.
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