Budgeting for Children: Learning Materials and Beyond

I’m not sure why but I feel led to write about this right now.  We’ll see if Kent sleep schedule agrees.  ;)

In my post about our Montessori Inspired Kitchen Setup I shared some of the products we’ve purchased for Kent to use.  We are on a tight budget around here so it is important to pull together nice materials for him without spending a fortune.

You can read more about our financial situation by clicking on “Our Money Story” up above.  We follow Dave Ramsey’s teachings and operate on a zero based budget by utilizing the envelope system.

We have a line in our budget for “Kent”.  This line will eventually changed to “Children”.  As is stands right now the amount will not increase with the number of children.  Right now it is $60/month and we put that amount, in cash, in an envelope for him every month.  If he needs something, or there is something I feel we should have to aid his learning, I go to his envelope first.  Here are some examples of what I have purchased from his envelope:

  • sunglasses
  • sensory materials (water beads, etc.)
  • puzzles
  • story books
  • books to aid me in teaching him
  • cloth diapers
  • shoes
  • snack cup
  • toys
  • dishes
  • storage containers
  • shelving
  • mats for him to work on

Pretty much anything that we wouldn’t buy if not for him can come from that envelope.  However, we have other options if his money is running low or if we need to purchase a big ticket item.  Examples:

  • clothing and shoes can come from our “clothing” envelope
  • books that I want for teaching him can come from my “Blow money” envelope
  • organizing, storage containers, and dishes can come from our “home repairs” envelopes (this envelope would be better titled “home improvement”)
  • special materials that we’ll give him at his birthday or Christmas can be purchased from the “gifts” envelope

So, there are a lot of options.  Usually when one envelope is empty another has a surplus.  I rarely feel like there is something he NEEDS that we can’t afford.

That being said, I don’t think $60 is much compared to what many people spend per child each month.  Kent’s line gets more money than most of our other envelopes so even when sharing among all the categories there is not a lot to work with.  I’ll have a post up tomorrow about how to stretch those dollars and still find quality products.

Babies don’t cost us much so I don’t anticipate much added pressure in the budget for a couple years.  I used some of Kent’s funds to round out our cloth diaper stash recently so as long as we are blessed enough to breastfeed again this baby will cost us almost nothing until he starts eating solids.  The books, toys, and materials that we are buying now should still be here when the next child is ready for them.  Most of our budgeted funds should still be able to go to what Kent needs as he grows, with a smaller portion being used to replace broken or outdated materials.

How do you manage your finances when it comes to children’s needs and learning materials?  I’d be interested to hear!

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