Budgeting for Children: Making the Dollars STRETCH!

As I mentioned yesterday, we adhere to a strict budget for children’s supplies and learning materials.  Despite that, I never feel like Kent lacks for things he needs.

Here are some ways we keep the costs to a minimum:

  • Always, always read the reviews and do research before making a purchase.  A cheap product is not cheap if you have to replace it often.  For example, Kent’s snack cup cost $16.99.  Lesser models can be purchased for $2-3.  However, we only have ONE cup to keep track of and it works infinitely better than the cheap ones.  It has been going strong for well over a year now and still looks like new.  We will purchase ONE cup for the new baby, too, because Kent still uses his in the car.  They will surely outlast both boys.  We like having one cup to wash, store, and keep track of.  Plus, Kent is learning the value of having quality things and taking care of them.  We’ve followed this same guiding principle when selecting everything from crib mattresses to shoes.
  • Make it known what is needed!  Kent is blessed to have wonderful grandparents on all sides.  They know that we try hard to pick long-lasting products and they are wonderful about asking what would be useful.  I maintain a wish list on Amazon and try to keep it fresh with new ideas, especially when gift-giving occasions are near.  I’m sure I sometimes come across as too picky but usually everyone is happy to have suggestions and know that he is getting something that really caters to his current interests and will get lots of use.  I also try to update our families on what we will be learning in the near future.  For example, we are starting to learn about shapes so they know to snatch up related items if they see a deal.
  • Rarely buy new!  There are a few things I do buy new: mattresses, toys, carseats, and few select items that I want to last as long as possible.  Almost everything else I try to find secondhand.  I actually prefer secondhand clothing over new because the pesticide residue on conventional cotton dissipates over time.  The same goes for plastic items: there is less off-gassing and fewer odors left from manufacturing when you buy used.  I love scouring estate sales for old toys and kitchen accessories.  The old metal and wood versions of things are so much nicer to use and hold up better over time than the newer plastic models.  That’s my opinion, anyway!
  • Always check ebay, craigslist, and etsy.  Al three, every time, always.
  • Ask around.  For example, we scored a globe by asking on Facebook if anyone had one sitting around collecting dust.  Thanks Kristi!
  • When you found a deal, jump on it!  This can be tricky.  I do usually consult with Brian first in case he has a better idea.  Most of the time, though, I hunt and hunt for a deal and when I finally find something I know we need I grab it.  This is easier if you don’t spend all your envelope money in the first week. 😉
  • Buy ahead.  For example, I just bought some shoes on ebay that the new baby will wear next summer.  They were new in the box but half the price of new, plus they shipped free.  That will be one less expense next summer.
  • Constantly move towards higher-quality.  Pick out the lowest quality, worst wearing, most likely to break items and look for better options.  Again, here are some examples:  Kent received a fair amount of footie pajamas as gifts when he was born.  Most of them are faded, worn, and starting to pill.  They are well known name brands.  They will suffice for maybe one more child but look rough and I’m not looking forward to using them.  So, I asked around and read and read and found a better option.  I’ve been picking up Hanna Andersson brand sleepers on ebay when they come up for reasonable prices.  Yes, they cost more than most secondhand pajamas.  The difference is apparent, though.  All the ones I purchased are pre-owned and they are still thick and soft with no fading and very little pilling.  This means that if we have a third child I won’t have to spend the money to replace most of them again.
  • Enlist help from other bargain hunters!  For me this is my Mom and my sister.  They love to shop and are garage sale addicts.  It helps that my sister works at Goodwill so she gets to scope out their stuff.  I like resale shops and garage sales, too, but realistically I don’t go to many now.  I keep the family up on what we’re looking for, they have fun looking for it, and we all come out happy.  (At least I think so.  If not they should speak up! :D)

So there, that’s what helps up stay on budget.  This is just what works for us in our current situation.  If you have more drive time and get the chance to garage sale you may enjoy replacing clothing and not benefit from spending extra on longer-lasting things.  I try to limit my driving, though, to save on gas.  Also, we don’t know how many kids we’ll end up with so it’s more important to us that things last than it would be if we knew we were done at two.  I hope this helps if you’re in a similar situation!

What’s your best practice for stretching the baby/child budget?


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