'I Wish Someone Told Me.' 3 Parents Share Their Top Budgeting Tips

by Maurie Backman | Published on Aug. 3, 2021

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A parent walking hand-in-hand with their young child wearing a backpack on a sunny street.

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Being a new parent is hard. Here's some budgeting advice from those of us who have been through it.

Parenting means juggling a lot of things -- and giving up a lot of things, like sleep. It also means learning the hard way that raising children is an expensive prospect.

Since I was the first in my circle of friends to have a baby, I had to figure it alone from a financial standpoint. There was no one I could turn to for budgeting or money-saving advice. But at this point, I've learned a thing or two about the financial side of raising kids, and I'm here to share that knowledge with those of you who may be newer to the parenting game.

In fact, I even polled some friends to see what advice they'd want to impart. Here are our top tips.

Maurie (mom of three): The school years are more expensive than the infant years

Back when my kids were young and needed daytime care, I spent a large portion of my earnings on that expense alone. Throw in other costs like diapers and baby wipes, and the bills added up.

What got me through that period was the idea that once my kids got a bit older, those expenses would start to drop. Boy was I wrong.

Despite the fact that school serves as childcare for much of the year so I can work during the day, I still spend a lot of money on this service between after-school care and summer camp, which is many thousands of dollars per child where I live. Throw in things like after-school activities, sports equipment, birthday parties, PTA fundraisers, and other kid-related obligations, and I find that I'm spending more money now than I did during the infant years.

That's something I was not at all prepared for, but at least now I know better. And I've since reworked my budget to account for these costs.

Stephanie (mom of two): Choose your activities wisely

"When my kids started various after-school activities, I let them try everything, thinking it would be good for them to be well-rounded and learn what they did or didn't like. Of course, my daughter landed on dance. The $200 a month for lessons wasn't the issue -- it was the $200 costumes and $150 recital fees that kept popping up that made it unaffordable for us."

The takeaway? Extracurriculars can vary in cost, so before your kids come to love a certain one, make sure it fits within your budget. The last thing you want is to be forced to use your savings or take on debt so your child can stay occupied for two hours a week after school when there's an equally interesting activity available at a fraction of the cost.

Melissa (mom of one): Don't assume your food costs will be negligible

"My husband and I never imagined that our one daughter would cause our food costs to rise by almost $250 a month. But that's where we're at. Our daughter is 10, fairly picky, and eats a lot of different foods than we do. So instead of just making extra of what we're having, we're constantly having to buy her different things. That really adds up."

Feeding one extra mouth might seem like a minor expense. But if you have a child who's picky (which, let's face it, a lot of kids are), you may end up having to not only buy a lot of different grocery items, but also throw a lot of food away. Be sure to account for added food costs when you set up your household budget.

Raising kids isn't easy, especially from a financial standpoint. I wish I would've known some of the things I'm aware of today before having mine. Thankfully, I've always been a pretty frugal person and strong saver, so I've managed to navigate all types of child-related financial surprises. At the same time, I hope these tips can spare other parents a world of stress -- because raising kids is stressful enough in its own right!

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