This Parenting Hack Can Save You Thousands

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  • Parenting groups are ideal ways to share the costs of raising kids amongst the whole "village."
  • Clothing, shoes, toys, sporting goods -- kids outgrow most things well before those items are used up. Sharing them with other parents not only helps everyone avoid shelling out money for new items every month, but also keeps the clutter down.
  • You can also share less tangible things, like trading childcare for date nights or carpooling to sporting events.

Nine times out of 10, free is better than new.

Studies show that raising kids is expensive. In fact, data from the USDA says a child born in 2015 will cost more than $300,000 (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to raise.

But that's just for the basics. Once you add in extracurriculars, holidays, vacations, college…well, you're looking at quite a bit more. Have more than one kid? You're going to have some multipliers.

Of course, adding on extra kids doesn't necessarily double or triple the cost. That's because you can often reuse certain products, like clothes and toys, for the second child that you bought new for the first.

It's that same concept -- scaled up -- that's behind this personal finance hack: parenting groups. Think of it as bringing the "it takes a village" idea to the modern stage.

Coming together

Our digital world is interconnected in astonishing ways, yet many of us feel less connected than ever. This can be especially hard for new parents who don't have robust family support systems.

Instead of going it alone, consider forming or joining a parenting group. Maybe it's a neighborhood-level group of parents from your block, or perhaps a group of parents from your child's school or sports teams. You could even start as a few parents in a local social media forum.

It doesn't matter how you form your group. The idea is to have a wide array of parents, with children across ages. The goal? To share. And I don't mean feelings.

Alright, some feelings, because no one understands what you're going through quite like other parents. But more than that: You're sharing costs.

One parent's trash…

Kids go through things faster than most people think. The whole idea of them growing overnight? Not quite as outlandish as it may sound. And when your child outgrows, well, everything, you're left with two problems: buying new things -- and storing old things.

A good parenting group can help with both of those problems.

Has your 6-year-old outgrown yet another pair of perfectly good shoes? Drop a note in your parenting group's chat. Someone else with a 5-year-old is probably happy to take them off your hands. And their neighbor's 7-year-old likely has a pair of shoes they've outgrown that's just taking up space in the closet.


And this idea can extend far beyond shoes. Is your ever-growing offspring ready for a new sports season? Before you run out to buy all new gear, hit up your parenting group for gently-loved gear from last season. (Just avoid used helmets; they can lose effectiveness.)

Same thing with the mountains of toys your child now says are "for babies." Great! I bet your parenting group has a few babies happy to have them. You can even turn it into a valuable life lesson in paying it forward by having your kids pack them up and be part of the pass-it-on process.

Many hands make light work

Don't forget about the less tangible things that add extra costs to your child-raising budget. For example, getting a date-night babysitter can easily run you more than the date night itself. That is, it can if you aren't swapping childcare duties amongst your parenting group.

Even if you have only a few families in your group, you can likely give everyone a night out at least once a month by trading babysitting responsibilities. And if you have a larger parenting group, you could potentially set up a schedule where everyone gets a night a week to do grown-up things, childfree.

You can pool costs and responsibilities for other things, too. For instance, there's no reason every single parent on the team needs to drive their own vehicle to every away game. Set up a carpool schedule and a gas pool to keep costs down.

Used -- not used up

If you buy into the marketing that's shoved down our throats everyday, new is always better. But when it comes to kids, new is very rarely better -- or even practical.

And in a world where we're all just a few clicks away from everyone else, you don't even need an old-fashioned family circle to enjoy the benefits of hand-me-downs. You can form a cooperative parenting group with friends, neighbors, and strangers alike. Indeed, the more folks you can bring into the fold, the more variety of items you can give and get.

Of course, make sure you're always keeping safety in mind. Clean and sterilize anything that could be potentially hazardous. But within reason, there's very little you have to buy new when you have parenting allies with whom you can share the load.

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