Whether you’re hoping to have your first child, you want more children but aren’t sure you can afford it or one parent wants to stay home with the children, how to make a budget stretch a little more is a concern for many families. While it’s true that children can be expensive, they don’t actually have to cost nearly as much money as some people might say, and you don’t need to feel deprived either. These tips can help you think about how to better manage your budget with one, two or more kids in the picture.
Look at Your Finances
A cold, hard look at your finances can tell you if you can get by on the money you are currently making or if you need to figure out how to raise your income or lower your expenses. This can be scary, but you can be creative. For example, if you and your spouse are paying off several student loans, you may be able to consolidate them. For federal loans, a Direct Consolidated Loan is available. With private loans, you might be able to save on interest with student loan consolidation companies. You might also be able to refinance your car or home. You should look at whether child care will cost more than one person’s income. If one of you wants to stay home with the child, that parent may want to look into work-from-home opportunities. Keep in mind that this needs to be something the parent can do on their own schedule and that no work may get done in the first few months of the child’s life. Parents often overestimate how much time they will have to work when home with a baby or toddler.
Think About What You Need
You should try to put away at least $1000 or so in savings so you can pick up little things that come up. However, you should also keep in mind that babies do not need much. How much you purchase for the baby is not a reflection of your parenting, and what you do need you may be able to get secondhand from friends, thrift stores and garage sales. What you don’t need to do is shell out for expensive strollers or designer baby wear.
One thing that budget guides always tell you is how quickly such things as takeout meals can add up. You can potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars if you do a lot of batch cooking in the weeks before the baby is born and freeze meals. When friends and family want to know how they can help you, have them bring over freezer meals as well. Planning ahead for the things you genuinely do need can also help you keep an eye out sales or even on companies doing free giveaways. Online baby registries can help ensure that when people get you gifts, they pick up things you actually need. Finally, both breast feeding and making your own baby food are less costly than buying formula and commercially made baby food although these options are not possible for everyone.