Raising kids for less

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You don’t have to splash the cash to be a great parent

Raising kids is an expensive business! Meeting the never-ending costs of your child’s food, clothes, education and activities is really tough when you’re on a low income, are unemployed, on benefits or have other debts and strains on your tight budget. The good news is there’s some easy ways you can save some cash while still keeping the kids fed, clothed and happy!

Food, glorious food

Do you feel like your kids are constantly eating you out of house and home? When you’re trying to feed growing kids on a tight budget, it can be hard to keep up with their huge appetites. No sooner have you filled the kitchen cupboard when it’s time to go grocery shopping again!

  • Feeding your family on tight budget doesn’t have to mean cheap, unhealthy meals. Check out our tips for healthy eating on a super tight budget for some helpful hints and tips that’ll fill your supermarket trolley – and your kids’ bellies – with healthy food that costs less.
  • When hitting the supermarket, follow these tips to be sure you don’t blow your budget:
  • Use a list – and don’t deviate from it.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry. You end up with loads of extras in your trolley!
  • If you’re shopping with kids, bribe them – and we don’t mean buying them treats! Strike a deal with them before shopping that if they agree not to pester you to buy extras for them, you’ll reward them with your time afterwards – perhaps a special playground visit, time doing a puzzle, or taking a walk or bike ride together.
  • Be mindful of these 10 sneaky supermarket tricks that make you spend more
  • Be sure to use everything in your pantry before shopping for more. Get creative with what you have, or search online for recipe ideas that use the ingredients you already have.

Birthdays don’t have to break the bank

Everyone deserves to be spoiled on their birthday! But you don’t have to splurge a fortune doing it.

  • You don’t have to throw your child a party every year. Many families use a system of having a party every second year, and perhaps on the year they’re not having a party, your child can celebrate by choosing the menu for a home cooked dinner with the family. Maybe they could have one friend join them for a movie or sleepover – free, and fun!
  • Keep birthday parties simple – remember, kids are happy as long as they have friends to play with, and party food to eat! Check out these great ideas for saving money on kid’s birthday parties, and some budget birthday party ideas for young children.
  • Remember that some of the best things in life are free, and these loads of companies offering free treats for your birthday. Check out our guide to how to score freebies for your birthday!

It’s not just your own child’s birthday that puts a strain on your budget. Invitations to their friend’s parties mean you’re often having to dip into your tight budget to buy pressies for other children.

  • Put a spending limit on birthday presents. How much is up to you – perhaps discuss with a few trusted friends to get an idea of what seems to be the norm, and whether this suits your circumstances.

Education doesn’t have to be expensive

In Australia we’re lucky to have a quality public education system which means that every child receives an education at a minimal cost.

As we all know though, there’s lots of other costs associated with your child’s education. The good news is, there’s lots of smart ways to save.

  • Don’t spend a fortune on new textbooks. Smart sites like Student VIP, Sustainable School Shop and SchoolXchange mean you can buy and sell these online, saving hundreds of dollars.
  • Uniforms also don’t have to break the bank. Check out discount department stores like Big W and Target for good prices on basic items.
  • Ask if your school has a clothing pool that sells second hand uniforms, and use your network of parent friends to trade hand-me-down uniforms between you.
  • Search for groups on social media sites like Facebook to find people in your area buying and selling textbooks and uniforms.
  • Keeping kids fed at school can also be expensive. But by being organised and checking out some of the many good online guides, you can keep their lunch boxes full of fun and healthy snacks without spending a fortune.

Active kids need an active budget!

We all love our kids to be activity and to enjoy a variety of sports and activities. But many come with expensive registration and participation fees, along with the cost of specialised gear such as shoes, uniforms and protective equipment. Not to mention the time involved in getting them to and attending classes, training and games!

  • Limit the number of different sports or activities your child participates in. By making them choose their favourite one or two, you’ll not only save money on extra fees and equipment, you’ll also save time, and create a happier balance with family life.
  • As with school uniforms, use your network of parent friends to buy, sell and trade hand-me-downs of sports, dance and other uniforms, protective equipment and shoes.
  • You could also check with your sporting club, dance school or relevant organisation to see if they have or know of any families looking to sell second hand clothing and gear,
  • Limit your purchases to the essential items. Although your soccer superstar may want the fancy gear their famous favourites are wearing – just remember that despite what they might tell you, they don’t need a brand new pair of shin guards every year – last year’s will often do just fine!

Essentially – learn to say no!

As parents, we need to remember that it’s part of our job to teach our kids the skills they’ll need as successful adults. It’s important they understand the value of earning special treats, of having to save and being rewarded. So while it might feel great to treat your kids to new toys or outings, make sure it’s just that – a treat.

  • Try not to fall into the trap of saying yes to small treats every time you go somewhere, such as a buying your child a chocolate every time you do the grocery shopping. They’ll soon expect this all the time, meaning the treat has instead become an expectation.
  • Not only that, but that dollar here and there will quickly add up to a significant spend across a year.
  • If your child wants a special new toy or item, help them to create a savings plan for them to earn it. For example, show them how a $20 toy could be earned in four weeks if they earn $5 a week through good behaviour or by helping with chores.

Help your kids to develop good attitudes and habits with spending and saving money – you’ll find some handy tips in our 5 things to teach your kids about money.