Raising Kids is Expensive: How to Save


Raising kids is expensive!

According to the Department of Agriculture’s 2015 estimate, it costs $233,610 to raise a child from birth to 17 years old.


(And that was in 2015!)

The yearly budget? For a two-parent, two-child, middle-income home, the annual estimated balance per child is $12,980. What’s even more amazing is the older the child, the more expensive they become.

What are your family’s priorities?

I’ve always liked the idea of a family motto. By creating one, you can really highlight what’s significant to your family.

Likewise, it’s important when thinking about a family budget, to decide ahead of time, what are your family’s priorities? Do you really like living in a particular neighborhood? Is it significant to look crisp and trendy? Is that expensive private school the right fit to help achieve other goals?

What can you cut from one budget area to make room for what’s really important?

Even though my kids are still young (toddler and kindergartener), our family’s priorities and culture have emerged. It’s clear where our focus lay.

For one thing, travel is valuable to us. Because our extended families live far away, we spend a lot of money on airplane tickets and other travel expenses. We also crave adventure. My husband and I enjoy showing different ways of life to our children.

So to fund our travel adventure account, and to off-track our “expensive” kids, there are three areas I try to save on.

Raising Kids is Expensive

Food: “Never Eat More Than You Can Lift.” -Miss Piggy

Have a meal plan. Cook double batches. Use a spreadsheet that tracks different grocery stores’ prices. Shop the sales, buy in bulk. Eat out less. Cut coupons. Grocery shop online.

These are great pieces of advice if you want to save money on your food bill, but some of them take a lot of time, too.

The two things I’ve found to be helpful that don’t take too much energy are 1) Opt for delivery 2) Use a saving app.

When I go to a grocery store on my own, extra items mysteriously jump into my cart (especially when I’m hungry). At the checkout, my original budget has doubled!

A lot of people buy their groceries online. Although more expensive per item, you can really stick to a grocery list and budget with fewer distractions (Just don’t forget to calculate the delivery/pick up cost). We subscribe to a monthly delivery service. There are essential pantry items that show up at my door every month. I’ve found that this not only saves time but when I’ve priced compared to brick-and-mortar stores, my delivery service is cheaper.

We’ve also been a part of a CSA program (community shared agriculture). It’s a great way to support local farmers, eat nutritiously, and save money (especially if there is a bumper harvest!).

When I do grocery shop in-store, I use a cash-back app. There are several available, but I’m familiar with Ibotta. I can quickly scroll through the offers, click on products my family regularly consumes, and then receive cash. Although it doesn’t turn out to be a lot of money each time, it was enough to fund some of my kids’ swim lessons this summer.

Clothes: Blink and You’ll Have To Buy Your Child Shoes in a New Size!

There are certain clothing brands that I love, but I rarely pay full-price for them. I just can’t justify it when my kids wear them for fifteen minutes, and they either grow out of them or stain them unrecognizable. Too expensive! So what do I do to save money in the clothing category?

I choose second-hand.

There are many ways to buy second-hand clothes from Facebook market swap to hand-me-downs from older cousins. My favorite is the local kid consignment shops and consignment sales. And the best part? If you have your own lightly-used kid clothes and gear (and the time and energy to clean and sort the clothes), you can get cash or a trade-in amount.

When you choose second-hand clothes, you will spend a fraction of the original retail. And it’s good for the environment. 

Another popular idea is a clothing swap party. Gather all your too-small, no-longer-loved kid clothes, invite friends and neighbors over to your house with their own no-longer-using kid clothes, and create a mountain of clothes. After some celebratory snacks, dive into the pile and find clothes that are the right fit for your kiddos. What to do with the extra clothes? Donate them to a local charity.

Entertainment: Less is usually More.

We are an adventure family. We like to explore (culture, nature, FOOD) wherever we are, especially all that the Charleston area has to offer. There’s a reason it is a top tourist destination place!

To save on activities, Groupon is one site I check. Also, even if you’re local, the Charleston-area visitors centers have great deals on plantations, museums, and restaurants.

Another cost-effective option is annual passes. Our family picks a couple of places each year where we buy annual passes. Family passes are usually steep in price, but if you visit enough times, it can be worth the cost. With a quick calculation, you can figure out how many visits you need to make the pass worth its value.

Feel like you’re missing out on other activities with a family pass? I thought so, too. But as I soon found out, my young children don’t always remember the one-time adventures. If they are consistently visiting the same place over a long period of time, they really get to know and treasure that experience.

And then there’s toys, toys, toys!

My philosophy on toys is that less is usually better. When we do purchase toys, we look for age-appropriate, quality toys that will last longer than the ten minutes it takes to open their package. However, when it comes to books, I have different thoughts.

I love books. It’s hard for me to pass up a good book and not bring it home with me. So instead, I just buy smart.

Thrift stores and garage sales are excellent sources for used books. (They are also a great place for outdoor sporting equipment you want to try, but don’t want to commit to yet.)

How do you save money on raising kids?

Raising kids can be expensive, but if you prioritize, buy smart, and implement a few saving strategies, you can really find the budget that’s right for your family.

Tell us in the comments below how you cut corners (and what you like to spend money on). Or take a look at the USDA’s handy calculator to help establish your family’s budget.