If you think about the lifetime cost of having a child, you’d be surprised to find that, over time, a child is the heaviest expense you will ever have. From raising a baby (a child goes through thousands of diapers before it is potty-trained) to purchasing clothes and other necessities, to paying for college tuition, having a kid represents more expenditures than you can imagine. Still, raising a child is the most rewarding undertaking that any human being undertakes, and you can cut the costs if you but some thought into it. Here are some tips.
1. Don’t buy the latest toy just because every other kid on the block has it. This is a serious temptation for most parents, and mostly arises from our consumer culture in which we think that if our kids don’t get everything that their heart desires, they will somehow be left behind. The truth is that young children don’t need much in the way of entertainment. For example, it was very common for my four-year-old to be more fascinated by a stuffed animal or cheap Lego set than the state-of-the-art electronic toy that all my friends who are parents were raving about. More than anything, your child needs love and attention, not expensive toys.
2. Instead of spending on day care or babysitting, try to relegate duties to your partner or relative when you are not available. Day care and babysitting can be very costly expenditures, and more often than not, they serve more as expensive conveniences than necessities. Of course, there will be times when you and your partner want to have a romantic evening out without having to burden your in-laws or other relatives with your children. But whenever you can, try to leave your child in the care of someone who is not a stranger. Trust me, it saved me almost thousands of dollars over just a few years.
3. Try several extra-curricular activities, but seriously invest in only one thing that your child truly enjoys. Every child should be involved in some sort of hobby or activity that excites and inspires them. Things like learning an instrument or playing a sport are instrumental in teaching values like responsibility, team work, etc. At the same time, however, most children aren’t very dedicated to anything that requires hard work and concentration. As such, you should not indulge every single activity that your child wishes to participate in. When your child is young, let her try out several activities like sports, theater, music, and dance. But once your child has found something that truly interests her, stick to one activity. It will save you hundreds of dollars and it will teach your child to be genuinely focused on one thing.
4. Plan ahead for college. Of all costs associated with children, perhaps the heftiest cost is sending your child to college. Especially considering that tuition rates (at least in America) are several times above the rate of inflation, if you want your child to get a good education without you going broke, you will have to do your research. Look into as many available scholarships as you can when your child is in high school. When choosing a school, try to pick one that is strongest in your child’s field of study and whose campus culture fits your child. Don’t just pick the “best” school because it is the most expensive one. Often the best school is really just the school that fits your child’s personality best. You may even want to consider opening a savings account to help plan financially for when you child goes to college.
These are just a few ways to save money on raising children. The key to ensuring that your children do not become a huge drain on your finances is that you give them what they need, and avoid what society says they need. The key to being a good parent is being attentive, loving, and consistent, none of which require money.