Everyone wants to give their children everything they had or didn’t have and more… but in a world where jobs are hard to come by, student loans are the norm, and the word budget is a four letter word… trying to afford to give your children everything you want to is just as stressful as deciding which daycare/pre-school/etc that will start your child’s educational experience (I have learned this is very hot topic around the play date circle, it’s almost like religion or politics… or potty training…).
So how on earth do you do it? Well for starters you do need to set boundaries and decide what is important. Buying a pony is not likely going to happen for the majority of us – riding lessons from Groupon maybe, but an actual pony is unlikely for most folks. Swim lessons for me is important as I want Monkey to be safe around water. So we shop the various programs and find the best deals. This will likely change as the years go by – maybe it will be soccer or softball or maybe even hockey (Hubby would be over the moon!). If you expect this expense, plan for it. We use You Need a Budget (YNAB) for all our budgeting needs which helps us to set aside a little bit each month so we have the money to pay for the activity.
Currently Monkey attends daycare once a week and is home with Hubby the rest of the week. Once Hubby is back into the workforce (fingers and toes crossed that it is sooner rather than later) Monkey will go a few days a week and spend time with Granna the rest of the week. Hubby takes her to a local toddler gym facilitated through the local Parks and Rec which costs $5 a time, takes her to Story Time at the local Library (and she also checks out books then), and goes to other local events. We budget all these things so we know there is money to cover the activities. Once the weather warms, the indoor pay events may decrease, but I’m sure there will be outdoor events that cost money too.
What about the toys, clothing, etc?
Consignment/Resale/Yard Sale Shopping is your friend. Before I had a child I was against hand-me-downs and shopping the used items. I will admit, I felt I was above that. I have since realized there is nothing wrong with seccond hand toys and clothing. I’m not a bad parent for giving my child used items. In fact, I feel like I am a good parent for doing it. I am helping either a program, charity, or family support themselves and providing for my daughter in a way that helps my family. Not everything is a good deal and not everything is worth your time. You do need to know what you want before you go and shop ahead of your child’s age. For example, Monkey will be two in April; I will be hitting the sales starting in March – I am looking for summer toys, summer and fall clothing, and room decor (for our hopeful new home). In the past two years we have gotten deals on a outdoor slide, outdoor and indoor tables, various clothing and toys, an attachment for the back of my bike for her to sit in, and much more! In both States that I have lived and also in some States I have friends in there are consignment sales. Try an internet search for children’s consignment sales and I bet you will find something near you.
I still want the expensive items!
I love my Petunia Pickle Bottom bags… but I could never afford to pay full price. Outlet shopping for products like this is the way to go. Certified Seconds usually means there is a pen mark somewhere or maybe a sticky zipper. This is also how we have afforded to get much of our cloth diaper stash – Cotton Babies often has a Certified Seconds sale.
This is not only clothing, I accept toys, sandboxes, boxes of foods/kitchen items, and even a swing and slide set! Anyone who has had a child knows they only wear things for a few months at a time. If you are lucky enough to have multiple of the same sex child, you get your moneys worth (maybe) from the clothing you bought for child number one. If you have only one child or if you have girl/boy children, the clothing does not get reused! When I was preggo I had friends give me clothing and shoes for Monkey. Some was not in the best shape, but you need play clothing as they age. So what if the pants are faded or have a bit of paint on the sleave? Guess what, your kiddo will run and jump and paint just as well in the gently loved clothing as the $20 shorts from Baby Gap. I was a bit touchy about the shoes, but now that I realize how expensive kids shoes are I am very grateful for the shoes we received. She may not wear all of them (she has wide feet), but she has worn many of them and a pair of sandals we received were the only thing she wore when she was first walking because her feet were so tiny and they were all that fit her! (Plus they were Stride Rite!) Toys never go out of style. We have been lucky to have neighbors with children older than Monkey, so we have received a sandbox and kitchen/food items as their children have grown out of them. Monkey will be getting a play kitchen for her birthday (which we plan to make… stay tuned!) so the food and kitchen items are so so so welcomed!
Arts and crafts are so fun for kiddos, but supplying an ongoing amount of paper and playdough can be expensive. I have started to save random bit of cardboard for projects (the frozen pizza rounds work really well) and use the mail circulars for collages. Kids do not care where the supplies come from, they just want them! We use cleaned meat pans to squirt paint into for finger/brush painting and use egg cartons for sensory projects. Toilet paper rolls can also be used for various projects. Get creative and recycle what you would normally just throw away.
I really can not stress this enough. Even setting aside $5 a month (basically one trip to Starbucks) can add up and allow you buy things you want for your child. I managed to get Christmas gifts for super cheap using coupons, Groupons, and price matching. If you want it, you can have it! You just want to work for it.