We’ve all heard how expensive children are. And there are definitely some expenses that are tough to avoid. We’re paying about $270/month for health insurance for our two boys, and there’s not really a way around that expense (we have a high deductible health insurance policy already, so that cost is on the low end of the scale). We’re also putting $100/month into each of their college accounts. Technically that money is still ours, and growing. College accounts are not a necessity, but they’re something that we feel will be a worthwhile investment years in the future.
Other than health insurance and the college accounts, we have very little in the way of expenses for our boys. We’re only three years into the whole parenting adventure, but we’ve managed to avoid a lot of the expenses that tend to go along with having very young children. I still shop exclusively at Goodwill for our older son’s clothes, and our younger son is just wearing hand-me-downs. We wanted to give our son a bike for his third birthday, and we found one on Craigslist for $20. It needed a bit of work, and my husband spent a couple hours fixing it up before we gave it to our son. But for $20, we ended up with a perfect birthday present that our son loves.
Our son adores trips to the library and the local parks. He likes going for bike rides and feeding ducks. He spends his days playing in the backyard, “cooking” in the living room with all of my pots and pans and utensils, drawing, and “crafting” with stuff like pipe cleaners and return address stickers that come in the mail. It’s rare for us to spend money on stuff to entertain him (although we did spend $75 on a used train table earlier this year, and he’s had lots of hours of fun with it). He mostly uses his very active imagination and the wealth of stuff that he finds in the house and out in the yard. His clothing costs us next to nothing. We did spend quite a bit of money on his mattress, but that’s something he’ll use for a long time, and we felt that it was worth the cost.
We don’t make trips to Target or Babies R Us. We use cloth diapers exclusively, and have never purchased formula or baby food (our son eats what we eat, and has from the time he started eating solid foods, thanks to an inexpensive baby food grinder). We try to keep clutter to a minimum, and that includes “kid clutter”. We’ve found that we just don’t need most of the stuff that is marketed to new parents. We kept all of the stuff we did use with our first son when he was smaller, and that means we literally need nothing at all for our second son. I’ll probably look for a double jogging stroller sometime this summer once our baby is old enough to sit in one, but they are pretty easy to find on Craigslist. Other than that, I can’t think of anything we need for our baby that we don’t already have. I know that hand-me-downs won’t work forever, since we’re starting to get into the stage where our older son will be wearing out his clothes before he grows out of them. But we have “free” clothes for our baby for at least the first three years.
One huge bonus that we have is that we don’t pay for child care. We’re lucky, but we also put a lot of effort into establishing a home-based business several years before we had children. My husband works full time at our business, and I work very part-time (about two hours a day right now) so that I can mostly be a stay at home mom to our boys. Child-care is definitely a huge expense if you have to have it, but I know a lot of families have found that with a little creativity they can either switch to living on one income or two part-time incomes, or rearrange work schedules so that both parents can take turns being at home with the children.
Even though we’ve kept our child-related expenses to a minimum, just the health insurance and college accounts comes to nearly $500/month. But there’s a flip side to the expenses that come with having children. There are a lot of things that we aren’t spending money on anymore, that we probably would be if we didn’t have children. Before we had kids, we usually took at least one vacation a year, usually to a relatively far-away destination. We had more shopping trips, and weekend get-aways to little resort towns. We went out to eat and to the movies… These days, we much prefer to take our sons to the park or to the library. Our younger son doesn’t care where he is as long as he can nurse whenever he likes and get snuggled most of the day. Our older son is just as happy at a lake with a pail and a shovel as he would be at a beach on a tropical island. We tend to focus our entertainment activities around things that are fun for a three-year old, and we’ve found that most of those things are free or very low cost. We spent Mother’s Day at a huge park about ten miles from our house. Our son’s best friend was there too, and the kids had a blast feeding ducks, riding their bikes, and playing on the playground. Total cost: $3 for the bread we got for the ducks.
So although we’ve found that there are definitely unavoidable expenses that go along with having kids, we’ve also found lots of areas where our expenses have dropped in the last few years, specifically because we have children. I know that this won’t always be the case. Ten years from now, I know I’ll be making a whole lot more food than I am now (leftovers might be a thing of the past!) and we’ll have more expenses for our boys as they approach young adulthood than we do now when they are little. But I think that we’ll be able to stay pretty frugal with two kids as the years go by. What do you think? If you have kids, do you think you’re spending more or less overall than you were before you had kids?