For the Mama Who Needs to Reduce Spending in the New Year

We are rolling in with a new year. That means New Year’s Resolutions. As a mama and a family, it seems like money just flies out the window! Over the years I’ve learned various ways to reduce our spending and save some of that money that babies and young kids just seem to require. Lets face it, having a baby (and children in general) can be expensive so here are some ways you can reduce costs while still having what you need for your little ones.

Diapers

Wow diapers are expensive! On average a box of diapers costs about $25. They range a little depending on the brand but it’s safe to say you’ll be spending about $25 per WEEK on disposable diapers. That’s an extra $100 per month you may not have counted on. Not only are they expensive, but they don’t biodegrade so they just sit in landfills.

An alternate option that not only saves you money but helps the environment are cloth diapers. You have a bit of a startup cost but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll pay monthly for disposable diapers. My favorite are Babygoal diapers with charcoal inserts. These ones come with microfiber inserts which work well too. You’re looking at $30 for 6 diapers. As a cloth diaper mama of 5 years I recommend having at least 12 diapers to start with and add more as you can. You should have around 20-25 if you want to go 3-4 days before washing. If you’re really not into cloth diapers, look at store brand diapers. Aldi sells a box of 100 for about $11. They are decent diapers. Look on Facebook Marketplace. People are always selling diapers their little one grew out of. Another way to reduce diaper costs is to supplement cloth diapers with disposable. Use disposable overnight and for outings. Get creative with it. Find a process that works for you and your family.

Meal Planning

Over the years, I have experimented with all sorts of ways to meal plan. From having a list of so many dinners in a week or two that I choose from to writing down each day what I plan to make. I’ve found pros and cons for each way of planning. Ultimately, having a basic idea of what I plan to feed my family means I have a specific list when I go grocery shopping.

You hear people say this all the time when they talk about saving money…STICK TO YOUR LIST. It is so true! Every time we go grocery shopping and we don’t stick to the list we end up spending anywhere from $20-$50 more than I budgeted for. On times when we don’t stick to the list it’s because I didn’t plan our meals sufficiently. Take the time to schedule what you plan to make each day, build in left over nights and eating out nights, then make your grocery list based on that meal plan. If you can, go as far as planning breakfast and lunch too. It saves me from looking in the pantry and fridge, saying we have no food when it is obviously full, and then going out because it’s already 6:45 PM and the kids have to start getting ready for ed in 15 minutes. Plan your meals and stick to your list. It will not only save you money but sanity as well.

Breast milk or Formula?

I am a true believe that Fed is Best. There are so many health benefits, money benefits, emotional and physical befefits when it comes to breast milk but some women have difficulty and others just don’t want to do it. That is OK. Do not feel guilty! As long as you are feeding your baby you are a FANTASTIC mother!

That being said, breast milk is a hell-uv-a-lot cheaper than formula. If you have no other reason to breastfeed, look at how much formula costs. A 20 ounce container of Enfamil at Target costs $27.99. The container makes about 145 ounces of milk for infants. A baby 3-5 months of age will take 4-5 ounces every 2.5-3 hours. That’s around 8-9 bottles a day, 32-40 ounces per day. You’ll use that container of formula in 3.5-4.5 days. If you grocery shop weekly, you’d need to keep 2 on hand. Your grocery bill just went up by $55.98 weekly to formula feed. This is if you’re baby was born at term (not a premie), has no gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux and no allergies to the formula. There are special formula types out there that cost much more than this example.

Breastfeeding doesn’t cost anything extra. $0. Zip. Nada. You may need to do a bit more laundry, get some breast pads, maybe get a Hakaa pump for leakage but those are things for comfort. Bottom line, breastfeeding is free.

Use what you already have

There are so many adorable baby items out there. A ton of must have baby item lists and what to put on your registry list. A bumbo, a boppy pillow, a breastfeeding pillow, bottle warmer, high chair, diaper bag, baby bathtub, etc. You get my point. Guess what. YOU DON’T NEED ANY OF IT! Think about what you would use that special item for and then think about what you already have in your home. Then think, do I really need that item or is there something I have that will function and address that need?

A bumbo is essentially a baby floor chair. You can’t really use it until your baby is around 4-5 months. Your legs and other body parts make a fabulous floor chair and your baby will be happy using you because you’re nice and close. Same goes for the boppy pillow.

A breastfeeding pillow is basically a slightly larger curved travel pillow. You can also use any regular small pillow or rolled up blanket.

Bottle warmer? You can use hot water from the faucet or water you’ve warmed in the microwave or on the stove. I don’t have a bottle warmer so I’m not sure how quickly they work but I do know I can have a bottle ready in about 2-3 minutes with frozen milk. I put the milk bag into a cup of water then place it in the microwave. If it’s just refrigerated I go 30-60 seconds. Frozen I go 1.5-3 minutes. After 1.5 minutes I add 30 seconds at a time to ensure it’s not hot.

I won’t lie. High chairs make life easier at meal times. BUT, this is another item you can’t use until baby is around 4-5 months and sitting. You can hold off until your baby is showing signs of wanting table food.

I have 3 kids. A 5 year old, 2.5 year old and a 5 month old. I haven’t used a diaper bag in 3.5 years. Instead, I carry a wet bag with 2-3 diapers for each of the two using diapers/pull ups, a bib, changing mat, and a change of onsie for the baby. I have a separate wet pouch for wipes. It all fits right into my purse with my wallet and other adult/woman essentials. If that doesn’t work for you, look around your house for some other type of bag. A book bag, draw string bag, old purse, duffel bag. Any kind of bag can make a great diaper bag. A diaper bag is just that. A bag.

An infant bathtub. We got one at our baby shower. I thought it was something that was a MUST HAVE item. We used it probably twice before I literally threw that stupid thing down the stairs. It was so much better to just get in the tub with my baby, lay her on my thighs and just take a bath with her! Not only did she get bathed but she got so much more stimulation than in the infant tub, skin to skin time, snuggles, and milk.

Off Brand instead of Name Brand

It would be nice to be the family that has only name brand clothes, shoes, food, and things but in reality it’s just too expensive. Walmart brand has some really good comparable items to name brand counterparts. I’ve found some Aldi brand items that I prefer over name brand counterparts. I’m not saying don’t get any name brand because there are defitenly some things I want the name brand. You can still reduce costs, even if it’s just $.30 cents, by going with an off brand. Trust me, $.30 cents adds up over time.

Freebies

If you’re someone that likes to go out but you don’t want to pay an entry fee, look around town, in mom groups, on facebook, meetup, anywhere you can and find things that are free. Your community has a ton of events and locals for free entertainment.

Parks and playgrounds, movies or plays in the park, trails, museums, and art galleries. Kansas City is known for fountains so walk around the Plaza and count the fountains. A few of our lakes have free beaches. In the summer, there are a handful of splash parks throughout Kansas City. Union Station has a free train room which is always a hit for the kiddos. Libraries have free reading time and coloring supplies. Most of the KC libraries have movies and music as well as their book selection. Play dates are a great free way to let the kids play with friends while you get adult talk time.

You can get all kinds of freebies with rewards programs. Many programs have a spending goal and you get something for free. My husband has us signed up for rewards programs with a few different pizza places. Pizza is my weakness. I don’t ever say no to pizza so we get lots of free pizza.

Thrifting

Kids grow FAST and their clothes and shoes cost the same amount as an adults. Some items they may wear once or twice before they’ve grown out of it. You can save up to 60% by shopping at a thrift store. Look up local children’s consignment shows. Not only can you save 60% but you can re-sell your kids old clothes, shoes, books, toys, and furniture.

Eat at Home

You can save a lot of money by changing your eating habits to eating at home. The average cost of a fast food meal is $5-$7 dollars per person where the average cost of eating a home cooked meal $1.50-$3 per person. That’s a pretty big difference!

Find ways to make money

Sometimes we still can’t get more money in than is going out, or at the very least even. Maybe it’s time to find ways to make money. That doesn’t mean a part time job at a fast food restaurant unless you want it to. There are so many ways to make extra money. Sell things in a garage sale or on social media.

Do you make something you can market? Examples: jewelry, baking, wreath baking, sewing, crochet or knitting, woodworking.

Are you knowledgeable about a topic? Examples: social media marketing, parenting, woodworking, essential oils, gardening, baby wearing.

Maybe you have a service you can provide. Examples: gardening, graphic design, virtual assistant, dog walking, babysitting, editing, electrical work, flipping houses.

Find something that makes you happy and makes you money. Work on that side business while the kids are sleeping or when you have childcare available. 

Conclusion

Kids are expensive but that doesn’t mean you have to cut everything or continue working somewhere you hate. Think about what you want to be doing in life. What makes you happy? Does your job make you happy? Does being with your kids make you happy? Does a hobby you have make you happy? Whatever makes you happy is what you should be doing. It may take a few years to build up to where you need to be or it may happen overnight. Either way, don’t let money problems or children be an excuse to keep you from following your dreams. Let money problems and children be the excuse TO follow those dreams. You will be a better parent, and a better person, if you are happy. 

When people think back to their childhood they don’t usually think about the trips they would have had, the name brand clothes they wanted, all the cool baby gadgets or having $5 in the bank account. They remember playing board games, going to the park, playing chase, camping in the backyard, and making mud pies. You can make those memories with your kids too. The memories you and I probably share are all the free ones that bring a family closer together.

Find ways to reduce your spending and follow your dreams this year!

What do you do when you’re low on cash? What ways do you save money? How do you make money at home? We’d love to hear about your ideas! 

Over the years I've learned various ways to reduce our spending and save some of that money that babies and young kids just seem to require.

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