Let’s face it: Kids are expensive. They like to eat, drink, live indoors and play recreational sports. All those things cost money. For parents who have more than one child, the costs add up accordingly.
With four kids under the age of 7, I understand the trials and tribulations of having more month than money at times. However, necessity is the mother of invention. I needed to stretch my family’s budget so I figured out ways to do so. Here are my top five tried and true examples of how to stretch a family budget.
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1. Create and adjust your budget again and again.
You can’t stick to a budget if you don’t have one in the first place. Take some time, perhaps over a glass of wine, and hash out a list of monthly expenditures as it relates to the income coming in. Sometimes putting things down in black-and-white can be overwhelming, but it can be empowering too. Sticking your head in the sand never solved anything.
2. Stop paying fees.
All those little fees add up. Buy a pack of gum and get cash back at the grocery store instead of using the ATM. Use a bill payment reminder service like Manilla to make sure you have no late payment fees. Add deadlines to your calendar so you don’t need to pay a rush fee for birthday presents or extra shipping costs at the holidays. With a little foresight, you can take the line item “fees” out of your budget.
3. Use coupons. Though some people may groan, coupons can help families save money if they are used correctly. Find one store you like and stick with them. There are many websites that match coupons from Sunday inserts as well as Internet coupons to the weekly store ads. Use their expertise. Saving money on products that are already on sale is how you will get the best deals. Also look for mobile coupons for specific stores and use group-buying sites, like Groupon, for restaurant, travel, and product deals.
4. Earn extra income. While most people focus on cutting back to decrease their expenses, adding income is another good way of meeting your family’s financial needs and wants. There are a lot of different things you can do in your spare time to earn extra money. From selling items on eBay, to babysitting for a friend, to adding even 10 hours a month at a part-time job could make a big difference in your bottom line. Think about the places you already go and see if there’s a way to help them out and make some money too. Your church, gym, or child’s school are great places to start.
5. Make every dollar count. My kids love to go out for lunch. It’s a special treat and it helps make my day a little easier, too. However, they understand they will not each get a kid’s meal. They will share one adult meal and be happy with it. Sometimes I skip the meal altogether, choosing to go after we have lunch at home. I buy them a small dish of ice cream for under $1 and let them romp in the play area to their hearts’ content. They understand the expectations ahead of time so I rarely have to deal with demanding kids.
Think about ways to do the things you want to do, but in a more cost-efficient way. Love to travel? Why not save the airfare expense and stay in a hotel in your own city? Want a date night? Put the kids to bed early and pop in a pizza and Netflix movie and skip the expensive babysitter issue. With a little outside-the-box thinking, almost everything can fit into your budget.
Maria Smith is an on the go “stay at home” mother of four kids under the age of 7. In her pre-baby life she was a TV producer at The Oprah Winfrey Show. She loves writing, traveling, and finding fun things and places for moms to do, have and go. Maria has been featured as an expert on ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, HLN, and in Ladies Home Journal, Women’s Day, and The Nest. Maria blogs at MamaliciousMaria.com and is a freelance writer for several parenting, health and wellness, and travel websites.
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