It is easy to find whiney, complainypants media articles about how unaffordable having children is these days. The Inland Revenue Department quotes figures of between $147-426 per week to raise a single child depending on your income level. This seems ridiculous to me. Here are some of the ways I have saved money while raising our two boys.
My first question is always “do I really need this?” Not is it cute, or would the kids love it, but do we really need it? There are so many opportunities to unnecessarily spend on children right from the moment you are pregnant. My blood boils when I see the ridiculous must-have lists in some baby publications. I really feel that marketers prey on the naivete of new parents, who are anxious to give their babies the best start in life. Babies don’t need manufactured goods, they just need the loving care of attentive families. Their physical needs can be covered off by their mother’s breast, a safe warm place to sleep, a few onesies and some nappies. You don’t really need a $599 baby rocking chair (how about rocking on the nearest lap?) or a $249 organic infant lounger (or a towel on the floor because they’re only going to puke on it). I wish I was making these examples up but I’m not!
The second question I ask is, can I get hand me downs or buy it second hand? I have benefited enormously from my sister and sister in law passing on their kids used things (maternity clothes, cots, linen, clothes, toys, books, even undies!). Let all the parents in your life know that you are open to hand me downs. Many people are desperate to offload things their kids have grown out of just to clear their houses of clutter. School fairs can be a great place to pick up super cheap kids’ stuff (fill a bag for a couple of bucks, yes, please!).
Toys. Argh. Less is better. Toys really can be the bane of any parent’s existence. Tiny plastic pieces that regularly get lost and must be found before bedtime or their owner refuses to sleep. I’m not winning but I have really tried to reduce our toy collection by regularly removing to the attic anything that isn’t being played with. Some toys are timeless and seem to provide endless hours of enjoyment. Babies like people more than toys, but can be entertained with safe stuff from your kitchen like pots and pans, wooden spoons and spatulas. Toddlers and young children love wooden blocks, a few toy cars, some figurines and animals to play imaginary games with, and some markers and paper. And don’t forget books, lots of books, that can all be borrowed from your local library. Some areas offer a toy library which is a great value way to bring novelty home, without being lumbered with the toys forever. Our plastic clamshell filled with sand has seen plenty of use, as has the trampoline, balls of all types, and bikes and scooters.
Never buy new baby clothes (but I know you will because they are so ickle and cute). Babies don’t wear clothes out so the world is awash with never used or lightly worn baby clothes. Ask for hand me downs or go opshopping. Ask doting grandparents and friends to buy practical onesies and the like. Babies really do not need dresses and other formal wear but I can guarantee you, someone will buy them for you. Babies do not need shoes.
Hand me downs are great for bigger kids, if you can get them. There are some ages and stages when kids will destroy clothes with stains and rips but I have often found less favoured hand me downs to fill the gaps. Buy the next size or two up at the end of the season to get good bargains on clothes you don’t have. I have asked grandparents to buy merino tops and warm jackets for birthdays and swim wear for Christmas – this saves your budget and prevents them from buying things you really don’t need – like noisy toys.
Raising children really is an amazing time in your life. Intense. Joyful. Unexpected in so many ways. Just don’t make it expensive too. Kids need you and your attention, not your money.