The cost to raise kids today is between $12,350 to $14,000 a year per child, according to a January 9, 2017, CNN Money report by Kathryn Vasel. Multiply this by two or more children, and that’s a substantial chunk of change. But there are lots of ways to keep costs down without sacrificing the quality of family life. Follow these cost-cutting tips, and watch your savings grow:
Feeding the crew
Feeding your family is perhaps one of the biggest expenses you’ll incur. It’s also one of the best places to cut costs.
Coupon clipping can bring substantial savings—provided you use coupons only for items you’d purchase anyway. Admittedly, coupons can also be a hassle. If you have time for coupon clipping, look for grocery stores that offer double coupons to make the most of this savings strategy. Also, set up some guidelines so you don’t use coupons to the extent you’re losing money by making unnecessary purchases or where you could have had a better deal by purchasing another brand.
Cut your grocery bill by at least a third by buying only on-sale. Each week, flip through your store flier, then stock up with a four- to six-week supply of the items on sale. After the first month, you should have plenty of stock to eliminate most non-sale purchases. Although you’ll invest more up front, within a few weeks you’ll have recouped your investment and see your grocery bill start to drop.
Also, avoid wholesale food clubs. When comparing prices, the savings are usually minimal. They rarely compare to grocery store sale prices. You might use food clubs for just a few staple items you’ve researched and know are always a better deal.
When shopping, always compare the price per ounce on different size packages. Contrary to popular belief, smaller packages are often the better deal. Manufacturers learned people go for the bigger bulk size items because of the better price per ounce. As a result, they switched the pricing around knowing consumers will just gravitate to the larger package with the assumption it’s a better deal.
Don’t let unanticipated fast food runs eat up your spare cash. Have paper plates and plenty of frozen meals to toss in the oven for emergency eat-and-run suppers.
There are plenty of ways to cut overall energy use without sacrifice, so make the following tips part of your strategy:
• Run your dishwasher only when full, and use the no-heat or air-dry setting.
• Keep your refrigerator out of the sun.
• Turn off the oven a few minutes before your meal is done cooking. The heat already built up in the oven will finish the job.
• Wash all laundry in cold water, except for sheets and towels that need hot water to kill bacteria and odors.
• Clean the lint filter on your dryer before each use. And don’t over-dry clothes.
• Evaluate your lighting needs. Use the lowest watt bulb possible that still provides ample lighting. Better yet, use the compact fluorescent light bulbs for maximum energy savings.
• Keep your hot water heater between 115-120 degrees. Hotter temperatures are wasteful, unnecessary, and can lead to scalding.
• When purchasing new appliances, compare energy efficiency. Paying a little more for the more energy efficient appliances can save money in the end.
• Turn your computer off overnight and during long interruptions.
Having fun doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg—or anything at all.
Make visiting your library a regular family activity. Libraries today offer a wide variety of free entertainment including books and magazines, DVDs, music CDs, video games, audiobooks, even computer games, and software. If your library doesn’t carry a book you’re looking for, ask about its interlibrary loan program.
Contact local, county, and state parks for scheduled activities and programs. Also, don’t forget about paved biking and roller blade trails, hiking and nature walks, fishing, swimming, wildlife viewing, and more.
Instead of taking your family to dinner or for fast food, pick up Chinese and head to the park. You’ll not only save, but you’ll eat healthier, too.
Contact the science, natural history, and children’s museums in your area and ask if they’re one of the more than 350 members of the Association of Science-Technology Centers in the U.S. If so, purchase an annual family membership, generally ranging between $120-160. These passes offer unlimited visits to all member museums. Then plan several day trips throughout the year for family science fun. Visit astc.org/passport for details. The passports must be purchased directly through one of the participating science-technology museums.
Don’t buy new computers. Recent models can often be found in the newspaper or online classifieds for a fraction of the cost.
The following suggestions can bring big savings and make banking and loans work for you rather than against you.
If possible, double up on mortgage and loan payments. If you can’t, you can still save by breaking each monthly payment into two. Pay half of your monthly loan and mortgage payments a couple weeks early. Contact your loan institution and make sure early and partial payments will apply to your regular monthly installments and that interest will be adjusted accordingly.
Open your checking account at a credit union or bank that offers free accounts with no maintenance or check fees.
Store your credit card. Carrying it on you can lead to impulse buying. Unless you’re disciplined enough to pay it off monthly, credit cards eat up spare cash on interest expenses.
There are many ways to keep driving expenses down. Try these for starters:
Increase the deductible on your collision to $1,000, unless you’re accident prone, or have teen drivers. The cost difference can be significant.
Avoid purchasing a brand-new vehicle. Opt for a low-mileage model only one to four years old. You’ll save a fortune on depreciation.
Dress for less
Save on household and clothing expense by trying these money-saving ideas. You’ll be helping to protect the environment, too:
Hit the end-of-season sales and save 60 -80 percent on kids clothing for the following school year. A one-size difference is usually a safe bet.
Visit resale shops for super savings on like-new children’s clothing. You can find these stores locally as well as online resale shops.
Catch the savings as families in all income brackets are doing today. Hit garage and estate sales for family and household needs. You’ll find top-quality, top-condition items including toys, baby equipment, children’s clothing, household furnishings, and more, for next to nothing.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer and the author of a kid’s Stem book, Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery? You can find her at