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Ways to Save Money While Raising Children

Although Abby Slutsky did not take advantage of all these ideas when her children were young, looking back they would have been easy to do.

Some things are worth buying new for your kids, like a high-quality train set, but many others can be purchased used. Get advice on saving money on everything from baby formula to college.

Some things are worth buying new for your kids, like a high-quality train set, but many others can be purchased used. Get advice on saving money on everything from baby formula to college.

Recently, one of my sons shared his opinion that many of his friends who are getting married are not really in the financial position to do so. He also thought they would be unable to afford children.

I smiled and said that if I had waited until I felt financially comfortable to have children, I was not sure that he would have been born. Nevertheless, looking back, I made a lot of purchases that I could have made less expensively. Here is my list of purchases or kid-friendly activities followed by money-saving tips for each one:

  1. Formula
  2. Toys
  3. Clothes
  4. Birthday parties
  5. Summer Entertainment
  6. Sports
  7. Music
  8. College

1. Formula

AIthough it is cheaper to breastfeed your baby, he may not latch or there may be other reasons that breastfeeding is not for you. The cheapest alternative is a powdered formula.

My children were happy to drink Similac powdered formula. Mixing the formula only takes a few seconds. I just scooped it directly into the bottle, added water, and shook it.

I note that I started my older son with the pre-mixed cans, and it appeared a little thicker, so it took a few tries to get him interested in the powdered kind. However, if you offer powdered formula from the beginning, your children will get used to it immediately. To save more money, try generic powdered formula, but I do not have personal experience with it.

Additionally, powdered formula is convenient for traveling or carrying in your diaper bag because it weighs significantly less than cans of pre-mixed formula.

Saving money from returned gifts can add up savings for another purchase. Photo by Abby Slutsky.

Saving money from returned gifts can add up savings for another purchase. Photo by Abby Slutsky.

2. Toys and Gifts

My children were fortunate to get new toys for birthdays, seasonal holidays, and other occasions. However, there were only a few new toys that I thought were worth the money.

For the most part, I should have returned new toys and bought them at thrift stores. Now it is even easier to purchase pre-owned toys because you can buy them on eBay or community flea markets.

The two toys that I thought were worth buying new were a basketball net and our initial starter set of wooden train tracks.

Worthwhile to Buy New

1. Basketball Net

If you are not particularly handy and installation is beyond your expertise, it may be worthwhile to buy a new basketball net because you are likely to be able to pay for installation. However, check the price with a handyman before you shell out the installation fee.

There are nets that are portable and can be weighted with sand or water, but, in my experience, high winds can cause them to topple, so I recommend a net that is cemented into the ground. This toy/sports equipment is probably my top pick if you purchase a new toy because the kids can use it from ages 8 to adult. Some nets have adjustable poles that can grow with your child. My husband and I sometimes joined them in games of 'Around the World' and 'Horse'.

If you are given small new toys that your child is likely to play with for a short time, consider returning them unopened, so you can use the money towards a basketball net instead. (If you do this for a year or two, your returns will add up, and you may not have to pay much towards the net.)

2. Wooden Track and Trains

You can find wooden tracks and trains to go on them at online flea markets, but the price and the length of time my children used them makes me give them a green light if you want to buy an occasional new toy. My children had the Brio First Railway Set, which I stored in a large plastic bin. The set was sturdy enough to last through two children and their friends, and my kids could configure the pieces into different tracks. Occasionally, I found some pre-owned fancy bridges and accessories that were more costly than my initial set, so these were the items that I preferred to buy used.

Possibly Buy New if You Cannot Find It Used

Mini Wind Chimes: When I had my youngest son, I bought mini wind chimes at the dollar store, or you may be able to find a used set. They were wonderful to keep in my diaper bag because they provided a terrific distraction when my son was fussy. Best of all, they were lightweight and portable. Even if you cannot find them at your dollar store or used, new mini wind chimes are inexpensive and likely to cost less than $7.00.

Looking Back, I Would Only Buy Pre-Owned

1. Bikes

Looking back, we also bought my oldest child new bicycles as he grew, but I would probably save the money and buy used ones if I were doing it today. (My younger one always used his older brother’s bike.) If you look at local online flea markets, you can find a good quality bicycle for between $10-$50. Splurge on a new helmet though because that goes directly against your child’s face.

2. Board Games

They are easy to find inexpensively online. Additionally, it is inexpensive to replace dice or borrow it from another game. Purchase used games at garage sales, so you are sure all the game has all the pieces.

Other Ways to Save on Toys

  • Talk to neighbors, and arrange to each purchase a few toys and exchange them periodically. This can keep your child's stash of toys fresh without causing a financial burden.
  • Consider a subscription service for video games, so you do not buy a lot of games that your children use briefly.
  • Be creative. One of my children happily played with pots and pans for hours.


As your children get older, encourage them to request cash that they can invest. Help them choose dividend-bearing stocks that can grow in value over the years. Stocks are available in different price ranges, and it can be an enjoyable parent-child activity to research companies and decide how they want to invest. Even if they only purchase a few shares, over time, it can add up. If you are worried about losing their money, remember that they will discard or break most toys if you keep them and are almost guaranteed to have nothing for them.

3. Clothes

A few new pieces are always nice, but I definitely spent too much on clothing for my children when they were young. Online stores make it easy to buy pre-owned clothing, and young children will not know the difference. Some of my children's favorite clothing was handed down from friends.

4. Birthday Parties

My children had many birthday parties that included organized activities and food. Your children will get the same enjoyment no matter the party that you throw. Here are some ways to save money on birthday parties:

  • Limit the friends to the age of the child. (You will have family, so this does not mean that a one-year-old child has only one guest.)
  • Use free online invitations or purchase invites at a dollar store. Hand deliver invitations to nearby guests to save on stamps.
  • Keep the party at home.
  • Throw the party in the late afternoon. If the time does not coincide with a meal, you can just serve cake and snacks.
  • If you are having a warm-weather party, consider having it at a park or playground. You will have free entertainment, and many parks have picnic tables for serving snacks.

5. Summer Entertainment

If you need to entertain children during the summer, camps can be expensive. One of the more affordable options is to enroll in a low-cost township camp. Your children will have a terrific time and not notice the difference between that and an expensive private camp. Some parents save on the cost of camp by working as counselors. However, this alternative is best for teachers or stay-at-home parents who do not work outside the home full-time.

Alternatively, some houses of worship have camps that are reasonably priced or retreats that are subsidized or free. Another option is to join a swim club and have your children try out for the swim team. Be aware that swim teams may only keep your children entertained for half a day. However, if you work from your home, it may be a good, affordable option.

6. Sports

Many parents spend a lot of money on lessons and coaches for various sports. Often they hope that their children can get an athletic scholarship. Keep in mind that the cost of all these lessons for serious players can add up quickly.

Putting the money away for college may be a better bet unless your child has a lot of natural athletic talent. Alternatively, choose a school team sport that is unlikely to require private coaching.

Take advantage of free public school music lessons. Special thanks to Cottonbro for use of your lovely photo from Pexels.

Take advantage of free public school music lessons. Special thanks to Cottonbro for use of your lovely photo from Pexels.

7. Music Programs

Music programs keep children busy before and after school. Often children can be in bands requiring them to attend ball games and become involved in school spirit. Since instruments require a lot of practice, children in the music program frequently form solid friendships with other musically inclined students.

Additionally, some colleges offer music scholarships for non-music majors, so excelling at an instrument can be beneficial and another way to get college scholarship money.

Best of all, most of the school music lessons are free or at a very low fee.

8. College

College can be a fortune for many parents and a financial burden for children paying for it themselves. Consider community college for the first two years, and then transfer to a four-year program. If your child can handle it, encourage him to load up on advanced placement courses that are accepted as college credit.

If you work virtually, research state schools. Some state schools are more expensive than others so it can be worthwhile to relocate to a state that offers low-priced education for in-state residents.

Hopefully, these ideas can help reduce your expenses while raising your children.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Abby Slutsky


Abby Slutsky (author) from America on December 06, 2020:

Thanks for reading.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on December 06, 2020:

Thanks for reading.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on December 03, 2020:

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 03, 2020:

Clothing and food aren't so much a problem as are rent and mortgages. As one mother pointed out in a foreign film of long ago, "Each baby comes with his own bundle." (Amen)

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on December 02, 2020:

No worries.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on December 02, 2020:

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 02, 2020:


I'm sorry my feed jumped and I posted this on the wrong comment line. I can't see how to delete it. Oops.



Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 02, 2020:


You are right, I am grateful for the experience. It was a rich episode in my life to be able to see things I may not be able to see again. I wouldn't have traded it for anything. Thanks for commenting.



Liz Westwood from UK on December 02, 2020:

You make a good point. I don't think we would have had kids if we had waited until we could afford them. I would guess that many of our generation would say similar. You also suggest cost-saving tips that will help future generations with parenting costs.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on December 02, 2020:

What a nice way to be able to afford great memories.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 02, 2020:

You have given new parents, or older ones for that matter, some great ideas on how to save money. One of our friends shopped in thrift stores for their kid's clothing, and when outgrown, she sold them in garage sales. Basically, she was outfitting her kids for next to nothing. She was very thrifty and preferred to spend the money on a vacation each year that they could always remember in the years to come.