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We all know that children are going to cost us, but we don’t care because we love them. However, you can save money for your family with just a few tweaks to how you approach situations using our 25 tips for frugal parenting.
Here are some frugal parenting tips, most of which were tried and tested on my own three daughters when they were small.
By frugal parenting, don’t think that I mean deprivation. You are giving your children a chance to have lots of fun experiences, whilst also encouraging an understanding of the value of what they have.
Let your children have sweets and treats sometimes, but make a weekly occasion rather than a daily one.
With the alarming cost of living currently, saving money where you can is more important than ever. For your children, knowing that they can’t have whatever they want and understanding that things come at a cost is a good life lesson.
Frugal parenting hints and tips
1 Write a budget
First of all, get your own frugal head on so that you can lead by example. Write a budget and know where your finances are at.
2 Don’t keep up with the Joneses
When you are tempted to pay for horse riding, swimming or music lessons (or anything else for that matter) that you can’t really afford, remember this. Being a parent is not a competition. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.
Spending more on your kids than you have doesn’t make you a better parent, but being free of debt will definitely make you a more relaxed one.
3 Give your kids your time
What your children want more than anything else from you is your love, time and attention. These are free, and the basis of all of your frugal parenting efforts.
4 Buy second hand
Don’t be ashamed to buy second hand everything. It is beneficial for your finances and much better for the planet to get used items when you can.
Prams, cots and baby equipment, toys, books and clothing can all be purchased easily and cheaply on Facebook Marketplace, online, at car boot sales, at NCT sales and in charity shops. Babies and toddlers in particular get very little wear out of their clothing.
5 Swapsies and hand me downs
Swap toys, equipment and clothing with friends in your circle. Put wanted and for sale cards up on your nursery or school notice boards if you are allowed. Always accept hand me downs and then pass yours on to return the favour.
6 Choose reusable nappies
Choosing reusable nappies will save you money long term, and you know it makes sense for the environment. The cheapest option is the good old-fashioned terry towelling squares that our grandmothers used.
However, if you prefer a more modern version, look out for second hand shaped ones. They are fine to use as long as they are well washed and sanitised.
7 Surviving Christmas
At Christmas, consider sticking to the four-gift rule: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read!
I didn’t have a name for this rule when my children were small but, apart from lots of little stocking fillers, it was more or less what I stuck to. It saved a lot of money! I also bought second hand toys as presents, especially garden toys and bicycles.
8 Don’t create fussy eaters
Fussy eaters are likely to cost more to feed, as well as causing you irritation! But how do you stop your children becoming fussy? I say lead by example; put a small amount of everything on your children’s plates and encourage them to try it, but don’t force the issue and create a battle.
Eat your carrots/peas/tomatoes and tell them how delicious you find them. Eventually, they are likely to follow your lead.
Allow your children to help you in the kitchen. In my experience, kids tend to eat food that they have had a hand in preparing.
9 Fun and free outdoor activities
Do activities as a family that are fun but don’t cost much. For example, go on a nature walk in the woods or by the sea, go geocaching, take a trip to the park, or visit a boot sale. The latter is a great opportunity to teach your kids about money if you give them a small allowance to spend
19 Plant stuff
If you have a garden or access to an outdoor space, allow your children to grow a few seeds in pots. You can even do this on the windowsill.
This is a science lesson as well as a bit of fun. Frugal parenting can be educational too.
20 Keep a present box
Keeping a present box was one of the best things I ever did when my daughters were younger and always off to their friends’ birthday parties. I purchased small gifts when I saw them at a discount, as well as cards and wrapping paper. This meant I always had a suitable present, even at short notice.
22 Create a dressing up box
The dressing up box was forever in use in our house when the girls were small. I filled it with things like hats, belts, gloves, frilly nighties, necklaces and any dressing up kits I came across cheaply. It provided hours of fun for just a few pounds.
23 Make a craft box
Like the dressing up box, the craft box was another cheap activity that kept my children busy for hours.
I kept an eye out for glue and paint, glitter, feathers, silver foil and sweet wrappers, cotton wool, pipe cleaners, old magazines and comics, paper and card, either very cheaply or for free. We also made our own playdough for pennies.
24 Use your library
Take advantage of your local library. You can borrow books and various media items, but many also run toddler story time sessions and some do a summer reading challenge. All for free!
25 Keep birthday parties simple
If you host birthday parties, go for an old fashioned theme with simple foods like sandwiches, fairy cakes, jelly and icecream. Play traditional party games such as musical statues, pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey. If you have the space, you could also have an egg and spoon or sack race.
Avoid party bags and let your guests leave with something simple such as a piece of cake and one small gift. I used to buy large packs of children’s books very cheaply for this purpose.
By being creative with what you have and can pick up cheaply, frugal parenting will become satisfying and fun for both you and your children. What frugal activities does your family enjoy?
Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.