As you all probably know, parenting ain’t easy and it certainly ain’t cheap. According to Think Progress, the average cost of raising a child from the womb to his or her first college kegger is $241,080. That’s a lot of bank to lay out on a person who may or may not make it rich and buy you a fancy summer home in Boca. But never fear! There are tons of ways to save a quick (and sometimes not-so-quick) buck, and lucky for you, I’ve discovered them all.
Much like the beautiful weirdos from TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates, I am a massive cheap ass. Not I-don’t-use-TP cheap, but definitely coupon clipping, make-my-own-laundry-detergent cheap ass. But saving money isn’t all soap making and swimming in a Scrooge McDuck money vault. A lot of what I do are easy as pie and things you can start doing today. Things like…
10. Think outside the box
Cheesy, I know, but true. There are tons of weird ways you can save money. I read once about a lady who cuts her sponges in half. She uses the first half for a week or so (until it gets super grody) and then tosses it and uses the second half. Twice the toddler-mess-cleaning goodness for the price of one!
9. Get it for free…
There are tons of awesome resources online for getting free shiz. I love Freecycle, but the Craigslist free section is great too, as well as Kijiji in Canada and Gumtree in the UK.
8. or borrow, borrow, borrow!
Did you that in addition to books, magazines and comics, you can borrow DVDs, CDs and even video games from the library? There are also cool services online such as Paper Back Swap, where you, um, swap paperbacks. But you can borrow more than just media. Depending on where you live there are tool lending libraries and parking spot bartering. You can also rent things on the cheap from places like Zip Car, Rent The Runway and Handbag Envy.
7. Think beyond your store bought toys
If there is one thing I hate, it’s crafting, but toy making is a definitely exception. One of my hobbies is wood working, which makes this easier, but there are tons of great toy making tutorials on Youtube and on various parenting blogs. If that’s something you don’t have time for or aren’t interested in, there are still plenty of things in your home that can double as a toy. My kids loved playing with our pots and pans, and doesn’t every kid toss the new toy away after 30 seconds to play with the box?
6. Buy in bulk
Stores like Costco and BJs are a cheap ass mama’s best friend. Typically I will buy only non-perishables like pasta or toilet paper from wholesale stores, but you can get pretty much anything there including produce, dairy products, and even a new television. I once bought a 400 count bag of sandwich baggies from BJs that lasted me 3 years. THREE YEARS. You can’t beat that with a stick.
5. You don’t need the newest car/phone/stereo etc.
I know that there is a lot of pressure to have the latest gadget or toy, but you must resist! I’m not saying you should dig up your old 1998 Nokia brick phone and resign yourself to reading physical books like a heathen, but think before you upgrade. Do you really need the newest iPhone? This goes for almost anything. Spending $800 on the newest Bugaboo stroller is hella crazy, especially when you can get an older model dirt cheap or even free (see number 9).
4. Swap meets are fun AND cheap
A few years ago, through the power of Facebook, I discovered the beauty and wonder that is the swap meet. You can also find these events through Meetup.com and even Craigslist. If you’ve never been to one, swap meets work by every attendee bringing an item or two to swap with other people. Easy peasy. Because one mom’s trash is another mom’s kick ass Elmo blanket.
3. Generic products are NOT the enemy
I know, this one might be difficult for some moms. I can be picky about certain items too. Typically, I refuse to go generic on things like dairy or anything else uber perishable. Also, ketchup for some reason. But beyond that, if I can find a generic version for cheaper, that’s what I’ll get. These items are often exactly the same, and occasionally even made in the same facilities. Why pay a premium price for fancy packaging and a recognizable name?
2. Make it yourself
With the beauty and wonder that is the Internet, it’s never been easier to teach yourself how to make things at home. I make my own Febreze-type solution, dish soap, detergent and floor cleaners. I made my livingroom curtains out of discount fabric from JoAnns and iron-on hem tape. No sewing necessary (because who is going to trust me with sharp objects like a needle?) and they were a fraction of the cost of fancy-shmancy drapes from a store.
1. Or grow it yourself
Full disclosure, I am TERRIBLE at this one. I try and try to make things grow, but I only have a 20 percent success rate. So this might not be the best idea for me to save money, but for all you ladies who don’t have a brown thumb, this is a good one. You can grow things like basil, parsley and even tomatoes and peppers right in your own kitchen or balcony. I have neighbors will full gardens on their terrace, so I think this can be done pretty much anywhere.