According to the USDA, the average cost of raising a child to the age of 2 is $9,000. That's a lot of money for struggling parents to afford, but nobody wants to skimp on anything that is essential for their child's development.
However, given the cost of raising children, it makes sense to save money where you can. In many cases, there are cheaper alternatives to branded goods. There are also plenty of ways that parents choose to spend more than they need to.
If you want to save cash and keep your baby healthy and happy, here are some useful pointers that can drive down the cost of parenting.
Breastfeeding is a budget solutionIt seems obvious when you think about it, but breastfeeding is a real money-saver. In fact, some studies have found that breastfeeding saves around $1,800 per year. There may be some additional costs, like a pump and extra food for mothers who nurse, but there's no doubt breastfeeding is as good for the wallet as it is for your baby's immune system, lungs, digestive system, and ears (to name just a few of the proven health benefits).
Make your own baby foodParents also don't have to buy vast stocks of pureed baby food. In an age when many people routinely stuff fruit and vegetables into their blender after a 10-mile run, it shouldn't be too hard to do the same for your baby, should it? When your baby is ready for solids, you can easily make your own baby food by steaming fresh fruit and vegetables, blending them, and then freezing them in standard ice trays.
Cut back on that oversized clothing budgetDon't waste money on clothes that your baby will grow out of or will be impractical to wear. Dresses are cute in the store, but can impede your baby as she crawls. They also fold underneath babies in car seats, leading to discomfort. Instead, a better idea is to go for onesies. You can buy these cheaply and they provide plenty of scope for babies to move around. They're easy to clean too.
Resist the urge to buy expensive toysWhen babies are first exploring the world, they don't need brightly colored or branded toys to enjoy themselves. They can do a pretty good job of entertaining themselves with everyday items.
If you do buy toys, think about longevity. There isn't much point in buying a huge collection of toys pitched at 1-year-olds. Go for things they can play with for five or more years instead, building blocks, or items like crayons and paints. Kids love to create; they love color, and they love mess. You may have extra cleaning to do, but arts and crafts materials keep kids entertained at hardly any cost.
If you do need toys, why not swap?Instead of buying large quantities of toys that your child will swiftly outgrow, why not get together with your fellow parents and swap toys every now and then? They will probably have a different mix of toys, and their children might also be a different age, allowing you to gradually change the toys you provide to your own kids as they develop.
Hold back on footwear until baby can walkThere's no need for babies to wear any kind of footwear until they can walk. Some people may disagree, but most pediatricians now recommend that shoes be avoided until children start to walk. The idea is that shoes can teach kids the "wrong" way to walk and might cause problems with the development of their feet.
Reward your kids with time, not productsThe best reward you can give your kids is your own time. Take them to a local park, play games with them, build a fort, show them how to make ice cream sundaes, put on a firework display (while taking the right precautions). These kind of low-budget rewards work much better than costly trips and toys, because they strengthen the bond between parents and children.
Raising babies doesn't have to be expensive. In the modern world, there are many ways to waste your money on things that you feel are essential, but aren't. By focusing on making the most of your money, buying what your baby needs, and making some things yourself, you can save thousands of dollars a year to spend on important items further down the line.
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