Kids just generate SO.MUCH.STUFF. Newsflash, I know. But seriously, the diapers, the wipes, the special food, the endless amounts of pricey gear, and dear god, the toys and books. I almost cried when a guest came to visit and sincerely told me in the most nonchalant way that my living room looked like a day care center. Nooooooo. And that was after I picked up before said guest arrived! Despite my best efforts to buy toy bins, declutter, marginally clean up each day, and rotate baby gear in and out as needed, I have to say it is immediately clear that the little people of the house dominate the tiny amounts of space we have.
So, I have come to (sort of) make peace with the stuff (although I still feel like I’m on a constant search for underused items that can be passed along to the next child). I know this stage of very young children is just the beginning. Soon there will be requests for brand name clothes, more requests for certain foods and snacks, school supplies, sports gear, and many more things I’m sure I haven’t even thought about yet.
If we are going to have to deal with all of this stuff though, I’m determined to save money wherever possible. Here’s how we’re striving to do that so far. This is part philosophy, part resource ideas. Many of these are fairly common practice, but putting them in writing makes me feel like I am actually taking control of our finances a bit in this area. I’m also really curious to hear about other ideas if I’m lucky enough to get any comments on this young blog.
Don’t Buy Unnecessary Stuff
Umm, “duh,” right? But this is so much easier said than done. From the moment that pregnancy test reads positive, there are lists and lists of things people say are absolute must-haves for this 8-pound immobile being on the way. There is apparently a special spatula for applying diaper cream to an irritated baby’s bum. Really? A finger won’t do? You know you’re in for coming into contact with plenty of grosser things having kids. So many of these baby items are really not necessary. And does your toddler really need 86 books or 68 Hot Wheels (maybe Dad does). Also, fewer items around the house means fewer things to step on, trip over, and put away at the end of the day. Ask people with kids first, do some internet digging and find out what the real “must haves” are. Stick with those (except of course in cases like our Hot Wheel dilemma).
Borrow Instead of Buy
This was especially helpful for us with gear for baby #2. We had gotten rid of a lot of the larger baby gear due to living in a tiny space. We had made many new friends with kids from baby #1 days and they were very generous to lend us some gear. Same goes for books. Our toddler loves a trip to the library so much. I don’t know how long that library enthusiasm will last, but for now I’m trying to take full advantage while keeping the number of books on our shelves at home to a reasonable quantity. We have informally swapped toys with some of our kids’ friends, and I’ve heard great reviews of more organized toy swaps on local social media groups as well. What could be better than getting new to you toys every now and then, and given them back after your household has had a chance to enjoy them.
Even Better – Get Free Stuff
Well there is one thing that is better, and that is getting free kid stuff. No strings attached, no need to remember who to return it to or when to return it. We have a very active “Buy Nothing” group which has been an excellent source of toys, books, and clothes for the kids, as well as other household items. We give back there regularly too when some of the excess kid stuff has to go.
Let the Grandparents Get it for Them
I fully acknowledge that not everyone is as lucky as our kids are in this area, but our kids are quite lucky here. They have wonderful loving grandparents who are ready and willing to shower them with a reasonable amount of gifts at holiday and birthday time. Other friends and family gifts are so appreciated as well. When family asks us what to get our kids, we try to give thoughtful responses and focus on what they really most need or will get the most use out of at the time. Sometimes we wait on major kid purchases if we know a family member may want to contribute to something for an upcoming gift. We are blessed – thank you, family.
Buy Used & Save the Planet
There is almost nothing I love more than a trip to grab an iced coffee and head to the thrift store sans kids. Thrifting is amazing! $1 for a onesie that’s in great shape and would cost $15 new? Yes, please! $3 for the brand name Thomas the Train character that my son is super into but that I refuse to pay $12 for new? Score! Ohhhh, a $3 top for myself while I’m at it? Of course! Craigslist and yard sales are also favorites of ours. If you don’t happen to live in an area with a lot of kids and/or with people who have a lot of money to spare, it can be worth traveling a bit to thrift or yard sale in an area that does.
Price Compare Before Buying
The unit cost for diapers is something that I never would have envisioned myself caring about before kids. Let me tell you, what feels like 56,728 boxes of diapers later, it matters! (I wonder how many boxes of diapers we’ve really gone through). Costco it is for the diapers and wipes these days – tell me if you know a better deal! We’ve found that some grocery stores sell organic pouches for 40% less than others in our area, while big box stores like Target can often be the cheapest for other kid gear (by the way, love the affordable Cat & Jack clothes when we do buy new). The 99 cent store in our area is hit or miss, but often has brand name organic food for kids when manufactures are offloading extra inventory. It’s worth a trip every now and then to see, and when we find a deal, we buy as much as we can eat before it will expire. It takes a while to figure out all the little savings tricks in your area, but once you’ve got them down, it becomes a routine way to shop.
Some Things Are Worth the Money
Of course, there will not be a way to save money on every item. As much as I planned ahead and tried to look for snow boots in the right size used, I never found them and had to buy new during winter when there were no great sales. Certain things like bedding or underwear or other personal items are not in everyone’s comfort zones to get second hand. Some brand name items really are better quality and last longer than off brands and may be worth the difference. We feel better about spending on items like this when we know we do our best to save on all the other items.
Kids do need stuff, for sure. But with a little effort, you don’t have to spend a ton. Personally, I find some of these cost saving endeavors to be a lot of fun – like a scavenger hunt of sorts – and I love to brag about finding that $1 brand name kids’ t-shirt with the store tag still on it.
What are your favorite money savings tips on food/clothes/toys/gear for kids of all ages?