Families trying to make ends meet face unique challenges that single individuals, childless couples, and empty nesters do not. In short, raising kids is not cheap. As of 2022 the average cost is about $288,000 to $310,000 total, or $16,000 to $18,000 per year. Thus the need is great to create a budget and heed to some basic money saving tips for families described here.
Focus on the Food
It’s the greatest expense for any family, after housing, and kids can really balloon a grocery bill. Therefore, make a list, read the flyers to stick to sale items, and even use a cash-back app. There’s nothing foolish about visiting two grocery stores, provided they aren’t at great distance from each other. Unit costs are still not widely understood but that figure, usually on the left and in orange, is key to understanding which peanut butter container, salad dressing bottle, or pasta jar are the best value. Simply put, it’s the one with the lowest unit cost.
Manage Recurring Costs
It’s every company’s dream to get customers to put their product or service on a monthly auto-pilot draw from your checking account. People accept this and then often forget about the expense. After all they’re not really “paying” it consciously. Families should take stock once or twice a year to really ask if they’re benefitting from that gym membership, streaming service, or magazine. In this new era of subscription services, take a hard look at television, music, and food delivery charges. Chances are one or more can be canned with minimal to no loss of pleasure.
We human beings spend too much money and accumulate way too much “stuff” over time. As part of a “clean out the closet” or the garage campaign, you can have a yard sale, or just put the occasional item on E-bay or Craigslist. Be sure to check out the increasingly popular Facebook Marketplace or Nextdoor.com. It really is true—one man’s trash is another’s treasure.
Keep Celebrations Simple
Set strict budgets and stick to them for any parties and holiday gatherings. Reconsider if a big birthday bash is really necessary each year. Perhaps just the ‘big ones’ like 5, 16, or 21 necessitate large expenditures. I’m reminded of a conversation I had once with a local while traveling in Panama. My tour guide there had spent a few months with a host family in Oregon. I asked what he found most different culturally. His answer— “you Americans make such a big deal about birthdays, and you treat pets like people.”
It’s a fantastic way to buy quality secondhand items and to even sell gently used possessions for cash. Thrift stores sometimes go by the terms resale, consignment, or vintage. For families with multiple children, there’s always the “hand down to the youngest” method, but with kids outgrowing their clothing and shoes so fast, thrifting is a key money saving tip for families. Check out one or more establishments near you.
Live on 80%
If you look back a half dozen years or so, you likely made less than now—and you got by fine. So why not live on less now? Save 20% of gross income and direct those funds to various places like cash reserves in a savings account and to retirement. Savings can then be tapped for emergencies (washing machines break, flat tires happen, etc.). Retirement funds will compound and grow enormously over time. Living just a bit less well now will allow you to live very comfortably later. Sadly, deferring gratification remains difficult for too many.
These are six money saving tips for families to help with expenses in these inflationary times. Staycations, renting out a spare room, reducing energy consumption, buying reusable goods, and taking advantage of free items are some additional tips, with more to be found here.
Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for AMAC Action and previously taught high school economics, history, psychology, and sociology. He writes frequently on money issues and Social Security’s ill financial health.