Photo credit: Tomwang12-istock-thinkstock
No doubt about it, kids are expensive. And needy. And whiney, messy, demanding, stubborn, little tyrants…but I digress. My adorable daughter has cost us quite a bit of money over the first three years of her life (like daycare that costs more per month than our mortgage), but she has also inspired us to save a little money too.
She Terrifies Me
Ok, she doesn’t terrify me per se—unless you count waking up in the middle of the night to her standing by the bed just staring at me—but knowing that huge expenses, like college tuition, are in my future terrifies me. To help abate this fear, I opened a 529 college savings plan for her when she was just a few months old. We contribute a little every month and hope that the power of compounding will serve us well by the time she’s ready to start college. I also recently initiated the annual increase function that will automatically increase my contribution to her account every year. Since these contributions come directly out of our checking account every month, the money is stored away for her education before we have the chance to spend it.
Who Needs Nice Things?
When your toddler can destroy an entire house and several sets of clothing with just one granola bar, you start to rethink your need for designer anything. Becoming a parent made shopping the clearance section a necessity. You don’t want to pay a lot of money for clothes when you can easily picture all the stains that mysteriously show up on everything your child touches. Also, we’ve put off replacing furniture and carpets because we know new things just won’t stand up to the rigors of toddlerhood.
Goldfish for Dinner
I was so excited when my daughter was old enough to eat “real” food. No more bottles, or baby food purees, but real, human food! Then I realized that all she eats for dinner is 12 goldfish crackers, two grapes, and a cube of cheese. Seeing how much food we scraped into the trash can at the end of every meal made me evaluate the amount of food our family wastes. I rethought my meal planning to include ingredients that could be used for several different meals and tried to find new ways to incorporate leftovers into new recipes. I also dialed back my grocery list. No need to shop for three when usually the amount we purchase for two is enough to accommodate our kid as well.
Doesn’t Need Much to Be Happy
It’s so easy to go overboard with toys, especially with grandparents and aunts and uncles that just love to buy your kid the most obnoxious toys that ever existed. Before you know it, you have rooms full of toys and your child just ends up spending hours playing with a flashlight. To help us keep her toys in check, we’ve adopted a few guidelines: encourage others to contribute to her college fund instead of buying toys, no toy bigger than a bread box, and for Christmas, we only buy something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, and something to read. It really has to be a special occasion for us to go outside of these rules. This has helped us keep our toy spending to a minimum and makes the toys she does receive that much more special.
This post was written by Linda Marquez, Senior Creative Services Specialist at Colorado PERA. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.