Early Parenting on the (Sort of) Cheap

America is not the best place to have and raise kids. A recent New York Times article had this little nugget of information: “Rich countries contribute an average of $14,000 per year for a toddler’s care, compared with $500 in the (United States).”

Who’s my little bottomless pit of expenses!?

So, if you’re a parent, you’re basically on your own. You already know this.

What does this mean for the frugal among us? It means we have to do what we do best: get creative!

1. If someone offers to help, I say, “Yes!”

People can be amazingly kind and generous. They offer up their time and gifts. When they do, I say, “Thank you!” What am I getting at? Well, we’ve spent next to nothing on clothes, toys, cloth diapers, daycare, and furniture. “Do you want these hand-me downs?” “Yes!.” “Want us to watch the little one tomorrow?” “Yes!” America has no social safety net to speak of; we have to help each other out. (My wife says the gift registry is your friend.) Thanks to all the amazingly kind and caring people in our lives! You know who you are!

2. We repurpose used stuff.

We garbage pick toys for our daughter and then clean them up. We joined Buy Nothing chapters in our area and get tons of free stuff. This includes toys, food, diaper cream, and so on. My wife is a master at sanitizing things. (Em says hand sanitizer is great for removing permanent marker.)

3. We use cloth diapers and clean them with a bidet.

This will end up saving us thousands of dollars over the next few years. We have one bag of Tom’s detergent that is still going strong 17 months later.

4. We make our own baby food.

Suck it, Gerber.

5. We don’t take our kid to steakhouses or five-star hotels.

Our daughter doesn’t know the difference between Morton’s and Jason’s Deli. Save the money instead and put it toward their education.

6. We set up a 529 plan for our daughter’s education.

This is our biggest child-related expense of all. We put hundreds of dollars into this 529 every month. We’ll be glad we did. Our financial advisor says we’re on track to have more than $200,000 saved for her education in 18 years. This happens to be what’ll cost to send a child to a four-year public university in 2038.

So, what do you do? Please share!

Frugal Tip: Hit up rich neighborhoods on garbage day! It’s amazing what they toss.

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