CNN Money recently had a fun article, “How We Afford Our Kids” that detailed how 5 families afford their children even though wages aren’t going up much yearly and expenses like rising health care costs eat into a family’s available funds.
I thought I’d share how my husband and I afford our 3 kids, ages 9, 4, and 3. For reference, our income is the median of American incomes in 2011 according to DaveManuel.com.
We live in an urban area in a suburb fancied by young families. (Once the families have kids that are school age, they move to a better suburb because our town’s public schools are dismal.) Until this year, we paid for private school for our 9 year old. Now that all 3 kids were going to be in school (the younger two in preschool), this got too cost prohibitive, so we opted to homeschool them until we can move to an area with better schools.
I buy my kids almost exclusively Gymboree clothing, but I never pay full price. Instead, I shop their sales when items are 70% off. I also use a coupon for an additional 20% off, and I use my Gymboree Visa which gives me another 5% off. I try not to pay more than $5 per shirt or pants; often I can get the items for $3 apiece. Then I turn around and resell the clothes on eBay when my kids outgrow them. Using this strategy, I can dress my kids in stylish clothes for nearly free.
We don’t skimp on food. I have many food intolerances as does my son. My daughters can’t eat dairy or gluten. We buy organic produce and grass fed meat. That’s expensive. However, we don’t go out to eat unless we’re travelling, and we don’t buy unnecessary items like pop or packaged foods. We do splurge and get a few bags of chips and nachos a month.
Each child is allowed to do one activity that has a fee and one that is free. My oldest is taking soccer this year and choir. (Choir is free.) The younger kids aren’t yet at the age where they do outside activities, but that will be coming soon.
We use Swagbucks and credit card reward points to get free gift cards. This is generally how we pay for the kids’ birthday and Christmas presents. We’re also conservative with gift giving. Birthday gifts never amount to more than $50, and Christmas presents no more than $100. We also shop garage sales in the summer for new items to put away for Christmas time.
We don’t have the money for vacations. Instead, whenever I or my husband have a conference to attend, we bring the kids along. For instance, my husband had a conference in Washington, D.C. The hotel and mileage was paid for by his employer. We brought our own food in coolers, and we visited free tourists spots. The whole trip only cost us a few hundred dollars out of pocket, and yet the kids and I had a great time while my husband went to his conference.
Kids are expensive, but there are ways to cut corners and make having them more affordable.
If you have kids, how do you afford them?