How to Save Money While Raising a Family | Top Tips & Strategies

It can be difficult saving money while raising a family, ya’ll. Long term costs to raise a child comes with a hefty price tag. According to the total cost is a little more than $233,000 (through the age of 17).

That is not a small amount of money, y’all!

But with a few of my favorite money saving tips and strategies you can absolutely spend less while still enjoying life with your family. 

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Budgeting Tips for Families

The first step when you start getting in the money mindset is to deep dive into your finances.

What is your after tax income? What are your monthly expenses? Bills? Debt? Savings goals?

If you don’t know the answer to all of the questions. Then your first step is to make a budget.

Don’t know how to create a budget? Check out my post, Budgeting for Beginners and you’ll be good-to-go. If you are already rocking your family budget, go ahead and skip down to the budgeting tips. (And highest of fives for having your money house in order.)

Here’s a quick summary though if you need it:

Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Budgeting:

  1. Write out your financial goals. Paying cash for a new car, kids braces, down payment for a house, college tuition, paying off debt, etc.
  2. Add up all of your after tax income. Every bit of money you have coming into your bank account gets added together.
  3. Add up all your expenses. Bills, expenses, debt payments, money to savings accounts etc. all get added together so you know where your money is obligated.
  4. Subtract your expenses from your income. Dave Ramsey makes a very compelling argument about why having a Zero Based Budget is the best budgeting method if you are looking to become debt free and save more money. If becoming debt free or getting aggressive with your savings is a financial goal of yours, be sure to check it out.

If you are interested in getting your budget and finances organized grab your very own Budgeting Bill Pay Calendar!

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Family Budgeting Tips and Strategies

Money is a tool. I’m sure I’ll get some push back on this, but if you stop and really think about it I think you’ll come around.

Money utilized in the right way can help you meet goals. But just like any other tool, when you aren’t careful with it, therein lies the chance of harm (think mountains of debt, poor investment choices, poorly planned decisions, etc.).

Here are some solid tips and strategies about how to live well on a family budget.

Pay Yourself First.

It will never be any easier or cheaper than today to start saving money. Whether you are saving for retirement, a house, or college tuition.

Your money has this uncanny ability to disappear if you aren’t vigilant. Paying yourself first ensures that you will be able to meet your financial goals.

So start today and start with your family. Maxing out your Roth IRA is a ton easier with solid monthly payment schedule than hoping and praying for the money at the end of the year.

Don’t Forget High-Cost Family Expenses

Braces. Weddings. Cars. Tuition. High School Graduation Trip.

Whatever your plans are for your children, make sure you are looking far enough ahead to make those feasible without burying yourself in debt.

A few things to note:

  1. Prioritize your goals. You’d want to plan to save for braces, before you started saving for a car or wedding.
  2. Create a family calendar. If you’ve followed me at all prior to this post, you know I love the stuffing out of Google Calendar. Whether you use an electronic calendar, create a spreadsheet or break out good ole paper and pencil– create a calendar that looks ahead through when you are expecting your child to be at home. Get ahead of potential problems by mapping everything out.

If you are planning on buying your child a car to drive when they turn 16. How much do you want to spend? When does it make sense to start saving?

I know it can be hard to think about a potential wedding that may or may not happen in 20 years, but if your intention is to help pay for your child’s wedding, $10,000 paid for over the course of 20 years is about $42 a month.

If you wait until the year of the wedding, that $42 morphs into $833 a month.

Point being, brain storm. Plan the plan. Implement the plan.

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Murphy.

Murphy is coming. So go ahead and set a place at the table because it’s never going to be a matter of if so much as when.

Your car breaks down. Your water pipe bursts.

Crap happens. Don’t let these financial hiccups derail your budget. Make sure to set aside money for them with an Emergency Fund.

Sinking Funds.

Much like planning for high-cost expenses, you also want to plan for the smaller expenses that happen periodically throughout the year? These are what a sinking fund is made for!

Yearbooks, school pictures, after school activities, school clothes, school supplies, property taxes, etc.

The majority of people have a monthly budget and think they are good. Please don’t forget about all the irregular expenses you need to put money aside for throughout the year.

Automate Your Money

Did you know your budget can come with an easy button? It’s called automated payments.

Paying your mortgage, car payment, rent, internet, phone bill– these are all great candidates for automated payments.

You’ll never make late, or (worse!) miss a payment again. 

Don’t forget your buffer.

As much as I love to plan ahead. Let’s be honest, life is happening at 100MPH and sometimes wrecks havoc on the most carefully created plans.

Giving yourself a small buffer in your budget is another layer of security for those moments when life happens.

If you find yourself at the end of the month and didn’t need the buffer, have a plan for what to do with it. Put towards debt, funnel into a savings account, etc. 

This is not money to blow. This is simple a just-in-case.

Give Yourself Grace

Progress not perfection, Mamas. Give yourself grace when you didn’t nail it today, this week, this month– whatever it is.

Blowing it doesn’t make you a failure and doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel. 

It’s only failure if you quit.

So have a glass of wine and binge watch HGTV (just me??). Tomorrow is a new day! 

Child peaking from behind a balloon, having frugal fun.


Tips for Spending Less While Raising a Family

One of my favorite challenges is figuring out how to spend as little as possible.

I’m that girl who gets complimented on her dress and my response is, “Thanks, it’s got pockets and I paid $3 for it!”. (Pockets are everything!)

It an important to note that while most peoples budgets aren’t going to be won by saving a little bit in one area of spending, they are (typically) won in the cumulative saving from many.

So don’t discount that few dollars you are saving on clothes, or groceries, or utilities. All those pennies add up– so stay the course!

Give a few of these money saving tips to spend less and put more money back into your family budget.

Pre-loved items.

Holy smokes I am such a huge fan of buying second hand items. The only thing better than pre-loved is hand-me-downs because they are free!

Facebook marketplace, thrift stores, garage sales are all great places to find items that are still in good condition but only have to pay pennies on the dollar.

We recently moved back to the States and I got all 3 of my children a bike for a grand total of $10. TEN DOLLARS!

If you can be patient, you can usually find a steal of deal.

If hitting thrift stores or consignment shops isn’t for you, this could be your new favorite: ThredUp. Think of ThredUp as an online consignment shop.

The reason I am in love with this website is that, not only am I getting a great deal on gently used, or never worn items are available for great prices, but they also will accept your clothes.

They will send you what they call their “Clean Out bag”. It gets processed (they go through everything) and then they’ll send you an email with your earnings. The first 14 days, you can use your credit to purchase items from the After 14 days, you can cash out using PayPal or a thredUP Visa Prepaid Card.

I’m kind of obsessed with this website. Bonus! If you sign up through my link above you get a $10 credit.

Trim Your Food Spending.

If housing costs take up a good portion of your budget– the amount of money spent on food is another.

Whether it’s eating out or at the grocery store – getting control of spending here can save you big! If you are looking for specific tips to beat your grocery budget, check out my best frugal living tips.

Meal Planning, shopping sales and watching price per unit will carry you far my friend. Buckle down and do the work. Your debit card and bank account will thank you.

Know the Difference Between Too Much and Enough.

Whether this is clothes, toys, extra curricular activities, screen time.

There is definitely a threshold and you need to know where it is for your child(ren).

Due to having a large family, super generous friends, and if I’m honest, really great clearance rack finds. My oldest ended up with a closet stuffed with clothes and toys. It was overwhelming the amount of stuff she had.

We lived with this crazy closet for about a year and a half before I had a come to Jesus with myself.

First, she was not even using half of it regularly. Second keeping it all organized was a nightmare. And lastly, the laundry situation (you know what I’m talking about it) was out of control.

Enter the point where I went full on Minimalist. I was sick of being a slave to all of this crap in her closet and in her room.

And to be honest, she didn’t even want to play in there because there was just so much.

I purged and put aside somethings for her younger sisters and then gave (or sold depending) everything else away.

Ya’ll I saved my sanity, I saved myself time, I saved money and I saved value space in my home.

A room full of “stuff” doesn’t make you a better mother. Less stuff doesn’t mean you love them less or that you are depriving them.

Don’t lay that mom-guilt on yourself. We played out in our yard with our friends and made forts out of trees, old boxes and rocks. All perfectly well adjusted.

In case you needed it– this is me, another Mom in the trenches– giving you permission to stop wasting money on “stuff” for your kids.

They’ll love you the same whether they have a Nintendo DS Switch or not.

They need the essentials. If that’s one after school activity, if that’s 14 outfits per season, if that’s building blocks, Legos, Crayons and a few puzzles– whatever your family situation. Take a hard look and make the adjustment.

Shop Around.

If you have to buy something (new sneakers, appliances, a new computer) make sure you price compare or wait for seasonal and holiday sales.

For example, whenever we have needed a new computer, we typically wait until Black Friday or Back to Schools because they usually have really great deals.

This isn’t just true for high ticket items though, you can also create a Price Book and keep track of grocery items you buy the most and see where you can save the most on food as well.

Frugal Fun.

You will be surprised about what you can find to do for fun with your family that is completely free or on the super cheap. Check your city’s website for local festivals or exhibits.

Take a picnic out to the park. Camp in your back yard. Have a potluck with your family and friends and have someone.

Keep Holidays and Birthdays Simple.

It is all too easy to rack up a stack of bills around Birthdays and Holidays, but I’m here to tell you it is absolutely unnecessary.

My daughter will tell you the best birthday party she’s had to date is her Carnival theme birthday party that we hosted in our apartment building. That party with food, decorations and cake cost me about $100 all in.

You don’t need to spend a fortune if you are willing to get creative.

I built carnival games from cardboard boxes, red and white wrapping papers, and stuff I already had around my house.

I got prizes from Oriental Trading and made all the food myself.

Pinterest is full of creative and inexpensive ideas.

If you absolutely want to have it at a specific venue check for off-peak times, look for coupons, and sometimes you can find deals on Groupon and Social Living.

Invest in ReUsable Items.

It can be tough to ditch the convenience of disposable, but when you need to make your pennies count, a small investment can pay dividends.

Here are my top 7 favorite reusable products!

Wool Dryer Balls. Not only do they save you money on dryer sheets, but they reduce drying time by up to 25% saving you money on utilities and you skip the harsh chemicals rubbing off on your clothes!

ReUsable BeesWax Food Wraps. A fantastic alternative to plastic wrap! Keeps food fresh and you simply wash with soap and water. They also come in a variety of sizes. 

Reusable makeup remover pads. These are organic cotton and I’m absolutely in love with these little rounds. I use them up and then throw them in the washing machine. So simple.

Swiffer Sweeper Microfiber Reusable Mop Pads. This is a set of two machine washable microfiber pads. Super easy disposable replacement and in my opinion, work better!

Reusable K-cups. You can buy your favorite ground coffee in bulk and use these little beauties to save yourself TONS OF MONEY on regular k-cups. 

Reusable food storage bags. A multipack of these extra thick, leakproof bags. Skip the plastic baggies and grab these!

Huck towels. Skip paper towels and make the switch today! Save yourself tons money with this pack of 25 white towels.

Bringing It All Together | Raising a Family on a Budget

Raising a family on a budget can be difficult, but it’s not impossible!

Be sure if you don’t have a family budget that you make one. You can’t steer the ship safely if there is no one at the wheel. You need to know where your money is going and your budget is the best first step.

When you are living your budget, make strategic choices about where and how you are spending your money. Prioritize your goals, practice patience and implementing a few of the tips above will go a long way to maximizing your money.

I would love to hear how you are raising a family on a budget. Please drop a comment below.

How to Save Money While Raising a Family. Picture of Little Boy Dressed as a Super Hero.
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Kristen is the founder and content creator at Mom Managing Chaos where she teaches busy moms how to simplify and organize their life and finances. She writes about frugal living, budgeting, productivity and organization.