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Be Wise With Money

8 Ways to Save When Raising Children

Kids aren't cheap.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average middle-income couple spends $245,340 to raise a child from birth to age 18.

And that figure doesn't include college expenses.

But there are plenty of ways to keep a lid on those costs. And by doing so, you can also pass on some useful financial lessons to your children.

1. Gear up for less.
A baby's first year or two can total, on average, more than $17,000, according to the USDA. Let well-wishers help foot the bill. Register for big-ticket and practical items such as disposable diapers in economy-size packages, cloth diapers and Diaper Genie refills. And look for like-new infant, toddler and children's clothing, furniture and toys at low prices at garage sales, thrift stores and resale shops.

2. Save on day-to-day items.
If you use formula, buy the store brand. By law, generic formula must be equal nutritionally to name-brand formula. But it can cost up to 50% less. And clip coupons for diapers, baby food and other essentials. There also are plenty of online sources of offers and coupon codes, including store websites and coupon sites such as retailmenot.com and couponmom.com.

3. Guard against unplanned purchases.
Learn to say, "No, we aren't going to buy that today. But put it on your birthday or Christmas wish list." And if you can shop without the kids, do it. Doing so can help keep errant items from entering your cart.  

4. Teach financial restraint.
Reinforce the value of having your kids save their money for items they really want. When kids buy their own things, it teaches financial responsibility. Bonus: You could also end up spending less on them.

5. Cheapen your eats.
Eating at home is the cheapest, of course. But when you do eat out, take advantage of "Kids Eat Free" nights. You also can use cashback apps such as Checkout 51 and Ibotta to earn rebates on groceries and other products from top retailers.

6. Save on child care. Single sitters cost $10 to $15 an hour. But in many areas, babysitting co-ops offer the service for free. You swap babysitting and other services, such as pet sitting, errand running or home repair with a community of fellow parents.

7. Check for employer benefits. 
Look into things such as a dependent-care flexible spending account (FSA). An FSA allows you to set aside up to $5,000 for dependent care – including day care – with pretax money.

8. Go easy on gifts.
And when you buy, buy used wherever possible. You can find playhouses, ride-on toys and playground equipment for a fraction of retail price at tag sales, kid consignment shops and online. For most items, you don't have to pay full price or even buy new. And your kids will be just as happy.  

When it comes to kids, there will always be unexpected expenses. So manage the spending you can control. That way, you can create a more strategic plan that fits your family's lifestyle – and your financial goals.

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