Budgeting After Baby: How We Make It Work on a Single Income Budget
I’m sharing #Luvs in my life as part of a LUVs sponsored series for Socialstars™
Money. It's an uncomfortable topic, no matter who you are. It's either coming or going, and if your family is like ours, the going is more often once you add a child to your family. Seriously though, kids - how are they so gosh darn expensive?! And why?! For people so small, they come with so many expenses - and they add up so quickly! It's not even their birth, or doctors visits or medical reasons why kids are expensive, its everything else they need, use, and
politely ask beg for!
I wouldn't consider us parents who spoil their child (that's what grandparents are for), and yet we rack up a crazy amount of expenses every month for H. Most of what we spend are for the necessities, like food and drink, but there are also the things you don't always think about: we keep the house much warmer now that we have a child (I normally would keep it around 65 pre-H, and we would just use blankets and wear warmer clothing), and when thinking about where to set up home base, there are more expensive things to consider as well: more room for your growing family, possibly a yard for your kid(s) to play in, a safer neighborhood, a home in a better school district, all of which adds up, quickly.
So how do you plan for living well with a young family, but still within your means? With a lot of thought and planning, a lot of budgeting, and setting and keeping realistic goals for yourselves and your finances.
Sure, we'd love to go on a huge family vacation this year, but when we took a hard look at our budget, life plans, and projected incomes, it just wasn't in the cards for us. And that's ok! So instead of taking that trip, we decided to put the money towards the birth of this September baby and went on a much smaller road trip together instead. That way, we still got out of the house and out of town, which in all reality was the main goal, but we still had a fun experience and spent quality time together as a family.
That same basic concept is one we carry over into planning our family budget. A quick look on Pinterest will provide you with thousands of awesome family budgeting spreadsheets, and I strongly encourage you to fill one out, honestly and diligently, if you haven't done so yet. I kind of poo-poo'ed the idea for the longest time, I mean, I saw what was in my bank account at the end of the month, and I wasn't in the negative, so what was the big deal? I WAS SO WRONG! It was shocking what my husband and I spent on groceries, going out, and clothing every month. So so so disgustingly shocking, I'm too embarrassed to share those numbers, but just know - it was bad. Really really bad.
Putting together a budget was only the beginning once we realized what frivolous amounts of money were leaving our home every month, especially since we were preparing to move a few months before my son was born, I had given my notice at my job, and we were planning on becoming a one-income family so that I could be a stay at home mom to H. A few things were easy to cut out - no more random online shopping, just because, and no more dinner and a movie date nights out multiple times a week. Another easy money-saving tip to implement? Meal planning!
Our plan was great, but it all went out the window once H was born. We were a young family who had just relocated, we were very tired, and my husband had just started a new job - we ordered out and went out to eat, because we thought it was easier, and the first few months as a family of three were rough on our budget. It was silly money, spent because we didn't think to plan ahead for the 4th trimester haze that transforms your life after you have a baby. However, we adjusted, reevaluated, planned better, and got things under control again.
Tips to help manage your budget after having kids:
- Figure out your budget! Sit down with your bank and credit card statements (and your significant other so everyone is on the same page), and write down every dollar that comes in each month for three months, and write out each of your expenses each month for the same time frame. We divide ours into a few different categories: mortgage, utilities (electricity, water / sewer / garbage, etc), Internet, TV, groceries, dinners out, health expenses, clothing, etc. I like writing out the last three months when initially figuring out our budget so I can look at each month, but also to see what the average amount we spend is. Look at where you're spending the most money, and where you think you could easily cut a few bucks here and there - every little bit helps!
- Reward yourself! Just because you're on a budget, doesn't mean you have to live under a rock! We give each of us an allowance to spend each month as we wish, and while sometimes we use them selfishly, most of the time we use them for fun family outings. Having an easy reward system like this helps keep us from feeling like we're limiting ourselves too much and keeps us from going overboard and having crazy splurge days.
- Meal Plan! You'd be surprised at how much 'extra' money you spend per month if you're just buying whatever looks good while you're out grocery shopping. Also, a little grocery store tip: stick to the outer perimeter of the store - the food there is usually healthier, less processed, and less per serving. My favorite way to meal plan is to create freezer meals, so all I have to do is empty the bag into the crockpot in the morning, and dinner is done by the time my husband is off work!
- Buy in Bulk! Our Costco membership has more than paid for itself every year, but be careful with this one - do you really need a quadruple jumbo pack of watermelon? If you will actually eat it all, it's a great deal, but otherwise, it's just more money wasted.
- Use Amazon's Subscribe & Save! I change what we get each month, but if you combine the 15% discount that you get if you have 5+ items on order, plus item specific coupons, you can get amazing deals!
- Don't buy new! Literally 90% of the toys, books and clothing we buy for H are all used, and from some type of Goodwill or Salvation Army store. Kids wear and play with things for such a short amount of time that you can find some super high quality items for crazy amazing deals at second hand stores! A little hot wash with some laundry soap takes care of any weird feelings my husband had towards thrift stores, and now he loves hunting for great deals along side me! Books are usually $0.10 - $0.25, which can't be beat, and we've picked up a ton of brand new clothes that still had tags on them for pennies on the dollar! Other places to find used goods for kiddos: Craigslist, local Facebook swap groups, Kids Consignment sales (which happen twice a year here locally), and local consignment shops! A few things I won't buy used - Kid's shoes, carseats, mattresses, or anything I can't fully and completely wash.
- Find a local play group! This might seem like a little out of left field, but kids activities, classes and museums are expensive around here, and yet we don't want to stay inside all the time. Through some local mom's groups, we've found a wonderful group of friends where we switch off hosting a play group at each others houses. This saves us money on activity fees, we all bring a snack to share so we save on food, and all the kiddos get extra tired after running around together, so they always nap and sleep well - a total win all around!
- Have date night at home! Just because we're on a budget, doesn't mean we want to give up our precious husband and wife time, we just adjust accordingly, and have a date after H goes to bed! This might mean renting a movie on RedBox, making a special desert together, having a silly game night, sitting around the fire pit just hanging out and roasting marshmallows for S'mores, or loafing it in front of the TV together if it's been an especially long week. Date nights don't have to mean expensive dinners, and $50 (at least) at the movie theatre - it's getting in the right mind set and enjoying time just the two of us!
- Use Luvs Diapers! Kids go through diapers at an alarming rate, especially in the first year, and those suckers can get spendy! One way we easily save money each month is by using Luvs diapers for H, and we will continue using them for this September baby as well. They provide leak free protection that is just as good, if not better, than other (way more expensive) brand name diapers, and work great for H's sensitive skin! Luvs are inexpensively priced, but well made with high quality materials, and hold up throughout the day and all night, even with a always-on-the-go, super heavy wetter toddler like ours. So live, learn, get Luvs, and give your diaper budget a break!
How do you and your family live within your means without feeling like you're missing out on life? Any suggestions for how our budget and life will change with adding another little one to the bunch later this year?