Tricks for Saving Money on Everything Kids Need

I’m sure you’ve noticed that raising kids is crazy expensive! I think the estimated cost of bringing up baby until the age of 18 is close to $250,000. That’s almost $14,000 a year, gulp. Good thing kids appreciate with age (we hope anyway!).

Since most of us don’t have extra money to throw away (if you do, please send some this way), it’s important to spend wisely on your kiddos. That means figuring out how to save money on everything kids need.

The easiest way to save is just to buy less, of course. We all fall victim to marketing, pressure from peers, and our kids’ “I wants.” But most of the time we don’t need the things we buy, and keeping up with the neighbors is vicious cycle. Take the toys out of the store and home to your playroom and your kid loses interest in a blink.

That said, there are definitely many things kids need, and that we both want and need to buy them. At the very least we can try to save money when we do open our wallets! Here are a few categories where I spend on my kids, and some money-saving techniques I’ve picked up as a parent.

Save on: Baby Gear

Shop consignment stores or use an app like LetGo to find used baby items like carriers, swings, bouncers, high chairs, and strollers. These items can be expensive new and they are used for such a brief amount of time. Buying all of this stuff can really add up. The best way to get your money’s worth is to buy gently used (or new and use it for three kids!). The same goes for older kids’ gear like wagons, scooters, bikes, and sports equipment.

Even better: Use a swap site to trade what you have for what you need. Or ask a friend or relative if they have any items they’d love to clear out of their home. Hand me downs are free, plus you know the source, which some parents prefer when acquiring used gear.

Save on: Haircuts

Skip the overpriced kid-centric salon and find a local barber or stylist who can get the job done. I’ve done the kid salons and have been less than impressed by the haircuts they do for $30+ a pop. So now I take my kids to a no-frills salon run by a single mom, and it’s magic. She flips the TV to cartoons, has a jar full of Dum Dum lollipops, and does a great, $15 cut in 10 minutes. Plus, she takes walk ins, which means I don’t have waste my time on scheduling.

Even better: Do it yourself for free, if you’ve got the nerve and skills!

Save on: Kids Clothes

Shop sales and stick with comfy basics. Kids never want to wear the fussy stuff because it’s usually itchy or stiff. So that fancy dress you think you need for your daughter? She will likely refuse to wear it, or she’ll stain it the first and only time she agrees to put it on. Plus, kids are so cute on their own, they don’t even need frills to look good! Another tip: Stock up on future sizes when you find a good price on items like socks, undies, shorts, or anything else your kiddo won’t have (much of) an opinion about.

Even better: Make regular visits to your local thrift stores, which are packed with cheap treasures. You have to put in the time and do a lot of hunting, but the parents who do it outfit their kiddos for next to nothing. If style is a big concern, check out thrift stores in upscale neighborhoods.

Save on: Kids Shoes

Again, shop sales and keep it simple. If you find a brand and style that works for your kid, buy that same shoe again the next time, and sign up for emails to receive discount codes and sale info. Skip fussy fashion boots and stiff kicks; chances are your kiddo won’t wear them. I do think it’s worth spending on kids’ shoes, especially as they get bigger. Older kids put a lot of wear on shoes, but their feet don’t grow as fast as their younger siblings. And you really get what you pay for with cheap shoes.

Even better: Consignment shops are also an option for shoes. If you go this route, look for pairs that have very little wear, but then again that can be a red flag that the shoes are uncomfortable. Make sure your kiddo tries on anything you’re considering and puts in some test laps around the store before you buy.

Save on: Childcare

It can be hard to save on childcare because of course you want the best for your child, and discount daycare sounds like the equivalent of day-old sushi: dangerous and not worth it. Plus, sometimes there just aren’t a lot of options, right? But there are a few ways you could reduce your daycare bills. Join a nanny share. Look into in-home daycares, which are often less expensive than big facilities. If you have the room in your house to house a caregiver, an au pair can be a surprisingly affordable and flexible option. 

Even better: Set up a co-op or swap with friends and cut your babysitting bills down to nothing. And ask managers for flexible hours and schedule adjustments so you and your partner can provide more of the care yourselves.

Savings Add Up

All of these tricks probably won’t make that much of a dent in the grand $250k scheme of things. But altogether they can add up to some savings to use on something you really want to spend on — that trip to Disney, maybe? Or funding that college account that currently seems out of reach?

What do you do to save on your kids, mamas? Have any money-saving tricks to share?

I’m a married mom of two living in Seattle, WA. I have a eight-year-old little boy, a second grader! He’s a fairly reserved kid and all about Legos and Minecraft. I also have a little girl who turned four at the end of February. She’s a tiny thing but a big ham; we call her our clown. They’re a lot of work but also a ton of fun. I love to eat, cook, and run (in that order). But at the end of the day, give me a spot on the couch and a little bit of TV or a good book, I’m done!