As a stay-at-home mom of preschool children you are beyond exhausted with caring for your children’s basic needs, keeping the house running, and finding enough energy to not lose it when the Hubs comes home from work. Children are indeed a blessing, but definitely not a breeze. So I get it that skimping on additional brainwork and planning to let someone else do it for a fee makes life easier. The problem is your one-income family is probably already stretched. Mommy lunches and super-sized car payments may not be as essential as you presume. If you need to purge the budget, here are the biggest culprits that keep most stay-at-home-moms from reaching their financial goals.
1. Out to eat lunches *$900/yr.*
As a mother to two (almost three) children under three, the playdate is non-negotiable. The emotional, physical, and mental struggle to provide loving and comprehensive care for your DNA beneficiaries can be so overwhelming that not sharing the experience with others in the same boat will leave mom in a lake of tears. Gathering with others, regardless of the multiplied chaos when more children pile in the mix, takes a priority. The big ‘however’ comes when playdates happen at the mall play-place, Chick-fil-a or McDonald’s. These are tempting, delicious (and thigh enlarging) hotspots that make entertainment a breeze yet deplete the wallet. Instead, make the effort to host a group or your friend at your place to do an age-appropriate activity.
2. Too much food purchased *$1,200/yr.*
We all share in a little, dirty food waste secret–all of us buy more than we eat. Just how much fresh produce, meat and dairy do you toss each week? Not just funky smelling chicken, but also uneaten leftovers? What may seem like a drop in the bucket actually adds up to over $1000, according to studiesconducted by food waste expert Timothy Jones. Avoid buying stuff just because you have a coupon or “just in case” you need extras. Stick to a weekly meal plan that accounts for all meals, snacks and leftovers.
3. Gifts and parties *$80*
How wonderful! Your neighbor’s kid just turned one and you’re invited to the party! Even though kiddo can’t say more than three words, she’s thrown a giant shindig and you’re expected to tote a gift. I don’t really advise having loads of friends to parties for kids under three as it totally over-stimulates them. But if you’re invited and want to go to the party, consider art supplies, which are usually cheaper than a useless talking gadget. Gently used books also make great, lasting presents for kids.
4. Kids clothing *$100-400/yr.*
But they are so cheap and so cute! Until you add everything up. Yes, kid’s clothes look like a rock-bottom steal when compared to your own jeans, but they will also need a completely new wardrobe after a growth spurt in four months. Keep, at most, five of everything for kids under two-years-old–pants, shorts, shirts, dresses–with just two pairs of shoes. When shopping at a resale store pay close attention to how the clothing has washed. If it survived one child and retained its color, snatch it up for a steal. Check out Rascal’s Resale and Cheap Kids Clothes for online used clothing buys.
5. Extracurricular classes *$300/yr.*
Your kid doesn’t need a Kindermusik class. Don’t feel compelled to dish out hundreds of dollars for a Gymboree play and learn class. You’re probably guilted into going because a friend is there or you’re worried that Junior will be a ditch digger should you delay his structured class work. Teachers at early learning centers may be gifted, but you can lead your own playgroup with a tiny bit of research and some friends. When toddlers get older stick to one extracurricular activity per season to avoid burnout on all fronts.
6. Gas *$500/yr.*
Doom and gloomers will always try to fear monger the masses into believing one thing or another, but just the prospect of paying $5 a gallonfor gas makes me queasy. Since larger families can’t really travel in small cars, that means reducing the number of trips you take in the Burban. Just cut two trips per week or ration your gas to spread it out over a certain time period. Chances are, you’re driving somewhere to spend more money, and so the savings are two-fold.
7. Car Payments *$1,000-$3,000/yr.*
If vehicle size isn’t negotiable for your family, the age and condition certainly are. If you have car payments, dump your vehicle right now and buy an older more beat up version for less. By getting an older car you’ll shave thousands of dollars off in interest over the term of your loan. If you have the luxury of sharing a vehicle, by all means, get rid of the smaller car and enjoy family rides to work.
8. Preschool Enrollment *$500-$2,000*
Your child *does not need *to be in school before kindergarten! What kids *do *need is to have a variety of toys and experiences that they use to guide their own learning. Children desperately need quiet and independent playtime to let their creativity flourish. Full-time preschool is not that environment. Limit mother’s day out programs to once or twice per week and make sure your child is learning positive things from the experience.
9. Too much house* $600-$3,000/yr.*
Can you really afford your house? Would it be easier to sleep at night if you had a drastically smaller mortgage? Coming from a mom who spent two years in small apartments with one baby and another year living with family (and two small babies) you don’t need as much space as you think you do. Consider moving to a smaller house or apartment close to parks and grocery shopping to take advantage of shared spaces close to home.
10. Zero emergency cash
Broken arms and inflamed appendixes happen. Do you have enough quick cash to cover a medium-sized disaster? Ignoring this will inevitably derail your entire budget when the rain falls. Aim to save up at least $1,000 and several monthsâ€™ salary to pay for the next oops.
11. Cut the lattes *$208/yr.*
You know who you are. The folks at the drive-thru Starbucks also know you. They also know your multi-adjectived beverage and exactly when you’re coming to pick it up. One cup of delicious, barista-crafted java will run you over $4 while that same cup at home costs just 30Â¢. Use whipped cream to add some smoothness instead of steamed milk. If you avoid one weekly beverage per week, save over $200 each year while setting a smart financial example for your kids.
Ashley G. writes for the CouponSherpa.com blog about frugal living and saving money on household necessities.