Budgeting Tricks for Parents
It's not always easy as a parent to have to reject the wants of a child, but it is not only a lesson in learning for mom and dad, it is also an invaluable lesson for kids to learn early the difference between needs and wants from parents who are clear about the difference as well. It is also important for a parent to instill the importance of gratitude. A child who is grateful for what they have, will likely not lament (much) what they have not. While it may be difficult to resist an adorable puppy dog look during a trip to Walmart or the subtle begging to “just look” in the toy store, your budget may dictate the need to say no. Parents might feel guilty about the budget restrictions, but the reality is budgeting is a necessary evil in order for kids to prosper themselves.
Here are some tips for balancing the budget as a parent:
Keep the kids out of the aisles.
If at all possible, leave the kids at home with the other parent when grocery shopping. Not only will you get out faster, you will also not have a ton of extra goodies being thrown in the cart because you are too frustrated to argue the lack of nutrients in fruit snacks and find it easier to say “just get it.” Freedom to shop alone also allows you time to do price comparisons and use coupons.
Do the fake out.
Marketing professionals are geniuses at getting kids' immediate attention on the most expensive goods. Learn to be a little creative and buy items in bulk. Then recycle the “expensive” packaging over and over again. For instance, forget the expensive cereal with the high profile character the kids insist you buy. Instead, save the old box and replace the cereal inside with the store brand. Little kids especially will likely not have a clue about any differences in taste and their only concern is who is on the box and what toy is inside. Visit the local dollar store and stash some fun stuff in a high cabinet. You can save money by buying in bulk and repackage it to smaller sizes for easy to grab snacks.
Compromise on clothing.
There are just too many trends for anyone to keep up with but if you are a parent trying to keep up with a teenager's taste in clothes, you might feel you are fighting a losing battle. But there are ways to help quell the arguments. For smaller kids, shop at thrift stores and yard sales to get the best deals. While it may take time to rummage for the right size and good quality items, it can save you a tremendous amount of money since kids tend to outgrow sizes quickly. Ebay can also be a great resource for getting a good deal on major label clothing that many older kids want. When it comes to shopping retail, be agreeable about buying a few trendy items but insist your kids put up the extra cash for the additional items they want that cost so much more or do without them. Also, don't forget to connect with other moms who are likely also in the same predicament as you. Round up used clothes your kids can no longer wear and host a swap party each month to trade items amongst friends.
Little kids can be easy to entertain on the cheap. Free museums and parks or even a walk with mom and dad can be all they need to have fun. As kids get older, activities inside and outside the home can get very costly. This includes extracurricular activities. Let the kids pick their favorites and stick with it. Let kids pick the family entertainment once each month, such as a movie or amusement park. Have everyone save up fun money during the month and focus on creating family fun at home inexpensively. Since kids will have that monthly activity to look forward to, they may be more inclined to wait it out. Don't spend a fortune on video games and other electronics. Rent videos and games so when boredom sets in you can change up the games and the movies. To be even more budget-conscious, turn off the games and the television and turn kids on to other activities that cost nothing but do wonders for the family ties. Eat at home and save the restaurant experience for a once a month fun time.
While kids may still grump about your decisions regarding money, it is also a perfect time for kids to learn about money and if they are old enough, gain a little financial independence that is garnered by doing chores and odd jobs to earn their own cash. It may be a constant practice of tough love, but when you make it through the teenage years and are staring down the barrel of college tuition, you'll be glad you spent less and saved more for the future of your kids.