It’s tax season, which makes us think about money and our personal finances -- and if you’re a parent, there can be so many costs associated with having and raising children.
But the benefits of parenthood of course outweigh everything else.
Still, especially for parents who have chosen to stay home with the kids, there can often be real challenges, real struggles and real bills.
With all of the reality you face every day as a stay-at-home parent, why not welcome a bit of advice into your life?
Here are some money-saving tips we thought you might find useful:
1. Comparison shop everything to get the best deals - homeowner’s insurance, car insurance, prescription drug prices, groceries, customer rewards programs and credit card rewards. Comparison shopping will often save you money.
2. Use rewards points before they expire. Diligence pays off when claiming rewards, but tracking points can be overwhelming.
AwardWallet is a site offering a free online service -- and it will track points from more than 700 loyalty programs. It’ll even tell you which credit cards offer the best rewards.
3. Save on prescription medications by swapping out name brands for generic brands.
When purchasing over-the-counter medications, opt for store brands if there’s a noticeable price difference. Ask your pharmacist how generic brands measure up before making a final decision.
4. Keep your family’s dental health in check. Schedule routine dental exams and cleanings to keep teeth healthy and avoid more expensive dental procedures down the line. Regular check-ups are notably less expensive than fillings and root canals.
5. Save on energy. Install a programmable thermostat to control home heating and low-flow shower and faucet aerators to use less water and less energy to heat water. Program your thermostat to lower the heat when you’re out of the house and overnight while your family is sleeping.
6. Use rebate and budget payment programs offered by your utility company. Utilities often offer budget payment programs where they average electric and gas usage over a year and bill only the average usage each month. Look for response programs that offer rebates for registering smart Wi-Fi thermostats and air conditioning units with utility companies, with many companies offering rebates for installing specific products.
7. Stop wasting money on disposable products. Replace plastic wrap with reusable storage containers and paper towels with cotton kitchen towels. Don’t buy bottled water. Instead, carry reusable water containers and fill up for free when you can.
8. Give common household cleaning products a try. Vinegar, lemon and baking soda are dirt cheap compared to other cleaning products and clean and disinfect windows, floors, countertops, sinks and showers just as well as name-brand cleaners.
9. Open a separate savings account to fund birthday and holiday spending, and set a limit. Shop ahead and take advantage of specials and sales throughout the year. Last-minute shopping forces you into a time crunch and, once you’re up against the wall, you’re more likely to overspend.
10. Keep birthday celebrations simple. Kids enjoy the company of other kids, no matter how they’re spending the day. Plan your child’s party at a local park with a few lawn games (or something seasonally appropriate!) and don’t overthink it.
11. Organize or attend swaps within your community and swap gently used children’s clothing, strollers, toys, craft supplies and school supplies for credit against other items instead of exchanging money.
12. The library is your friend when it comes to at-home entertainment, home improvement tools and some rather unusual items.
Digitally borrow everything from bedtime stories to comics to stream on your favorite devices. For people ages 18 or older, your library may run a Tool Lending Library (TLL), allowing you to borrow push mowers, bulb planters, shovels and other tools. Libraries also lend a variety of unexpected items (depending on your location) including sleds, prom dresses, sewing machines, cake pans, fishing poles and board games, just to name a few.
Make sure you check and see what’s locally available, as these things can be regional and vastly differ by location.
13. Outside of the public library system, independent tool libraries are cropping up all over the country. For a nominal membership fee (between $10 and $100), you can borrow a variety of tools including tillers, reciprocating saws, drain cleaners, finishing sanders, ladders, weed eaters and hedge trimmers.
14. Set a budget for grocery shopping and stick to it. Include more fresh fruits and vegetables and less prepared food in your menu, buy in-season produce and visit the local farmers market to find the freshest produce, so it lasts longer.
You’ll spend less and eat healthier, too.
15. Reduce food waste and overspending by tweaking your weekly purchases when you find perishable items are expiring before you’re able to use them up.
Whip up a healthy batch of fruit slushies or smoothies to use up fruit that’s on the verge of becoming overripe.
16. Learn a few techniques to extend the shelf life of perishable items. Preserve foods by freezing them, storing them properly in the fridge, canning them and making your own stock from leftover vegetables and meats.
17. Create or join a group when visiting theme parks, theaters and museums to take advantage of group discounts, special programs and dining perks.
18. Save on expensive food items by carrying a picnic lunch and refillable water bottles with you when you visit theme parks, zoos and museums. Theme parks and zoos usually have family picnic areas and most museums offer the use of their cafeterias to families who bring their own food along.
19. Travel by train. Children 12 and younger can usually get money off their fare, with children under the age of 2 traveling free when accompanied by paying adults.
Amtrak offers a rewards program where you earn points for travel, travel upgrades and hotel stays.
20. Eat out on kids-eat-free days, visit restaurants that offer kids menus (some as low as $1.99 per meal) and cash in on those rewards points by taking the kids out for a special dining treat. And, don’t forget to sign up the kids (and yourself) for birthday rewards where free gifts, free treats, free drinks and discount coupons are typically offered.
Adopt all (or just a few) of the money-saving tips listed above that other stay-at-home parents find helpful in budgeting their finances.
These strategies may even spark a few of your own ideas to help you save money while enjoying your time at home with your children.
This story was first published in 2020. It has since been updated.