How to Save Money and Not Spend $300K Raising a Child

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Save Money

I would be the first to say that raising kids is an expensive endeavor. They’re constantly growing, needing new things and add to the overall cost of running a home. If you have multiple children, then those costs can be substantial. This can make it difficult to save money in your home. As a father of three young children, I am terribly mindful of the fact that kids cost money.

An annual study backs up this fact that raising children from birth to the age of 17 will cost $300,000 (not including college tuition) if inflation is included. That number is simply staggering and can be overwhelming at first. The fact is though, that raising children doesn’t have to cost as much as the “experts” think. When thought through frugally, there are many ways to save money raising kids.

Saving Money on Brands


We live in a consumer driven society, and the desire to keep up with the Joneses can be a strong one. This desire infects children as well, especially when they go to school. They’ll want to be in the same clothes as their friends and wear popular brands.

*Related: Need to buy your child a cell phone? Read our guide on the best cell phone plans for kids and teens that won’t break the budget.*

This starts at infancy when parents feel the irresistible urge to put their babies in Ralph Lauren onesies and Nike soft shoes. An easy way to save money though is to be mindful of spending on clothing. The study mentioned previously is assuming that you’ll buy new clothes on a regular basis like at the beginning of the school year. This cost can be cut in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Buying clothes at a consignment sale
  • Using hand-me downs
  • Shopping at Goodwills

You can often find good looking brand name clothing at places other than the department store at a fraction of the cost. This allows you to save money while also letting your children wear brands they like. There might be some embarrassment associated with some of the options I suggested, but why be embarrassed about saving money on quality clothing?

Save Money on Groceries


I’ve written before about frugal ways to grocery shop. This can be exceedingly difficult with children in the home. As they get older, their appetites will grow as well as their desires for things they see in the store.

Grocery stores know this and will market to your children and bank on the fact that many parents can’t say no to their kids when they ask for something. Regardless of this, there are ways to save money on groceries with children, such as:

  • Find ways to make things they’re asking for at the store, like homemade popsicles
  • Have a meal plan
  • Have a parent stay at home with your children while the other parent shops
  • Small reward for not asking for stuff at the store

Saving money on groceries can be difficult as children grow, but with a little creative and frugal thinking you can manage to keep a lid on your grocery spending.

Healthy Living Habits


Looking at the major categories of the study, there were only two areas that have seen an increase since 1960 (when the study first began). The one that stuck out to me was healthcare for children, as it has doubled while nearly every other category has declined.

*Related: Looking for something fun to do tonight? Read our exhaustive guide of fun things to do with kids that don’t cost a lot of money.*

There can be a myriad of ways to save money in regards to health care costs. They all boil down to teaching your children to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Included in this is having them play outside, teaching healthy eating habits and simply encouraging activity.

An easy way to encourage some of these things is by having your child help you manage a simple garden. This has a twofold effect as it can help you save money on produce at the store while at the same time getting them excited to eat fruits and vegetables.

Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last few decades and by teaching healthy living habits you can help avoid the increased medical costs that come with childhood obesity.

Frugal Lessons Can be Taught


Children are sponges, especially in their young and formative years. This can be a great time to begin teaching your children the basics of saving money and how to budget. It can be as easy as having your child think of ways they can use what money they have.

If they get money from a grandparent for a birthday gift, or receive an allowance that can be a perfect way to teach them the value of being frugal and saving money.

Give them a goal to shoot for and help them along the way. Lessons learned through such exercises can be invaluable as they grow and help set them up for success when they’re older. You can also show them how you do this yourself through saving on monthly bills.

Take cable for example. You can show them the power of saving money by using a cord cutting option, like the Amazon Fire Stick, to save you $100 per month. Show them how you put that money to better use and still get the TV programs you want to watch.

Without doubt, raising kids can be costly. Don’t let the desire to be like the Joneses keep you from saving money and sticking to your budget.

There can be many ways to save money in raising children, what are some things you do to save money?


Photo courtesy of: Jason Nelson

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

Latest posts by John Schmoll (see all)


  • Sean @ One Smart Dollar says:

    Very good article for me to have for the upcoming years of my life.

    • John says:

      Thanks. You learn as you go along. i just wish I knew then (before our first child) what I know now so we could have saved even more money.

  • Canadianbudgetbinder says:

    Good article for those that are thinking about having kids like us or those that currently do. I think we will be ok in terms of the grocery, using coupons, getting second hand clothes etc.. it’s all the other items that will add up that will be tough. We all want our kids to have the best but at what cost? Mr.CBB Great post.

    • John says:

      I agree Mr. CBB. I now see that many of the mistakes I made early in life with finances was due to how I was raised. There can be a balance to be had between providing the best and being frugal. The problem is finding it and sticking to it.

  • Catherine says:

    This is great, kiddos are expensive (i’m quickly finding this out). In terms of clothing, another option is clothing swaps, girlfriends of mine get together twice a year once their kids have outgrown their clothing and swap with other moms.

  • Pauline says:

    I recently read the story of a young single mum whose point was ”kids need nothing but food and love”. She was pretty extreme, for example she made a crib for her baby with one of her drawers! But she has a point, at least until they become teenagers, kids don’t need much.

    • John says:

      You’re exactly right Pauline. The few things they do need do not have to be new and if you have multiple kids can be reused.

  • Edward Antrobus says:

    I never understood those surveys. I have trouble understanding how you can possibly spend that much money. By those statistics, my parents should have spent nearly a million dollars raising my siblings and I. I’m pretty sure that’s more than they actually made in the 25 years they spent raising us.

    • John says:

      I am with you Edward. From the research I’ve done it seems like they’re expecting you’re going to be buying everything new and many things that you just don’t need. Sure, you want to provide your kids nice things, but many of the things they do need do not have to be new and can easily be reused.

  • Whitney says:

    Agreed! I do almost everything with my two that you’re done with your spending. I just try to avoid stores and taking my kids in every store around town. They always want everything but we have to remind them “It’s not in the budget!”. Once you say that enough…they really get the hang of it. HA!

    • John says:

      Great point Whitney. If you’re not in a store, then it makes it much more difficult to ask for things. It also gives us a great opportunity to teach them about being content with what we have. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jacob @ iheartbudgets says:

    Well said. Though, off-brand cereal is GARBAGE!

    My wife is the queen of frugal for toys and clothing so far for our little one, so I just know she’ll be following the above methods for sure. Especially healthy eating and teaching our son about frugality.

    • John says:

      I agree with you there Jacob. The only generic cereal I liked (it was a generic of Cheerios) is no longer being sold. My wife is exactly the same way, so glad we’re of the same mindset as we teach them.

  • Veronica Hill says:

    I don’t have children yet, so I can’t comment about saving there. However, you pointed out that children are like sponges and that frugal behavior can be taught – indeed. I’m curious though, did you teach your children at a young age about the clothing brands they wear and how they don’t mean much, or is that something they just have to put up with no matter what? I remember as a kid I always wanted to wear what other kids wore and when my parents didn’t buy the clothes I wanted I almost hated them for it. Nobody taught me the frugal way (and I wish they have).

    • John says:

      That’s a great question Veronica. I would say that right now our kids are a bit young to know. Our oldest is five and her big thing right now is that her clothing have some sort of princess on it. So, while we can’t necessarily teach about brands right now we can teach about being happy with what we have and not being concerned about what others may have. It’s something that we can further develop with them over time and ideally want to teach them about being content and not having to keep up with the Joneses, which in this case would be wearing what everyone else is wearing.

  • Michelle says:

    While I don’t have kids (and don’t plan on them for awhile), this is a great list to keep in mind for when the time does come!

  • Ornella @ Moneylicious says:

    Great points. I really like how you pointed out the frugal lessons. I remember when I consulted a young lady after a speaking engagement. We were discussing her debt. I turned the discussion around by asking more about her son. After a few minutes of listening, I learned that majority of the money that could be used toward paying off debt was spent on her son—new video games, shoes, clothing, etc. It doesn’t mean she can’t splurge on him from time to time. Because she was not in a financial position to spend money on her son the way should would like, she had to cut back on the non-necessities. She understood. And I think her son will learn a lot about how money works throughout the process. πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      Great points Ornella. I agree, it’s not that we can’t splurge on kids or get them something nice, you just need to do it within reason. Teaching kids those lessons can really help set them up for success in their future endeavors.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I think saving money on groceries is a huge factor as to how much you end up spending raising children. My Dad started to use coupons and it saved quite a bit of money every year. I used to get annoyed because I wanted things he didn’t have coupons for (and therefore didn’t buy) but now my wife and I do the same thing! We buy very few things that we do not have coupons for, really only veggies and fruit and we buy those when they are on sale.

  • John says:

    I agree DC. I too remember being unhappy because my Mom wouldn’t buy something I wanted just because she did not have a coupon. My wife and I are similar in that we commonly only buy things we have coupons for or are able to match.

  • Bill says:

    I do not think I will be having kids for a long time. There are a lot of ways to save if you have them, but not having kids is a lot less expensive. Also, it might not be very good for my career. It is not an easy choice, but it can be a wise choice.

  • John says:

    Very true Bill. πŸ™‚ I remember thinking our budget was stretched before we had kids, boy was I in for a surprise when the first kid came along. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    How you keep putting out quality info daily with the kiddos and a job is a post I’d like to read. Good tips. They are sponges, and they will do as you do, not as you say. It’s important to show them from an early age that saving has rewards.

    • John says:

      I’ll share my secret at some point Kim. πŸ™‚ I completely agree that it starts an an early age. I think a lot of it comes down, for us anyway, to teach them the importance of being content and the value of saving money.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    Good post John.. however the realisation has hit just how expensive kids are! Maybe a few more years for us πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      Thanks. I know, we never had an idea of what we were in for. That said, there is a very common saying…if you wait to have kids til you can afford them, then you never will.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Kids need very little really. Our two kids have only had a few things that were *new*, but they have no idea. They couldn’t care less. Kids don’t have to be that expensive at all. Good post.

  • John says:

    I totally agree Holly. We’ve bought them very few “new” things ourselves. Wth grandparents and other families around, I leave that up to them. πŸ˜‰

  • Jason Clayton | frugal habits says:

    We try to limit any excessive spending on toys and cloths, except on birthday’s and Christmas – and even then we limit ourselves to a budget for these events. So in other words, the majority of the toys and cloths my children use / wear – were given on special occasions.

    Funny thing… even though we do this, we still have toys galore all over our house. πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      I’m with you Jason. We’re the same way. We’ve found that we don’t need to use much of what we’ve budgeted for them and save it to do things for them that they want throughout the year.

      We’re the same in our house. It never seems to end, we have stuff all over the place.

  • CF says:

    We’re not planning on having children, but I would agree with all of these sensible suggestions. Particularly when children are young and growing, there’s no need to waste money on new clothes and such. I used to work at Babies R Us and came out of it a bit horrified at how much people would spend on gimmicky strollers and bassinets that are only usable for 3-4 months.

    • John says:

      That’s the thing CF, so much of the stuff you use is only needed for such a short time that for much of it there is no sense in buying new stuff when used is just as good.

  • Paul @ The Frugal Toad says:

    Great points John. Garage sales are another way to find gently used children’s clothing and baby furniture. I find saying no works pretty good too! Give your child an allowance for doing chores and teach them to save and manage their own money. If they really want that toy they will save and work for it instead of having it given to them. This helps children build a work ethic and to better prioritize the things they want versus the things they really need!

    • John says:

      Great points Paul. Garage sales are a great way to cut down on the money spent. We don’t do a whole lot of that ourselves, but there are a number of second hand stores & sales we go to throughout the year.

  • Brian @ Luke1428 says:

    OK, so let me get out my calculator for a second…300K x 4 kids + College = Yikes! I think I feel faint. Will there any money left to spend on my wife and I? πŸ™‚

    I’ve been at the kid raising business for almost 12 years now and I bet that number is pretty accurate. But there are always ways to cut the spending and the things you listed are a good start. Nice post!

    • John says:

      I know exactly how you feel Brian… we have three of our own. πŸ™‚

      It is close, but there are ways you can cut down to help stretch you buck. I’ve also read that these studies calculate buying everything new, which is not really the case, especially when you’re looking at things like cloths, toys, etc.

  • carolyn says:

    I took my children to garage sales-saved us thousands of dollars along the way and they got to search for new treasures! Gave them a set amount and taught them the value of a dollar.

  • Maggie@SquarePennies says:

    I just wanted to add that you can save a lot of money on college expenses by having them go to a state school rather than a private college. Our 4 children did that and it served them well. Two of them went on to prestigious private universities for grad school. It’s grad school, not undergrad, when a prestigious university is important for a career. Private prestigious university grad schools are just fine with admitting graduates of public/state universities. It’s been proven with our kids and those of family and friends. Don’t waste money on private undergrad schools. Much better to choose a state school with a good reputation.

  • J says:

    Solution, dont have kids every. They suck away your money, freedom and life.

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