Terrible twos? Never heard of her.
Your toddler’s second birthday marks a new stage of development and family life. With preschool on the horizon, here’s how to brace yourself for (and enjoy!) all the new milestones ahead in the coming year.
From rejiggering your budget to having family conversations about money, we’ve got you covered.
Here are our top to-dos around the time you start celebrating that second birthday.
Your tot functions more like a mini-member of the household these days, eating with you at the table and ditching diapers (in the next year or so, at their own pace). Here’s how you can save on some big-ticket expenses, now that you have a 2-year-old:
Food: Most toddlers can eat a smaller portion of whatever you’re serving, so your food budget might not change much. Assuming that a gallon of milk or juice costs about $3 apiece, you might budget an extra $25 or so for those items, plus any toddler-specific snacks.
Clothing: The average family household may spend nearly 4 percent of their annual income on clothing, but toddlers don’t care about brands or last-season clothing, so hunt for deals! Browse online consignment and discount stores, or use RetailMeNot coupon codes for new clothes.
Toys: Gently used toys are often available through consignment shops or websites, too. Get mileage out of a small toy collection by rotating which toys you make available, to renew the novelty of old favorites.
Entertainment: Online Meetup groups and apps like Winnie are great resources to find free or discounted events for toddlers. Look up free days at zoos and other attractions, and check your area’s Parks and Recreation website for cheap, family-friendly activities.
When you have a little one who’s changing and growing, the only constant in your life is change.
That’s why it’s especially important to stay on the same page with your partner when it comes to your family’s finances. Ellie Kay, co-host of The Money Millhouse podcast, advises parents to commit to regular money talks. “Set up a time, date, place and topic—ideally once a week but at least twice a month—to talk about money,” she says. Keep the conversation to 60 minutes to focus on building an action plan together.
It seems like just yesterday your kiddo was a baby, but it’s time to think about preschool! If you live in a competitive area, you may have already begun researching options and trying to get on preschool waitlists.
Making things more complicated, many parents are job-hunting and preschool-hunting at the same time. “A lot of millennials, in particular, are taking time off until their kids are about two. Then they go back to work and need to budget for childcare,” Kay says. One in five millennial parents stays home, including about 30 percent of millennial mothers.
Meanwhile, the number of children enrolled in public preschool is increasing, although spots can be limited. Preschool costs can range from $4,400 to $13,000 per year or more, especially in large, urban areas. Be aware, also, that if you’re returning to work, you may need to budget for part-time childcare if preschool ends before your workday does.
If you’re looking for work, Kay says, “It’s great if you have an option to choose an employer with onsite childcare. It tends to be a little bit more affordable, and being physically closer to the child helps emotionally.” Some daycare programs run a preschool-like curriculum with toddlers, ticking two boxes at once.
Many new parents keep meaning to apply for life insurance, but get wrapped up in the pressing needs of the moment and never quite get around to it. Now that “I’ve got a screaming newborn on my hands!” is no longer a valid excuse, this might be a good time to pause and think about term life insurance, if you aren’t yet covered.
To start, make sure you’re familiar with what life insurance is and how it works. Then, ask yourself how much coverage might make sense for your family situation. When you’re ready, you can apply for term life insurance online through Fabric in as little as ten minutes.
As your child nears preschool age, you might take the opportunity to regroup and think about saving for college.
“Sometimes parents aren’t quite sure what they want to do when it comes to [college savings], so they don’t start investing at all,” says Kay. “It is important for parents to start a 529 plan. Even if they’re only contributing $25 per month, at least they’ve started.”
Already have a college savings plan? If you have about $4,000 saved, you’re right on track! Behind for the moment? Don’t stress, but do act soon.
“If people aren’t saving by the time the kid’s 5, they’re probably not going to get there,” warns Joe Orsolini, president of College Aid Planners. It’s harder to start a habit of saving for college later, since your expenses are only likely to increase over time. (For example, fees for kids’ sports and other extracurriculars.)
Here’s what you can do today:
Open a 529 college savings plan.
Set up a sustainable monthly contribution. About $150 is a great target, but less is OK, too, if it’s what your budget allows.
If you’re already contributing, see if you can increase that monthly figure a little.
If you’re behind, ask family members to consider making a contribution as a birthday or holiday gift for your child.
Make small amounts add up by using a service like UPromise or your favorite credit card rewards program so you can dedicate cash-back rewards to college savings. You can ask grandparents or aunts and uncles to do the same.
Every family is different, but data shows an average gap of 2.6 years between first and second babies. If you’re considering or expecting another, here’s how to rethink your budget without starting from scratch:
Reuse onesies, strollers, baby rockers and more from your first; you may even be able to reuse an infant car seat, but make sure to double-check the expiration date.
If you can, go ahead and start saving for college for your new baby, but treat that as lower priority than for your toddler, since the latter’s tuition will come up first. Childcare, retirement savings and your oldest’s 529 should come first.
If you’re using a daycare already for your toddler, get on the waiting list as soon as you know you’re expecting, so you don’t get stuck needing to sign up for two daycares instead of one. Ask about sibling discounts, too.
Depending on your spending patterns, you might look into credit cards that offer cash back or rewards in areas where you spend the most anyway. For example, some cards are great if you spend a lot on gas, while other credit cards excel if your family eats out a lot at restaurants.
You’ll probably hear plenty of warnings about the “terrible twos.” The real truth? Every stage has its joys and challenges. Patience is your best tool to make it through tough moments with a toddler.
Tantrums: An emotional outburst is rough on your 2-year-old, too. The calmer you can stay, the better. (Easier said than done, we know.) If your toddler regularly has multiple tantrums a day, each lasting longer than 25 minutes, and/or they get violent more than half the time, it’s worth talking to your pediatrician. Most often, tantrums are just a normal part of being little.
Saying “No”: At this age, your child is learning to be independent, and disagreeing with you is a way to prove he can think for himself. Make life easier by letting your toddler choose from options you approve of (turkey vs. ham sandwich for lunch, or dino vs. spaceship pajamas).
Screaming, Kicking and Biting: It can be tough, but try not to get physical back. The AAP advises against corporal punishment like spanking. Instead, remove your child from the situation and reprimand them in a firm voice. Restrain them gently but firmly in your arms if they're at risk of hurting herself or others.
Toddlers are rambunctious, funny and full of surprises. The baby days may be over, but for many parents, life with an expressive, curious 2-year-old is where some of the real fun begins.
Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Fabric by Gerber Life exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Information provided is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial, legal, or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. We make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use, and disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information.
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