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Many experts recommend saving six to 12 months’ worth of your salary in case a family emergency hits (e.g., job loss, medical emergency). It’s a great thought, but it’s not helpful if the rest of the advice is only, “try to save more” or “live on beans and rice indefinitely.”
Especially with inflation making it harder than ever to hit our savings goals, it can feel like a no-win.
That’s why we put together some low-cost or no-cost swaps for baby gear or kids’ activities in order to free up some extra money that you can funnel into your emergency fund.
Of course, every family has individual needs, budget and resources that are available in their area. These tips are just some ideas to get you started finding strategies that work for your family.
Shopping for new baby supplies can be so much fun. It’s easy to get caught up in adorable, tiny clothes and new gadgets that promise to make parenting easier. Depending on where in the United States you live, your annual child expenses may range from $13,596 to $28,785. So, saving on baby gear is one way to help keep costs down.
For safety reasons, you should purchase certain baby items new. Car seats are an important one. A used car seat can be unsafe because it may have been recalled by the manufacturer, it may be expired, or it may have been damaged in a crash or other accident and not offer the same protection anymore.
Fortunately, inexpensive car seats have to pass the same safety standards as deluxe models, so you can look for low price tags without worrying about safety.
The other essential to buy new is your baby’s crib. Secondhand cribs may be recalled models. Cribs can also get damaged over time by humidity or handling (e.g., jumping, pulling on bars).
Other items are generally safe to buy secondhand, which can help you save money that you can reorient toward other priorities. Other parents are often eager to be rid of bulky strollers, high chairs, baby bouncers or electronics like baby monitors, so you can usually find these for a nominal amount. Here’s some places to start your search:
Community buy-nothing groups You can also connect directly with other parents at your playgroup, religious organization or any other group you belong to. If you use a service online to stay in touch, like Google Spaces or a Discord server, create a separate channel to post or request gently-used items. It might be easier to match baby clothing to the right season, or ask other parents directly about which gear they recommend and which purchases they never needed.
Look for newer models of gear like strollers, which are more likely to follow the latest safety regulations. If possible, test an item out and practice any assembly like buckling harnesses, folding and unfolding, or detaching and reattaching wheels to make sure the item’s in good condition.
Activities help kids form friendships over a shared interest. But they can cost hundreds of dollars for a simple 10-week session.
One alternative to enrolling kids in expensive activities is to start your own club based on their interests. If your child loves Legos, board games, Minecraft or simple arts and crafts, post in local parenting groups. You may find other kids the same age who are also eager to play. Meeting at a library, community center or park can be a free way for kids to have a regular activity with like-minded friends.
Libraries often offer free events, from toddler storytime to teen parties or book clubs. A library card is a great way to access a wide range of books, music and DVDs, but it’s also worth asking if you can check out more. Many libraries have unexpected offerings, such as board games you can take home with you and free or discounted museum or zoo passes.
Library museum pass savings can vary, but child tickets commonly cost $4-15 for different attractions, and adult tickets may cost $10-25, so your savings with a library pass could be as much as $28-80 for a family of four.
The average consumer spent roughly $67 per week on food away from home in 2018. Thanks to inflation, restaurant prices have been increasing, and it can be harder to enjoy a family dinner out when you know you’ll be faced with a higher bill.
A few cost-saving alternatives include:
Go out for lunch, not dinner, since lunch portions are often cheaper
Bring a picnic to a park or other attraction
Swap a sit-down family meal with a family activity, like going for a bike ride together or a drive to look at holiday decorations
Let’s say a mid-range, three-course restaurant meal costs roughly $60 for two people. Now factor in an additional $30 for kids’ meals and drinks, and you’re looking at close to $100 for one meal. That’s a lot of savings if you’re able to find an alternative way to gather as a family.
Emergency savings are your cushion to land on in case you need another source of cash than your usual income. For example, lots of families dipped into their emergency funds to help during the pandemic. Emergency savings could also be a lifeline if we face a recession that might mean layoffs and lean times ahead.
The best way to keep your emergency savings ready when you need it is to make saving part of the routine. If swapping some kids’ activities with low-cost options frees up $50 or $100 a month, try funneling that extra to your savings account. If you’re able, you might even consider doing it as an automatic transfer from your paycheck or checking account so you’re not tempted to spend it on something else.
Saving $100 a month for a year would leave you with $1,200 more to help you feel prepared for whatever life throws at you.
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.
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