Money is a necessity. Yet, when I'm asked how to save money while raising a family I can come up with so many ways.
We can look at it as a barrier to our life goals, and a boost to reaching our goals, or something completely separate. Honestly, I think it depends on the mood I’m in as to how I view ‘money’.
There are ‘seasons’ in my life that I focus on our money….the money coming in and the money going out.
As a mom to four kids and a wife to a digital nomad, I often try to stay focused on our end goal. Which does change depending on our ‘season of life’.
One season consisted of us transitioning from two incomes down to one income while we grew our family and paid the bills required for giving birth to four kids in six years.
Another season that we’ve experienced was wanting to have a larger house and to be able to pay for our kids to be in hockey, t-ball, and gymnastics.
Yet another season brought us the absolute determination to leave the ‘rat race’ and launch into full-time travel as a family. We bought an RV and hit the road full-time on one income, no house, and the world as our exciting place to discover. After 2 years on the road, we set a goal to take our kids and experience traveling overseas.
So, we had to figure out financially how to make it happen, and we did. We spent 5 months traveling around Southeast Asia before flying back to the US in February of 2020.
Currently, as I write this in May of 2020 we are in yet a different season of life. A season that requires us to yet again, think about money differently.
It’s a season in our life that has brought us to a city in Idaho where our kids have started going to a school for the first time in their lives. You see, they’ve always been homeschooled up until this point, so this is completely new for us.
I have grown SO much in the last decade of my life, it surprises me sometimes. Tony and I set a goal, a challenge if you will, to raise our kids to be life-long learners who are flexible and able to make responsible and thought-out decisions.
So, when they came to us a few months ago to ask about ‘trying to go to school’, we listened. We started to do some digging into what type of school would be best for our family. We wanted to find one that would continue to help our children grow to follow their dreams and make a difference in the world.
I’ve never been a fan of public schools, and we are not a religious family, therefore many private schools were ruled out.
Then we learned about a set of private schools called Acton Academy.
We dug in, made many phone calls, and decided Heroes Academy was worth a visit. More than a visit even, it was worth a try and required us to look at money a bit differently again.
Back to the ‘seasons’ of life.
This is a new season of life for us, as I’m sure it is for you too with the times of uncertainty. One where we might need to all think differently about our family goals, financial goals, and life goals.
You may not even be able to think beyond today, and that’s okay! I get it. But when you are ready, I want you to come back to this post to get some ideas on how you can save a little money while raising your family and still work on reaching your goals.
Money might mean something a little different for you. It sure does for me.
Related post: 15 frugal living tips.
We just shifted from putting most of our money into our full-time traveling lifestyle. We were paying for campgrounds and Airbnbs, flights and gasoline costs with much of our income. Now we are paying for rent and private school in Idaho.
The thing that hasn’t changed is our WHY.
Our why has stayed close to the same for over a decade. Our why is simple.
We want to live each day to the fullest, making the best memories together as a family while raising independent thinking and hard-working kids into young adults.
Our WHY drives me to continue to push the barriers out of our way so we can reach our goals. As I mentioned earlier, money can be a barrier.
So, I wanted to list out a few of the ways that we save money while raising a family so that YOU can push forward and reach your family goals.
If you crunch the numbers, you might find that you could save money by watching your own kids and sacrificing one of your jobs. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Eleven years ago, we did just this. Tony and I both used to work full-time and then we looked at our finances. I took home about $200 per month after all of our expenses of childcare, eating out a few days per week because nobody wanted to cook, gas for commuting to work across the city, and another car payment.
Once I quit my job and stayed home with our son, we saved so much money and that was just one kid! Then we gave birth to 3 more and couldn’t even think about childcare expenses then.
They will wear them out quickly and it's such a money saver to buy gently used clothes. You might also find that once your children grow to have their own opinions, they will often want to wear the same three outfits each week….so there’s no use in buying so many clothes.
Plus, they make a mess of them anyway right?
Your children will not know the difference if they had 5 toys or 25 toys when they were young. What they really want is fun, smiles, and joy.
That can happen with just a few toys, I promise. It will also be easier on the checkbook and SO much easier to keep clean. You could let them play in the dirt, play with the pots and pans in your kitchen, draw with soap in the bathtub, or build a fort with sheets.
There are so many ways for kids to play without all the toys you see at Target.
This can be a hard one, especially if you were raised and did ‘all the things’. But in reality, what did those activities do for you?
Did you learn to share with your sister when you were in soccer? Or did you grow up to become a highly-paid professional Football player? Do you even want those things for your kids?
Don’t get me wrong, activities for kids with other kids can be amazing. Just think through the financial and TIME commitment each activity will require from your family. Not just your daughter or son.
I wanted to spend more time as a family together while our kids were with us, so we decided early on to pull back from extracurricular activities. Instead, we focused on family bike rides and traveling.
You can save a lot of money, and you might even find yourself creating more joyful moments with your family if you cut out many of the extracurricular activities.
This can be simple, yet sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. But it will make a huge difference in your monthly budget. Food can be the biggest expense for most families. So if you’re willing to tackle this one, then make this a priority right now.
Create a meal plan each week. Then create your grocery list with your meal plan in mind after looking through your pantry and fridge first.
Then do your best to stick to it when you shop. It will help you cut some costs and create good spending habits at the grocery store.
Just say no, and stay out of malls if you can. Seeing all the stores and listening to the kids ask for things over and over isn't good for anyone in the family. If you have to get out, go to a nearby park and spend time outdoors.
Then, as I said in number 2, try to shop for used clothes at local thrift stores.
If family travel is a big goal of yours, then I suggest starting a ‘travel savings’ paper envelope in your house. Go to a cash machine once a week and take out what you can to add to that envelope.
It doesn’t have to be a lot. Maybe $10 per week to start.
Having the cash in your hand and in your envelope will help you feel the feels of progress. Even if it’s a slow progress to have enough in the envelope to take that next family vacation, or maybe to buy the RV you’ve been saving for.
When it’s Grandma’s birthday, make her a card with the kids. Avoid feeling like you need to spend a lot on buying gifts for others, if it’s your love language to do so.
Most people will appreciate a home-made gift or card over a store-bought gift any day. Even if you are not crafty, could your kids help by coloring a picture for Papa?
The American lifestyle raises many of us to feel a sense of self-worth if we own a fancy new vehicle. If you can, try to pull yourself away from that way of thinking. Outside of rent/mortgage and groceries, vehicle payments rank right up there with some of the biggest expenses for families.
If you can spend less money on car payments and insurance, then do it! Owning a used car and paying it off quickly will put you in a much better spot. And let's face it, kids can damage anything they travel in.
So rather than get stressed and upset when your kiddo colors on the seat with a pen, buy a used car and you won't be so upset AND you’ll be saving money.
There are SO many ways to spend time together as a family that are free. Especially if you’re willing to get outdoors.
Playgrounds, ice skating rinks, hiking trails, biking trails, throwing a football around, or attending a local parade are just a few quick ideas. If you’re an RV family, then these are some additional ideas that might help you.
I hope that this list of ideas helps you think creatively about your current season in life. There are often small things that you can do, but sometimes making a big decision can make a big difference too.
Do what feels right for you. And as always, reach out with any questions!