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Planning Ahead To Save Money On Kid Expenses

paying less for kid's expenses

Used snow pants are the way to go!

While I don’t really believe reports that say raising a child costs $245,000, I think most people would agree that having children is expensive. Without a daughter, there would be no spending on dance lessons, organic milk, and pediatric dental visits. I won’t complain about those costs because we wanted a child. Whatever we spend on her is worth it a million times over. That doesn’t mean I want to spend more than necessary. One way we save money on kid expenses is by planning ahead.

Buy Winter Clothes For Next Year Right Now

One thing I’ve learned about buying kid clothes is not to buy right before the season you need them. It’s not that big of a deal for summer, but winter garb can be expensive if you live in a cold climate. Between snow pants, boots, gloves, hats, and coats, it’s easy to spend a few hundred dollars paying full price.

Right now is the perfect time to buy winter gear for next year. We just found a pair of good quality snow boots at 60% off. There is a little bit of guessing about sizes, but if it’s too big, they will eventually grow into it. For outwear, it really doesn’t matter. They look like  little oompa loompas anyway.

Even with used clothing, thrift and consignment stores are marking down winter clothes right now to make way for spring. I have been looking for next year’s snow pants for several weeks without success. Then, like magic, I scored a sweet pair earlier in the week for the whopping price of $4.50!

Start Saving For Medical Costs

We’ve known since our daughter started getting teeth that she is going to need braces. I’m afraid I passed along a nasty cross bite! The cost for braces is a big hit for parents, but we’ve been saving for years. I won’t be happy to fork over thousands to the orthodontist, but it won’t be as painful since we are prepared. I also hope to take advantage of any cash discounts by paying up front.

Orthodontics are an planned expense, but parents should also expect the unexpected. I’m not sure I know a parent who has raised a child to adulthood without at least one trip to the emergency room. We’ve been three times in 7 years, and our daughter also had to have ear tubes when she was a year old.

We were dummies with little savings back then and had to use credit to pay our deductibles. While adults will put off going to the doctor or ER, you don’t hesitate if your child is sick or injured. I suggest that all parents have enough of an emergency fund to at least cover health insurance deductibles.

Be Ready To Jump On Sales

This is certainly not advice I’d give to adults shopping for themselves. Buying stuff you don’t need because it’s on sale is a sure way to ruin your finances. However, there are some circumstances when I would recommend that parents take advantage of sale items they don’t necessarily need at the moment.

Birthday Gifts-If your kid has friends, they will get invited to birthday parties. You could make them show up without a present, but that would likely produce tears. If I run across a bargain basement sale on birthday appropriate presents, I buy a few to keep on hand. Last week, we got an invite on Tuesday for a Saturday party. Maybe I could have ordered something on Amazon Prime, but it was cheaper and less stressful to already have a gift on hand.

Christmas Gifts- Again, I would be happy to never give or receive a gift to or from another adult, but I think kids should get birthday and Christmas gifts. If you find something you know they will love that’s dirt cheap, buy it. If I find a clearance Elsa dress in July, it’s going in the back of the closet until Santa gets busy again.

Plan Meals In Advance

Sometimes at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is start packing lunches for tomorrow. If I don’t, there is a good chance we will be running behind in the morning. The next thing you know, I could be buying a Lunchable at the gas station. (not that that has ever happened…..)

It’s much less expensive to plan lunches and breakfasts the night before. You can use up food that’s on hand and you don’t risk having to pay more for convenience because you overslept. Planning also means having time to choose healthier options. I’m probably not going to be cutting up veggies if I’m running late!

If parents can plan well and save on kid expenses, that frees up lots more cash so the family can do things they really want to do.

How do you save money on kids’ expenses? Do you look for used first when you need a coat?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I do used clothes like a boss. In summer, most people pick through the warm weather clothes at garage sales. I pick through the winter stuff too and keep it organized in totes by size. When it starts getting cold, I have totes of really nice stuff for each season. I’m getting rid of stuff as my youngest outgrows it all, but I’m stocking up on the bigger stuff!

    • It’s always like a cycle of in vs out. All the winter clothes we can sell for about what we paid for them. I’m not sure who buys those $120 new kids’ coats, but I love when I find them for $10.

  2. You’re right! Kids are expensive but I don’t believe that the amount so frequently cited need be at all accurate. Admittedly, it has been a while since my son was little but the concepts are the same. I never bought him used clothing but I did get him things from K-mart, Target and other discounters when he was young and growing like a weed. No need for expensive clothing for a 3 year old. One thing you didn’t mention is college. I know it is much more expensive than when he went but there are ways that you can control the costs. We started saving for his college fund almost since he was conceived and something went into that fund ever month. Sometimes it was only $20 but eventually we were able to save enough for him to go all the way through graduate school with zero student loans. Several things come to mind to help with the expense. First, they can go to an in-state public university instead of a private college half way across the country. Public universities have excellent curriculums for 99% of the kids attending. Make sure they select a major that will let them graduate in four years and that provides the skills and knowledge they need to get a job ….no living on mom and dad’s support post graduation!

    I think the media promotes that number based on what the costs are on the two coasts, which are frequently way higher than in the Midwest where I live. But those costs aren’t written in stone and the parent absolutely can and should control the amounts spent.

    • A college education is such an amazing gift. I love all that advice, and I do think we live in a much cheaper area than most of those figures are based upon. I also think the writers assume you’ll buy a bigger house and car if you have kids, and you certainly don’t have to do those things if you don’t want to or want to save money.

  3. I love consignment sales! You can usually score some great deals and even some new items. They are nice because everything is well organized and there usually is a good selection. Although, the real steals seem to be at garage sales if you can find the right gender and sizes. I have sold old clothing at a consignment sale before and there was a $10 seller fee and they took a cut of all my sales. So, it makes sense that there is a small mark-up on the consignment sale items.

    I have purchased Christmas gifts at the consignment sales - board games and toys. The kids did NOT notice that they had been opened before.

    Good idea about planning ahead for orthodontics. We weren’t really thinking about them just yet, but both me and the hubby had braces, so the kids probably will need them too :/

    • I wish we had more selection in our area. There is only one consignment clothing store and it’s very hit or miss. Although, when you score a good deal, it’s like finding hidden treasure!

  4. We do a lot of these things as well and refuse to believe that kids cost THAT much…even though all the experts say they do. Like you said, they are expensive but there are many ways to save. We do a lot of used clothes and since we have two boys we save a lot that way.

    • The one thing we can’t seem to find used is shoes. My child destroys shoes and it appears others do as well. She woke up on Wednesday last week and her shoes were too little. How does that happen?

  5. Lauren and Taylor have been growing like weeds lately, which is wonderful, but they are outgrowing their clothes at faster clip. I hesitant these days to buy too much in advance because they may not fit in the right season. Argh. Good tip on saving having an emergency fund that can at least cover deductibles because you are right - we may suffer through an illness ourselves but we won’t we with our kids. And it’s great that you started saving for your daughter’s braces early, which is something too few parents do, even though they know the likelihood of their child needing them is high.

  6. No kids here, and none planned for at least 5 years (probably closer to the 10 mark). With that being said, one way we prepare for them is by maxing out our HSA. I admit it isn’t motivated by the fact that we will have kids one day, but the money will already be there for when we need it for our kids medical bills.

    • My problem is that I won’t want to touch money in the HSA because it is in stocks! It is good to know it’s there if we need it though.

  7. When our Little Miss was young we’d get lots of gifts for her to use next year. When the time came she was a different size. Now that she’s a little bigger and the sizes are more forgiving, it’s starting to make sense to buy in advance. We got a load of hand me downs this year, plus gifts, so we should only need to buy afew things here and there. She’s the first grandchild on both sides and really gets spoiled without much help from us!

    • Well,that is a whole other strategy I should have included. Don’t buy until you see what the grandparents are sending!

  8. It was tough when my son was little trying to buy clothes in advance because I never knew what size he would be the next year. However, in the last few years, he has a pretty steady growth rate, so he is more predictable and we definitely buy clothes for the following year when they are on sale now. We are also in the orthodontics bandwagon. My son’s dentist has said that it is time and he will turn 9 in a few weeks.

    • Ugh! I was thinking probably nine or ten. It seems like all kids need braces these days. I didn’t have them when I was a kid but did get to experience them at the age of 30. Much better to get it over with as a younster!

  9. I am really funny when it comes to clothes for my child, but there are things that are just not worth buying new and I think snow pants is one of them. I buy off season clothes and it saves me a lot of money. I have clothes that she has to grow into, but if its good quality for cheap its worth the wait.

    • The nice thing about buying used but good quality winter clothes is that you can usually resell them for about as much as you paid. Net zero for winter outwear!

  10. I would say that by far the best thing we’ve done to save money on the kids is to teach them that satisfaction does not lie in the accumulation of “stuff”. They really are quite content without an abundance of the latest and greatest toys. That’s not to say they don’t have their temptations, and that we don’t have the occasional temptation to splurge on them, but by and large, we all do pretty well at keeping things frugal. 🙂

    • I would imagine with 4 kids, there is no way to keep up with the latest and stay out of debt. Your kids are building some great values that will hopefully carry them long into adulthood.

  11. We have not purchased used clothing for the kids but, even better, we were blessed with hand me downs from my sister’s kids. We had them organized by size in tubs in the garage and would pull them out twice a year to see what fits. It has been a huge blessing! Now that the kids are older and more persnickety about styles, we find the best deals we can and they have just what they need. We have also spent over 15,000 on braces. For the last set, we used our income tax return but charged it to our card for Nordstrom notes and then paid it off right away! It’s awesome you are already saving for braces!

    • Wow, $15K for teeth! Yes, we already have the money put away so it won’t seem like such a hit when the time comes.

  12. I agree with you. Having children especially daughters would increase expenses. But, that being said, it is worth it to have children around because based on experience, it encourages me to work harder and gives me joy. What I just do is accept it and work for them and have better life. Most importantly, I plan for their future.

  13. Great tips! I only have one son right now, and my wife and I are saving all his clothes and other stuff for the next one.
    Medical costs are definitely expensive and it IS a great idea to set aside a certain amount specifically for this…you never know when you might suddenly need it.

  14. Correct! Dental services can be pretty pricey but are actually very much predictable. Hence, they are something you can certainly prepare for. Create a personal fund for medical and dental work, or get yourself set up with a reliable pre-paid plan or insurance policy with a comprehensive coverage that includes trips to the dentist.

  15. Having a medical fund that is basically just a savings account is a great plan. This needs to be separate from your emergency fund. You are going to be spending the medical fund on braces or minor surgery, while emergency is something like reattaching a finger or organ failure. Most dental related things would be in the medical fund.

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