Having Kids Doesn't Have to Break the Bank

Kids can cost a small fortune to raise – around $800k from birth to adulthood for two children, according to the NATSEM (University of Canberra) Income and Wealth Report. We talk to Jody Allen, mum of two and creator of the Stay at Home Mum website, about keeping costs down without compromising.

Jody is a big fan of spending less, and she doesn’t just provide tips on her blog – she walks the walk. When her kids came along, Jody says they didn't have a lot of money. She was made redundant when pregnant with her second child, so they had to live simply. ""We didn’t buy lots of fancy equipment, take big holidays or splurge on toys or designer kids clothes. I crunched the numbers and found we had a mere $50 a week to spend on groceries, so I had to rethink how we ate, how we shopped and what we cooked day to day. This meant lots of basics like seasonal fruit and veggies, flour, sugar, butter and eggs, and cooking from old CWA cookbooks.” The upside was that Jody discovered embracing a frugal life suited her enormously. “I felt pride that my family were eating well, my house was clean, the kids were happy and it wasn’t costing us a fortune to do it.” The Stay at Home Mum blog, now Jody’s business, sprang from wanting to share her ideas with other people. So, what are Jody's top five tips for raising kids without breaking the bank?

#1. Beg and borrow:

Tap into a network of mums, your local community, second-hand stores or social media to trade and find what you need. A baby checklist can help. “The only thing we bought new was the car seat, for safety reasons. Everything from clothing to cots, high chairs and prams can be borrowed from friends that have finished with theirs. It’s impossible to say where our boys’ early clothes, toys and equipment have wound up now.”

#2. Buy only the basics:

Forget the 'stuff'. Do you really need a fancy nappy disposal unit? Likewise with fancy labels or designer clothing. It means nothing to your baby. You only need the baby essentials.

#3. Cook yourown baby food:

Jody says pre-made baby food is often prohibitively expensive compared to making your own. “I don't advocate slaving for hours over a hot stove making specialised meals. However, if you just reserve some of what you cook for the family and mash it or cut it, it saves time and money. As your kids get older, they’ll just move to eating exactly what you do, with no extra prep.”

#4. Make your own toys:

“Boxes – kids love them, and can spend hours using them as cars, puppet theatres, whatever they like. Open the pots and pans drawer and let them play. A rattle can be made using a bottle with uncooked rice. The linen cupboard creates hours of fun making cubby houses.” Need some ideas? The SAHM site is chockfull of inspiration for DIY toy-making projects.

#5. Free entertainment:

The backyard and a sibling are two of Jody’s top free entertainment options. “There are so many experiences and elaborate toys thrust at kids now, but being bored is a chance for them to get creative and come up with fun games.” Other free entertainment? Check out libraries, parks, community events, playgroups, or sign up to a local toy library.

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