Raising happy, healthy kids on a budget
This mom on a budget shares her tips for shoestring parenting.
I recently celebrated my daughters 5th birthday and survived to tell the tale. Parenting on a shoestring budget is challenging at the best of times but I’ve found modern day birthday expectations to be positively daunting.

As part of the party preparations I found myself carefully packing 20 party packs for the children in the nursery school class. As an afterthought, I posted a comment on Facebook about how challenging I had found it to spend as little cash as possible on the loot bags, without looking like a complete cheapskate.

The response was overwhelming. From parents relating to the quest, friends offering money-saving tips and some outright condemnation of the party-pack phenomenon, it seems that most parents are feeling financial pressure. 

It was comforting to realise that most of us are trying to give our children the best childhood possible but just don’t have the finances to do it all.

As a working mum, with a salary that needs to go further and further each month, I am constantly finding new ways to make ends meet. Here are some ideas that have worked well for me:

  1. Recycle: Use Hand-Me-Downs.  One of the nicest presents I’ve received lately is a huge bag full of toys, books and clothes that a friends’ child had outgrown. Start the ball rolling by passing on your own used items if they are still in good condition. I love seeing another child enjoying a toy that was once one of our favourites.  
  2. Make your own toys. When my daughter desperately wanted a doll’s house, I made one out of cardboard boxes. I used packaging tape to join four boxes into four “rooms” and used a sharp knife to cut doors and windows. Similarly, old socks can be turned into hand puppets. Children have the imagination required to turn a broom stick into a hobby horse.
  3. Shop without your child. It is much easier to make a shopping list and stick to it without your child adding items to the trolley. This is also a great way to avoid the temptation of a new toy that catches your little one’s eye.  An explanation of mummy’s lack of cash is neatly avoided by shopping alone.
  4. Plan meals and school lunches in advance. Having a stock of ingredients for school lunches and evening meals saves not only money but also time, a very precious resource in my life. By making a well planned shopping trip once a week you can avoid the temptation of instant food on the way home from a hectic day at work. Planned lunches also tend to be healthier than a hastily grabbed treat from the corner shop.
  5. Utilise free entertainment. An afternoon picnic in the park can be as much fun, if not more, than a movie. A visit to the local library is educational and provides a chance for your child to choose new books on a regular basis. A quick search on Google usually brings up a host of free adventures in any city.
  6. Buy handkerchiefs. Kids will wipe their runny noses on anything that comes to hand. Although this may not appeal to every parent I save a bit extra by not buying mounds of tissues every month.
  7. Tone down on birthday parties. It is possible to have a wonderful birthday party without breaking the bank. Move the focus to having a good time with friends and family instead of the quantity of treats.  A jumping castle is already a big treat – do you really need party packs as well? Ask your child if they would prefer a party at school or at home but explain that they cannot have both. My best tip for party catering is popcorn – loved by all, cheap to make and best of all sugar free.
Do you have any tips for parenting on a budget?

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