Managing the Cost of Children

Managing the Cost of Children

Managing the Cost of Children

Hello everyone!  Hope all is well.  Today I want to touch on the cost of kids and one way my wife and I try to manage the cost of children.  How?  Being frugal while designing the nursery and consignment shopping.

Raising children can be expensive, we all know that.  Our first kid was born in mid-2014 and, according to the US Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), the average cost of raising a child born in 2014 is just over $245K!  While their estimates vary widely depending on where you live and how much you earn, the figures are staggering.  And this excludes the cost of college.

Similar to many families, my wife and I wanted to have a house to raise our kid in, so that was step one.  In that house we wanted to have a nice nursery.  Decorating and furnishing it was step two.  And while not needed immediately, as our family grew we knew we would want an SUV to safely haul them and their stuff around in.  That was step three.  Children are expensive…and this was all in preparation for a kid!

With all this said, we tried to manage the costs as best we could, wherever possible.  Unlike some folks, we had recently moved to North Carolina, a ways from family back in the Midwest, and didn’t have any friends nearby that we could cheaply buy a bunch of gently used kids’ stuff or hand-me-downs from.  We were mostly on our own.

We painted the nursery ourselves which was a pretty good cost saver, rather than hiring it out.  We’ve actually painted most rooms in our house and have never hired out for that job.  My wife chose a soft yellow, grey and white color scheme.  We weren’t going to find out the gender of our baby so wanted to keep it neutral.  And honestly even if we would have found out we were having a boy early on we probably would have still gone gender neutral for the room.  No one wants to come back a couple years later and repaint for the second child.

For furniture, we had an old blue La-Z-Boy rocker chair that was handed down from my wife’s grandparents.  This was perfect for the nursery, except the color, so we bought a white slip cover for it and called it good.

Managing the Cost of Children

We were also on the lookout for a dresser and changing table on the cheap.  We ended up finding something great on Craigslist, where else?!  It was a nice set of wooden furniture for $80, not bad.  We just had to clean it up a bit to work in our nursery.  So we sanded it down, primed and painted it a nice white.  How’s it look?

Managing the Cost of Children

Given what seems to be constantly new regulations on cribs, including one earlier in 2013, we wanted to make sure we had the safest crib possible.  Plus, he’ll be spending lots of time in it without us nearby, so we bought a brand new crib and nice mattress.  We didn’t skimp here, although we ended up finding a great price for the crib we wanted online, no sales tax and free shipping to boot!

In terms of décor, we have had time to add things bit by bit. We painted some white canvases using the paint we bought for the walls, my wife found a cheap shower curtain from West Elm to use as the window treatment and also found a steal for pillow covers to add more design.

All-in-all, I think we pulled together a nice little nursery on the cheap.  What do you think?

Managing the Cost of Children

The other major area we have successfully saved some coin on is clothes.  Kids’ clothes are not cheap!  And they grow out of them super-fast, sometimes so fast they only wear an item once or twice.  So we chose to do most all his shopping at the consignment store.  Granted, friends and family have bought a lot of nice clothes as gifts which has been very nice and helpful.

For us, shopping at the consignment store has meant getting five pairs of pants, five shirts, and five pairs of pajamas for $30 instead of buying the same brand new for $60-$75.  This definitely adds up over time!  Consignment shops can also be great places to find baby carriers, toys, books, strollers, etc.

How have you been managing the cost of children?  Anything you found to be particularly helpful or a good resource?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for taking a look.

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach




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  1. Nice post! As a father of a 14 and 16 year old, I can say that you are off to a great start. Focusing on value without compromising safety is smart. As your child grows older, you’ll see that the costs go up and up! For us it was piano lessons first – then a piano. Then travel sports and all of the spending that entails.

    It’s all good stuff, but buckle up and enjoy the ride! Be smart with your money but make sure to let the kids have some fun too, they grow up very fast. Oh, and then there’s college. I’d recommend putting $500 per month away starting now – although I’m sure you’ve already started. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Jon! Yeah I can understand where it gets much more expensive as kids get involved in more activities.

      And yes, we have started setting money aside for college. Thanks for the tip, that will definitely be a big expense when the day comes. That discussion is definitely worth a post of its own someday.

      Thanks again for the comment!

  2. The nursery looks great! Nicely done. We have swapped kids clothes with friends and family over the years to save cash. Kids grow so fast and out of their clothes, so having some friends and family with younger and older kids than yours makes it easy to keep the circle of clothes swapping going.

  3. Nice looking nursery you have there!

    We don’t have any kids yet, but like you guys, we plan to wait to find out the gender. D has this master plan to wait so that all gifts of clothes or toys are gender neutral and can be used for future children too.

    Obviously we have no experience, but we believe raising children doesn’t have to be nearly as expensive as the statistics show. We’ll have to see how this pans out though; we might be singing a different tune in a couple decades!

    1. Thank you! I should mention that the credit on the nursery definitely goes to the wife and I’ll pass that along.

      I agree on the gender neutral toys and clothes and also the colors of the stroller/car seat etc. We preferred that as well.

      There are smart ways to try and manage the cost of kids, but I could envision that being maybe 10% give or take.

      Kids are expensive and no way to avoid that unless you don’t have kids or are super frugal/cheap.

      I actually go into this much more in my book I’ll be releasing next week.

      But just like you, I’ll have to wait and see how it goes over the next couple decades.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Nice nursery! We went with a new crib too, and our youngest is still using it as a toddler bed. it converts to a twin frame as well, so it has gotten 5 years of use, and is looking at a few more on the low end of things! It looks just like yours, so hopefully yours is convertible too.

    We lucked out with Mrs. SSC’s best friend having a boy and then a girl almost 6 months before our boy and then girl. 🙂 They got a lot of hand me downs from her husbands extended family and we’ve gotten them from her. We pass them along as we are done with them or ship them back, but that’s a big savings. We also don’t mind shopping at Goodwill, or other consignment stores, because as you point out, they have way better prices usually. We also hit up Marshall’s or TJ Maxx type stores and just look for sale stuff and you can find some great deals there too. As good as some consignment stores we’ve been in, but it takes some shopping and pawing through things to find the great sale stuff.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks! Yes, ours is a convertible also. We may end up getting a new bed for our two year old and continue using the crib for the eventual second child. We’ll see though, but good to hear it’s lasted so well for you.

      That’s great luck! And also a good tip on TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

      Thanks for the great comment!

  5. Nice looking nursery!

    Not sure about your SUV thingy though. Aren’t these things over-expensive, and the safety aspect of them overrated? The easiest way to transport your kids safely is to walk and/or take public transportation, assuming you live in a well supported area.

    But if you badly need a car, I don’t think an SUV will protect you more. That sounds like some commercial statement that’s not matching statistics. Googling a bit on the topic let me found several studies showing that SUVs are actually less safe than compact cars, statistically. So, I’d be curious to know where you came up with the idea that an SUV would be safer.

    1. Thanks and I appreciate the comment.

      Unfortunately walking or public transportation wouldn’t be reasonable options for us.

      I can’t say whether SUVs are considered more safe than cars or not. But we knew we’d need a knew car/suv to transport kids considering how old and unreliable our cars where prior to kids. We decided specifically on an SUV rather than car for other reasons also, which I have an upcoming post that I’ll discuss in more detail.

      Thanks again!

  6. Tht is indeed a nice nursery! job well done.

    We have 2 kids, 2 girls. The way we keep costs under control

    1- get from friends and family
    2- do not say no by default to second hand (even clothing, under the condition it looks good)
    3- pass on from older to younger
    4- resell stuff you no longer need (or give away to friends and family to keep the giving going)
    5- assess if no brand items are usable as well (we found diapers than work well for us, no leaks, cost 25pct of branded diaper)

    Some itmes we did not save on: core elements that add safety. We had special mattress protection so the baby could still breed when it turned from back sleep to tummy sleep. We just wanted that worry out of the way and know we did al we could. Similar story for the pillow and car seats.

    1. Thank you and very good tips! We’ve done / or plan to do similar things as you’ve outlined. Great advice!

      Thanks again for the comment.

  7. Nursery looks fabulous! I admit I spent too much on the first kids bedroom!
    I agree kids don’t have to cost a lot. The challenge in our household is that we have a moved into a house (from a 2 bedroom flat) to give us more space and a yard, at the same time as I did not work for a few years and now work part time (and I’m the breadwinner). But I would not change it for the world, and the kids need love, the most valuable thing you can give them is your time.

    1. Yeah wow, well those were some previous years I’m sure. You can never go back in time to be with your kids more so definitely need to cherish it while you can. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Nice work GS. I’m long past all that baby stuff. In fact, sleepless nights and poo’ey nappies are all a distant memory.

    Great job on the DIY nursery and furniture. It’s amazing what a pot of paint and a bit of effort can yield, and what it can save too.

    How long before the big day?

    1. Yeah the sleepless nights and dirty diapers get old quick that’s for sure!

      Our little one is just over two now. No news to share at this point for kid #2 but hopefully someday.

      Thanks Martin!

  9. Wow, that looks really nice, GS! The white looks incredible against the yellow and gray.

    I’ve been pretty lucky with hand-me-downs from my sister as she has kids just a couple years old than us. That saved a huge amount of $$. Otherwise, I would have been fine getting some things used. You really do blow past a lot of the items in a blink of an eye!

    1. Thanks! Yeah that’s a huge benefit. If kid #2 is also a boy we should be able you save a decent amount with hand-me-downs from our first.

  10. Looks great! We have been known bring new life to furniture as well! It’s amazing what a little paint can do.

    Though our kids are older, over the years, we have saved buying clothes, some toys, bikes, furniture, etc. all second hand. Kids go through their “stuff” so quickly and don’t always treat it nicely. We also limit paid activities to one or two at a time – this can really add up and I’m of the opinion that kids need down time to just play and learn.

    1. Thanks! Very good points, Amanda. We’ve already started with some activities for the kiddo including swimming and gymnastics and similar to you we’ve just rotated him back and forth between them. I’m sure the activities will only accelerate with age though.

    1. We have relocated a few times for job opportunities. While the cost of living may be slightly higher in North Carolina, it hasn’t been all that significant and it’s nothing compared to New York or D.C.

      Plus we are relatively frugal and have a low cost base to begin with. So moving for a salary increase of let’s say 25% while costs may increase 10% made for an easy decision.

      Thanks for the comment!

  11. The nursery looks awesome – great job! For our most recent baby we grabbed a dresser that was out at the curb – NEXT DOOR! No issue with transporting it 🙂 We (Mr. Smith) sanded and painted it, and it looks perfect.

    Garage sales are a great way to score baby stuff for cheap – with prices that are even better than the consignment store.

  12. Ever since I discovered chalk paint, I am obsessed with paining furniture. It is amazing the new life and style you can breathe into second hand furniture. Or old furniture that you are bored with.

    Second hand for kids clothes is definitely the way to go. I have saved all of my older son’s clothes for my younger son. They are 4 years apart so I have three enormous clothing bags with chalkboard labels that I can write ages on and cycle through. My kids are 4 and 8, so I have a 5, 6 and 7 bag of clothes under my bed. Whatever survives my little one gets sold at my “stoop” sales, where I sell everything for $1 each. I get rid of tons and even make a little something back.

    1. Wow that is amazing organization, I love it. The chalk paint is a great idea. I imagine we’ll have to repurpose some more furniture when the second kid comes along which will be a great opportunity to use that. Thanks for the great tips and I appreciate the comment!

      1. Use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint – it’s a little pricey and it can be a little hard to find, but it is definitely the best. But beware – it is fun and addictive. You may find yourself painting all your furniture… I did shelves, dressers, even my dining chairs.

  13. Looks great! We have relied on lots of hand-me-downs, garage sale & Craigslist items, and gifts from the baby shower and haven’t spent much on our kids thus far. I’ve heard from older parents that it’s not the early years that are expensive, but the school activities and mandatory fees (even in public school), sports or other lessons, food costs of teenagers, etc. I’m sure we can still come in far under average spending, but I’m realizing I don’t want to withhold certain experiences from my kids entirely because I’m frugal. So we will be paying for preschool next year, and at some point sports or other lessons, within reason. We don’t want to do the over-scheduling thing, either. I may try to barter coaching services for free lesson if my kids want to do gymnastics.

    1. Yeah that makes sense that it will only get more expensive as they get older and more active. We think of activities similarly to you. We don’t want to push more on them, but to the extent they want to be involved in more things we’d want to be supportive.

  14. Cute nursery! Kids seem to be really expensive. I’ve been living in Guatemala for over a year now and while I’m a long way away from having kids, it’s gonna be more expensive to have them here if I choose to do so. For a decent school, we’re looking at around $500 USD per month, per kid. Ouch.

    I will enjoy the child-free life a little while longer.

    1. Wow interesting to know! If you pay more out of pocket for school does that mean you’re paying relatively less in taxes? Either way that seems very expensive!

  15. It gets tricky as they age. Sports equipment is a biggie. Our two boys do baseball in spring and skiing in the winter. That is a conscious choice we made to commit to significant expenses for skiing as it aligns with something we love to do as a family. Not getting sucked into the plethora of sports is a tough decision but there has to be some balance. Including in the bank account!!

    1. Very good perspective, thanks for sharing! That is a nice side benefit that skiing is an activity the whole family enjoys together. That makes it more worthwhile for sure.

  16. Wow – your nursery furniture looks amazing! I can’t believe how much some folks spend on furniture, clothes, etc. for infants and toddlers. As someone who was making a good salary, we often used consignment shops and “hand me down” furniture when the kids were young. Yes, the costs go up as they get older – so having money put away is important – but the mindset you already have will take you far! Ours are in college and heading there next year – and we are “FI”. It can be done on less than six figure salaries for sure!

    1. Thanks! Sounds like that approach has worked great for you, keeping expenses as reasonable as possible and still reaching FI. Congrats to you guys!

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