It is no secret that having a child is e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e. Add to that living in the Boston area (where I live and Mamajamas was born), and the cost of parenthood is off the charts. Massachusetts families actually spend more in daycare per child than any other state. Eeks. Yes, there are the necessities like diapers and daycare. But for many, there is also the intense urge to dress up our little ones in teeny-weeny mini-me stylish clothes (that they outgrow in days) and involve them in various stimulating activities (that engage them but also just get us out of the house!). The cost of new parenthood is exacerbated by the need to clothe our newly shaped body, maintain a somewhat orderly (but increasingly chaotic) house, and feed a frantic, sleep deprived family….oh, and do it all on either half our normal income, or with basically a second mortgage if paying for daycare. Emulating those who look like a million bucks dressed in Target (excuse me: Tar-Shay), sprinkled in with designer hand-me-downs, I’ve managed to BE FRUGAL this first year of parenthood, stretch our fewer dollars, yet make being thrifty actually fun (and a little addicting). Here’s how.
My Top 5 ways to be a Frugal Mama:
1) Buy and sell clothes and gear locally. Facebook groups that facilitate baby clothes and gear swapping are growing explosively in many towns. I keep an envelope of the money I make from selling my daughter’s stuff and use that stash for the designer gems I’ve found at a fraction of the price at these sales. Some of my favorite finds have been from Tea Collection, Jacadi, and Hanna Andersson in like-new or new condition with prices more comparable to what I’d pay on the sale rack at Macy’s! The envelope challenge makes it a game for me, and keeps the addiction in check. If you are in the Boston area, the HIGH-END Baby & Kids Clothes Group is open to all nearby towns. Also in this area, Arlington Closet Sharers has over 1600 members. If a facebook group like this isn’t in your area yet, consider starting one if you have time to be an admin, or take advantage of local consignment shops where you often find brand new [ie: NWT] cute things too. You will want to know the fancy acronyms to shop on these sites! NWT= New With Tags EUC= Excellent Used Condition!
2) Babysitting co-ops. With no money transferred, you sit for other families, and they do the same for you. These often start with a group of friends whose kids do playdates anyway, so babysitting doesn’t even feel like work. As they grow, other friends often get added in. Find the right group, and it can be an amazing way to keep mom and dad happy with date-nights, without the costs. I’ve also found it a wonderful way to meet other families locally. For everyone to feel comfortable, you may want to avoid total strangers. I found mine through a new friend I met after having my daughter. Mommy and me classes could also be a good way to find families you can trust.
3) Pinterest and Mamajamas! Find step-by-step DIY directions on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING on Pinterest. Whether decorating your nursery, finding games to play with your kids or looking for birthday party ideas, you can save oodles easily with Pinterest as your guide. Check out the Mamajamas Pinterest Page if you haven’t already for tons of parenting resources and ideas. Speaking of Mamajamas, you can save a bundle using the site to get advice from your veteran parent friends on the products they recommend (and don’t!). With Mamajamas lists as your guide, you can buy the right product the first time around (I’m looking at you diaper pail) or the right quantities (I wish I had been told I didn’t need to buy ANY 0-3 onesies for myself). And yes, since this is the Mamajamas blog, you had to expect there would be a shameless plug for the site in here somewhere.
4) Library. Books for mama and baby are obviously a no-brainer to check out of the library. But many libraries also have FREE sing-alongs and reading classes for kids of all ages. Some also carry free museum passes or coupons for other events. I go to the library so much, I feel the librarians are like friends!
5) Use your Freezer! When I fall behind on my meal planning, I end up more disorganized at the grocery store. This often leads me to buy five times more food than I should and resort to more prepared meals-–which are not as healthy–and, no surprise, cost more. So now when I am feeling organized, I try to cook even bigger batches of food (and baby food) and stick them in the freezer. I also freeze leftovers. This makes my future meal planning infinitely easier knowing dinner is already made–plus, my cost per meal for the week goes WAY down.
Parenthood is expensive and often exhausting! I’ve found that the more connected I become in my community, and with other families, the more ideas I get on how to prudently shop and save and ultimately offer the most I can to my family (time included!).