From the moment your kids were born, you’ve skimped, saved, and sacrificed to provide as much as possible, even focusing on saving for their college education or teaching them to be mindful of their own money management.
But childrearing costs go beyond diapers, growing appetites, and clothes that seem to last only a few weeks. From school supplies and tutoring to youth sports and summer camp (not to mention ever-changing technology needs), kids require a heck of a lot more than just the bare necessities.
The best way to forget about your worries is to plan ahead for bigger expenses with money-saving tips and get an idea of the costs from those who have already been in your shoes.
A 2018 survey by NerdWallet found that 81 percent of parents with children younger than 18 planned on taking a summer vacation. Overall, parents expected to spend approximately $2,250 on their getaway(s), while charging an average of $1,019 to their credit card.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to find a travel deal. Sign up for flight newsletters, set price alerts, and negotiate directly with hotels when booking rooms. For the savvier spenders, consider using a travel rewards credit card — but be sure to pay it off in full! — to help fund your next excursion.
Vacations aren’t the only elaborate summer expense. The cost of summer camps can be hefty, averaging $768 for a week-long overnight at an American Camp Association-accredited spot. Specialty camps, like those for robotics or computers, can be even more expensive, costing up to around $1,000 per week.
Ask if you’re eligible for any discounts because of your job (teacher, military personnel) or if the camp offers discounts based on the number of siblings enrolled. Another option is to think about enrolling the kiddos in day camp instead of overnight. While mom and dad won’t get a break, the average cost of a week-long American Camp Association-accredited day camp is $314.
Pro tip: Don’t forget about your summer camp when filing your taxes. Did you know you may qualify for a tax credit if you paid a care provider (i.e. summer camp supervisors) for child care if Junior is under 13?
Once a summer staple, participating in youth sports have instead become a year-round expense. Plus, the days of playing sports at the park with friends or for free through school are slowly fading. Youth sports are big business, with a Utah State University research survey finding the average family spent $2,292 per year on sports in 2017.
Consider buying used equipment from garage sales or secondhand stores or sign up with a program early to take advantage of early bird pricing.
What’s the best way to save for big-ticket items?
Taking a family vacation or enrolling your kids in youth sports and summer camp are typically decisions made well before the bags are packed or the first tryout is held. Instead of punching in your credit card number for these big expenses, save ahead of time. Sure, you can simply sock away a little cash in an envelope each week. But if you’re saving for next year’s vacation, why not put your money somewhere it can grow?
For a potentially higher return for these down-the-road expenses, consider a Certificate of Deposit (CD). CDs can offer you a higher interest rate, but in exchange, you will have to leave your savings deposited for the entire term or risk paying an early withdrawal fee, which could wipe out those extra earnings. CDs are a great way to lock in a rate and save for items you know you’ll need in the future.
Not all expenses warrant a year-long savings goal, but it doesn’t hurt to get in the habit of putting money away for expected costs like back-to-school shopping. After all, these expenditures can quickly add up if you’re not prepared.
It’s important to take advantage of deals on pencils, paper, and art supplies. Consider stocking up, too, because the discounts you can take advantage of in July and August are typically the best ones you’ll see all year long.
Unfortunately, it’s harder to stock up on clothes in advance. In fact, Consumer Reports finds that clothing becomes more affordable after school starts, in September. So instead of going all in on a new school wardrobe in August, consider splurging on one new outfit for the first day of school and then head back to the store a few weeks later. Besides, this offers the added benefit of letting your budding fashionistas see what trends are the biggest hits at school, so when you take them shopping in September, they’ll know exactly what they want.
After picture day comes and the first report card drops, you might find that your youngster has gotten into a pickle. It’s OK — even the brightest students get a bad grade or two — but it’s better to get the help they need sooner rather than later.
Top-notch, certified tutors can cost upward of $80 per hour, according to Care.com. But if your child doesn’t need that much one-on-one help, consider free and low-cost options like libraries, nonprofits, your local YMCA or Boys & Girls Club, or even current education majors at your local college.
What’s the best way to save for short-term needs?
CDs might not be the best place to stash savings for things like school supplies and tutoring, since term lengths and early withdrawal penalties could discourage you from withdrawing your money when you need it. Instead, look to stash your cash in a savings account that offers the flexibility to make withdrawals when you need some cash. Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account, for example, offers competitive interest rates that will earn you more than the nothing you’ll earn via the envelope method. And think about opening a separate savings account for your child to help them learn about saving, too.
Consider setting up different goals and divvying up your savings toward each one. If you’re saving for multiple things, think about opening several accounts. This will help you make sure you don’t dip into your clothing fund to pay for your son’s art class supplies.
Start saving today.
When it comes to supporting your kids, many parents feel there’s no expense too great. But that doesn’t mean you should dip into your emergency fund or go into credit-card debt in order to fund your children’s activities.
Planning ahead, creating separate savings priorities, and following a few simple tips will help you live up to your goal of being the best parent possible — while also being the most financially responsible.
Learn how our Online Savings Account can help you better your saving strategies!