Some of these may be well-known, and some not. Either way, I know sometimes I get in a rut and need to hear some tips for me to get more serious about being on a budget or just being smart about getting use out of things. So here are some tips that I have come across so far:
1) MULTIPLY THE USE OF YOUR ONE PRODUCT/TOY. Think of multiple uses for any toy or baby/kid gear you have to increase enjoyment of what you do have, to increase your family’s creativity, and to save on space and money! For example, this inflatable pool is a space saver, but it is also helping us get the most out of what we paid for it (which was around $30 I believe, not bad!) by doubling as both a pool for outdoor use and a large ballpit (or other creative use) for the indoors. (So far we have been using Ethan’s Pack N Play as a ballpit-another way to multiply use of that! Soon that will be rather small for a ballpit for an older preschooler, though.)
I haven’t tried this yet, but I would think the inflatable pool would be another way to avoid messes when playing with arts and crafts things. I bought the pool at Wal-Mart, by the way, and I ended up buying an all-purpose electronic inflator/deflator. It is worth it. I aired that thing up with a foot pump the first time! yeah..plus it can be used for air mattresses too.
Double use of this product..playpen for indoor and outdoor use that I also use unfolded as an indoor clothesline for Ethan’s diapers. They are only being used for both purposes simultaneously for the purpose of this picture-I know diapers hanging that close to a toddler won’t last. 😉
2) MULTIPLE-USE PRODUCTS/TOYS: Some wonderful companies have created toys that already have multiple uses that can be used for different ages and stages. Some we have or are shopping for are the “Lay and Play” http://www.firstcry.com/fisher-price/fisher-price-ocean-wonders-kick-and-crawl-aquarium-gym/285/product-detail
(with toys dangling above for young infants) that can be later turned into a tunnel. Now, we didn’t actually use it for that. Ethan enjoyed using it for “tetherball” while sitting up when he was older. Another multiple use product that I am shopping for later this week is Little Tikes’ Mirror http://www.littletikes.com/baby-toys/activity-garden-safe-n-fun-mirror/invt/632068 that is lying horizontally for younger babies doing “tummytime” then stands upright for toddlers and preschoolers. I really want one because Ethan could use a large mirror in his room for fun but also watching his own mouth to help with speech development. (also walking incentive). AFter looking into mirrors some, I saw that this Little Tikes one seemed cheaper than the wall-to-wall (or part of a wall) mirrors that originally had popped into my head. Fine with me, I just want him to be able to see himself. And this is more budget and apartment living friendly.
2) MAKE USE OF REWARDS POINTS, COUPONS, AND PROOFS OF PURCHASE. I am not one of those “extreme couponers”, but scouring your Huggies box for a book of coupons and/or Huggies rewards points to enter into your computer is so easy and you can very quickly accrue points to get either toys, DVDs, or even Shutterfly prints if you use disposables exclusively. I was able to get 100 prints from Shutterfly (had to pay shipping, but still a good deal) after just a couple of months of entering the Huggies reward points.
3) IF YOU ARE ABLE TO, TRY CLOTH DIAPERS. We just started this, and now we are wishing we started when Ethan was little ESPECIALLY because he was on Lasix, a diuretic medication, before his heart defect was repaired. In case you are still puzzled, diuretics make you pee like CRAZY. Newborns/infants already pee a lot; infants on diuretics? I wish we knew how much we paid for diapers back then, I’m sure it was astronomical. With an almost two-year-old, we were paying around $20 per week on disposables. So far our utilities seem virtually unchanged since having to wash cloth diapers, and we have even had success with Ethan sleeping in cloth diapers overnight with no leaks. Even though he is almost potty training age, he still doesn’t cue or poop on the potty so we feel it will still be awhile until he’s potty trained and will therefore still get our money’s worth with cloth diapers. Plus you can use them on future kiddos! Something to think about if you are wanting to save money…So many others blog on Cloth Diapering and I’m certainly not an expert, but if you would like more info on our experience feel free to comment and ask.
4) MAKE YOUR OWN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES. There are sometimes things worth buying, but you can replicate almost anything in my opinion. I make Ethan’s flashcards from magazine pictures, drawn symbols, or coupon pictures (like food items.)
These are some of the flashcards I made from index cards and magazine/ad pictures.
Even printing from your computer will probably be cheaper than store-bought flashcards, and you can make them specific to what you know your child will more readily relate to or recognize. I don’t even think kids need as many toys as we have. Kids thrive on being creative with their parents guiding them to make something from empty oatmeal cans, cardboard tubes, etc. And younger kids just enjoy playing with these. There are some awesome children’s toys on the market, so I’m not saying go back to Little House on the Prairie, but try to get creative to save money and help your kid’s imagination. Speaking of cools toys, another tip is…
5) DON’T BE AFRAID TO BUY USED TOYS AND CLOTHES. I think most parents are “onto” this one, but I have a feeling every parent (in the US anyways) has this nagging feeling that they “should” have brand-new things for their kids. Why do we think this way? I’m not too good for used clothes. I LOVE it when someone gives me cute hand-me-downs. So why shy away from used things for kids? They can have more toys if you buy used and are on a budget. And if you just can’t stand the thought of making flashcards or other items because you are overwhelmed with time crunches, maybe looking at used things like this on an occasional shopping trip would be a good thing to consider.
Those are the general tips. The last few are for parents of kids who are on thickened liquids or have special needs…
6)Find out if your child’s insurance (primary or government insurance for special needs) will pay for thickener to be paid for. We spent hundreds of dollars on thickener before we learned that Ethan’s insurance would pay for a medical supply company to deliver a huge box each month to our doorstep! You would think they would tell you this in the hospital but not always…
7) If your child’s special needs cause frequent visits to the doctor or therapies, find out if your child’s insurance or some government entity will reimburse gas money for the visits.
8) Ask as many people, and ask as many questions you can think of pertaining to what might be covered for your child’s special needs. Depending on your state, a child with special needs may even qualify to have Ensure/ Boost or regular diet foods to be paid for by government insurance.
9) In our state, I’m told that children can get diapers paid for by government starting at age 3. (Some kids struggle with potty training and/or accidents when they have certain disabilities.)
PArents of typical kids or parents of kids with special needs, let me know if you have any questions or have something else you would like me to write about! Things vary by state for special needs but I will try to steer you the right direction. What are your favorite ways to save money for your family?