Eva Wong • May 29, 2015
I always appreciate tips on how to live life to the full on a budget. And with two kids under 5, life definitely feels full! Here are some resources I’ve found really helpful.
After housing, food is the next biggest expense in our household. We try to cook as many meals as possible at home. And while we try to cook as much as possible from scratch, decent-quality frozen pizza is a lifesaver that prevents us from ordering expensive takeout!
One phone app I’ve found really helpful is Flipp – you input your postal code, and you can see (and search) all the flyers for stores near you. Here’s how I use it:
I don’t know if you’re the same, but before I had kids I rarely went to the library. Now, it’s one of our favourite places to go. In addition to the books and DVDs you can borrow and take home, there are lots of fun programs including story and music times that are great for younger kids especially. Our library system also has ebooks you can view on a tablet or computer.
One of my all-time favourite bloggers is Mr. Money Mustache. MMM, as he’s known, is a Canadian living in Colorado who retired in his early 30s by living frugally and saving a big percentage of his income. He writes about “how you can create a life that is better than your current one, that just happens to cost 50-75% less.”
I love his candour and refreshing perspective on life, especially on parenting. It’s super easy to get caught up in wanting to provide great opportunities and experiences for your kids, and thinking you have to spend a lot of money to do so.
Case in point: when my son was 2 and I was about to go on mat leave with my second child, I really struggled with the decision of what kind of program to enroll him in. The thought of having both kids at home terrified me. I’d found a really nice half-day preschool program just a couple of blocks away that seemed perfect – but expensive. I didn’t have any parental leave top-up from my employer so I knew it would be a stretch for us financially. I was really torn because I wanted to give him the opportunities to learn, socialize with other kids and get ready for school, but didn’t know if I could justify the cost.
Then I read Mr. Money Mustache’s Avoiding Ivy League Preschool Syndrome.
The all caps made it hard to avoid one of his key messages: “YOU DON’T HAVE TO SIGN YOUR KIDS UP TO DO EXPENSIVE THINGS IN ORDER FOR THEM TO REACH THEIR FULL POTENTIAL!!”
And that was what I needed to hear. I was still worried I wouldn’t be able to manage two kids at home. But I think my real worry was that my son wouldn’t be ready for school, and that he’d somehow be behind if I didn’t spend the money on a fancy preschool. In the end it worked out great – I was able to find a couple of free city-run drop-off programs that were great, grandparents came and visited for long stretches and helped with childcare, and we found other free things to do in the community. And it was such a bad winter, I was actually glad I didn’t have to trudge through the snow every day to take him to preschool.
The reason I’ve put Mr. Money Mustache at the top of the list is that the most important thing we can do is change our mindset about what living a great life looks like, and realizing that it doesn’t mean spending a lot of money.
The Minimalist Mom is another blogger who inspires me and reminds me of what’s important. She paid off paid off over $60,000 in debt in a year and blogs about “a rich life with less stuff.” I have some packrat tendencies and she encourages me to purge – check out How Many Spatulas do You Really Need?
And Momastery is popular for a reason – one of my favourites is Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt where she responds to readers who commented that her kitchen looked dated.
One of the best resources for me is a group of similar-minded friends with kids – especially those with slightly older kids. They’re a great source of parenting and money-saving tips – and hand-me-downs! We’ve inherited lots of toys and clothes, and been loaned or given kid-related equipment that has saved us a lot of money. In turn, we’re happy to pass things along to other families when we’re done with them. Not only is it great for the budget, it’s great for the environment.
Lastly, if you’re borrowing off a line of credit or credit card, you should pay off your debt as soon as you can. Just making the minimum monthly payment on a credit card will mean a lot of your budget is eaten up by high interest costs.
These are some of the resources I’ve found really helpful for living life to the full with kids on a budget. What tips and resources do you have? Is there an app you use to save money on groceries? A favourite blog? Share in the comments below. (We’ll post after we make sure it’s not spam!)
Eva has a son in Jr. Kindergarten whose current obsession is Lego, and an almost two-year-old daughter who does everything her older brother does.
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