If it's not new shoes parents are replacing, it's too-short pants or lost hats and mittens for kids who are constantly growing. In a world where buying new clothes for your kids is as common as taking out the trash or cleaning the kitchen, the world of secondhand is key, Nelson and McCoy agree.
"I did a series of hand-me-downs with kids," McCoy says. "I shopped at the rerun stores that are very particular about the clothes they take." McCoy says she also found thrift stores where she could trade in her kids' old clothes for store credit.
Diapers are a big expense for babies, Nelson says, and it's worth shopping around for the best price for diapers -- which is often the store brand.
And finally, while not a necessity per se, entertaining your children does not come cheap. The costs of DVDs, books and toys add up, especially with your little ones' ever-changing tastes. But there are ways to provide access to these things to your kids without forking over a fistful of dough. For media, try the library.
"People do not take advantage of their public libraries as much as they should for movies and books," says Michael Gutter, assistant professor and family financial management state specialist at the University of Florida.
And try trolling Craigslist.org, garage sales and thrift stores for gently used toys -- kids often grow out of their favorite toys before they're used up, leaving someone else to appreciate them.
- Buy toys that are entertaining and educational so there is a double use when the child plays.
- Sign up for a subscription at a toy-rental website such as BabyPlays.com. For a set fee each month, the company will mail toys to your home. You can either pay to have them picked up or ship them back to the company yourself.
- Goodwill and other thrift stores offer cheap, high-quality clothes that kids can play in and won't break the bank if and when they get ruined.
- For higher-quality clothes to be used for social activities, hit the sales racks at T.J. Maxx and similar stores.
- Arrange a clothing swap. Get a group of friends together, each bringing all of their kids' clothes that are too small but still in good condition. This works for toys, too.
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