smart spending

Save on costs of raising children

If changing jobs or working a flexible schedule is not be possible, Kay recommends finding creative ways to save money.

"Go to the local community college and see if they have early childhood development classes and see if you can get an intern. Maybe an intern could be available to where they're earning credits for their classes and you pay them a modest amount. It will be cheaper," says Kay.

Even if they can't earn college credit, college kids are always looking for work, which may be another possibility. Or parents may be able to share a nanny with several other families as a way to cut costs. A 2006 survey by the International Nanny Association found that most full-time, live-out nannies made around $600 per week, though it varies by area.

"The concept of nanny-sharing has grown in popularity. There are several nanny-sharing scenarios, including having one nanny watch kids from several families simultaneously or having one nanny work part-time for two different families, spending a few days with each family," says Candi Wingate, president of Nannies4Hire.com, a national nanny placement agency.

To save on education costs, read Bankrate's story "6 tips for frugal back-to-school savings."

Food

USDA average estimate for 18 years: $36,210

The combination of technology and the recession spurred a newfound passion for frugality in the form of extreme couponing. Websites such as CouponMom.com allow families to maximize their coupon savings by compiling information about manufacturers' coupons and store sales across the country.

"You enter your ZIP code and get a list of sales in your area. The site tells you which manufacturers' coupons are out (in circulation) and the store coupons that are out because they can be used in conjunction with manufacturers'," says Kay.

Often the combination of manufacturer and store coupons can lead to substantial savings on necessities. Plus the proliferation of coupon sites means less time physically clipping coupons from the newspaper.

There may be another way for families to save on food costs. Angel Food Ministries provides low-cost boxes of food to families of all incomes. Available in 45 states, families and individuals buy a box of fresh and frozen food for $30. According to the website, it has an average retail value of $65.

"They have a menu that changes every month, and you pay a lot less than you would normally pay," Kay says.

But stores or organizations aren't the only way to get food.

Families can grow fresh, organic produce in their own gardens. In 2009, Burpee Seed Co. completed a cost analysis study and reported that a well-planned vegetable garden could produce big savings. For just $50 invested in seeds and fertilizer, a family could harvest $1,250 worth of veggies.

It may end up costing a bit more than $50 in the first year, when the attendant costs for equipment are accounted for, but spending time with young children in the beautiful weather of the growing season could well be priceless.

With all the money parents spend on kids, they may as well enjoy them.

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