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In Debt for Life? How to Raise a Kid Without Going Broke

Joined: 4/13/2012
Posts: 3
Your little bundle of joy is adorable, and of course you'll do anything for her. In the early days, you'll wake frequently to change the diapers. When she's 13, you'll drive her to soccer practice and mall meet-ups. When she starts to date, you'll interrogate several sweaty young men in your finely furnished den, knowing that this room, in their eyes, is made of cinderblocks and lit by a single hanging bulb. You'll laugh inside at this game. You'll do more than all this, though. You'll put your very own dreams on hold just to make sure she gets to live hers. It's going to cost a lot of money, and you'll laugh at that too, just to stay sane.

Good parents delay their own gratification in order to keep their kids healthy and well-fed, and it's no wonder when you consider the cost of raising a child today. The estimated cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood currently sits at around $200,000, making a child one of the most expensive investments a couple ever makes. But while raising a baby is majorly expensive, the good news is that it’s manageable. You’ll need less than $12,000 a year to cover all your child-related costs – and that number can be reduced even further with careful budgeting. To reduce the burden your baby will have on your savings account, try some of these clever money-saving techniques.

Freeze your credit card debt with balance transfers. The first two years of a child’s life tend to be especially expensive thanks to all the diapers, baby food and onesies you’ll be buying. The last thing you want to deal with during this difficult financial period is a mountain of credit card debt. Luckily, you can put that debt on the back burner for up to two years by shifting it from your current piece of plastic to a 0% APR balance transfer credit card.

In exchange for a small fee, these cards will shelter your balance for an extended period of time, interest-free. That'll give you the breathing room you need for those first few years. The only catch is that you can’t make any purchases on the new card once you’ve made the transfer. If you do, it will create a second “balance” that will accrue interest. Therefore, it might be a good idea to freeze the card in a cup of water or lock it up in the family safe. That way, it'll be harder to use it should the temptation strike.

Don’t go nuts on baby gear. Don’t succumb to baby fever. You might be tempted to shower your newborn with gifts and gadgets, but those costs add up. According to the Daily Mail, new parents spend over $4,000 on their first-born in the first year, and not all of those expenditures are wise. Sure, you want your baby to have the best of the best, but studies have shown that in many cases generic goods do just as nicely as the top-shelf stuff. So instead of going wild in Babies “R” Us, consider just making a trip to Wal-Mart instead. Then you'll be able to put the money you save towards something useful – like a college fund.

Pick one “kid” car and keep the other vehicle clean. It's no secret that kids and cars don't mix. If your family owns two cars, you can save your upholstery by designating one vehicle as the “kid car.” Use that one as the mule for practice pickups, family vacations and the dreaded driving lessons. By limiting your child’s sticky, careless touch to this sacrificial lamb alone, you can dramatically extend your other vehicle’s lifespan. This way, when your first-born finally needs his or her own set of wheels, you can just hand over the family beater and use the money you’ve saved to pick up a new car for your poor spouse.

Discover the joys of the library. The public library can be a marvelous place, even for families that aren’t into books. These days, libraries freely lend all sorts of things – including DVDs and video games – that could cost you hundreds of dollars a year to actually buy. On top of that, many public libraries also give you unfettered access to subscription-based buying guides like Consumer Reports, which you can use to research all of your big family purchases before you put any money down. If you’re feeling especially frugal, you can even borrow some personal finance bestsellers from gurus like Dave Ramsey to help you draft your family budget.

Buy dual-purpose items. Why buy a single item when you can get two for the same price? Try giving fun and unusual school supplies as a gift – after all, what preteen girl doesn't welcome scented sparkly gel pens and food-shaped erasers? From video games that double as musical instrument training to an asthma bracelet that moonlights as a USB drive, there are plenty of products that let parents double-dip (and save!) on items for their children.

Shop before the back-to-school sales. Those back-to-school sales that stores host every August and September don't always save you money. While necessities like backpacks and lunch boxes might get a slight markdown, you can usually find these goods for far less by shopping during the off season. During the spring and early summer, hardly anyone is looking for school supplies, so stores slash prices. If you start shopping early, you can save big on your back-to-school bill.

Nobody said raising a child was cheap, but that doesn’t mean bringing up your kids has to break the bank. If you practice cost-cutting techniques like these, you can help divert some of your hard-earned money away from the cash register and into a retirement or college fund. You'll spend less time stressing about how you’re going to pay the bills and more time with your family.
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