Between diapers, preschool and snacks (Lord help me, the snacks), kids are expensive! Here are a few creative ways I keep our budget on track. You can check out the rest of my list by heading to DailyWorth, a finance-based media site for women!

  1. Throw them a birthday party every other year. Bake a cake and sing happy birthday with the family, but there’s no need to spend a fortune on a big birthday party every year. Instead, we let our kids pick a family outing or special event, and the rest is history! Another hack is letting your child pick only 4 or 5 friends to invite to their party, rather than inviting everyone you know.
  2. Don’t buy them birthday or Christmas gifts when they’re young. I know it sounds harsh, but honestly, is the 4 and under crowd really going to notice? As it is, grandparents and friends get our kids so many gifts that we usually end up hiding a few to be enjoyed later.
  3. Start a babysitting co-op. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars a year by simply trading kids with a friend every other week. It’s a win-win, and it’s free!
  4. Have fun with leftovers. Call me crazy, but I like to think of leftover meal planning as a game. My goal is to make a new meal that’s as different as possible from the original. I’ve used our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers to make turkey enchiladas; leftover grilled chicken to make a homemade chicken soup; and I’ve even cleaned out our fridge leftovers and thrown it all on homemade pizza dough! Another favorite leftover creation of mine is cutting up the grilled chicken, and adding fat-free plain Greek yogurt, diced onion, cilantro, diced apples and tons of pepper to make a delicious chicken salad. I put it on sandwiches, on top of lettuce, and I’ve even frozen it for future meals.
  5. Only offer milk and water. I’ve never bought juice, and I’ve never had a problem. It’s expensive, it makes the kids hyper, and we have enough issues with dental health as it is. *wink* Keep the options simple.
  6. Pay your mortgage every 2 weeks instead of once a month. For a 30-year fixed rate loan, this cuts more than 5 years off your loan! Here’s how it works. Because you’re paying exactly half of your mortgage every 2 weeks, you end up paying 2 more payments per year. This means that twice a year, your entire payment goes directly to your principal. We recently purchased a home, and I made this change with a 5-minute phone call to our lender! I was even able to pick the payment days!
  7. Instead of health insurance, join an insurance co-op. This is a great option if you have a high premium, skimpy coverage and a high deductible. My husband owns his own company, so it’s just our family on his plan, and our monthly premium is $1300 a month with a $6800 deductible. That’s a whole lot of money! A friend recently told me about an insurance co-op that has a $177 monthly buy-in, and your deductible is $10,000. You basically pay out-of-pocket for everything, but your monthly premium is drastically reduced. It’s worth checking out!

For the rest of the list, check out my post on DailyWorth! What are your favorite, creative ways to save money? Share them in the comments section below.