Megan writes in:
Congratulations on your third child! My husband and I are expecting our second child in February. I hope you’ll write an article about how to save money when another child comes along.
Your wish is my command, Megan. Here are some of the ways we’re preparing for our third child.
As I’ve mentioned before, we cloth diaper our children at home (we occasionally use disposables when traveling or when others are watching our children). Doing this drastically reduces the diapering cost for later children.
To reduce the startup cost, we bought many of our cloth diapers on eBay. Some people might be shocked at this, but the truth is that we’ve never had a bad experience buying them on eBay. Most of the diapers we receive are in really good shape – nearly unused. I think this might be because people tried partial cloth diapering (with just a few) and found that it didn’t work well for them. I’ll say that for us, cloth diapering becomes easier the more we do it. It’s actually easier to have our child wear nothing but cloth for a week than half cloth and half disposable – there’s less clutter, for one, and when you use nothing but cloth, the whole thing becomes utterly routine.
Anyway, after your initial outlay of money, cloth diapering is extremely inexpensive (and really environmentally friendly to boot). The first batch of cloth diapers we purchased are about to be used for the third time, meaning the cost per use of these diapers is already lower than disposables and is about to go substantially lower. We simply won’t have to buy many diapers for this baby.
If you plan on having more than one child, give cloth diapering a shot. It’s not really cost effective for just one, but the savings are huge with the second, third, etc. child.
Unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re not having any additional children, don’t throw away, give away, or sell the clothes from your earlier children. Fold them up, put them in a storage tub, and put them somewhere out of the way. Later on, you might make a conscious medical choice to no longer have children, at which point you can sell off the clothes. Otherwise, a big tub or two of infant, toddler, and kid clothes is like a hidden treasure trove.
Again, we have a ton of these things packed away for the next child. Since many of the baby-sized clothes are only worn a few times per child, many of the items look practically new, yet they’ll be on their third use. All the way along, it’s worthwhile to save clothes that can still afford some wear, because many children’s clothes (like t-shirts, jeans, and so on) work well for both genders. (We tend to buy lots of greens and yellows.)
What about a bed? Our solution is simple – we’re just going to upgrade the bed of the oldest child by looking for youth beds at yard sales and the like. Then, his younger sister will move into his old bed and her younger sibling will take her crib.
Just like clothes, beds work well as “hand me down” type items. That doesn’t mean that the oldest child always gets the new items and the others get the used ones – quite often, his items are used as well.
We try to consistently buy our children small numbers of very open-ended toys for their birthdays and for Christmases – building blocks and the like. By buying small numbers of items, we don’t clutter up our home (well… not too much). By buying sturdy items, they can take a beating and can easily be passed down. By buying open-ended items – like building blocks and art supplies – we have items that all of the children can use, often together. Our two children now have big art days where we cover the kitchen table or the living room table with paper and allow them to draw to their heart’s content, for example, and it will be easy for the next child to join in.
When Joe draws elaborate landscapes and Katie draws pictures of cars and houses, the youngest child can scribble. When Joe builds castles out of blocks and Katie builds towers, the youngest child can stack them. These are the kinds of toys they can all enjoy – and, to be honest, I quite often enjoy them, too.
Here’s the real key of all of this: if you’re thinking of having future children, keep the stuff you actually used. Put it in some storage boxes and stick it somewhere out of sight, clearly labeled. Similarly, focus your child-related purchases on sturdy things that will last through multiple children – plastic toys that easily break aren’t a good buy, but sturdy blocks are. Doing this alone will save you a lot of cash on future children without reducing their quality of life one bit.