Odds are, right now, you might be struggling to keep up with everything financially. This is especially true if you have a baby and especially, especially true if someone stays home with them. We’ve been on a tight budget for a while now, and it can definitely be tough. So, in honor of inflation and the recession, let’s talk about living on a tight budget with a baby.
Get your grocery bill down
I know, I know. Easier said than done. But there are steps you can take to try and get that budget down. First of all, if you’re not meal planning, you absolutely should be. It helps you plan for what’s coming, only buy what you need, and avoid food waste.
You’ll also want to shop around your town for the best prices. There are some money bloggers who say you should find the best store for each thing, but I feel like that’s a lot of hassle when you’ve already got a baby and you’re meal planning on top. So, just find the best place with the cheapest prices in general and shop there. This goes for online stores too. You might find that an online store that lets you buy in bulk is cheaper. This goes for formula too! Buying in bulk online is typically way cheaper than buying it in-store.
It’s also worth checking into your local farmer’s market or see if there’s a farm share. You’d think the farmer’s market would be more expensive because it tends to be better quality. But it’s not! The last time I went to the farmer’s market, I got a dozen eggs for $5. We were also part of a farm share for a while, and we got so much good stuff for way cheaper. You’re bound to what’s seasonal, but it’s worth it if you’re living with a tight budget.
We also use Butcher Box for our meat, and we’ve found it extremely helpful and easy.
Make your own baby food
Once your baby can eat solids, it’s worth making your own baby food. This is because it’s way cheaper to make your baby food than it is to buy it. You can buy three sweet potatoes, turn them into a puree, and then freeze portions. This will give you baby meals for a week. It’s more time-consuming, but if you cook in bulk, it’s not too bad. If you need some puree ideas, I’ve got you covered.
Get rid of any big payments if you can
We recently went down to one car. It was paid off, but we were obviously still paying to register and insure it. Plus, we just didn’t need it. We’re both working from home, and we weren’t running into any situations in which we needed two cars. So, we sold my husband’s car, which helped us get into our home. It also injected some money into our regular budget. If you can get rid of your car payment by either trading in or selling, that’s great. Just don’t buy a car that’s going to break down all the time and cost you in the long run.
This applies to things like credit cards too. If you can get those balances down or consolidate everything onto one credit card, that’s great.
Keep your phone bill down
More and more, people are able to shop around for their phone service provider. If there’s a smaller company around you, it might be worth looking into their plan and what they can provide. You might not need an unlimited plan with roaming coverage. Go for a plan that’s most effective for you and your lifestyle.
This goes without saying too, but maybe don’t buy the most expensive phone/upgrade. Think through whether you need it or just want it, and go for the cheaper option if you can.
Take advantage of discounts
Speaking of your phone bill, did you know that some phone companies give a student discount? It’s true! We get $25 off every month our phone bill since I’m in school. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. It’s still $300 a year. So, if you’re a student or a veteran or something like that, be sure to look into what type of discounts you can get. You might find some amazing programs that really help your tight budget.
Pay attention to your monthly subscriptions
Monthly subscriptions are no joke. It’s so easy to accumulate them and sometimes so annoying to cancel. But it’s worth taking a serious look at your monthly subscriptions if you’re on a tight budget with a baby. Are there any streaming services that you’re not using enough to really warrant paying for them? Is there a gym membership you’re not using? Go through each of your individual expenses on your bank statement and see if there’s anything you’ve forgotten you’re paying for too.
Get the internet plan you need
Even with our tight budget, we have some intense internet. Like, we have an upgraded modem that we purchased, and we pay for 600gbs per month. However, we both work from home, and we have several devices on our internet. So, we have to pay for a lot of internet to do our jobs effectively.
That being said, we refused to bundle and pay more for a cable plan we weren’t going to use. We also have called and negotiated our rate every couple of years. So, we typically are never paying full price for our internet plan. This might be something you can do too. It’s also starting to get a little better company monopoly-wise, and you might be able to shop around for your internet company.
Save up for different expenses and pay in full
If you’ve got a big expense throughout the year that you know you’re going to need to pay, save up for it monthly. This is true for things like holidays and registering your car. However, there are also things that you can pay in full and get a discount. For example, your car insurance will be cheaper if you pay in full versus pay monthly. So, if you set aside a portion of that cost monthly, you can pay in full and get that discount.
Go with the daycare you can afford
This is a tricky one because childcare is typically a big expense, especially if you’re on a tight budget. So, it’s worth considering all of your options. Is it cheaper for someone to stay home with the baby? Whether that’s mom, dad, grandma, etc.? Can you find a daycare within your budget? Can you manage a part-time babysitter as opposed to a full-time one? Personally, I work a unicorn job that allows me to take care of my children and work full time. It’s nearly impossible, but it’s worth it. Go through your various options and figure out what’s going to work best for you.
Take advantage of utility budget plans
Some utility companies will lower your monthly cost by putting you on a budget plan. If you’ve lived there for the last twelve months, they might just charge you for your annual average usage monthly. This can help keep your monthly payment low and allow you to actually budget each month for what your utility bill is going to be. So, check with your utility companies to see if this is an option for you.
Take advantage of loyalty programs
Sign up for any and all loyalty programs and email lists. If you don’t want it clogging up your email, you can create one just for signing up for things. But always, always take advantage of the loyalty program or email list exclusive coupons. Be careful now. Don’t go buying things you don’t need because it’s on sale. We’re still on a tight budget after all. But absolutely get on the list of any place you shop at regularly. It can seriously be worth it.
This is also true with formula! For instance, Enfamil has a loyalty program, and you can accumulate points to go towards more formula. Formula is expensive, so take every advantage you can!
Only buy what you need and buy anything secondhand that you can
This might seem like a gimme, but if you’re overbuying or buying new when you could get secondhand, stop that. It can take some extra time to dig through a thrift store or consignment store, but if you’re on a tight budget with a baby, it can seriously be worth it. Facebook can be good for buying secondhand too, and many towns have groups where you can exchange things for cheap or even free. Just be safe if you’re meeting someone online.
Take advantage of zero-interest credit cards
This might be a controversial opinion, but we always take advantage of zero-interest promotions. So, for example, when we had to buy our washer/dryer, we put it on a store credit card. If we paid it off within 12 months (which we did), we didn’t have to pay any interest. The key is paying it off within the time frame.
Calculate how much you need to pay off each month to hit that goal and stick to it. If you’re smart, you can make those big purchases without needing to take a big chunk out of your budget all at once. If you don’t pay it off in time, you will be hit with that deferred interest all at once. So, make sure you pay it off!
Take advantage of your local library
Your local library can be your absolute best friend because it can allow you to borrow what you might buy instead. This includes things like books and movies. However, depending on your library and its budget, you might be able to borrow even more things, like toys and even cooking supplies. You might also be able to get things for cheap with programs they’re running. For example, my local library has a program where you can buy a Halloween costume for five dollars or trade an old costume for another used some. It’s an amazing program that I’m sure saves families a lot of Halloween money.
Living on a tight budget isn’t fun, especially when you’ve got a little one, but there are ways to make it work. Just keep track of your expenses, give yourself some wiggle room if you can, and take advantage of any and all programs.
Got your own tips? Leave them below!
Erin Lafond is a writer, website creator, and mom. She survived new motherhood by Googling things a lot, calling her mother, and embracing trial and error. Now, she shares her knowledge with all new moms. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and son (soon to be two sons!).