Especially in a down economy, looking to save money and practicing frugal parenting can be a great thing.
Some things you simply shouldn't skimp on when it comes to your kids though, as it can affect their health and safety.
Some of the main do's and don'ts of frugal parenting include that you:
- never dilute baby formula to make it last longer. Diluted baby formula simply won't have enough calories and nutrients for your baby, and can lead to malnutrition and water intoxication, both of which are life-threatening conditions.
- do apply for WIC if you aren't breastfeeding and can't afford baby formula or food for your infant, toddler, or preschooler. Pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women can also be eligible for WIC.
- don't buy unsafe used baby products, such as used car seats, unless you are sure about the car seat's history, like if it has been in a crash, when it was made, if it has all of its parts and instructions, or used baby cribs, which might have lead paint or may not meet the latest safety regulations.
- look for slightly used baby products and hand-me-downs from friends and family members so that you can be more sure of the product's history, including that it hasn't been recalled or damaged.
- don't spend a lot of money on toys and gadgets because you think it will make your kids happy, and which will mean sacrifices on more important things in their lives.
- do spend time with your kids, which believe it or not, is much more important and will make your kids happier in the long run.
- don't try to save money by eating fast food or lower cost junk food.
- do look for bargains on healthy food, especially in-season fruits and vegetables, and healthy store-brand snacks, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and other healthy food.
- don't go into debt trying to outspend or keep up with other parents. Again it is more important that you spend a lot of time with your kids and not a lot of money.
- do stick to a budget, especially on non-essential items, like eating out, going to the movies, ro buying video games.
- don't skimp on important things, in addition to your child's nutrition, such as going to the dentist and getting health care. Instead, try to budget for these things or look for assistance programs, including charitable or low-cost dental care and your State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for health insurance.
- do ask for discounts from your doctor and dentist if you don't have any type of health insurance.
- don't buy every new game, movie and book that comes out that your child wants.
- do teach your kids to live frugally too; consider giving them an allowance that they can use to buy things they want, and take them to the library to borrow books and movies.
- don't buy things that are full price unless it is absolutely necessary.
- do learn to use coupons, rebates, and get freebies.
Most importantly, concentrate on the important things, like food, shelter, and clothing, and don't worry about expensive toys, shoes, and other fads. Also, be quick to look for help if you need it and it is available. And don't be afraid to tell your kids about your financial situation, in an age-appropriate manner, especially if you will be cutting back on a few things.