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Having a family is expensive. In fact, the estimated cost to raise a child from birth to 17 years old is $233,610, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While that's undoubtedly a scary number, there are ways to keep costs down and the kids happy.


We chatted with five budget-conscious mommy bloggers (and one daddy blogger) about their top money-saving tips and how they keep their family on a budget. They've mastered everything from meal planning and child care to family vacations and birthday presents.

Here's how they do it.

1. Meal planning

“We've all heard the common advice to make a list of meals for the week, write up a grocery list and only buy what's on the list," says Robyn of A Dime Saved. “I say do the opposite!" Yup, when it comes to figuring out how to feed her family on a budget, Robyn goes to the store, sees what's on sale, and then plans her meals around what she buys.

“Tomatoes are on sale," she says. “Go home and google tomato recipes. Is canned corn on sale? Look in your cookbooks for recipes with corn. Some of my favorite food recipes I found because I was searching what to do with food that I bought."

Robyn also says this adds a bit of adventure and excitement to her family mealtime. “I discover new foods that me and my family like that we wouldn't have thought of before," she says. “I had a memorable meal two weeks ago where I tried tons of beet dishes because beets were dirt cheap."

She adds, “I can save anywhere from $20 to $100 a week, or way more. It's also a great feeling to know that you can feed your family on $20 a week if needed, which I have done."

2. Student loan repayment

When budgeting for student payments, the first thing you need to do is figure out how much you can afford—whether you have a family or not. Remember, your bill is not set in stone. If you have federal loans, there are many different loan repayment options to work with. If you just entered the job force and are having a hard time paying your bill, look into a graduated repayment plan. Your payments start small and then increase over time.

“Sometimes things happen in life, and you struggle," says Kumiko Ehrmantraut, founder and creator of The Budget Mom. “For these times, I suggest looking into the income-based repayment plan. Your total due every month is based on your income, rather than the standard plan they initially set you up on. Make sure to talk to your loan provider and figure out your options."

3. Family vacations

“Travel during non-peak times if you have some flexibility around your children's schedules," says Cliff Hsia of Live, Family, Travel. “Not only are airports and destinations packed with people, everything is much more expensive. By flying during the offseason, we've saved at least $2,000 to $3,000 per international trip for our family."

If traveling during the off-season is not feasible for your family, consider using credit cards with sign up and spending bonuses and incentives, and use those points for free nights at hotels and flights.

“With lots of credit cards offering rewards points there are many opportunities to accumulate a good amount of points to use for free nights at hotels and for flights," says Cliff. “My personal favorite credit cards are Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the Starwood Preferred Guest card. Every time we use points for hotels, we save at least $150 or more per night."

While using points to pay for travel can certainly help with bringing vacation costs down, it's important to make sure you can afford to pay down monthly balances in full. If you are unable to pay in full, then the accrued interest on purchases can counter any potential savings from points.

Cliff also advises staying in Airbnb apartments to save money on costly hotels. “For stays longer than a week, staying in Airbnbs makes a lot of sense," he says. “You'll get a kitchen, more space, and lower overall prices."

For most of their travels around the world, Cliff and his family stayed in Airbnbs, which cut their accommodation costs by at least half. “On our trip through 10 countries in 10 months in 2015, we saved at least $10,000 in costs by staying in Airbnbs instead of hotels," he says. “And our price for over a month-long stay in a nice two-bedroom apartment in the middle of Barcelona? $66 per night."

4. Family activities

Finding ways to entertain your family can be difficult and expensive. That's precisely the problem Peggy Chang faced when looking for ways to keep her kids occupied. That's why she created ActivityHero, an online marketplace where you can shop for camps, after-school classes, workshops, and kids' nights out.

What she learned from setting up the website was that you could save money on family activities by signing up for free workshops and events. “Many retail stores and shopping malls have free weekly or monthly craft or building activities," says Peggy. “You'll find free activities on ActivityHero.com, Eventbrite, Facebook or Nextdoor."

Another one of her money-saving tips: “Save money on summer camps by getting early registration discounts, sibling and multi-session discounts. Look for value-priced camps that have a longer day if you need it." Since camps can often be half days or full days, you'll want to look for the ones that have the best per-hour rates. If you work a full-time job, finding a camp that has a full day of activities with a lower hourly rate can help with savings.

Regarding budgeting, make a category in your budget labeled “family fun" to allow for a little extra spending money for things like the amusement park or the zoo without breaking the bank. Kumiko recommends putting aside $100 a month if you can. Take whatever is unused each month and roll it into the next month. That way you can save up for a much bigger day out.

5. Kids' needs

When it comes to clothes and back-to-school supplies, remember you don't have to buy everything new. A great money-saving tip is to shop at secondhand stores for kids' clothing.

“As a mom, you know that clothes don't last long, so buying them new doesn't make a lot of sense," says Kumiko. “I make sure to buy clothes that are a little bigger so my son can grow into them. Also, I find that the best time to shop at thrift stores is when seasons change. It's the time when people are cleaning out their closets or going through their seasonal clothes."

In particular, Kumiko says a great time to go to a thrift store is around the first of the year. “People just got done buying new stuff during the holidays," she says. “And are getting rid the old stuff to make room. It's also the deadline for making donations that you can write off on your taxes."

6. Mortgage/rent

“For mortgages, consider refinancing when possible if it will drop your interest rates," says Cherie Lowe creators of Queen Of Free. She went from having 22 years left on her mortgage to 15, saving her family around $50,000 if they go full term.

You will have to pay some upfront closing costs, which is why it's important to do the math and find out how long it will take to recoup your closing costs. “If your rate lowers 1%—you are saving roughly $1,000.00 ($2,000.00 if 2% saved) for every $100,000 owed each year," says Cherie.

For rent, check into referral programs your landlord might have, suggests Cherie. If you bring in a new tenant, some places offer a referral reward to you and the new resident. “When we lived in an apartment, we did this more than once," she says. “If you live in a privately owned home and are in hard times, you may want to check with your landlord to see if there's any way you could have your rent reduced for a set period of time."

7. Transportation

When it comes to transportation, car issues can be one of the biggest expenses. “It's never a question of if something is going to happen to your car that you will need to shell out money for, but when," says Cherie. “Find a trusted mechanic and stick with the same one over a lifetime rather than hopping here or there to have the oil changed."

She adds, “It may cost a little bit more but having a relationship with your mechanic can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars over the years. A lot of chains work on commission and/or high pressure sales. A hometown mechanic can shoot you straight without overselling because they're in it for a long term maintenance approach rather than one time shot based on a coupon or deal. This will keep your car up and running longer."

Don't know where to find one? “Ask your social network," says Cherie. “People love to brag about reliable, worthwhile service."

Cherie also advises putting time into maintaining your car as well as a preventive measure. You may have your hands full with the kids, but make it a point to regularly check your tires and tire pressure, get your oil changed regularly, and buy good windshield wipers.

8. Child care

Child care can be one of the most expensive parts of raising a child. According to 2016 Care.com member data, the average cost of a daycare center for infants is about $10,468 per year, but can go as high as $20,209 a year in some locations. Toddlers have similar pricing of about $9,733 a year. Opting for the nanny route? For one child, it will cost you about $28,905 a year, but can go as high as $32,677.

“If you don't need a nanny 40+ hours a week, consider doing a nanny share," says Juliet Izon of Juliet's Married. “That's when one nanny watches multiple children at once from different families. That way you're not paying someone full time, but you can still attract candidates looking for a full-time salary."

Juliet also adds, “Consider asking your boss if you can work one day from home and have your spouse or partner do the same. That way one to two days out of five working days are covered. That can add up to some big savings."

If you average about $10,000 a year for child care, that's about $42 a day. If two days a week are covered by you and your spouse, that's over $300 a month in savings.

9. Holiday gifts

Birthdays and holidays can be tough when it comes to both pleasing your children and your budget. To help pay off their $127,000 worth of debt, Cherie and her husband Brian stopped giving each other presents and put the money they would have spent towards their debt. But, when it came to their kids, they knew they couldn't stop giving gifts.

“We'd always give each of our kids three gifts for Christmas," says Cherie. “They get a book because reading is a gift, they get an item of clothing because not everyone gets a beautiful blue coat, and they get one big gift or electronic. They get something to open and at least one big item, which is all they need."

Cherie also got creative with her stocking stuffers. “I actually use small pillowcases filled with practical but fun things like nail polish, junk cereal, a toothbrush, and bubble bath," she says. “It's practical and inexpensive items but feels splurgy. A huge box of goldfish was one of my daughter's favorite gifts."

10. Dining out

Just because you have kids doesn't mean you can't enjoy a nice meal out. While meal planning certainly helps with the day-to-day expenses of feeding a family, there are still ways to save money even at a nicer restaurant when dining with children.

“At a restaurant with no kids menu," says Juliet. “It never hurts to ask if they can do a half portion of an entree like pasta or chicken. You won't be charged for an adult portion, which will go to waste and your little one can work on refining her palate, to boot."

Originally posted on Student Loan Hero.

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When I became a mom, suddenly it felt like I was working with fewer hours in the day. Whereas previously I could put in a full day at work and still have time to hit the gym, throw in a load of laundry, and cook a full dinner, suddenly my day felt jam-packed from the moment I opened my eyes.

And one of the first things that takes a hit on my to-do list? Mealtime.

While I continued to prioritize whole ingredients and nutritionally backed recipes, I found myself with less and less time to do the shopping, prepping, and cooking required for all the foods we liked to eat. And even when I could find the time, you can bet I would rather be bonding with my child than spending hours at the store or in the kitchen. Which is why Nurture Life has become one of my favorite #momhacks for getting healthy (and delicious) meals in front of my toddler.

And they're giving our readers a $50 value in Nurture Life meals. (Use code MOTHERLY for $25 off your first 2 orders for a limited time.)

Here are five reasons why this was such a game-changer:

1. It’s super convenient.

Once you pick your plan (baby, toddler, or kid), Nurture Life will deliver five or 10 meals per week to your doorstep. Meaning a professional has done all the heavy lifting of planning the dietitian-approved recipes, sourcing the ingredients, and even prepping the dish.

All you have to do is warm up the meal in the microwave and oven-safe food tray. (Yep, no extra dishes to wash. Win-win.)

2. It’s healthy by design.

This is not your typical pre-made dinner. Each Nurture Life meal is designed by a chef and registered pediatric dietitian, with all the ingredients sourced from quality farmers and purveyors—so produce is in season and organic whenever possible—and all meat and seafood is sustainably and naturally raised.

As a result, your child is regularly consuming the produce and protein they need to grow and stay healthy, without worrying about any unnecessary additives.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, what I put in my body (and therefore my baby's body) has been so important to me. Now that I'm training my child to make her own food choices, it gives me peace of mind knowing that Nurture Life has done the heavy lifting in providing safe, nutritious options—and helping me teach my daughter that healthy should also be delicious.

3. It’s quick.

When I'm home with my daughter, I rarely get more than 15-30 minutes to scrape together a meal before she's asking me to play or hold her or help her find a lost toy—hardly enough time to craft a healthy, delicious meal we both feel good about.

And, truthfully, I'd so much rather be spending my time with her than bent over the stove. Nurture Life helps me get that time back. All I do is heat them up for a few minutes until warm and serve. And then it's back to being where we both really want to be.

4. It’s safe.

Unlike conventional commercial meals and snacks for children, Nurture Life won't feed your child anything their founders wouldn't feed their own families. As a result, they subscribe to a firm never-ever list—they never add preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, trans fats, or high fructose corn syrup in any of their recipes.

Their meals are also free from peanut, tree nut (except coconut), and shellfish. And all ingredients are clearly listed on their site and on meal labels to avoid any potential allergens.

5. It’s delicious… even for picky eaters.

Nurture Life is proof that gourmet-quality meals don't have to be intimidating. When the ingredients are high quality and the flavor is on point, even macaroni and cheese with cauliflower can feel high-end. Whenever I serve a Nurture Life meal, my daughter happily gobbles down everything from tortellini with peas to salmon teriyaki—and I may even sneak in a bite here and there myself! It's the perfect antidote for our picky eaters.

Some of Nurture Life's classic kid favorites are available throughout the year, but they also have amazing seasonal menus to introduce variety.


I'll probably never have as many hours in a day as I truly need. But with Nurture Life, I do get time to savor the moments I really want to enjoy.

Use code MOTHERLY for $25 off your first 2 orders for a limited time—a $50 value.


This article is sponsored by Nurture Life. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Preparing food for my family is important to me and something that makes me feel good, even if it isn't elaborate. Plus, I never want to stay stagnant in any area of my life. If I suck at cooking then I want to get better, so I am.

But I run a business, have four kids, a house, and extracurricular activities to juggle, so it's more important than ever that I keep this area of my life streamlined.

All of this is enough to be super intimidating for someone who is already not a natural at this area of homemaking, but I've figured out a pretty solid routine (thank the good Lord), and since I get asked about this a lot, I'm sharing my tips with you today!

1. Choose just a few pre-planned meals, then get staple ingredients for the others.

I think a lot of us feel the need to know exactly what we'll be serving for dinner every day of the week. If that works for you, stick with it! But for me, I'm a little too sporadic for that, and whenever I plan my week that way we end up not cooking one or two of the planned dinners and groceries get wasted.

So now, I only choose about three exact dinners, and then get basic ingredients like chicken breast, bacon, sweet potato and other veggies to make a spur-of-the-moment, simple meal the other nights.

I might also make those other nights a repeat meal that we have all the time, like tacos.

2. Get all your planning done in one day each week.

Every Sunday night, I pour myself a glass of wine and sit down with a notebook, my cookbooks, and a pen. I choose my meals, make a shopping list, and map out exactly what I'll be buying for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.

I make sure I'm planning all the way through the following Monday (the day I shop) which leads me to….

3. Choose another day for all shopping.

On Mondays, I do my grocery shopping. What isn't being delivered by Amazon Fresh (more on that below) is purchased and ready for the week.

4. Prep immediately after shopping whenever possible.

Instead of bringing in groceries and putting them straight in the fridge, I've started washing and slicing and prepping everything as soon as I'm home from my errands.

I got this handy trick from my new favorite book by Brooke Sailer, (I'm Failing At) This Thing Called Home.

5. Food prep, don’t meal prep.

Meal prepping may totally work for you, but it doesn't for us! We've found that food prepping is much more doable. Food prepping looks like sautéed potatoes, sliced fruit, cooked and shredded chicken, baked sweet potato fries, all stored in the fridge, ready to use. It's pieces of meals that you can grab, reheat, and eat based on what sounds good and how much time you have.

6. Base it on your schedule.

If you know Wednesday nights are super crazy for your family, have that be a Crockpot or take-out night every week.

7. Keep a running list of everything you’re out of.

This one is obvious and overstated, but worth saying one more time! My list is on my fridge and in my phone. I check both on Sunday nights when making my shopping lists.

8. Amazon Subscribe + Save and Amazon Fresh.

Amazon is KILLING IT. They just bought Whole Foods, so more organic goodness is surely coming our way, and they now offer subscriptions for your most-used food and household items. Some things on my Subscribe + Save account include; toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, snack bars, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, and cleaning sprays.

With Amazon Fresh, you can do your grocery shopping from your couch (if it's offered in your city) and get organic fruits, veggies, and pretty much anything. Amazing!

9. Don’t overthink it. Know what works!

Don't over complicate meal planning because it's daunting or you dislike it. Streamline, simplify, cut out the things that aren't working and stick to what is.

10. Stop being afraid of repeating meals.

No shame in repeats, yo. I know a friend who rotates 10 meals, exactly that way, all the time. It's been that way for years and her family has no complaints. It's easier for her, too! Win win. If that works for you, embrace it and count yourself as one of the lucky ones!

11. Other things that work for our family:

  • Prepped food becomes lunch plates we can fix up in less than 10 minutes.
  • Prepped foods that work on-the-go.
    • Fresh sliced fruits
    • Grilled chicken (cold in a Ziplock)
    • Snackable veggies
  • Breakfasts are the same meals rotated.
    • Coffee and a bar (cereal for kids)
    • Smoothies
    • "Big healthy plates" (this is what we call eggs topped with avocado, uncured bacon, grilled tomatoes with salt and pepper, and sweet potato hash).
    • Pancakes + bacon (GF, of course!)
  • Bars instead of lunch for the really busy, on-the-go kind of days (our favorites are Lara and RX).
  • I (try to) always have kid & adult snacks as well as water bottles in my bag or in the car.
  • We always have a couple easy/frozen meals on hand for "emergencies". Like when the babysitter shows up on time and you were so excited for date night that you forgot you have kids….
    • Mac + Cheese
    • Chicken nuggets
    • Frozen pizzas

Phew! That pretty much sums up what I've been doing to keep meal preparation as simple as possible with four kids and a Crossfit hubby. I hope it inspires and helps you!

Originally posted on Allie Casazza.

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When our children spend so much of the day away from us at school, the moments we do have together are precious. But, they don't always feel precious in the whirlwind of getting ready and out the door each day.

Sometimes it seems like no matter how much time we allot, it is never enough. After all, who can predict that last week's favorite train shirt would lead to a full-on toddler meltdown when it's time to get dressed in the morning?

Here are a few things you can do to help your child take ownership of the morning routine and reclaim what should be a time of bonding.

1. Talk it through

Choose a low-stress time, such as while riding in the car or eating a snack together, and talk through the morning routine with your child. Ask them what needs to happen in the morning before they go to school. Prompt with tasks they might forget, like brushing teeth or putting on shoes. Walk through all of the steps a few times so they have a good idea of what is coming.

While your child will inevitably still need reminders, this will give them a solid understanding of what needs to happen each day.

2. Make a picture chart

After you've talked through everything, make a picture chart for your child depicting the sequence of their morning routine. Take a picture representing each step—one of the potty, one of their toothbrush, one of their clothes laid out, etc. Or, have fun drawing the pictures together instead!

A picture chart provides even young children a resource, other than you, to consult when they're unsure of what to do next.

It can also be helpful if your child gets off track. Remind them to check their picture chart to see what comes next. This is more empowering than simply telling them exactly what to do, which is more likely to instigate a power struggle.

If your child is older, help them write a list, or draw their own pictures of what needs to happen in the morning and post it somewhere they will see it each morning, like by the bedside table.

3. Have your child pack their own lunch

Depending on your schedule, it is likely better to do this the night before, but encouraging your child to pack their own lunch helps them take ownership of their school day.

Worried their lunch will consist of nothing but crackers and grapes? Make a simple rule such as one protein, one grain, one fruit, and one vegetable. Help them think of options in each category.

If they're older, brainstorm what they would like in each category before you go to the grocery store. Anything you can do to help them feel like they have a say in the process will help the morning go more smoothly.

4. Offer limited clothing choices

Allowing children to choose their own clothes is wonderful, but it can be quite time-consuming in the morning. Lay out two options for your young child to choose from. Always put them in the same place, such as a small shelf in their closet, so they will know where to look in the morning.

For an older child, encourage them to lay out their own clothes the night before so they won't have to decide when they're still half asleep in the morning.

5. Allow a natural consequence

When the planning and picture charts don't work, try allowing a natural consequence to take place instead of nagging and repeating yourself. It may be a little unpleasant, but it will also be effective, and will likely only need to happen once.

Are they taking too long to get out of bed? There will be no time for eating pancakes together, they'll have to settle for a granola bar in the car.

Are they refusing to get dressed? They will have to bring his clothes with him and arrive at school in jammies.

These are not punishments, they are simply things that logically happen when the routine isn't followed.

6. Build in time for togetherness

One reason that children stall in the morning is that they want you to help them because they need that time together. Build in a few minutes of togetherness before asking your child to get themself ready each morning.

It may seem like you don't have 5-10 minutes to spare, but this will likely save you time as your child will have gotten the bonding time they need and be less likely to resist the rest of the morning.

Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive.

7. Make it fun

Help them make a getting ready playlist of favorite songs to listen to while they brush their teeth and get dressed.

Let them pick a muffin or pancake recipe and make a big batch together on the weekend so that you have breakfast ready to go. Take turns telling each other what you dreamed last night over breakfast or in the car.

The morning can often be hectic and stressful, but it's also a significant portion of the time many of us get to spend with our children during the week. These little moments can give us, and our children, the little boost we need to start the day feeling loved.

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