Family finances: Five areas you could cut your kid costs this year

Once the last tennis racquet is swung at this year’s Australian Open, 2023 will be in full swing, and it’ll be game, set, match to the trials and tribulations of 2022.

Well, for the most part. The cost of living pressures which dominated much of last year are likely to stick around, with the Reserve Bank likely to raise rates again next month and inflation remaining stubbornly high.

Here’s five categories where you might be able to win against ‘kid costs’ to help your family come out on top.Credit:Dionne Gain

All this means having the right game plan for sound finances is more crucial than ever.

So I thought I’d share five categories where you might be able to win against ‘kid costs’ to help your family come out on top.

1. Back-to-school budget savers.

My top tip here is to forget the frenzy. For example, with school uniforms, it pays to be a bit disorganised – school holidays are long and kids grow a lot.

Wait a week into term, and you might find that a deluge of secondhand items that other parents just discovered no longer fit hit the uniform shop. You might even be offered hand-me-downs.

And though it may be book ‘buying’ season, check your kids’ cupboards first: what virtually empty exercise books are there from previous years (even from older siblings) that can have a few pages torn out and be recycled?

Speaking of cupboards, a quick clean can unearth all sorts of treasures: I just found a calculator, whiteboards for class and multiple rulers. If you need to buy new, smaller, unnamed brands equal smaller prices, too.

Finally, remember that old-school book adhesive covering? A few sheets of that can help spruce up and excite your mini-mes about what might otherwise be wasted.

As holidays wrap up, real-life ramps up. But if you work as an economic unit, you could get your costs vitally down.

2. After-school activities.

It’s scheduling time again [sigh]. Invariably, one favoured activity moves its time or day and the rhythm of the school week that you carefully constructed term last year falls over.

Again, pause a little. Remember, the free trials on new activities will last for several weeks, which could represent a saving of $100 per activity.

Could you even cut music lessons to fortnightly and convince your child/children to get better at practice (see how optimistically I am approaching the year!)?

Team sports can often be cheaper than individual.Credit:Alamy

And don’t miss that the word activity is about being active. What can your kids do that gets them exercise without the expense?

Team sports are typically far cheaper than individual disciplines and pursuits, say football versus acrobatics.

Just be sure to factor in your opportunity cost of transport and hours spent watching more time-intensive codes, such as cricket.

Yes, all kids should take swimming lessons at least until they are safe in the water, but did you know you could defray the high cost if you have private health insurance? You can often claim back $200 per child per year.

3. Entertainment economisers.

Your hip pocket may be hurting from occupying your offspring through the holidays, so maybe chat about cheaper term-time alternatives.

The concept of cocooning – appealing again now that we have had a post-pandemic freedom fix – is to fake the same fun at home.

So, the gold class ‘cinema’: cover your loungeroom in mattresses and cushions, get the far-more-frugal popcorn in the microwave and crank that fast-tracked-to-your-family’s-giant-TV new release movie.

A picnic in the park can be fun and cost-friendly.Credit:Oscar Colman

The days are still long, so give restaurants a rest and pack a picnic in our beautiful outdoors. And take water bottles. Always.

Just a quick aside on the merry-go-round of children’s birthday parties that is about to be set spinning: for goodness’ sake, break the escalating expense cycle.

Have them at home. A tarp with detergent can be as excellent for little ones as an aqua park!

It just takes a few of us to take a stinge-spired stand (and the health and wealth damage of ludicrous lolly-filled party bags are a column all of their own).

You can make a gold class cinema at home for a fraction of the price.Credit:The Age

4. Pocket money payback.

Out-sourcing your various home chores has been hip for many years now, but have your children been getting old enough and adept enough in the interim?

Think about what you pay someone else to do (and whatever you do, don’t say the rate out loud).

Pocket money should be earned not bestowed – after all that is real, adult life – and what better way to ease the financial strain on your family than paying your children (less!) to do the tasks for which you might hire others.

You could pay your kids to mow your lawn in an effort to save money.Credit:Louise Kennerley

This could include lawn mowing, gardening, cleaning, or car washing/vacuuming.

You could even make a family activity of it to cut the idle, possibly expensive, hours. And you can pat yourself on the back that you are imparting a work ethic to your progeny.

5. Super soup-ups.

Taking a step back to the big picture, super is often a big imbalance with family and finances. And it is one that, left unchecked, will seriously impede your loved one’s future.

Plan to use the whole-of-family strategies and mop up the low and no-cost top-ups for spouses who may be doing less paid employment to focus on unpaid child-rearing.

There is a possible $500 co-contribution for making a $1000 after-tax contribution and a potential $540 tax offset for a $3000 after-tax contribution from a spouse. Do this every year for a life-changing boost to your family’s ultimate budget.

As holidays wrap up, real-life ramps up. But if you work as an economic unit, you could get your costs vitally down.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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