Becoming a parent is one of the most wonderful things life can throw at you. There is nothing more exciting than the journey of parenthood. That being said, being a parent comes with a lot of stress and worry. The most common worry that us parents face is linked to our finances and how we will afford to cover the costs that come with raising a family. Because believe it or not, having kids is incredibly expensive.

From the cost of bills to birthdays, there’s a lot that needs to be covered once you have kids. Despite the fact that there’s a lot you need to pay for when you have a family, life doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you’re smart about your spending, you can ensure that all your bills are paid on time, and you have no money worries to stress about. All you need to do is be a little more savvy about your spending.

To help you do that, here’s a list of the ways that smart parents cut costs.

Cook from scratch every night

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While you could buy food already made, such as takeaway or ready meals, it costs a lot more than making meals yourself. Believe it or not, if you cook from scratch every night, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. Take a pasta dish, for instance; a ready meal pasta dish costs between $3 and $5 for one person. However, you could spend the same amount making a pasta dish from scratch that would feed your whole family. It may take more effort to cook from scratch, but by doing so, you can help to keep your finances in good shape. Plus, homemade food is much better for you than shop bought meals. So you’d be killing two birds with one stone by making all of your family’s food yourself.

Find free activities to keep the kids occupied

It can be a nightmare keeping the kids occupied after school and on the weekends, especially when you’re on a budget. The problem is that most activities and attractions are expensive, which can impact your budget for the month. While theme parks and many other attractions cost a lot to take your family to, there are other more affordable ideas for family days out. Swimming is a cheaper alternative, for instance. Or taking the kids for picnic in the park or at the beach is another option. There are lots of ways you can keep your little ones occupied without having to spend a lot; it’s just a case of being willing to get creative. If you’re stuck for ideas, Google ‘free local days out for kids’ and see what comes up. There’s sure to be some good suggestions.

Don’t leave electronics on standby, turn them off

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There’s a common misconception that leaving devices on standby means that they use no electricity. However, that’s not the case. Just because a device is in ‘sleep mode’ that doesn’t mean it’s not using power. It may not be using as much power as it would if it were on, but it’s still using a small amount. So to save money on the cost of your energy bill, turn your electronics off when you’re done with them. That way you can reduce the money that you’re spending on energy each year. If you want to cut costs even more, you could consider finding ways to make your home more energy-efficient. There are lots of articles explaining the best ways to go about this online, so it could be worth having a read. You might also want to look at switching providers to take advantage of a cheaper monthly energy bill, comparing the likes of Pennywise Power and others, against the monthly rate you’re paying now.

Be savvy about gift buying

As parents, we have a lot of gifts to buy throughout the year. It’s not just for our children that we have to get gifts for but also for every child whose birthday party they attend. Being a parent of young children doesn’t come cheap. However, the good news is that you can make gift buying more affordable. How about going down the DIY route with gifts? Lots of parents make DIY gifts; these can be toys, sweet treats, or just about anything else. Or, if you’re a DIY kind of person, a gift card can make a great gift. The best thing about gift cards is that on sites like you can pick them up for a reduced price. So that you don’t have to pay full price for them.

Walk where you can

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Did you know that stop-start driving is the cause of using the most gas? This means that whenever you pop to the shops or to drop your kids at school, you’re using gas that doesn’t need to be used. Instead of wasting money on this, consider walking where you can. By choosing to walk short distances, such as to the shops, you can reduce your car’s gas consumption and save money. This means that you’ll have more money to spend on bills and other expenses.

Sign up to a cashback rewards scheme

Finally, how about signing up to a cashback rewards scheme? These aren’t only for using online, many banks now also offer them. If you sign up to your bank’s reward scheme, every time you spend a certain amount, they’ll give you a small amount of cashback. This could be anything between $2 and $50, it all depends on the amount that you’ve spent. The great thing about these types of schemes is that you’re getting money back for spending money. So you’re being rewarded for what you spend and given money back. It might not be a lot that you get back, but every little helps, so it’s worth signing up.

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So there you have it, the best ways to cut costs and make family life more affordable. Being a parent isn’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to keep costs low. However, if you’re smart about your spending, you don’t have to stress. Take the tips above on board and you can make it much easier and more affordable to be a parent.