Having kids is expensive. You can find all kinds of numbers for it, some covering just the first couple of years, others including the cost to raise to adulthood and even getting into projected college costs. They’re always pretty intimidating estimates when you think about it.
Some costs can’t be avoided. Kids have to eat, after all, and they need clothing and shelter. But you do have control over a lot of this. Considering the environmental impact at the same time can actually help you to save money.
These are some ways to be a green parent that aren’t going to increase the costs:
While there are some costs associated with breastfeeding, overall it’s going to be far, far cheaper than formula feeding. Most breastfeeding moms still need at the very least a manual pump and sometimes an electric one, and that means bottles and so forth will also be needed. Not to mention that the mother is burning more calories, some of which may come from weight gained during the pregnancy, but also comes from any extra food she eats.
But you’ll likely need fewer supplies since you probably won’t be giving so many bottles. You also won’t have empty formula canisters to dispose of. And having baby’s food supply always right there is a real help in those early, sometimes challenging days.
Cloth diapering is a bit expensive to get started, although you can decide how expensive you want to deal with at the start. Just remember that disposables add up over time and would eventually probably cost you more. You can go with plain prefolds and diaper covers, buy all-in-one diapers or pocket diapers, depending on what you want to deal with and what you want to spend.
If you choose cloth diapers it’s important to consider the detergent you’re washing them with. I like to use Country Save detergent as it’s pretty environmentally friendly. I use it with all my laundry, not just the diapers.
If you’re in an area with a water shortage you may need to consider buying environmentally friendly disposables instead. Not as friendly to the wallet or to the environment overall, but in some areas water supply is a big enough issue.
This can be a tough one, especially as children start feeling peer pressure and watching television. You’ll know when it starts happening, as your child who was content with simpler toys suddenly wants whatever the latest hot item is. Plus whatever was just on the television. And that one too. The demands start coming and keep coming.
When this happens, talk to your child about why you like to keep your lives simpler, with fewer things. Children can be amazingly understanding. It won’t stop all of the begging, but anything that cuts it back a little is a help.
Accept Hand Me Downs
My kids get tons of hand me down outfits, especially my youngest. It’s really amazing how much this saves. Babies in particular don’t really need new outfits, and an outfit can go through a few babies before showing significant wear because they outgrow them so fast.
Toys can also be handed down.
What you can’t get given to you, buy used. Thrift stores and resale shops can be your friends. You’ll spend less on clothes for your family while being good to the environment. You’ll probably even find some really great outfits.
Whether it’s a tiny kitchen herb garden or a big garden in the back yard, grow some food. Not only do you then get control over what goes into growing the food with fertilizers and such (go organic!), you’re teaching your children about where food really comes from.
Be careful, as gardening can get expensive if you let it. Don’t overdo it on supplies and seeds. If you know another family that gardens, consider going together on some things. Seed packages can be split up if you aren’t going to use the whole thing, for example. Tools can be shared, although you need rules about broken or damaged ones.
Cook from Scratch
Well, maybe not everything. But as much as works for your family cook from scratch rather than buying convenience foods. This will save on packaging and can cost less. It also allows you to have more control over what goes into your food, so you can avoid the excessive amounts of sugar and salt that go into so many convenience and prepared foods.
It can also be fun, trying out new recipes and teaching children to cook as they get old enough.
Set the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Example
Always remember that Reduce is the first rule for a reason. Try to live it. Then reuse what you can, and send off for recycling whatever is possible in your area when you’re done with it. Many areas accept a wide range of recyclables, but in other areas you’ll really have to work to get much recycling at all done.
But reuse can be so much fun for children! Teach them to make crafts from things that would otherwise be thrown out. It will save you money on craft supplies and encourage them to think of ways things can be reused.