Raise Kids on $20,000I’ve got to get something off my chest.

One thing that drives me insane is when someone says they aren’t having kids because “kids are too expensive.”

It seriously sets me off.

Unless a child has a serious medical condition, kids are only as expensive as you want them to be. They are also as inexpensive as you want them to be.

It doesn’t cost 20k a year to raise a kid, trust me. As a person who only makes about 20k a year I can attest to the fact that I am able to pay my bills, avoid debt, AND give my kids a pretty awesome life.

You want to know why?


Kids Need Love & Security – Not Money

The thing I am most proud of in my life is my kids and the way I parent them. Minus the normal temper tantrums you get from a three year old and the occasional back talking of a four year old, my two girls are very well behaved.

They are also extremely happy, healthy, and loveable.

While my girls may occasionally whine for a toy when we are at a store, toys don’t really make them happy. New toys get played with for 20 minutes on average. What really makes them happy is when mommy colors with them, or plays Candy Land, or reads them books, or lays in bed with them when they’re scared. Not toys, not new clothes, and definitely not anything money can buy.

Kids want love. They want to feel a sense of belonging. They want security. They want to know that mommy (or daddy) loves them forever, no matter what, even when they do occasionally misbehave.

Of course there are other basic expenses that come a long with a kid like clothing, food, and education. Here’s how I save on those.


I Buy Used

My oldest daughter is the epitome of a girlie girl. She loves pink, sparkles, and fluff. She’d wear a princess dress (with matching shoes and a matching headband) every day if she could. And, admittedly she has quite the wardrobe. That’s because I buy both of my girls clothes used.

Despite being 17 months apart both of my daughters wear the same size clothes and shoes. That means we can’t do hand me downs. (Well, not until the youngest outgrows the oldest, anyway.)

I shop at yard sales, thrift shops, and clearance sections. Once a year my aunt and I head out to the largest nearby cities and shop the “rich section” yard sales. I pick up a couple trash bags of name brand clothes and shoes (some with the tags still on them) for less than $50. This one shopping trip can usually provide them clothes for the year.

We also check the sales at Kmart quite a bit and I’ll occasionally let each girl pick out a $10 outfit and a matching pair of shoes.

I also bought used when my kids were babies. We had used, but high quality bassinets, play pens, and baby toys.


I Don’t Sign Them Up for Everything

The only big expense I have for my girls is their weekly gymnastics class which equates to around $86 per month for the both of them. This is an activity I could easily cut out if needed but since my youngest daughter is more on the shy side I prefer her to get the social exposure and get used to the direction of a teacher.

This is their extracurricular activity. My oldest daughter also wanted to sign up for dance class but I made her choose one class only and gymnastics made the cut.

Signing kids up for many too many activities is not only stressful on the wallet it also takes the focus away from their main activities and makes schedules hectic.


I Teach Them (For now)

I could pay big bucks for an Ivy League Preschool, but why? I can give my girls more specialized attention than a teacher with 20 other students ever could.

I have bought several preschool and kindergarten workbooks for my daughters and I give them homework each and every day. They are at the age where they love to learn and I am always amazed at how quickly they pick up on new things.

We read books, learn letters, numbers, and words on a regular basis. I am actually pretty confident that my oldest daughter will be way ahead of her classmates when she starts Kindergarten at the public school next year.


I Work on My Financial Goals

I may not make a lot of money but I have quite a few financial goals. My money goes toward paying my bills and anything left over goes toward savings goals. I think my self-control in regards to money sets a wonderful example for my kids even at such a young age.

Kids are wonderful and it really is easy to want to spend all of your money on them, but it’s also not necessary. Kids prefer love and attention over a new toy any day.

What do you think about when you hear the phrase “kids are too expensive”?

I don’t spend thousands of dollars on my children each year and you’d be surprised to learn that they’re two of the happiest and most well behaved preschool aged kids you’d ever meet!

10 Responses to How I Raise Two Happy, Healthy Kids on a $20,000 a Year Salary

  1. Martin says:

    Wow, what a great piece, especially your opening assertions about what kids truly value as opposed to what we buy them. Would love to gain re-print rights to this article for my own site, but lacking that, will certainly be linking to this in our social media.

  2. Kids can be expensive, it all depends on what you choose to do, like you said. For me, kids would be expensive, due to things like childcare being rather pricey where I live, my need for downtime, how far it is to travel to see our extended families, etc. Those things are all choices, yes, but for me, kids would be expensive.

    • Alexa says:

      Yes, one thing I did leave out is childcare which can be expensive but I don’t feel like is a reason why a person shouldn’t have a child. I do pay a babysitter $150 a week, split with my ex-husband for childcare. I also realize I live in an inexpensive town so I’m sure that this cost would be higher in a larger city.

      • Janine says:

        I would LOVE to pay $150/week. And again, this is a follow-up to my reply at the bottom. My husband and I pay over $1,000 a month in childcare. It is very expensive and it does factor into our decisions about having more children.

  3. Even with all these cost cutting techniques I don’t think I could afford children- at least not now. I’m also hesitant to homeschool. I feel that learning how to interact with groups- sharing, cooperation, etc is such an important part of those early school years.

    • Jenny says:

      It doesn’t cost money to send your kids to school, and she wasn’t homeschooling. She was choosing to not pay for preschool when she could do the educating herself. No one should ever have to pay for school prior to college.

  4. I love this. You are so right that toys do not make a happy child. One of my daughter’s favorite things to do is go on a walk and pick up rocks. I’ll be curious to hear your take when your oldest starts school. I am failing big time as a PTA member because I cannot make myself buy or sell all the stupid stuff they have for fundraisers, but I see people just bleeding money for crap all the time because they think it’s a necessity. Monogrammed water bottles are not necessities!

  5. Perris says:

    You rock. It’s always nice to stumble upon someone who has the same set of ideas and is putting them into action. Thanks for the inspiration and validation!

  6. Janine says:

    I think you are neglecting to factor in the astronomical childcare costs and the cost of living in certain states. I live in New Jersey, a state with a notoriously high cost of living. My husband and I both work full-time and we have to in order to cover childcare. While I agree that sites like Pinterest deceive us into believing we need to buy everything brand new, I do not think it’s fair to assume that people are making excuses for not having kids because they’re too expensive.

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