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Trimming The Family Budget

These days, keeping your family out of the red can be tricky. Jessica Hartshorn, Sr. Lifestyles Editor for American Baby Magazine, has some ideas to trim your budget.

With a new baby comes new expenses. Suddenly the money that was once reserved for gourmet coffee and nights out is going to diapers and formula. "Maybe for the first time in your life, you really have to work at saving because you have so many expenses," says Hartshorn. That flight to visit Grandma and Grandpa isn't cheap, so the more you can set aside, the better.

First, Hartshorn suggests putting off unnecessary purchases. Before you buy anything, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" If the answer is no, put it back on the shelf. Impuslse buys - from new baby clothes to a bag of chips - really do add up.

Also, consider keeping a money journal. For a set time period, such as a week or two, write down everything that you buy, including everyday purchases like a pack of gum or gas for your car. By keeping track of where your money goes, you'll notice spending patterns. "It gives you a really good snapshot into where your money is going," says Hartshorn.

Paying in cash will also make you more accountable for how much you're spending. It's easy to swipe a credit or debit card, but when you actually see the bills disappearing from your wallet, you're more likely to reign in your spending. "It feels different when you're paying in cash," says Hartshorn.

Some new parents are getting baby goods for cheap by buying used items. "American Baby does ask that you buy a new crib," says Hartshorn. "There's been well over 2.5 million crib recalls in the past four years, so buying a new crib and a new car seat are really important because the most updated crib, the most updated car seat are going to be safest for your child. And, those are things that your child spends a lot of time in." Feel free to hunt at yard sales or thrift stores for other items, though. You can find great deals on gently used clothing, toys, books and room decorations.

Don't underestimate the power of borrowing, either. Much like moms-to-be trade maternity clothes, toys and other baby gear can be traded and passed on as well.

Or, trade your skills with other moms and dads. For example, if you're a yoga instructor, trade a few free yoga sessions for a few nights of babysitting. You can even consider a neighborhood childcare program. "You watch your neighbor's kids one night, they watch your kids the next night," says Hartshorn. Or, have someone keep track of how many hours each parent has watched a few children; they are then owed those hours in return. Suddenly, date nights are much cheaper. "You're not paying for the babysitter because you're trading with another family."

When you and your partner do get away for an evening, though, try to choose wallet-friendly activities. "One of the families we talked to for this particular story, instead of going for dinner and a movie, they just go for coffee and desert," says Hartshorn. It's still quality time with your spouse, but you're not spending as much.

When you lose focus, keep your goal in mind as a motivator. Whether it's a down payment on a house or a great family vacation, remember why you started saving in the first place. In the end, what's more important? Your goal, or that new outfit?

For more information on setting a budget, as well as additional parenting tips, click here to visit
By Erin Petrun

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