As a parent, you want the absolute best for your children. However, you live in the Bay Area, where just about everything is expensive. Costs of living — and of raising a child — are at least 50% to 100% higher here than the national average. Here are some tips on how to take better care of your young ones without breaking the bank.
- Make sure your child is physically active. Experts believe that children should get at least one hour daily of moderate to vigorous exercise. The type and intensity of activity can vary based on the age and interests of your child. Involve your child in projects around the house, play active games and sports with them, and encourage them to walk or bike short distances where appropriate. Exercise lowers your child’s risk of obesity, and can also relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Consider the MD Anderson Center’s 10 tips on how to get your child to exercise.
- Prioritize health rather than convenience in your child’s diet. Contrary to popular belief, fresh food actually costs less than fast food and most prepared, packaged foods. In other words, we’re often more willing to pay higher prices for convenient food than for healthy food. A 2013 study from Harvard University revealed that the healthiest diets cost Americans only an average of $1.50 per person per day more than the unhealthiest diets. Plenty of nutrient-rich foods are available at affordable prices from your local grocery store. You can encourage your child to eat a healthy diet using tools such as these fun nutrition worksheets by Fooducate.
- Clip coupons for groceries. Consider emailing your favorite food companies and asking them to send you coupons. You might also want to subscribe to a few grocery coupon mailing lists such as RedPlum and SmartSource. CDC data from 2015 revealed that a startling 40% of children’s calories in the U.S. come from “junk food.” The hidden costs of not investing in healthy food choices include increased risk of future health problems; feeding your child — and yourself — well is more than likely to pay for itself in the long run.
- Encourage your child to practice good dental hygiene. While proper and regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing are essential, many children — and adults — tend to overlook the importance of this simple aspect of health. Teach your child about how sugary foods can damage their teeth, and encourage them to brush their teeth immediately after eating such foods. You can reduce your child’s risk of needing expensive dental treatments, while increasing their confidence and well-being.
- Limit your child’s “screen time.” On average, children and teens in the United States spend over 7 hours per day watching TV and using electronic devices such as iPads and mobile phones. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be allowed no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of screen time, since overindulgence has been linked to many social, behavioral, and physical health issues in children.
- Read books to your child. Benefits of reading to your child include improving his or her social skills, speaking skills, vocabulary, attention span, and love of learning. Studies have also shown that reading fiction improves children’s emotional intelligence and increases empathy. Reading creates a special bond with your child and is a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment. If you can’t afford to buy books, you can obtain a free library card and check books out for your child.
- Look for affordable alternatives to traditional day care. Unfortunately, staying at home to care for your child may either be impossible or may cost you more in lost wages than simply paying for day care. Don’t despair, however. While private nannies often charge even more than day care centers, choosing a “nanny share”— an increasingly popular system in which multiple families split the cost of hiring a nanny at to watch all the children at a host family’s house — could save you hundreds of dollars per month versus full-time day care.
- Participate in your child’s education. Children whose parents take an active role in their education tend to perform better academically, develop better social skills, gain confidence, and continue a genuine pursuit of learning beyond secondary school. Teaching is proven to be one of the most effective ways of reinforcing learning, so have your child teach you what they’ve learned. If you have the knowledge and time, you can even tutor your child yourself and save money on after-school programs. You can utilize free resources intended for home schoolers to supplement your child’s education and take a more active role in it.
At Sami-Aid, we believe in taking a holistic approach to both healthcare and personal finance. We hope that these tips are helpful as you endeavor to raise your child(ren) well while on a budget.