Frugality with Toddlers in Tow

April 13, 2009

stopsecondguesstoddlercovermediumToday’s blog posting is courtesy of Jen Singer, founder of, and the very funny author of many parenting books, including her latest Stop Second Guessing Yourself – The Toddler Years. Here are her three tips on maintaining your frugality when you’ve got toddlers in tow:

Sometime near your firstborn’s first birthday, you start to realize, Hey wait a minute. I’m running out of baby shower gear. Your soon-to-be toddler has outgrown most of that free stuff you got months ago: the baby clothes, the cute bathtub, the toys, the baby swing, the baby blankets, etc. And now, you’re on your own. Plus, you’ve got a mobile kid (new shoes) who’s getting into things (and ruining clothes faster) and starting to eye up the potty (got the gear?).

But you don’t have to break the bank to gear up for toddlerhood. Here are three tips for being frugal with a toddler in the house.

  1. Resist the urge to placate your toddler with new goodies. You just want to make it through the supermarket without a temper tantrum, so you buy him a little treat, perhaps a toy car or those cute Elmo cookies in the bakery. But multiply out the price by your number of trips to the store each year, and you’ll see that it adds up. Besides, you’re teaching your toddler that you’re willing to buy good behavior. (Been there, done that.) The better solution is to keep one toy out of circulation and then present it as new when you’re out and about. Toddlers tend not to remember much past last Tuesday, so it’ll seem like a treat to him.
  2. Skip the pricey classes. You don’t have to shell out $60 to $150 for a regularly scheduled activity for your toddler. You can get her a little pre-preschool socialization by holding playgroups in your home or at the playground or park. Rotate houses with other moms so the burden (to hide your mess in the closet) isn’t all on you each week. And save money with BYOS – Bring Your Own Snack.
  3. Make friends with someone with slightly older kids. When their kids outgrow their toddler gear, they can hand them down to you. But be careful: If it’s been quite a few years since their kids were little, some of their gear might not meet current safety standards. Car seats that are older than six years old, or have been involved in an accident, are not considered safe. You can check whether a product has been recalled at The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s web site. There, you’ll also find the CPSC’s list of safety standards for cribs, which have changed over the years. And think about how important is it really to have the latest gear? Does your toddler really need the pink princess potty chair? Only if someone’s handing it down for free.

For more information on Jen’s books, please visit (where I happen to be a columnist). Thanks for a great guest post!

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6 Responses to Frugality with Toddlers in Tow

  1. ericm on May 6, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Leah, as a recently laid off dad, i stumbled across your website while having lunch with my daughter Leah!

    I was watching her eat her peanut butter and jelly sandwhich and contemplating my job search with Toddler in tow and decided to google the term and ran across your website.

    As a web developer I am needing a portfolio and I’ve been thinking about chronicling my job hunt while having toddler in tow. I also hope to illustrate to the male of the species that toddlers are a handful.

    I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to navigate my job search. I am really enjoying this time with my daughter.

    I’ll check back time to time… Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. lisamann on April 13, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Warning, warning! If you are one of the friends with older kids handing down stuff be aware that passing on a crib to someone else practically ensures that you will get pregnant again. Take steps to prevent that BEFORE giving away a crib, or save that crib ’till menopause. Unless you want to get pregnant again (fertility tip: give away all the baby stuff, move to another state, put all your stuff in storage, stay with freinds, start a new job, buy an unruly puppy.)

  3. Karin Elliott on April 13, 2009 at 8:44 am

    I love your blog. I’m a real estate agent in the North Georgia Mountains and trying to raise 2 children isn’t always easy on my budget. My son wants to play guitar and my daughter wants to take ballet lessons. One other thing I have started doing is searching for lessons on You-Tube and it is very helpful! This not only saves money for gas, travel time, and snacks, but it also gives us the chance to learn it together. I’m terrible at ballet! HA! Hope this helps.

  4. Karin Elliott on April 13, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I love this post and your blog as well! I’m a real estate agent in the North Georgia Mountains with 2 growing children. I nodded “yes” through this entire post. One other thing I like to do when my kids ask for classes is to use U-Tube! My son wants to play guitar and my daughter wants to do ballet & gymnastics. It’s a long drive to take them both in 2 different directions but with careful searching you can find plenty of home-instruction CHEAP!!!
    Karin Elliott

  5. leahingram on April 13, 2009 at 9:56 am


    Thanks for the comment and the compliment. If you’re looking for an inexpensive guitar for your son’s lessons, I would recommend looking on Craigslist or seeing if there is a Music Go Round near you–they sell gently used instruments. I love the idea of finding lessons on You Tube. Very clever.


  6. leahingram on April 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm


    You are too funny. I used to think this way, too. I think I held onto all of our baby stuff, just in case, until my youngest was 5. She’s 11 now (almost 12) and, knock wood, nothing unexpected has happened since we cleared out the baby gear.


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