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The Cost of Unplanned Parenting

How do you prepare when you find out a child will be coming to live with you in a matter of hours? Foster parents don't get 9 months to plan for the child(ren) showing up at their door. We might get a few days notice, but often times it is a few short hours. Welcoming a new placement can be overwhelming in numerous ways, including financially.

As a single foster mom and financial counselor, I strive to be thrifty for the sake of my budget. Imagine being an infant mom for a few months buying preemie clothes, bottles and diapers, then morphing into a teen mom a few months later buying bras, shaving cream and razors 😯 The needs of each child are so different and require you to acquire new items to fit those needs.

Most recently, I've welcomed a toddler into my home which meant getting even more stuff to cram into my 1200 Sq ft home. You may be wondering, "how do you afford to keep doing this?"

Let's get into how I do it.

1. I am getting better about asking for help. Ironically, right before my first placement I read a devotion about setting aside pride to ask for what I need. I believe that devotion prepared me for this life of foster parenting. Both the infant and toddler came with little to no clothing or supplies. In each case, I reached out to moms with children older than them and requested hand me downs. Building an entire wardrobe from scratch can be costly so accepting gently used items is a good jump starter to filling their closet.

2. I shop gently used in stores like Once Upon a Child, Kid to Kid and Plato's Closet. Children in foster care get a clothing allowance, but when your child needs everything you want to stretch your dollar as far as it can go. Often times you will spend over and above that allowance because of how much the child needs. And let's be realistic...infants and toddlers grow so fast does it make sense to pay retail for everything every few months? Absolutely not. I hover around the same size for years and I still shop thrift for myself.

Outside of clothing, I also check the gently used stores for kid essentials. Here are pictures of some recent finds.

Safety 1st Booster Seat

Superyard gate and play yard

3. I shop on Facebook. I'm in a few groups that sell items, but I also use Marketplace. I found a highchair up there from a family that lived about 15 minutes away. Guess what? They were a foster family, too. And it gets even weirder lol...we've been at the same foster care events out of town. Talk about it being a small world.

Eddie Bauer highchair

My safety tip: Tell a friend where you're picking up the item. Check with your city or county for safe exchange meeting sites. Go during daylight.

4. I use digital coupons and cash back apps to save a few dollars here and there. It only makes sense to save on a purchase I was going to make anyway. That reminds me that I need to go scan some receipts to add to my growing balance 🤑 Leave a comment with your favorite money saving app.

5. I buy in bulk when I know I will use something regularly. Why buy one pack of baby wipes when you can buy a box? My dorkiness also requires that I calculate cost per unit to ensure I'm getting the best deal.

Whether you're a foster parent or some other type of parent, you can use my tips to make parenting more affordable. Did I miss a good money saving tip? If so, drop it in the comments so I can give it a try.


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