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A Parent's Guide to Budgeting During a Pandemic

We're literally living through history right now. Anyone reading this article has been affected by the swift, harsh and wild reality of living in a world where COVID-19 (caused by the coronavirus) has altered our entire way of living. Whether you've lost your job, been furloughed or even laid off, or are lucky enough to have shifted to working from home, you've likely encountered some sort of financial obstacle because of this pandemic. Since you've come to this article, you are also likely a parent with a child or children at home and are quickly navigating the world of being a homeschool teacher, cook to picky eaters, housekeeper and fixer of broken toys (and hopefully not broken bones).

Tot Squad has been in the parent services space for ten years and we've learned a thing or two along the way about how to help parents get the goods and services they need to make parenting easier. Though we no longer clean your gear, we can connect you with providers to help you navigate parenting, whether your newly pregnant or already have children at home.

What we're here to share today is our guide to budgeting your current life as the parent or caregiver for your family, which we feel is especially essential during these unprecedented times. So, whether you've been directly financially affected by COVID-19, or have longer-term financial security, below we'll break down the must-haves of budgeting your household in 2020.

  • Tap your emergency fund. If you've just lost your job or seen reduced household income, now is the time to tap any reserves you've saved for a rainy day, because it's pouring outside right now! First, assess how much is in your fund and divide it by your current monthly expenses. How many months does that last? If it's less than six months, you need to start exploring ways to cut back and make plans to prepare for the future.
  • Waste less. It may sound obvious, but we can all learn to live with less these days. Is there a little peanut butter left in the jar? Don't let it go to waste. Pay attention to the little things in your life that may add up. Maybe it means being better about using up wilting produce that may otherwise go to waste. Try new ways to reduce your waste like repurposing leftovers and or making easy homemade snacks for kids.
  • Use less. We've all gotten accustomed to the convenience of packaged foods, cleaning supplies and other household items that come directly to our door, without any effort. Maybe now is the time to reassess any subscription services you have, from personal care products to toys, or even household cleaning. If it's a recurring bill on your credit card and it's not essential, now might be the time to say goodbye (though not forever!).
  • Find alternatives. Now is the time to take a deep look at your household consumption and decide what's a must-have and what's a can-live-without. When you have kids, certain snacks or foods may be crucial to keeping your kids happy (chicken nuggets can be essential!) so don't go without the things that bring your family joy. But there are likely things you stock for convenience or lunch boxes that you no longer need since your on-the-go lifestyle has transitioned to on-the-couch. Try swapping the expensive, packaging-heavy individual snack bars with apples and peanut butter or a handful of nuts. Kids still pining for rice crispy treats? Make them yourself!
  • Essential baby gear. If you're pregnant during this pandemic, or just brought home a baby, you likely have a laundry list of products or services you think will make your life a bit easier. Maybe it's time to reevaluate the essentials. Remember, our mothers didn't have half the things we have now, and we turned out just fine. If disposables like diapers are a budget-crusher, consider a move to cloth diapers, wipes and even a washable diaper pail liner like this mom. If you're not there yet, here's some help building a zero-waste baby registry so that you don't have to keep replenishing stock after your initial gifts roll in. Need baby gear? Secondhand might not be plausible right now with thrift and consignment stores closed. Instead, tap friends and neighbors for what's in their garage right now that they may not be using. Just be sure to sanitize any hand-me-down items before using, either by a professional or yourself. Still need a baby carrier for your socially-distant walk around the block? Try making one yourself. Finally, if you do have to buy something new right now, make sure to research coupons, rebates or wait for an upcoming sale to maximize your purchase and save money.
  • Creative toys and activities. Now is definitely not the time to cave into toddler demands for the latest toys or trinkets. Your money is best spent on the essentials while holding on to your savings, and maintaining your financial peace of mind. But that doesn't mean you still can't delight and surprise your children, especially with Passover and Easter right around the corner. Consider fixing old toys that got tossed in the donation pile, or glossing them up with a fresh coat of paint or glitter. For Easter, try some homemade techniques to dye your eggs, and don't waste those eggs! And homemade Easter baskets are a great project for kids and can be made with household items.

We hope this parent's guide for budgeting during a pandemic is helpful. We know how many people are struggling right now, whether or not they are directly affected by the coronavirus. We believe now is the time to come together as a (virtual) parenting community to share resources, tips and tools so we can all get through this together. Be safe out there, parents!