Saving space for wants in a baby budget

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Clothes. Crib. Car seat. When Kori Tomelden, a loving mother and writer, first learned she was pregnant with her third child, her mind leaped instantly to all of the baby gear she’d already donated or handed off to friends. It had been more than a dozen years since her last pregnancy, and when she moved in with her partner, Kyle, he had two kids of his own. “Our family felt pretty complete with four kids,” Kori says. “But our daughter was a pleasant surprise.”

News that a fifth child would soon be part of the family was cause for celebration. But it also sparked the wave of worries that many expectant parents feel: How will we afford a bigger family? What can we cut out of the budget to balance the added baby expenses? What kind of impact will this have on the lifestyle we can afford?

But while some first-time parents might trim every bit of fun from the family budget to make way for rattles and sippy cups, Kori had a different perspective. With her two oldest already teenagers, Kori knew how short the stages of onesies and diapers really are. “When we thought about planning for this baby, we were thinking more long term,” she says. Cutting their expenses and spending was a must, but Kori and her husband didn’t want to eliminate what truly matters to their family: spending time together on family vacations.

“How could we start saving now so that we can afford family vacations or reunions? How can we budget for Disney World one day?” she says.

Some of Kori’s happiest childhood memories are of piling into the family car for extended road trips and visiting offbeat attractions and destinations. She wanted to give that same joy and spirit of adventure to her kids. So she started scouting local thrift shops to score baby essentials and make room in the budget for both necessities and family travel.

“When people think family vacations, they tend to think over-the-top extravagant trips,” she says. “But it doesn’t have to be a huge expense.” Instead of regretting the cost of all-inclusive resorts or international travel, Kori and Kyle sat down with their budget and carved out enough wiggle room to save for regular weekend getaways. “With the budget, we could see where our money was going, and it made it more clear what we could afford to spend on travel,” she says. Their home in Albany, New York, meant they could easily take family trips to New York, Boston or Montreal without having to shell out for airline tickets or rental cars.

“A road trip can be just as much fun as something more elaborate and expensive, and it’s always much more flexible,” says Kori. “In a way, it’s like family budgeting: You know where you are and where you want to go, and you have a lot of freedom to decide how to get there.” While other parents might prioritize more frequent meals out or shopping for new kids clothes every season, Kori says saving her way to more frequent family trips has been a blast. “The trips I took with my parents and grandparents made more of an impression on me, as a kid, than anything else I did as a child,” she says. “I want to make those memories with my family—all seven of us.”

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