9 smart (but hidden) ways to save money as a parent

Although children are such a joy, it’s hard to deny that their day-to-day can get expensive. Between doctor’s visits, school, and the clothes they seemingly grow out of every month, parents can end up spending a lot more on their children than they ever expected to. Yes, it’s worth it, but what if you could spend a little less?

Luckily, there are some less-known ways parents can save money that you might not know about. From child care credits to college savings to museum memberships, we’re compiling a list to help you pad your accounts a little more every month.

1. The Child Tax Credit

Although you might be putting off filing your taxes, filing as a parent gets you an extra credit. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, the Child Tax Credit has expanded to $3000 per child, with children under six getting you an extra $3600 (with an income cap). Last year, half of these payments were distributed monthly into taxpayer’s bank accounts—as long as they had filed the year previously. 

Related story: What parents need to know about filing taxes in 2022

2. The Child Care Tax Credit

No, you’re not having deja vu: this one is different. The Child Care Tax Credit is another credit available to parents who have to pay someone to watch their child while they’re working. Again, this amount was bumped up for 2021 taxes due to the American Rescue Plan Act with a credit for up to 50% of $8000 of expenses for one child and up to $16,000 for multiple children (limited with income).

3. 529 Contributions

A qualified tuition plan gives parents some pre-tax benefits which vary depending on the state you live in. Any money you save within this type of investment account can be used to pay for expenses related to education for the child (or beneficiary) on the account. 

4. Health Savings Account

Medical bills are notoriously high in the United States, and kids can end up at the doctor’s office more than we like. One often overlooked way to save is with a Health Savings Account, or HSA. If you’re claiming your child on your tax return as your dependent, you can use the money saved in your HSA tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses for your children’s medical bills.

5. Flexible Spending Account

Similar to a Health Savings Account, a Flexible Savings Account is a pre-tax account sponsored by employers. Contributions will be automatically deducted from your paycheck and then can be used for qualified child care expenses. These accounts do not roll over, meaning you have to use the saved funds in the year they were contributed.

6. Museum Family Memberships

Most museums will offer discounted rates to their city’s museums (which often includes much more than just the museum itself) if you become a member. Although this means paying more up front than a one-off day to the planetarium or the zoo, if you’re a frequent flyer, you could save big by opting into a family membership. Additionally, places like Costco and Groupon will list daily deals that could help you save, and prices might be lower in off-season. 

7. Amusement Park Family Memberships

Disclaimer: This one comes only lightly recommended due to the additional costs that come from attending amusement parks with your family. (I mean, are you really going to skip that funnel cake? I didn’t think so.) But much like museums, amusement parks like Six Flags and Disney World offer family memberships that come with discounts and free parking. If you and your family live close by and spend a lot of time there over the summer, the savings will definitely add up!

8. Free Budgeting Apps

What better way to find money than by looking at your own expenses? Although you might think you have a hold on your finances, apps like Mint and Wally can help analyze your spending, keep tabs on your credit report, and autosave into your accounts. Sometimes, all we need is a new way to look at things, and it suddenly becomes easier to see what you can cut out in order to save.

9. Assess Your Bills and Memberships

Although something might have been a good deal when you first signed up for it, many bills and membership plans will sneak in extra costs or raise their fees after a year. Take an afternoon to go through all of the bills and dues you pay monthly. Are you getting your money’s worth? If you can’t switch to a different provider, you might be able to call customer service and see if there’s a deal or promotion you can sign up for.

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