Kids aren't that expensive, at first. When you initially come home with your bundle of joy, you won't immediately find a batch of new bills waiting. But the older kids get, the more stuff they seem to accumulate. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, as kids grow, so do your costs. A bouncy seat turns into a high chair turns into a stroller turns into a big-kid bed. Suddenly, without even trying, you have more expenses than you could have ever imagined.

How do you cut costs, especially when more kids and more stuff might mean getting a different car? Here are three money-saving tips to change the way you shop for a vehicle:

1.  Pay for what you need.
The line between "need" and "want" is invisible sometimes, especially when you visit a car dealership. Logic tends to fly out the window when you take a test drive and imagine yourself behind the wheel of a new ride. Determine beforehand what you need versus what you want. Then, when it's time to pick a vehicle, be willing to give in on a few "wants" to get a few more "needs."

Quick Start: Build and price your own car with everything you need

2.   Walk through the week.
I once bought an expensive snowboard. Nothing in my life indicated I would use the snowboard, but I really liked it, so I bought it. I then promptly put it in the basement where it gathered dust. Don't let the same thing happen with the options in your car. If you don't usually watch DVDs on trips then don't make a DVD player a priority. If a third-row seat is something you'll never use, then skip that, too. Imagine how you'll use the car during an average week and then shop against that reality.

Quick Start: Compare cars side by side to see which one works for your family

3.  Think about maintenance.
It's not fun to think about the maintenance costs for a car you haven't purchased yet. Test drives are fun. Turning up the stereo and kicking the tires, those activities are enjoyable. But to cut ownership costs, investigate your potential maintenance costs. Information is available online and in magazines, but you can also talk to mechanics. Ask the person who changes your oil about models that have bad repair records. Speak with a friend who repairs cars or even ask one of the employees of the shop at a dealership. You'd be surprised how easy it is to get good information.

Quick Start: Check out consumer reviews by researching models on

These are just a few of the many ways you can cut the cost of your next family vehicle. We also encourage you to balance the expense of being a parent with helpful tools like the payment calculator. After all, the more you can save on your car, the more you can spend on school clothes, sports gear, braces, college….

Maybe kids are pretty expensive after all.


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Jon Acuff is a staff writer for

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