Let’s now focus on child-related expenses, which are, as you will probably agree, many.
Starting with the essentials – clothes. Given that (small) children outgrow their clothes in a matter of months, I am a big proponent of buying less but of good quality and/or buying second hand. There are a number of Facebook groups where parents sell or even give away for free kids’ clothes, which I find absolutely fantastic. Then there are physical second-hand shops, flea markets, occasional garage sales (“vide greniers”) and barters (“trocs”), where you can find really good deals. If you have friends with children, ask them if they have got any clothes to give away or even better, to lend. They are usually happy to know that their clothes end up in good hands.
And then there are toys, where less is definitely more. If your kids are anything like mine, they would immediately trade any of their flashy toys for simple household items, such as a remote control:-) The point here being that there is no need to spend much money on toys. As with clothes, rather go for second hand stuff or simply borrow them in a local “ludothèque”. There are 12 in the city of Geneva alone.
I love buying “real” books, be it for children, myself or to give away. This often means ending up with a lot of them;-) Luckily, also here there are many second-hand options or even better, borrowing them in a library. Local libraries have no or negligible fees and their offer, especially for children’s books, is usually quite good. In addition, once children start school they will be also bringing books from there. So really no need to overspend!
One major expense that I have not figured out how to reduce is that of pre-school child care. Working full time and not having any family around necessitates outsourcing it. It is well known that places in Geneva nurseries (“crèches”) are rare and hence almost impossible to count on, especially for babies. In addition, once you finally get one the cost is quite high. Then there are private nurseries and babysitters/nannies/au-pairs, which are even pricier. The most cost-effective option seems to be the so called “maman de jour”, individuals who take care of several children in their home. Unfortunately there is a limited number of those who are certified and I have always been a bit vary of leaving my child with someone I know little about.
Once children start obligatory schooling at the age of 4, which is free of charge, the expensive child care arrangements become a distant memory. However, there are new challenges ahead: what to do with kids on Wednesdays when there’s no school and how to keep them busy after the school ends in the afternoon? In Geneva, there are luckily plenty of activities on offer, not necessarily budget friendly though. According to my research, the less pricey options for Wednesdays are “maisons de quartier”, basically community centres where kids can enjoy all sorts of activities, including going to the theatre, cinema, swimming, and skiing. In terms of afterschool activities, there is so called “parascolaire” (after school care) that is very affordable, and municipalities usually subsidize a number of associations, such as gymnastics, which makes their courses widely accessible.
In order to keep children busy over the weekends, Geneva offers plenty of possibilities and many of them are either free of charge or very inexpensive. Fancy outdoors? There are numerous parks with playgrounds, including the beautiful botanical gardens (“jardin botanique”) and a free small zoo called Bois-de-la-Bâtie. Then there are numerous walks in the nature to choose from, such as along the Rhône and Allondon rivers. In summer, children can enjoy 11 paddling pools in different locations across the town and the city offers six public swimming pools for a low fee. If the weather is a bit less friendly, one can enjoy numerous museums, with permanent exhibitions free of charge and temporary ones free every first Sunday of the month. A favourite with small children is the natural history museum. Two other inexpensive options are the indoor play space called Cerf volant in Plainpalais and the Creativity house (Maison de la créativite) for a bit bigger children.
Are there any other tips that you would like to share?