Being an adult is HARD. But you know what’s harder? Being a parent. There’s just so much responsibility, which, DUH. Of course there is.
And then there’s the financial impact. And here’s where I’m struggling.
It’s taken awhile for me to realize this but damn, kids are expensive. (Shocker, right?) Sure, there’s all the initial preparation – the nursery furniture, the diapers, the books, the decorations, the blankets, the bouncer, the swing, the stroller, the car seat, the high chair, etc. And if you’re lucky enough to have most of that stuff given to you at showers, then you’re lucky enough. We were pretty fortunate to have my mom gift us our nursery furniture for Christmas before D was born and my in laws to pay for our stroller and infant carrier. And my SIL gave us more boy’s baby clothes than we knew what to do with. But now that D is nearing a year and a half, there’s a whole new slew of expenses creeping up on us. He needs different foods – and more of it, he needs clothes and shoes, he needs more age-appropriate toys and books, he needs baby gates and cabinet locks for safety, and we had to buy a bigger car seat and a better stroller. He also needs things like shampoo and bubble bath, lotion and laundry detergent, diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and basically everything we were given before he was born has now run out and we need more, More, MORE!
And mommy needs more too. My changing waistline, bra and shoe sizes means I practically need an entire new wardrobe every season. Most of my old clothes no longer fit the way they used to, so I’ve had to buy new items here and there every few weeks, slowly accumulating pieces of clothing only to now be pregnant again and start all over. Fortunately I still have lots of maternity items, but for anyone that’s ever bought maternity clothes, you know that most of those things are only meant to be worn a few times because to look at them now, they’re stretched and faded and just one more wash away from ending up in the donation pile.
But none of these things are a big deal, if you have the money. And we used to. As two dual-income twenty-somethings, money was never something we worried about too much. We could pay our bills and go out with friends without ever thinking twice. That’s not say we were eating filet mignon every night while drinking Cristal. Debt would pile up during the more “spendy” months – like when we first bought our house and had to buy all new furniture, appliances and lawn equipment. Or around Christmas, our annual week-long beach vacation, or the month we both had to buy all new tires for both of our cars. Then we’d spend a couple of months paying off whatever we owed and be credit-card-debt-free again.
And then we went down to one income. I say “one income” because even though my husband works from home, he’s an entrepreneur and typically whatever he makes profit-wise is usually invested right back into his business. Such is the case with most entrepreneurs their first couple of years. So for argument’s sake, we’re a one-income family at the moment. Only we haven’t been living like it. We do what we want and buy what we want whenever we want. And the result is not good, folks. Seeing a balance on a credit card is giving me anxiety. Actually, the upcoming holidays, the idea of adding a monthly preschool charge and an eventual car payment (the hubs’ car is on its last leg) is what’s really giving me anxiety. Oh and this new baby, who will need a crib and other necessities (although clothing isn’t one of them, hallelujah!!). We may not be in the red zone yet, but our expenses are only going to increase so we need to get this under control NOW.
Our little family needs to make some changes. For starters, I’m tackling our Christmas budget. We typically spend somewhere around $2,000 for close to 35 people. Our budgets for our parents and each other were always a bit higher than for everyone else, but that’s still a ridiculous amount of money and people to buy for. This year, my goal is to get our Xmas budget down to around $200 for about 15 people. The hubs and I have decided not to exchange gifts, as well as my parents, so that will help considerably. And since D doesn’t really get the concept of Christmas yet, we’ll probably only get him a couple of toys and books.
Next up, we need to get organized when it comes to grocery shopping. I confess that I rarely use coupons. I just haven’t had the time or patience to find them and clip them. But I’m going to find the time and make this a priority. But before I can do that, I need to make actual, detailed, meal plans for each of us. This is not as easy as it sounds since we eat different things. The hubs is a grab and go person. His breakfast, if he eats breakfast at all, is a banana or a granola bar and a cup of coffee. I’m a cereal and milk girl. And D is a fruit and granola bar baby. Lunch has been my downfall lately and I’m guilty of dropping about $8-10 a day on a sandwich at the local eateries near the office. And then there’s diner which consists of about 50% eating out and 50% tossing something together at the house. We’re just not consistent. You may recall that I was doing Time For Dinner every month, and while it helped ease the pain of meal planning, it’s definitely not the cheapest route and I still couldn’t get my act together to even make a decent side dish most of the time. But the real reason I stopped going as of last month is because ever since I got pregnant, I’ve had major, unpredictable food aversions. So I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money on meals that I wasn’t even eating most of the time. More than half of it would end up in the trash because I’d just be suddenly repulsed by it. So back to basics.
(It’s also worth noting that we cancelled our cleaning service. The fact that I even had a cleaning service and I’m complaining about money right now makes me want to punch myself in the face, but I wanted to be completely honest and since I mentioned how much I LOVED having someone else come in and clean our floors and bathrooms twice a month to you guys before, I thought I’d also point out that we no longer have it because the financial stress was causing me more anxiety than a dirty bathroom so we had to make a decision. Fortunately, the hubs said he’d be willing to take on more of the chores and so far, he’s kept his promise. I’ve picked up my own slack too and as long as I can will myself to do just ONE thing every day, I can still spend quality time with D, enjoy my evenings and weekends, and not lose my mind.)
So lay it on me. What are your best budgeting tips, without getting too extreme? (We’re not quite desperate enough yet to cut our cable or ditch our smartphones.) Do you give yourself a cash allowance each week/month? Do you shop at certain stores for the best deals? Do you buy in bulk at club membership stores (and does it actually save you money)? Do you keep track of your spending in a handy spreadsheet? Do you DIY Xmas presents for people? Impose spending limits with friends/family? Forgo spouse gifts like we’re doing this year? Only buy for immediate family or draw names? I’m all ears!