Life in the Baby Lane: Chapter 15

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Babies aren’t free. As inexpensive as they may be to create, once that egg and sperm combo becomes an embryo, the price tag gets larger and larger. That’s to say nothing of the cost of fetus and then infant statuses.

This is why responsible adults can often be heard saying they want to be “financially stable” before growing their family. They understand that not having steady income, a savings account and a plan to raise a child in place before bringing him or her into the picture can prove disastrous both emotionally and financially. Still, knowing this doesn’t prepare a lot of people (myself included) for the changes that will need to take place once the baby is born in order to keep the family afloat on the sea of budgets, bills and baby expenses.

Husband and I are going through this series of ongoing changes right now. At first the adjustments were emotional and mostly had to do with lack of sleep, different life focus, scheduling, a shift in social life, etc. Recently the changes have moved toward lifestyle – specifically money and how we spend (or don’t spend) it.

Diapers cost around $100 per month. We’ve spent, on average, approximately $25 per month on doctor bills and prescriptions for Little Miss. The hospital bill, even after our amazing insurance, will have taken us 9 months (at over $250 for each payment) to finally pay off. We’ve had to start driving our SUV exclusively because it can hold a stroller plus all our other gear more easily, so our monthly gasoline expense has more than doubled. And then there’s childcare. That’s added over $450 per month to our list of monthly expenditures.

So what have we done to combat the extra dollars slipping out of our wallets? Here’s a list of steps we’ve taken (so far!) to lower our monthly spending in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy (so far, so good!):

  • Eating out has been reduced from an average of 5 times per month to 1-2 times per month, and instead of sit-down it’s almost always fast food.
  • When we go grocery shopping we now go to the discount/outlet grocery store first. We get as much as we can there, and then finish off the list at the regular store, buying as frugally as possible. We’re also attempting to be more efficient with our use of food in the house, with a goal of only going grocery shopping twice a month instead of 3-4 times.
  • We used to treat ourselves to coffee once a week. We now go 1-2 times per month.
  • I sponsor a child through International Children’s Care (ICC) and have cut my monthly monetary support in half. I hate to do that, as I know it’s a very worthy cause, but I have to remind myself in this way to put my own family first.
  • We used to go out to ice cream 2-3 times per month. We haven’t done that yet in 2010 I don’t believe.
  • We’ve put our house on the market. We’ve located a home we will make an offer on once ours sells, and the new mortgage will save us close to $300 per month.
  • We make all our own baby food. First of all, I breastfeed (no formula yet, wahoo!), which is free, and though she’s been on solids for coming up on 3 months now, we haven’t yet purchased any jarred baby food.
  • We’re selling our second car. If we can get what we want to out of it, we should just about be able to pay off the SUV, relieving us of an additional $280 per month expense.
  • Instead of working an average of 37-38 hours per week, I’m putting in at least 40 (more when I’m authorized overtime) every week.
  • Husband and I did not exchange Christmas gifts in 2009. We didn’t do Valentine’s Day this year, either (except for a disastrous dinner at Pizza Hut which ended up being free anyway).
  • For our anniversary we alternate years. In 2009 Husband bought me a gift; this year I’ll buy him one.
  • We don’t rent movies, and we go to the cinema about once a year. We’ve also stopped purchasing books. Instead, we get said entertainment from the library, which has a free membership since we’re staff at a university.

Even with all of these steps to reduce our monthly expenses we’re still struggling. We’re constantly trying to find new ways of saving money. Here are our recent ideas:

  • Switch to cloth diapers. Though it may cost $200 initially for all the supplies, it will pay for itself in 3 months or less.
  • Cut off the Internet service to my phone. I got it initially to be able to check my work email when I was away from the computer, but since my office seems disinterested in paying the $30 per month it’s costing me, I think I’ll have to disconnect the service.
  • Buy local produce when it’s available. You get more for your money and things like berries and bananas you can freeze for later use.

The other day I was leaving the office when I spotted a plain white envelope with my name handwritten on the outside. I picked it up and stuffed it in my purse for later, as I was in a rush to get to a meeting on time. Of course, I forgot about it and didn’t rediscover it until I was at home the following evening. Casually, I tore the envelope and pulled out a folded piece of printer paper. On it was the following note:

Here’s a little something. Hope it helps. Thank you for being a friend.

Good luck with the house. Your Friend

Tucked inside the folded paper were two $50 bills. Shocked, I cried out, “What?!” and speechless, held up the money for Husband to see.

Whoever that angel is who felt impressed to give a bit of their excess to my family, I hope you read this blog and know that your gift will NOT be forgotten, and it WILL help. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

It’s actions such as this that help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see God’s grace, mercy, love and presence in my life and I know He’ll get us through the rough patches. I also see the suffering of others around me, and around the world, and I know I still have lots to be thankful for.

My motive in writing this blog was not to point out how thrifty I am, or to whine about how bad I have it. This blog serves two purposes: 1) To show other not-so-affluent new mothers that there are little things you can do to help alleviate the monthly stress on your checking account, and 2) To thank whoever it was who sent me that unexpected blessing in a plain white envelope.

The best things really do come in small packages; some are long-awaited, wrinkled and squirmy, and others are unexpected, green and made of cotton. Both are beautiful blessings.

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