General Question

laureth's avatar

Parents: what did you learn to economize on AFTER the kid was born?

Asked by laureth (27206points) March 29th, 2011

People always tell me, “Laureth,” they say, “You and your husband are the people that should be having kids.” Which is fine, except we cannot afford kids. The loss of income, either from paying for daycare or one of us quitting our job, would put us under.

“But Laureth,” they say next, “If everyone waited to have a kid until they could afford it, no one would have kids. But after they have a child, people learn ways to get by that they wouldn’t have thought of before. They manage. You will, too.”

So, parent-people, what did you learn to do after the kid was born that you never would have thought of before? I don’t mean the things you planned to cut when you were deciding on becoming a parent and negotiating from a position of strength. (“We’ll just go down to one car, and that will save a lot of money…”) I specifically mean the choices made under desperation, that were really not choices at all but what you had to do to keep going because you’d gone ahead and had a child.

Thank you.

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85 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

I think it’s much harder to do today than it was 20 years ago.

The job that I had 20 years ago paid $20,000. Today that job pays $28,000 at the same level. It still requires a college degree to get hired. The college education that cost me $598 a semester is costing my daughter $4,280 at the same university. The daycare the girls attended was $90 a week for infant care, diapers and formula included. The same day care now charges $250 a week for infant care. The apartment we rented for $210, including heat and water, rents for $820 a month (same apartment).

There is more debt for education and more cost to keeping your head above water than before. That being said, you do adjust your spending to compensate, but it often comes with a great deal of additional stress that can be detrimental to a relationship.

laureth's avatar

Thanks for your honesty, @BarnacleBill. When I ask real-life parents this same question, I often get a non-answer.

augustlan's avatar

You never buy yourself anything. Ever. No fast food, no nights out, no cable. It becomes a rare treat to rent a movie. Run errands once a week, to save on gas (and your sanity, if you’ll be bringing your infant along.) Coupons, coupons, coupons (I never used coupons before then, and I rarely do now that they’re older).

BarnacleBill's avatar

Children also constrict your time. Before children, I could stay late at work if I needed to. When they were up to middle school age, we had to pick up at day care before 6 pm, or it cost us $1 per minute per child that we went past, no exceptions. That, too, was stressful, on us and on the children. It was awful being the last one picked up. My spouse traveled extensively for work, so I was essentially a single parent, with no relatives in town as a safety net for child care duty. Not being at work because of sick children or leaving work because of doctor’s appointments or school events sometimes caused problems with deadlines at work.

There is nothing more stressful than having to do a presentation to clients at work, and having your child come up with a 104 degree fever on the same day. Having to juggle work created stress. Coworkers ended up picking up a lot of the slack. I do that today. There are things that I do because others are out a lot with children, or when they “work from home” because one is ill, they aren’t able to get everything done because they can’t access all the networks from at home. I don’t mind; goodness knows others covered for me when I needed it. (In my case, my employer at the time decided to let employees with small children expense sick child care costs, which was rather generous of them. It was $50 a day for a sitter to come to my home.)

creative1's avatar

Coupons, I am everyones email/texting list for discounts on clothes for the kids and as Augustian said you don’t buy yourself really anything unless you really need it. The clearance section becomes your best friend and you buy in for next year so you get the best deals. I don’t have cable just internet, I am able to link my internet to my tv just this past month so now I can watch tv on the tv. I don’t have credit cards, or get loans for anything but that is just me, I would rather not pay someone else interest if I can save for an item such as a new tv.

blueiiznh's avatar

First, my sleep. I learned to get by on less. This was important not because of a waking child, but because I wanted to spend as many hours possible being there to enjoy. I love the memories of 2am feedings and relaxing while bonding.
Second, making sure I opened a college fund. Within 3 months I had a 529 plan that was tucking money monthly for her education. Also have economized to keep and add to those funds as years have gone and to keep her in private school to give her an edge.

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Cupcake's avatar

Buying used clothes, eating less/eating cheaply, not eating out, not buying anything for myself, not buying toys (I mean really… do kids need all of those toys??), never hiring a babysitter, not going to weddings, not giving (purchased) gifts.

These were all time-limited (except for the babysitter… I’ve never hired a babysitter).

ucme's avatar

Our “us” time, but hey that’s okay. The positives far outweigh the negatives.

Neurotic_David's avatar

It’s not a direct answer to your question, but if you want to economize smartly after the birth of your first child, considering learning about the diapers market. You go through a lot of diapers, and can save a lot of money by buying the diapers you want through the cheapest vendor of the day. It can be a few hundred dollars a year in savings if done right.

jonsblond's avatar

My answer is pretty much the same as @augustlan and @Cupcake. No more new clothes for yourself unless you absolutely need something. Our biggest cut in expenses was entertainment, which can cost quite a bit. No more eating out or ordering take-out as much as you did in the past, no more movies or concerts. The park and free day at the zoo quickly become your friend. You learn to throw on extra clothes during the winter instead of heating your home above 70F. You run fans in the house in the summer instead of running the air conditioner.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@janbb is right on the money. Expect sex to be a less frequent occurrence.

Entertainment and luxuries are what goes. It does come back, though, as, in my experience at least, there are very high initial costs to having a child but they lessen somewhat as time goes on. Having a second child is, in my experience again, considerably less expensive.

People say Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in, but we managed to have two kids with my wife leaving her job to focus on raising the family.

It’s difficult to describe… You just… make do.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@janbb you took my answer

Foreplay.

YoBob's avatar

Ok, the main thing we learn to do without is sleep. Seriously, you think your life is full before having children and you couldn’t possibly fit in anything else. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. OTOH, it is the weight of that very real responsibility and the sometimes overwhelming gravity of the task that brings one in to tune with their depth of character and that (for lack of a better explanation) is the difference between those who are adults simply because of age and those who have reached adulthood.

So… why the fluffy talk about how difficult yet rewarding it is to be a parent rather than just answering the darned question about what you gave up? Well, because that is really the crux of the matter. It’s not so much about he physical luxuries you give up. What you really give up is an egocentric world view that concerns itself with whether you will be able to afford <insert whatever you currently do for a good time here> in exchange for the most important role in the continuum of life that one can achieve, that of parent.

Yes, their is an incremental expense in adding a family member, they have to eat and need clothing. But housing and basic bills pretty much remain the same. What really changes is what you do with your time. As “DINKs” (Double Income No Kids) you generally spend your free time in some sort of recreational activity and their is usually a bit of expense involved with that. As a parent you spend your “free” time doing stuff for/with your kids, so it kind of turns out to be a wash.

The hardest part, as someone above pointed out, is saving for higher education. Bottom line here is college is so darned expensive these days, unless you both have uber well paying jobs you won’t be able to save enough. Fear not, your kid might just have to go through school with scholarships, part time jobs, and yes, even tuition loans (just like many of their parents did).

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have kids, but I will tell you the advice I gave a friend before she quit her full time job. For the next year live on one salary, at the end you will know if you can do it, and have a bunch of savings as a cushion. I know it is harder to predict what it will be like having a child, but it probably would not take too much to calculate food, diapers, and healthcare for a typical infant, and sock that away each month, and if you would have to quit work or get a sitter then figure that in. Do it for a year and see how it goes. Or, less if you want to give up fast. What is missing is having that child you love and feel compelled to care for sacrificing everything else. I would guess the actual child being present makes the sacrifice easier. If at the end you decide not a sacrifice you want to make, you can take the saings and go on a nice vacation or have some savings for the future.

woodcutter's avatar

Look at the family budget and you will know what things you HAVE to buy VS what things you want to buy. Make freinds with other parents to get ideas from. These will probably be the people you will be seeing most of the time anyway and they can relate better than the DINKS with their jet skis and wide screen TV sound systems. And try to never use credit cards ever.

laureth's avatar

I love how people are saying that eating out, carryout, and entertainment like concerts are the things that go. :) We have no entertainment budget other than Internet – we don’t even see or rent movies. No Netflix. No cable. No cell phone. No starbucks. One cheap dinner out per week. (And no, we don’t already have kids.) This is like comedy gold. :) But thanks folks – keep ‘em comin’.

@YoBob – re “Yes, their is an incremental expense in adding a family member, they have to eat and need clothing. But housing and basic bills pretty much remain the same” – this is true. The fun is making do with all those same bills on half the current household income because someone has to be with the kid always. It’s nice that having kids is rewarding and wonderful, but if something costs $10 and you really only have $5, you still can’t have it, no matter how rewarding it is, and no matter if you can scrimp and save up to $7.50.

JLeslie's avatar

@laureth I was thinking the same. My husband and I spend a lot on his cars and racing, which is easily dropped if we hit hard economic times, but basic living expenses we are very frugal. One or two restaurant meals a week. Rarely buy new clothes, we cut our own hair much of the time, never order drinks at a restaurant, we rarely drink any alcohol period, no mortgage, no debt, no professional manicures, I use coupons, etc.

creative1's avatar

It’s pretty simple you make whatever sacrifces you need to in order to provide what you deem necessary for your child and you don’t care what it is you will provide it for them in some manner even if that means having a family member watch them a few hours a week so you can take on a second job to help out of whatever.

YoBob's avatar

@laureth I am wondering if perhaps the “sacrifice” that one of you might consider is to give up your current job in favor of one that pays a bit better (but perhaps might be a bit less personally fulfilling).

YoBob's avatar

While @janbb’ s answer has the ring of truth, I think @SpatzieLover hits the nail squarely on the head. Once the kids are finally in bed and you actually have the opportunity, both of you are usually too exhausted for anything but the basics.

laureth's avatar

YoBob, of course that’s the sacrifice. What I’m saying is that we couldn’t pay our current bills if that happens, let alone add a kid. And we don’t have that many bills.

Manicures? Haircuts? Don’t have ‘em now.
No mortgage? What a beautiful idea, how do you manage that when your house is underwater?

re: “you don’t care what it is you will provide it for them” – what I’m asking is how people do this. Financially.

SpatzieLover's avatar

What I’m saying is that we couldn’t pay our current bills if that happens, let alone add a kid. And we don’t have that many bills.

Many people that have or are having kids are in the exact same situation @laureth.

YoBob's avatar

Ah yes, working at a job that one finds less that fulfilling because the bottom line is you need the income to support their family is a huge contributor to the mid-life crisis that many face. It’s that whole depth of character thing I mentioned above (on the part of both partners) that, IMHO, plays a large role in keeping ones sanity through said crisis.

woodcutter's avatar

Heck, even after our son grew up and left the house we got a new puppy we are making adjustments so the pup gets all she NEEDS even if we gotta redirect funds away from other places in the budget. And again no credit cards.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@woodcutter Oh my yes. My pets cost more than my child

Neurotic_David's avatar

If you don’t have the income or the saved money to afford very much of anything now, @laureth, then you’re right, you can’t afford to have a child. The answer is obvious, which I now see was the point of your question.

The fiscally prudent thing to do is not have a child. Others in your situation who do have a child wind up in debt or take monies from other people (like family).

YoBob's avatar

@laureth

“YoBob, of course that’s the sacrifice. What I’m saying is that we couldn’t pay our current bills if that happens, let alone add a kid”

Not sure I communicated properly. I am not talking about the obvious sacrifice of one job in order to be able to stay home with your child. I am talking about the sacrifice of one partner to trade their current job for a higher paying (but perhaps less fulfilling) one in order to increase income to the point that having a child becomes viable.

laureth's avatar

@YoBob – I didn’t get that, you’re right. But let me explain. We already work the highest paying jobs we can find. I earn more at this job than I’ve ever earned at any other job. And the job I do is – get this – data entry. So it’s not that I find it particularly “personally fulfilling.” It’s a go nowhere, dead end, menial job. If I could find a higher paying job than this, even if it was just as boring and menial, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

So far, the vast majority of answers here fall into the “give up [some particular luxury]” camp, which I understand. If I had a weekly manicure, the annual vacation to Aspen or Vienna, salon cuts, and lobster every Saturday night, the cuts to make would be obvious and I would not be asking this question. Asking me to give up manicures (when I’ve never had one in my whole life) is like telling a guy with no car to “just sell his car.” He can’t.

Another group of answers has been along the lines of, “You just give up whatever you have to. You just do without, because your child needs something.” I have a good grasp of this, and that’s why I was asking the question as a whole. What do people do without? What did you find, after having a kid, you were able to do to make things happen when you needed them to? Where were the surprising,secret economies of scale that you found when you needed to do so? I see people, poorer than me, with kids every day. How do they do it? What do they know that I don’t? What have they done that I have failed to think of? What is their secret? So I tapped the collective to find out. And what I’ve learned is that the working poor do without manicures, jet skis and foreplay in order to afford their children.

I am 38. My husband is 48. Neither of us have been able to get a college degree, although we’ve been going, slowly but surely, to community college for many years. We don’t have time to wait any more to have kids; it’s pretty much now, or let it go forever. But we’re both pretty bright – we fall into that trap of “too poor to have kids, to smart to have them anyway.” We don’t just want to have one and only then learn that we can’t pay for it. Then, our situation would become the answer to this question, or we’d be some of those “poor people that shouldn’t be having kids anyway if they can’t afford them,” like @YoBob and I talked about in this question a while back.

@JLeslie says, “What is missing is having that child you love and feel compelled to care for sacrificing everything else.” I understand that. I believe that if I had a child, I would understand it even more. But in our case, “sacrificing everything else” would probably mean something like “taking a strategic default” on our mortgage, like rich people do when they notice their house isn’t worth what they paid for it. Our mortgage is underwater, so even if we sold and bought a cheaper place, we’d owe on two mortgages instead of just one. Believe me, we’ve thought of all the obvious answers – and I was hoping that the Collective would share some that were not obvious to people who don’t yet have kids.

@woodcutter says to look at the things we need vs what we want. We understand that too – in fact, we’ve already done that to be able to live. ;) Our current luxuries are internet, and occasional used books, and…that’s about it. My husband and I work at the same place, sharing a short commute in a cheap used Civic. “Make friends with other parents” is good advice, and we’d probably be doing that. And to never use credit cards – we pay ours off each month. Always.

@jonsblond, even without kids, our heat is only 63–65 in the winter, and AC only if the temp goes above 100 or so (in Michigan).

We don’t have any family who can care for the child. His mom lives in another state, my mom is batshit crazy, I have no siblings, and his brother’s family lives far away.

@YoBob says, “It’s not so much about he physical luxuries you give up. What you really give up is an egocentric world view that concerns itself with whether you will be able to afford <insert whatever you currently do for a good time here> in exchange for the most important role in the continuum of life that one can achieve, that of parent.” We understand this too. It’s not that we’re whining about giving up our luxuries, it’s that we’re whining about being unable to afford the basics (mortgage, gas, food, heat) on one of our salaries. Even if having kids is the best, most fulfilling thing in the whole world. Even if we want one really, really bad. Even if we are the sort of people that ought to be having kids. What do we do for a good time? Work, come home, cook dinner, play a bit on the internet, go to bed. Repeat as needed.

Sadly, the most appropriate answer for our situation might have come from @Neurotic_David. “The fiscally prudent thing to do is not have a child.” Every time I get on the thought hamster-wheel about how we could possibly have a child, I end up with that as the conclusion. I guess not everyone gets to succeed, to “level up at life,” to “join the flow of the human race,” etc etc. I guess this is where we “take personal responsibility for our situation” and keep our genes in our jeans.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@laureth All I can add is, that even if you could possibly set money aside to have a child, there is no provision to be made ahead of time if your child has special needs. Our child will always cost more than the “average” child.

We did try to set money aside. We did live off from one income for a couple of years while trying to conceive. We live it sounds like moderately as you do.

So, even if you could factor in the how’s financially, there is always the unknown.

laureth's avatar

I hear you too, @SpatzieLover – one of the hard parts about this is to quell the ever-optimistic husband who plans for things as though nothing will go wrong. Something always goes wrong – it’s just a matter of which wrong thing it will be this time.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@laureth My pregnancy cost a bit more, because I needed a perinatologist. We hadn’t accounted for that, but had estimated the birth to cost much more than it did. Then, I had some health issues after wards…then my son was diagnosed on the spectrum, now my husband is diagnosed on the spectrum.

We do not have a nest egg saved up if something should happen to one of us at this point. Anything could happen, health wise/job wise that could put us in an uncomfortable situation.

We’ve had to keep going in this economy. My husband was out of work three times. He is now at a great company that is handling the economic crisis well. Great! But…there is always something.

jonsblond's avatar

@laureth To be honest, I don’t know how we do it. We never go out, we cut our own hair, we have no savings, we live paycheck to paycheck, our clothes are from Goodwill. We don’t do vacations anymore (we did when we had a little extra money, but we don’t have it now). Maybe the savings part is it? We struggle, but it’s worth it for us.

laureth's avatar

@jonsblond – I’m positive it’s worth it, if you have enough so that the sacrifice leaves you with, say, nothing + children, rather than a negative number.

Neurotic_David's avatar

pardon the interruption, but reading through your replies, @laureth, you are definitely underemployed. You’re smart, thoughtful, articulate, and reasoned in your approach to this conundrum. I hope one day you find a job that’s intellectually engaging and plain fun!

laureth's avatar

@Neurotic_David – thank you. Please let them know that I’m smart, witty, etc., when they won’t hire anyone without a college degree.

bkcunningham's avatar

@laureth sounds like you can’t afford children.

YoBob's avatar

Just wanted to say that I totally agree with @Neurotic_David. One with your obvious talents, @laureth, should definitely be able to find more lucrative employment. I wonder if you might get some benefit from talking with a reputable job councilor, or better yet, a head hunter.

FWIW, I too have seen degree snobbery in my profession as well. The reason I am a leaf node on the org chart and am still pounding out code at 48 (and quite likely destined to be outsourced out of existence) is because most high tech companies seem to consider a freshly minted master’s degree and zero experience more valuable for managerial positions than a bachelor’s degree and 20 years in the trenches.

the100thmonkey's avatar

If you’re doing data entry on bugger all money between you, then as many others have said, you can’t afford to have children. Not in the US anyway.

I assumed you were employed in something somewhat better, given how articulate and intelligent you are.

woodcutter's avatar

Well, there never is a good time to have kids unless you are very well off and can afford to plan for the day and afford to take a lot of time away from work. It sometimes becomes the first dose of humility two people get in their lives. Seems after they grow up and move away you still are helping them out from time to time so it takes a long time to be done with it. Hopefully they grow to want to return the gesture as you both get old and need some help.

augustlan's avatar

Understanding how frugally you’re already living, I definitely see your conundrum more clearly, now. Of course the logical thing to do is remain childless. However, having children is almost never logical. ;)

if it’s something you really want, I guarantee you’ll find a way. It may require government assistance, though.

laureth's avatar

@augustlan – if having children requires government assistance, I soon become one of those “lazy bums who should have thought and prepared before popping out a brat” instead of someone “who ought to have kids because I’d be a great parent and because I’m joining the flow of humanity.” The way the demographics are going, we’re dismantling everything civilized so that those DINKS with their jet skis don’t have to pay their precious tax dollars to go to people like me. I wouldn’t want to have a kid with the idea that help will be there when it probably won’t be.

@YoBob – sounds like you should talk to a head hunter or a job counselor, eh? That should solve your “too old to work in IT, not trained for anything else” conundrum.

@bkcunningham – You’re absolutely right on this one. Won’t you rest better knowing that I’m not a drain on the public teat?

augustlan's avatar

Yeah, I can definitely understand where you’re coming from. I’m not saying it would be a good idea, just that it’s one option.

the100thmonkey's avatar

On the flip side, I’ve noticed that having children also lends a bit of gravitas to my CV – being a responsible parent tends to preclude flighty behaviour – a common problem in the field I work in in this country.

YoBob's avatar

@laureth – I had a conversation just last week with a head hunter. I am one who believes that if you want to change your situation you have to take an active part in directing that change. However, for me it is not about finding more lucrative employment, but rather reducing my commute. (of course, putting that 20 years of experience to work leading a team of developers rather than banging bits would also be a plus.)

Just curious what your husband does. Perhaps he might have better luck in the search for a more lucrative gig. Both of you looking for something better might up the odds that at least one of you will find something workable.

I appreciated @augustlan‘s comment about how having children is almost never logical.

Ok, for those of you who haven’t seen it, here is a must see film related to the topic at hand: Idiocracy

Cupcake's avatar

Have you considered fostering? A foster care subsidy might make all the difference…

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Cupcake that is a brilliant idea!

YoBob's avatar

Great suggestion @Cupcake!

laureth's avatar

He and I work at the same place.

bkcunningham's avatar

@laureth if you only knew my true life story of waiting to have babies until I could afford to have them and then the twists my life took, you’d realize that I know for a fact nothing in life is promised. You can be financially secure enough to have a child(ren) and then lose everything. Doesn’t mean that you didn’t make the right decision or that life isn’t good and worth taking chances. Ah, The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men…

Stinley's avatar

Hello, nice to meet you all. Intrigued by the question since here in the UK having no money would not stop anyone from having a baby, some say it even encourages teens to procreate. All health costs are taken care of by the state (in fact here in Scotland even prescription medicines are free). A single parent will be given priority for social housing, will get said social housing paid for, as well as paid maternity leave, as well as other benefits to supplement income. The more children you have, the more you get. A single parent with four children ‘makes’ more than the average wage in UK. it does not pay her to go to work as the income would be less than her benefits. This has always seemed crazy to me as it fosters the attitude that working is not important. But it was designed to support people like you who need a safety net, who worry about debt, who would like to stay at home and raise a child. Ever thought about moving? The weather is lousy though…

Stinley's avatar

Also, back to the original question, when you have children and work, the free time that you have you tend to want to spend it with your kids. If you work then your kids just want to see you and don’t really mind what you all do together so a trip to the park is just as great as a trip to Disneyland. getting toys from charity/thrift shops or that great British phenomenom the Car Boot Sale has taught my girls the value of money – i give them a pound or two and they can buy what ever they like (no giant soft toys is the only rule). When they see a pink teddy in the supermarket for 10 pounds they quickly realise that it’s just not worth it and save their money for the high volume second hand stuff. You can get a LOT at a car boot sale for a tenner. And the older one negotiates – ‘2 pound you say? I’ve only got a pound left’ ‘Oh go on then, that’ll do’. School work in practice too – all that adding up!

laureth's avatar

Thanks for your answers, @Stinley. I hear what you’re saying, and yeah, we don’t have that here so much. If we did, I think more children would grow up with better care taken of them.

As far as second-hand goods, though, that was pretty much something I expected to do long before I wrote the question. Heck, I don’t have kids and I already buy used things!

bkcunningham's avatar

What is a “car boot sale”? The same as a flea market in America? Where people put their stuff out for sale in a public area from the tails of their vehicles.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@bkcunningham Yes, outdoor flea market.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love those. I used to be called the Yard Sale Queen. I ran outta room.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@bkcunningham me too. Now we have an annual rummage to get rid of our extras ;)

bkcunningham's avatar

We just had one on our cul-de-sac and it has overflowed to a couple of other areas. I rode my golf car and just looked. Oh, no, I bought two books. Perfect way to economize. Original recycling.

Stinley's avatar

I think it is like a yard sale (sorry but my knowledge of yard sales comes from Toy Story 2). The difference is that they are in a public place like a car park (parking lot) or field. The organisers charge per car (15 pounds for my nearest one). The one we go to is on all year on Sundays from 8am till about 3pm but really picks up from easter to october, especially on a nice Sunday. Once the bad weather comes in, you only get a few die-hards. There’s a mixture of ordinary folk with all their unwanted goods in their cars plus some market traders selling new cheap stuff. As a business idea it could be a winner – hire a car park for a sunday (most are very underused on sundays), do some advertising and soon you could both give up your day jobs and just work sundays! I think even a multi-story car park might work, and be undercover if it’s raining

laureth's avatar

It helps to know that in Britain, a car’s “boot” is the same thing as we call a “trunk” in the US.

Stinley's avatar

I was thinking about your question some more and I was wondering if you had thought about child care. I work full time and my first had a childminder (that means that she went to this woman’s house during the day) then later a nursery (i think thats the same thing as daycare in US). The second one was looked after by my mother then later by a childminder and my mother. I always thought that if i were at home I would think about looking after children for other people as well. Not great pay and some bureaucratic hoops to jump throught to get official permission but if you’re at home anyway and have a talent with kids it could be worth thinking about. The kids benefit as they are just doing normal at home stuff, not being institutionalised in a nursery…

I was also thinking about the things that people give up or do and a really big change that people make or a sacrifice they make is to live near family members so that they can help look after the children. For example I know people who have been offered good jobs but haven’t taken them because they would have to move away from family support. In my case my mother offered to come and live near me and in lots of ways it’s been great, but her and my husband don’t get on so it’s a bit source of stress in my life. But i need her so put up with it. She also expects me to behave towards her as a child, not the adult i am so that is difficult to handle. That for me is the big sacrifice I made.

I also do a job I don’t like very much because it pays well. Lucky me to have that option but I’d rather live in a smaller house and work less hours so that I can take my kids to school and be at home in the afternoons so that they can invite friends over. THis is one of the things I am working on…

Hope this helps and sorry I got the discussion side tracked a little onto the benefits of second hand :o)

YoBob's avatar

There are some day care and pre-school programs that offer reduced rates for their employees. In our case (long story short) my wife gave up her job as a book keeper and started working as an assistant teacher at a local pre-school. As our kids moved into regular school she stayed on because it allowed her to work hours that were compatible with the kids school schedule. She earned her teaching certificate along the way as she moved from assistant to full fledged teacher. Additionally, she kind of found a niche as a pre-school science teacher introducing the concepts of science to the kids in a fun way so it wont be a big scary thing when they get to higher grade levels.

FWIW, this question has troubled me for weeks on many levels. As stated, I believe it is folks like @laureth who need to be reproducing rather than those professional baby machines described by @Stinley who have no motivation to do anything other than crank out kids at public expense. Wish I had a better solution to offer than “take an active role in changing your circumstance”.

laureth's avatar

@Stinley – Yes, I have thought of child care. As I stated in my question, “The loss of income, either from paying for daycare or one of us quitting our job, would put us under.” If we didn’t have to worry about child care, and we could, like, just leave the child in a dog crate all day ;), we could get along with a child quite nicely on our combined income. It’s the fact that an adult human has to be with the child at all times that kills the idea for us, financially. We know about living near relatives, but are unable to do so. We know about living in smaller, cheaper house (there aren’t many smaller or cheaper than we already live in, but hey, we’re looking for ways to do this). We know about taking jobs we don’t like to make more money (like I said, this is the most money I’ve ever, personally, made at any job, and it’s pretty soulless data entry, not very fulfilling).

@YoBob, I’m glad you finally realize the problem that I have. It’s not that I’m being selfish or greedy by wanting to keep all my modern conveniences and not sacrifice a single mocha latte for the sake of a kid. It’s that we couldn’t pay for child care – or, if one of us stayed home, it’s that we couldn’t pay our basic bills like housing. I’m sure if there were reliable public assistance, we could breed, but we wouldn’t want to be considered “professional baby machines” or anything.

As an update to the question: we are, actually, a little closer to being able to do this than we thought. If we were able to get my husband a job that made half again as much (but there are no jobs, and he’s lucky to have this one), OR if we were able to sell our house and buy a cheaper one (but no one is buying houses, especially for the amount we’d need to get to pay this one off), OR if a long-lost unknown relative died and left us about $25,000 (paying off the last $8,000 that we’re underwater on the house, plus down payment and closing costs on a new one), we would be able to afford to breed. We still can’t, not really, but at least we know the numbers.

As far as taking an active role in changing our circumstance, well, duh. ;) That’s why we’re going to college, that’s why we’re working and saving, and that’s why we’re trying to look at ways to crunch numbers and money to make it work. There are no silver bullets, though, and all of the solutions that we’ve thought of (or which have been offered to us) will take several years to implement. However, at age 39 (me) and 48 (him), we don’t have “several” childbearing years left. These things have expiration dates, of which monetary plans know not.

YoBob's avatar

Perhaps rather than “what did you give up” the question should be “what did you change”.

As you point out, you really aren’t that far off. It seems the long pole in the tent is how to provide child care without loss of income. Do you socialize at all with the people you work with, or those in your immediate neighborhood? I am wondering if there are other women who are planning to become mother’s who share similar logistical problems. Perhaps organizing a day care co-op among co-workers/neighbors would offer an alternative to the stay home/fork over your entire paycheck for child care conundrum?

In any case, should you decide to take that leap of faith (for I believe that is what it boils down to), what if you do wind up needing a bit of assistance? I appreciate the sincere effort to make your own way. OTOH, I don’t mind my tax dollars go towards providing a helping hand for those who are really making an effort. There is a huge difference between needing temporary assistance to make ends meet after the addition of a child and being one of those “professional baby machines”.

In any case, however things ultimately work out, I wish you and your husband a lifetime of happiness.

YoBob's avatar

One more thought. Does your job provide an opportunity for you and your husband to work different shifts? If so, you can always take the tag team parenting approach. Yes, it sucks that it would cut into your together time. However, for the first couple of years of parenting your together time pretty much winds up meaning you both pass out from exhaustion in the same room anyway. Even if there is an overlap in work hours it might cut the need for child care down to a manageable level.

laureth's avatar

Our office is open regular business hours. If we want to work separate shifts, one of us would have to work somewhere else. This is one idea we have on the table, but it is not the most desirable one. One of the upsides to having a family is being a family, so this would be pretty much an emergency measure.

No, we don’t socialize very much – I’m horrible with people, and Mr. Laureth is still an introvert. I would consider setting up babysitting arrangements, but if you want to run anything like a home daycare, I’m sure there are governmental regulations (must be so big, must be properly zoned, but have an inspected kitchen, must be certified for day care, etc.) that I don’t meet. (I have not checked into what the regulations are.)

That said, I think many families that “need a hand while making an effort” are unfairly cast as societal leeches. The way food stamps are set up here, for example, you can only be on them for a certain number of days (I think maybe a month? Two months?) before being unable to get them again for a couple years, so it’s impossible to make food stamp reception a lifestyle choice. (But what if the time of need goes longer than a couple months? Some people here have been out of work for more than two years. I guess they should just probably get a job, huh?)

But “what did you change” is a pretty good question. or, the one I originally asked: Parents: what did you learn to economize on AFTER the kid was born?

YoBob's avatar

There is a big difference between helping each other out by watching each others kids and running a home day care. Yes, if you want to watch other people’s kids in exchange for money, then you have to deal with the day care regulations (great example, BTW, of how over regulation often creates barriers to running a successful small business). However, you don’t have to have a license to have your friends kids over for a bit of play time.

As for assistance, There is a federal program known as WIC set up for the express purpose of providing for the nutritional needs of mothers/children up to the age of five. I assume that since you are both working, the federal government garnishes your wages just like they do all of the other working citizenry to pay for such programs. I don’t see how using a program that you have helped fund would make you a societal leach. That moniker is more appropriate for those who live off of the system without putting anything in.

laureth's avatar

While I’m still working, I’m sure we make too much money to qualify for such programs.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m late to this question, I found a link in an answer today. If a couple doesn’t want a child bad enough to change their life style, they should remain childless.

If you really do want a child, the best solution is to reduce your standard of living to the point where one can quit working and stay home with the child. The most expensive things in any household are the car and lodging. Move to a cheaper house, and drive a cheaper car (one only). Clothing and food are negligible, as long as you buy from thrift stores and shop bargains.

My first child was born without any planning at all. We were happy and carefree. We lived with parents and used welfare, known as Aid to Dependent Children where we lived. After the first year, I received survivor benefits.

My second child was well planned for, five years after his father and I were married. Hubby was making very good money, and I became a stay-at-home worker.

laureth's avatar

@YARNLADY – Thank you for your answer. Luckily my husband and I work at the same place, so we can commute together – because we own only one cheap used Honda. It has over 100K miles. I don’t know how we can find a cheaper car than this.

We live in the cheapest not-crime-ridden neighborhood in the area, in an 800-sq-foot house. The mortgage is underwater or we’d be happy to move to a different place, but we can’t exactly sell right now.

I do shop bargains, and I buy things cheaply. (Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a more expensive thing that lasts longer, rather than buying cheap crap every few months, but doing the math, we come out ahead at the end.)

The rest of my explanations on this thread are mostly me explaining how our lifestyle isn’t that expensive. If that wasn’t manifestly clear, I’m not sure how to make it any more clear. We don’t do expensive things. We don’t have cell phones, we don’t have cable TV, I cook at home the vast majority of the time and we take home-cooked dinner leftovers to lunch at work the next day (instead of eating lunch out). Our only “luxury” is the internet connection, which serves as most of our entertainment – but internet is rapidly becoming something people are expected to have nowadays. (Some of my classes have required it, actually.)

So, I understand that if we want one badly enough, we will have to change our lifestyle – but to what? That’s why I asked this question. Everybody tells me that when the babies come, you just learn to give up, do without, make do. But having looked at the numbers, we can’t exactly do that. We cannot pay all of our regular, normal, not-extravagant bills on only one of our incomes. The numbers, literally, do not add up. We’re not sure what we’d “do without.” It’s not a matter of just deciding to live without the annual Paris vacations and poodle pedicures. Everyone seems to think we must have a plethora of luxuries. But we don’t.

bkcunningham's avatar

I had a friend who started her own daycare and made more money than she was making at a sort of dead end call center type job. She was able to get pregnant, be a stay-at-home mom and an entrepreneur/independent/business woman. She loves her job.

I’ve known people who tutored for extra money and the ability to stay home and raise a family. I’ve known people who have used family for daycare when they worked and gave piano lessons after work for a little extra money. Just a few things off the top of my head since I saw the resurrected question.

laureth's avatar

Because everyone keeps suggesting running a daycare, I looked up the cost. If I had that much money, I’d just have a kid. ;)

I’m not the sort, by the way, who has the patience to be around multiple children all day. Or even for a couple hours. One kid is enough for me. I’m sure the response here will be, “Oh, you learn to live with it if you really want a child.” I am not a people person, and it’s hard to be something you’re not, though.

I’d have to learn piano to teach piano. And I don’t have family nearby (within, say, 4 hours’ drive) that isn’t batshit crazy (i.e., I’m not going to trust my abusive mother with my child, should I have one). And my husband’s mom lives in another state.

Truly, we’ve thought of everything we can. All the low-hanging fruit, and a decent amount of the middle- and high-hanging fruit. We’re working on the long-term plan of selling this condo and moving to a few acres of agricultural land where I can stay home and still make some sort of economic contribution by raising most of our own food – but that is a long way off. I’m already peeking at age 40, though, so it’s probably too late anyway.

bkcunningham's avatar

I stopped reading your link at the second sentence. “To make any money in the child care business, you need economies of scale. That’s why you should go for something large enough to accommodate at least 80 children, says Michael Olenick, president of Child Care Resource Center in Van Nuys, Calif.”

I’m talking about operating a daycare from your home. Do you know that you can get USDA money if you submit appropropriate menu and paperwork?

http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/care/CACFP/aboutcacfp.htm

bkcunningham's avatar

Sorry, I just read your complete response. So you don’t like to be around kids. Nix the daycare plan. lol Sorry.

laureth's avatar

My home is small, and not zoned for such a thing anyway. Thanks though!

bkcunningham's avatar

Did I read in your profile or in your interview blog thing or somewhere that you weave or work on a loom or something or other, @laureth?

laureth's avatar

You may have. I spin and knit. I weave on a mini-loom, it takes 10 minutes to learn. I have considered teaching those things. (Spinning, at least, because I don’t know enough knitting to teach anyone.) The problem is getting people who want to pay money. ;) Maybe a dozen people have wanted to learn for free, but no one wants to pay. (Same with the stuff I make – people think that a handspun, hand knit sweater from my own design should cost as much as, or less than, one from Wal*Mart.)

bkcunningham's avatar

I hope you don’t mind if I suggest contacting a local library, art store or craft store and talking to them about the mutal benefits of allowing you to offer classes in their location. Put up flyers and advertise yourself. Get a free plug in the local newspaper’s coming events column. I bet you may be surprised how many are interested in paying to learn a little craft or make something for Christmas.

I’ve paid to take so many different craft classes in my life I’ve lost track. They’ve all been fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve done ceremics, made grapevine baskets and wreaths, made wooden Christmas ornaments, taken acrylic and water color classes, weaving, quilting…I think it would be fun.

laureth's avatar

I don’t mind if you suggest that. You wouldn’t be the first. If I’m ever that much in need of a few extra bucks (as opposed to enough money to buy out a mortgage), I’d consider it. It goes against the grain of my personality, but at least they’re adults and not kids.

bkcunningham's avatar

Why does it go against your grain, @laureth? The teaching and public part?

laureth's avatar

Yes. I’m a strong introvert by nature, who has already worked too much retail for too long. It’s a bad combination.

(If Fluther had a big party with everyone there, I’d be the one in the corner, nursing a soda and hoping people didn’t notice me there, for the obligatory hour until I could sneak out the back and go home. I’m much better in pixels than in person.)

YARNLADY's avatar

Well, you could try what I and both my sons did – live with parents as long as it takes.

I sympathize about the underwater house mortgage – we bought a home to rent to our son – paid $140,000 for it, and it’s worth $70,000 right now. We still owe $100,000 on it, and Sonny is out of work and can’t pay the rent, so now we are paying for his house as well as ours, plus his car and ours.

laureth's avatar

I’m afraid that living with parents is out of the question. My mom has no room, but primarily because she’s abusive, and I don’t want to be around her, let alone have her around any kids we have. And Mr. Laureth’s mom lives out of state, which takes us away from the income-providing jobs we do have.

Mr. Laureth bought this townhouse in the mid-90s for something like $78,000, and still owes something like $48K on it. Identical townhouses in the neighborhood sell for around $40K now. (His ex “forgot” to pay the mortgage for two years before their divorce, so for a number of years he lived on ramen noodles and gave up the car – walking 3 miles one-way to work in all weather – to pay double-mortgages rather than lose the house. Nowadays, I wish he’d lost it, and we’d be free of this albatross.)

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