• Posts Tagged ‘baby’

    Are Two Birthday Parties Too Many?

    by  • November 13, 2012 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    birthday balloons

    Harbingers of doom?

    After almost 2 years of being parents, my wife and I have realized that we have a “Spirited Child”, ie, a child who is just more of everything. As such, we’re trying to be sensitive to his needs, temperament, and personality. Large scale disruptions can mean hours (yes, plural) of uncontrollable tantrums. Included in these disruptions are holidays, unforeseen changes in plans, and of course, birthdays.

    As we started to list all of the people who we would like to invite, we realized that the list had grown to over 40 people. For a second birthday party that is a ridiculous amount of people, but not unheard of for my cultural upbringing (but seriously offensive for my wife’s WASPy sensibilities). Nonetheless, we realized that our kid would be so overstimulated and our attention so divided that we needed to come up with a plan. So we had to wade into the world of parental politics and decide whom we were going to invite.

    The first thing we did was to really look at the list of people we were inviting and ask: Why were we inviting them? Because they invited us to their kids’ parties? Were they family? Friends of ours with small kids?

    We then remembered another 2-year old’s birthday party that we were at recently. There were a lot of people there and all sorts of chaos, organized and unorganized. We barely got to see the kid who was having a birthday, much less socialize with everyone else. Family and friends were separated by awkwardness, only connected by a loose bond they had with the birthday kid. That’s not how we wanted the party to be. We want the party to be a reflection of our kid’s life, to be surrounded by people who love him and have supported us as parents. That definition, though, did not help us to lower the number of people we wanted to invite.

    While driving to work one day a sudden flash of inspiration hit me – why don’t we just have two smaller parties? One for close family and one for close friends? To be frank, our families don’t really care too much about our friends and want to maximize the time that they spend with our kid and with other family; they don’t want to make awkward small talk with people they barely know and navigate around kids they’ve never met. Our friends could come to another gathering to celebrate and socialize, and to have all of the kids play together. We would still have to trim the guest list, but overall it would be much more manageable.

    By having two smaller parties, we figured that we can have them at our home and not have to find a venue and overpay for an overwhelming party. We would essentially have the same party twice, so only one plan and one set of errands for food and supplies would have to made. We’ll get to spend more time with the people who matter to us. Isn’t that really what birthday celebrations are all about?

    What do you think? Are we being too indulgent? What compromises have you made for your kids’ birthdays?

     image: mae.noelle

    The Costs of Two Parents Working Full Time

    by  • October 10, 2012 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    cat in car seat

    Easier to get in the seat than our kid

    Ever since my wife was pregnant with our child, there was no doubt that we would both keep working full time. We thought that we had a good grasp of the costs involved with working full time. Daycare, of course, for our kid when we work, and a whole new slew of costs associated with driving. But that wasn’t all, oh no. We’ve been doing this for about a year and a half now, and, to really no one’s surprise, it’s costing us much, much more than we anticipated. Here’s the breakdown:

    Daycare

    Putting our kid in a place located just inconveniently enough to be a pain in the ass where other people can care for him for nine hours costs us upwards of $1,700 a month. Yes, you read that right, $1,700. Are there cheaper placed in Chicago? Yes. Are there more expensive places in Chicago? Yes. The daycare that we use is on the more expensive side of things, but considering the range of the cost of daycare (including home daycares) in Chicago for full-time care is $1,200 to $2,300 per month, we pay slightly over the mean.

    My wife has a dependent care flexible spending account, which allows us to allocate $5,000 of pre-tax money for daycare costs. That lowers our taxable income come tax time, which translates to a tax savings of about $1,250 a year. That can be combined with the child tax credit, but we can’t take full advantage of because of our total income. Nonetheless, we’re able adjust our withholding to increase our take home pay by a few dollars per month. Every bit helps.

    Is it worth it? Looking at the fantastic care that our child receives, we say YES. I was admittedly very skeptical at the cost, even to the point of having a feasible plan B. However, it didn’t take very long for me to see that the quality of care was exceptional. Now that we have a toddler, we can directly see the advances in development on a daily basis. The teachers genuinely care for our kid, and we have built an incredible amount of trust in them.

    There really is no right answer for how much someone “should” pay for childcare. We found the right answer for us. And this isn’t permanent! We might have to tighten the purse strings for a few years, maybe lots of years if we have many children, but they will all grow up.

    Automobile – Parking

    For a long long time, we were happy daily users of the public transit system in Chicago. After kiddo was born, that all had to end. We now schlep our kid to daycare, and then ourselves to work everyday. The price of parking in Chicago has increased a ridiculous amount in the past few years, but we’ve managed to find parking that doesn’t completely break the bank. Not only that, but it’s close to our work; next door to my wife’s work, in fact. For the privilege of parking our car in downtown Chicago, we pay $200 of pre-tax money per month ($2,400 a year); my wife also has a flexible spending account for parking costs. That offsets our costs a bit by saving us around $600 in taxes.

    Automobile – Gas

    Quiz: What city in the USA has the highest gas prices? CHICAGO. Yay. For a while we used our trunk to store our 25-pound stroller; we took it out once and didn’t put it back, and lo and behold we got better gas mileage. Back then we were paying around $50 per week in gas, but since the removal of the stroller we’re filing up about once every week and a half. In addition, we’ve found some strategies for saving on gas. Let’s call it a total of $150 per month for gas.

    Automobile – Maintenance and Being Stupid

    We have a 10+ year old japanese compact car. We’re fortunate that it hasn’t needed any maintenance above and beyond what is recommended. Oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, fluids replaced whenever they need to be, tires rotated, whatever. The total cost of maintenance is probably around $300 per year if there’s no major things to be done. Our commute is still short enough that we’re not racking up a huge number of miles – maybe 300 miles per month – so maintenance costs will continue to be low.

    However, that doesn’t account for stupid driving mistakes. I’m the primary driver in our family, and I’m far from being a perfect driver. But sometimes, I swear, a pothole or a curb will pop out right in front of me, and then BAM, I’m changing a tire. Fortunately, these incidents haven’t happened too much, but it does cost time and money to get these problems fixed. Add another $200 a year.

    Coffee

    Before parenthood, I didn’t feel the need to be constantly caffeinated. Amazing what a few months of sleep deprivation will do. Each morning I fill coffee cups before we get in our car. We pay $15 a week for locally-roasted coffee which we grind at home, for a total of $60 a month on coffee alone. That amounts to a small savings over buying coffee everyday from a coffee shop, but we’ll take all we can get.

    Conclusion and Rationale

    Here’s the questions you’ve been waiting for: does having both parents work offset the cost of childcare related expenses? The answer is…not really. My wife’s take home is a little over $2,000 a month.

    So why does she keep working?

    Because she’s passionate about her career. Because she works at one of the top firms in the world in her field. Because she can work with some of the smartest people on Earth. Because she can contribute to a retirement plan. I’m of the same mind.

    That said, we have no idea what will happen if/when we have more children.

    Are you a two parent working full time household? How have you handled the costs and other challenges of working full time while taking care of a child or children?

    image: ocean yamaha

    5 Things Parents Routinely Overpay For

    by  • October 5, 2012 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Elle writes over at Couple Money, helping couples to reach financial freedom by living one one income and having fun with the second.

    baby elle

    Becoming parents has changed our lives dramatically and so far it’s been a blast. One of the first things we noticed is how our finances have changed with having a little one. The common warning we heard from well meaning friends was that babies will drain your finances like nothing else.

    While certain expenses like health insurance premiums can take a big chunk out of our wallets, there are some baby expenses we as parents can reduce (and hopefully redirect towards other future goals).

    Baby Expenses That you Can Save Big Money On

    During my pregnancy I decided to track our real life baby expenses on our site as a way to give first time parents an idea of what to expect financially. Thankfully other parents have been kind to us and shared some of their tips as we asked both online and offline for their advice.

    Over the series I noticed that there a few things that parents can overpay for if they are not careful (which can be done when you’re adjusting to your little one’s sleep schedule).

    Baby Food/Formula

    Feeding your baby is essential, but costs can vary widely. If you’re formula feeding look at buying in bulk (perhaps a warehouse club) or consider a subscription service like Amazon Mom, which offers some pretty competitive discounts on foods.

    As your baby gets older and is trying out purees and solid food, you may find it more cost effective to make your own baby food. Some parents have also enjoyed having the freedom to prepare some unique dishes for their little ones to try out.

    Breast Pumps

    For us we went with breastfeeding our baby girl and even though it can save you a lot of money, buying a breast pump can be quite expensive. Before you pick up a breast pump ask yourself how you plan on using it. For those who have to go back to work full-time at an office, getting a portable unit that can automatically pump can be worth the money. You can rent a pump from your local hospital to see if you really need the top of the line model.

    Thankfully besides the deals offered online for the pumps, there is a tax break that you may want to take advantage of when you file next year.

    Diapers

    This was by far the most common expense people warned us about. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a huge money drain. Based on some friends’ recommendations we signed up for a disposable diaper subscription through Amazon, bring our diaper costs to around $20/month. What’s great about going online is that we have it delivered right to our house, which also saves us some time.

    A few months ago we also made an adjustment to a hybrid of cloth diapers/disposable diapers. The transition was a bit surprising at first, but it’s a good fit for out routine.

    For those who are interested in cloth diapering, there are several great options. For us, we’re using FuzziBunz.

    Baby Clothes

    We did not imagine how quickly our baby girl went through clothes the first year. Even with gifts from grandparents and friends, she was outgrowing clothes every week it seemed.


    Don’t underestimate the temptation to grab and buy adorable outfits in tiny sizes. It’s amazing how much is out there for baby clothes and it can be very easy to drop a lot of money for outfits that will be worn for a couple of weeks (yes we’ve even had outfits that we were once!).

    Save yourself a lot of heart ache by using a baby consignment shop if possible. We have one near our neighborhood and we’ve been able to pick out some awesome clothes there at a fraction of the price you’d see at stores. The quality is fantastic, with tags still on some of the outfits we pick up. When we’re done we can pass it down to friends or family, consign it back and get some credit for future purchases, or save it for future kids.

    Baby Toys

    My recommendation for toys is the same as clothes – look for a consignment store that specializes in baby gear. They tend to check their wares more closely and you can get some fantastic deals with them. Of course like many parents we can’[t resist grabbing some new toys time to time, but it’s great having a cost effective option nearby as well.

    Money Saved -> Baby Fund

    What’s great with saving money on baby expenses is how you can use that money for bigger financial goals that you may have for your little one. For parents looking at building a college fund, optimizing baby expenses can be a wonderful way to jump-start the fund.

    Thoughts on Baby Expenses

    I’d love to hear from you about your take on baby expenses. How have you found ways to save on baby and kid expenses? What has been the easiest fix? What has been the hardest? What sites and stores do you use when you shop for baby gear?

    And Baby Makes Three – Yes, We Procreated

    by  • September 21, 2011 • Tagged: ,  • Comments


    decals

    Our family looks more like the one on the left.

    image: xkcd

    So all that non-posting in the past year? Yeah, we were busy having a baby and stuff. Did you realize how much time ONE measly baby takes? What the hell, baby.

    Also, as it turns out, ONE measly baby also tends to be pretty expensive. It is quite the transformation to turn our home from DINK-style to OMG-BABYPROOF-EVERYTHING. We’re still transitioning slowly into our new role as parents, and that includes the way in which we spend money.

    As you would expect, we’re not going to be the best source for money-saving tips when it comes to baby stuff. If you want those I would suggest reading Couple Money’s series on baby expenses. In fact, there was just a post yesterday on the actual cost of raising a child.

    Have kids? Share a tidbit of info in the comments on how you’re dealing with the expenses.