How Family Inflation Is Affecting Our Spending
I’ve written about how having kids improved our finances–and it did. We’ve always been frugal,but since the birth of our first child we really got our financial act together: we paid off student loans, wrote a will, got smarter life insurance policies, and got more aggressive about investing. We also have less time for costly habits like recreational shopping or eating at restaurants.
More recently, I’ve mentioned how our spending on things like groceries, clothes, gifts, sports and activities, and babysitters has increased as they’ve grown older. Not to mention saving for college!
I find it absolutely comical that bloggers conceive their first child and start writing about how babies don’t really cost that much. First of all, these people must have stellar health insurance. Because we are blessed to have good insurance and it still cost us a pretty penny–around $3000 just for our most recent bundle of joy.
I think what these well-meaning writers mean to say is: you don’t have to spend as much as you think to get started having a kid. Buy secondhand. Get hand-me-downs. Don’t go overboard with the gadgets. Of course.
But babies get bigger, hopefully. They start eating as much as you. They wear through shoes like they’re tissues. They might stop getting hand-me-downs. They want to play sports. They start wanting Legos.
All that’s to be expected. What I didn’t quite expect is how my overall attitude toward money has shifted. I used to think of money as something to be optimized for most efficient use. Now I think of it more as a tool to be used in different ways, depending on the circumstances. I suppose this is the result both of our increasing financial flexibility, and our increasing family size.
For example, the price I’m willing to pay for convenience has sky-rocketed. Perhaps it’s because we just welcomed a third little human into our family, but I have been more willing to shell out for things that will make my life easier. Things like a non-stick pan. And more silverware. And store-bought yogurt. And whatever shorts at Target will fit my postpartum waistline. Because I don’t have time to hand-wash extra dishes, make everything from scratch, and mine the thrift store for presentable pants.
While I don’t believe in conveniencing myself to death, I do find that sometimes, it’s wonderful to have just the right tool for the job. In the garage, in the kitchen, or in your wardrobe. For example, we’ve tried to grind cardamom pods (for chai) in every way imaginable, but when we finally gave in and bought the spice grinder, it works like a charm. I’m starting to learn my lesson and just buy the things we really want rather than waiting a year. And while it feels a bit spendy, I don’t regret buying things that make our lives way easier and preserve precious time.
On the continuum from frugal to frivolous, our spending is still on the thrifty side. But we’ve slid a bit on the spectrum, and I’m glad. It’s nice feel free to use the tool of money as needed in the moment, and not carry the weight of how much the cost of that spice grinder, or hospital bill, could have compounded over the next thirty years into every decision.
At the end of the day, I’m just trying to make it to the end of the day! While my attitude will surely change as I emerge from having an infant, I don’t think we’ll ever find ourselves as far down the frugality spectrum again. Optimal efficiency and frugality have gone by the wayside as other values take a higher place: making time for our kids and keeping our household running sufficiently, all while continuing to serve outside our family as well.
Where do you fall on the frugal-to-spendy spectrum, and how has that changed over time?
I don’t have kids but I could totally see that. I think people who have never been in that stage of child-rearing can easily say that, but they haven’t experienced it. How many have said stuff like, “I’m going to have a natural childbirth, and my kid will eat all organic and NOT watch TV and…” and then cut to 3 years later and none of that is true. lol! I could totally understand with your hands full how you’d want a little bit of convenience.
That’s so true about how your parenting expectations do not meet reality! Fortunately I didn’t have big expectations in the area of our spending so I’m not disappointed. But sometimes I’m surprised at my frugal self not caring about saving here and there.
Very well said. Money is indeed a tool for making life better, in the best sense. Unrelieved scrimping is exhausting–I remember! And sometimes you just have to do that until the money starts coming in a little better. Yes, the money you spent on that spice grinder and other truly useful items for your home could have been put in the piggy bank for later–but what is “later,” really? Will “later” even be there? Who knows what it will look like. What you do know is that right now you need a grinder. Glad you got it. Also, it takes a toll on children to never have new toys, to always to limited to what the thrift store has on the rack, etc. Mixing in some “splurges” within reason can make the children feel more mainstream and downright thrilled.
Good point. Neil experienced some of that toll growing up and doesn’t want the kids to repeat that, without going overboard either. So far I think we’ve found that balance but I imagine that could get harder as they get older.
Great post! Very true about all the people with one 6 week old opining how cheap kids are 🙂
Once kids get out of the baby and toddler stage they definitely start costing more money for their clothing and activities (just a pack of kid’s underwear can easily be almost 10 bucks) and that it’s hard to be as hard-core frugal when a lot of your time and energy is being taken up with keeping a small human alive. For example, when my daughter was a baby we paid a friend’s kid to do our lawn mowing but have since picked it back up ourselves.
Underwear is a great example! Last year I updated our clothing budget after realizing that just purchasing socks and undies for everyone would take up our entire clothing budget (which hadn’t been updated since having kids).
I imagine we’ll have to outsource more, too. We haven’t yet but Neil is planning to hire someone to paint our new interior doors, which would be the first thing we’ve hired someone to do inside our home!
We still try to frugalize on a lot of things, but over the past two years, we’ve stepped solidly into the more spendy territory, and that’s without getting into sports (other than non-competitive swimming) or much in the way of new “kids” stuff. Our grocery bill is up about 35% over two years ago, our car expenses are more than doubled (seeing as we have two cars, and I take the kids out a lot more), and we want to buy a bigger house eventually (just need to save the cash to buy it).
Plus, even working PT (around 20 hours per week), we still spend $1000+ on childcare each month. Now, I have no doubt that it’s possible to do it cheaper. I have many friends that are able to save money on salaries in the $30-$40k range, and some have as many as four kids. But it’s not easy for them, and I think they would happily spend the majority of $10k raise because kid spending now is worth more than retirement savings later.
Good to hear that you can relate. Our grocery bill has steadily risen, which absolutely makes sense with more growing bodies eating more all the time. Not to mention some “splurges” like pieced chickens.
You’re so right that saving more is possible–and if we had to, we’d do it. At some point the effort on some things doesn’t make sense in light of our situation, though.
I’m so glad you’re shifting. 1. You’ve earned it. 2. Convenience IS worth it to make life run more smoothly at times – and that’s of great value for you and your family now. Good for you for not obsessing about how that $3,000 could have grown over the next 30 years, etc. That’s another form of financial bondage – overspending and debt aren’t the only ones. You’ve living the freedom you’ve set up for yourselves. Enjoy!
I am way more prone to the financial bondage of saving, but when it comes to the kids it feels very worth the expenses (as the hospital bill mentioned was for delivery/maternity).
We were always willing to pay for experiences for our children. We purchased a small popup trailer and travelled the country every summer for 10+ years. With kids, you have to plan for excursions during 6-8 weeks while living in a small popup trailer pulled by a minivan.
We also willingly paid for their college educations without complaint. They are both successful professionals who are very generous with excursions for us now. They know the sacrifice we made for them and are willing to reciprocate.
How fun! We have talked about renting something to travel the country with one summer. I’m sure you saved a ton vacationing with a popup versus hotels or rental homes!
And how wonderful that you were able to help your kids with college and they have reciprocated in other ways.
For us later is now. We’ve been frugal and debt-free for decades and saved a lot as well. Now we are old. We love the neighbors, but managing the whole house is getting hard. We costed out moving–tens of thousands–and instead we’re spending money to make life easy enough. Cleaning help! Clean floors and bathrooms every two weeks! I wouldn’t have believed how much lighter I feel now that the house isn’t dirty. It’s always been neat. Yard work done by others!
Sounds like you’re very happy with your choice! That’s great. I am sure we will outsource more as we get older.
We only have one, but we have gone through the same experience. One thing for me is the effect of leaves. Living with old trees bordering or on our property, fall has become brutal. Now I mow my own lawn, and I snowblow my driveway, both of which cost between $50 to $100 a time; especially when we get a big nor’ easter that drops 20″ of snow; a normally bi-annual occurrence on average that has happened each of the last 3 years!
But the leaves, oh do I hate walking around picking them up with the lawn mower or the electric leaf blower. No, this year, I just have to buy one of those big expensive gas blowers that you push. I have spent too many hours, likely 20 – 30, and possibly more, each year clearing them. It’s painful. No, this year, I need to buy one or hire someone. That would be much more in once season than the blower itself!
Sounds like it’s time to make a change. Glad you are willing to save yourself the time and buy a blower or hire it out.