Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kids don't cost that much.

This statement kept coming to mind last week. 

As I was writing a check for $106 for two pairs of tap shoes for which I had already paid 50 some odd dollars.

Kids don't cost that much.

As we paid for half a year of gymnastics classes for three kids.

Kids don't cost that much.

That actually cost $1,000. 

As the weather turned cooler and I realized that my kids don't have enough pants to make it through a full week.

Kids don't cost that much.

As I held a summary of $400 worth of dental charges (cleanings, x-rays, sealants, fluoride) for two kids.  Thankfully, that was pre-insurance.

Kids don't cost that much. 

Months and months ago, I came across an article which lead me to a blog written by a husband/wife duo living a frugal lifestyle.  They had saved money while working "normal" full time jobs and now live abroad with their savings and likely income earned from blogging.  They share their budgets and tax returns online for all to see how frugal and money smart they are.  I was fascinated because I (often but not always) consider myself to be on the frugal end of the spectrum and I like to see how others do it.  Sure, I like to splurge as much as the next person but I also like to save and pay down debt like car loans and mortgages.  I also have a business degree and specialize in tax and accounting so I find these discussions interesting.  What really caught my attention was the fact that they were expecting their first child and a reader asked how that baby was going to impact their budget.  The response was that they didn't expect to really change their budget because kids don't cost that much.  Or something along those lines.

Now, I suppose it all depends.  Do you have a healthy child?  What does your health insurance cover?  What about dental insurance? Are you lucky to have a child with a spacious mouth and straight teeth because ortho and insurance aren't really best friends. 

Kids don't need to participate in extracurricular activities.  I get that.  Although, there are arguments that those activities help to keep (mainly older) kids out of trouble.  As much as I believe in the importance of school, I also believe in having something that is yours.  Rich and I have both spent our careers working for the man and I don't like to complain because it has afforded us a lifestyle where our kids can take dance and gymnastics.  We live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood.  We own two cars.  We take multiple vacations each year.  But with age, we have both come to believe that success shouldn't be measured by titles.  One doesn't need to be an attorney or a CPA or a CFO to be successful.  We want our kids to be able to explore the arts and sports because maybe that's their path.

I do tend to balance our spending.  What does that mean?  Well, you'll never see me wearing sandals that cost $200, or even $100.  Kids or no kids, that's not happening.  Most of the time, I just won't shop unless something is needed.  There are always minor exceptions but I keep it in check.  It seems to be working for us and although I would love a new wardrobe, I pick up pieces here and there on sale.  No $400 bags either.  (I haven't had a proper wardrobe since body by triplets appeared 8 years ago.)

So, yeah, maybe kids don't cost that much.  They need food, shelter, clothing.  All I know is that my bills sure went up when I had three of 'em.  (And that's okay!)

Dance on, little ones.  Dance on.


Michele said...

I'm going through a similar thing right now. Somehow even with both girls in full time day care, I saved more when they were little than I am right now at almost ten.

Many meals they eat adult-sized portions = higher grocery bills.

We do gymnastics and hockey. All their hockey gear from last year still fits. But not soccer, dance, tee ball or girl scouts.

School has pictures, yearbooks, field trips, supplies, and fundraisers. It's crazy

Tracey's Life said...

Kids do cost a lot. Wait until they hit puberty and can empty a refrigerator in one afternoon after grocery shopping. Wait until they hit college - tuition for two = $111,000 per year. And yeah, one text book host $347. Kids do cost a lot. You are smart to be frugal. :) And yes studies have proven that kids who are involved in the arts and sports and extra-curricular activities are better students, more well rounded and succeed at higher levels academically and socially. Keep on doing what you are doing.

Anonymous said...

I have 3 kids as well. They do cost a lot. Not when they are babies and you can get by on second-hand stuff, breastfeed and use cloth diapers (secondhand of course).

My 10 yr old daughter is a dancer. And she's good. And she loves it. Her classes cost $10K a year. She has tap shoes but now we have to buy better tap shoes for $160.

I hadn't anticipated that my kids would actually be any good at anything. But since she's good, she works hard, I feel that it's my obligation to make sure that opportunity is open to her.

Merks said...

Over a year ago I read Dave Ramsey's book, Total Money Makeover. It was repetitive and incredibly easy to read and I finished it in a few hours. My husband and I weren't in a lot of debt, but beyond our mortgage we also still had a car payment and were carrying a balance on our credit card. At the start of the next month we started budgeting. Within a few months we had paid off our car and credit card just from tracking our actual expenses.

All of that to say thanks to budgeting we're also able to pay for all of the extras that come along with kids. And with three small kids (and another coming any day now), our largest bill each month is daycare and tuition since we opted for private elementary school. I think it's all about how you prioritize. We both have amazing jobs and have been smart about our expenses and chose a house/mortgage that fit well within our means. But because we opted to have a large family and opted to allow our kids to participate in activities we don't take extravagant vacations or buy a lot of fancy things for ourselves. That'll come one day, but for now we enjoy our camping trips and quick trips to the beach.

But yeah, I'm not so sure people really understand the impact even one child will have on finances and if they think that one child won't really change that they're in denial. Thanks for always sharing - I enjoy hearing your perspective.

Teej said...

This is an interesting and enlightening discussion. We are frugal too and manage to save some every month even with two in daycare, but I admit that I was thinking this was the most expensive the kids would be (daycare, diapers, new clothes and shoes every 3 - 6 months in one case and every year in the other). But now I guess I have to start thinking differently and plan ahead for the years of activities, various school fees, and hungry teenagers. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

I think its worth noting though, that you live in one of the more expensive parts of the country.
And you have the kids in what many of us lower middle classers consider "upper crust extracurriculars" i.e. they are not the extracurriculars that are cheap by any means.
Also you had triplets, so no hand me downs or anything like that.
So.. for some families their kids probably don't cost as much as yours..

But I still think the expectant frugal living couple should be more prepared for some budget changes. Definitely!

BreezieGirl said...

I don't have kids yet, but I enjoyed this post. I can't imagine someone not expecting a child to change their finances.

I knew kids cost a lot when I WAS a kid. While I don't think my parents ever outright discussed the family's finances with us, I was aware that three kids on my young parents' budget was hard (3 kids by age 25; no college). My parents did an awesome job at budgeting - my sister and I both danced (many classes), did Girl Scouts, cheerleading... my brother played sports.

Sarah said...

I enjoyed reading everyone's comments and thoughts.

Anon - I hadn't thought about cost of living. Boston suburbs = high cost of living but I assume that I make more $ than if I held the same exact job somewhere else. It would definitely matter if we weren't pulling a salary though. I wonder if the view/cost of certain activities is regional? Around here, dance and gymnastics are grossly popular (this is a lower to upper middle class area) and there are so many dance studios and a good selection of gyms - they have to keep their costs competitive. I can think of 5 dance studios all less than a 10 minute drive from us.

Anonymous said...

There's another extreme frugal blog where they are also expecting a baby and they say something very similar. They are getting all of their baby things second hand, so most are cheap or free. I agree that you don't have to spend a ton on baby gear, but there are definitely costs to kids! When I was complaining about $100 for gymnastics a coworker told me to be grateful, because now that his kids were in high school it was $1000 for field trips, etc.