The Green…Where Does it Go?
Welcome to parenthood. There’s the good, the bad, and then there is money. It may seem that as soon as money comes in, money goes out. There’s the cost of diapers, perhaps formula, childcare, and then other baby necessities (cute clothes!). On top of that, there are the general household expenses: rent or mortgage, utility bills, groceries, etc. Finally, there’s the “extracurriculars.” This may be the swimming or gym class you enjoy with your child, dinner out for the family, or the purchase of a toy or two that you believe may benefit your child.
There are many places the green goes. And it goes fast.
Is there anything you can do?
The first and best thing to do is to take time to re-evaluate your budget. This may be a tedious process, but it is imperative that you and your partner take the time to do it. You will want to make time for this process when you know you have a “window of opportunity” where you have few interruptions. This may be during naptime, at nighttime, or may be worth a “date” at a local coffee shop (of course, if you are trying to save money and you need to hire a babysitter, you may want to reconsider that last option).
During this “meeting” be sure to bring current bills, documentation of income and where monies are spent (i.e. your checkbook or bank statement which can show money in and money out), and a calculator. Some families find it easier to set up information into an excel sheet or other computer-based financial manager.
Once you input the data of what you earn and what you spend, it’s time to take a step back and seek specific ways to reduce expenses.
Easy solutions may include the following:
- Planning and working within a set budget for grocery shopping. Prior to heading to the grocery store each week, make a list of meals that, will be prepared. Shop for these items. No more, no less.
- Cut coupons. The time it takes to clip a few coupons for products you use is well worth the return.
- Breastfeed and/or pump versus using formula. This can add up to significant cost savings.
- Choose extracurricular activities carefully. Explore free or low-cost programming offered at places such as libraries, non-profit arts organizations, and city and county parks. If you do decide to pay for a class or program, you may decide to budget for one program at a time (i.e. one program in the fall, one in the spring, and one in the summer).
- If you plan to eat out, take advantage of restaurants that offer “kids eat free” or other incentives (such as early bird specials, etc.).
- Exchange services with family or friends. Need a babysitter? Chances are you know someone else who might need one too. Can you take turns so that each couple has an opportunity for an evening out with no additional costs? Simply set up a few guidelines (i.e. length of time of the date) to be sure the “swap” is fair.
- Little kids seldom care if an item is gently used or new. Obtain hand-me-downs from a local thrift shop or from a relative or friend.
By stepping back and re-evaluating your budget, you’ll not only determine where the money goes, but chances are you’ll find more of it.