Hello there, Daycare World! My my, how my wallet is thinner!
One in daycare at a time can be pricey. Two at once?!?! Whoa, money, come back here!
(And for all of you with more than two in daycare, what are your secrets???)
Due to some life circumstances (hey, they come up all along and we try to go with the flow) the boys are now in daycare. As we're adjusting to our new schedule, our budget is also adjusting.
Gone are the days of multiple grocery store trips each week full of nonchalantly tossing items in the cart which may or may not get eaten before the expiration date. Now, we have a strict list that is compiled from looking at a couple different grocery store ads. We add in the everyday items we need (ie, eggs, chocolate milk (part of Michael's bedtime snack), cracker packs (the second part of Michael's bedtime snack), etc) and we stick to this list! We make one grocery store trip each week based on which store had the best overall sales (unless a certain sale is too good to pass up, in which case we leave room in the grocery budget for that, then we'll make a trip to that grocery store during the week just for that particular sale item.)
Gone are the random shopping trips to Target & Hobby Lobby where cute, but unnecessary items were gathered. My house is decorated with a construction paper-chain garland on my mantle-- not cutesy pumpkin & gourd garland from Hobby Lobby, and not with a cute harvest table-runner from Target.
Gone are the days of saying "Oh sure!" when invited to eat at a restaurant. Also gone are the days of saying "Oh sure!" when Aaron and I discuss if we should have people over for dinner. So, please, if you invite us to a restaurant and we decline, or if you are wondering why we haven't had you over for dinner, please know: we still love you! We just can't afford these "extra" things right now. We plan our meals very carefully and we budget for those meals. Adding in a few extra people can tip the scales and we just don't have the funds right now.
And we know it's a season. We won't be like this forever.
Each morning when I walk outside, I shake my fist at my vehicle (inwardly, of course. I don't want the neighbors to think I'm crazy.) I hate hate double hate car payments. And, (slap your hand against your forehead if you must), I have two of them. And I hate it.
What I hate even more is the feeling I had while preparing my budget. I was scared to death that I couldn't afford daycare. What would I do with my kids? Would my husband or I have to quit a job? Would we have to sell a car? What would we do?!?!?
I used Dave Ramsey's Excel budget form. I LOVE this form. I painstakingly poured over bank statements to see each and every bill that we pay, and where we spend our extra money after bills were paid. What I hated to see was that we could afford daycare. Daycare for two (in the region of the country where we live) is around $1,000 a month. And we could afford it. The reason I thought we couldn't afford it was because we were not being careful with our money. A thousand dollars was slipping away from us each month and going to who knows where. (The answer to that is Target, Hobby Lobby, Academy Sports, restaurants, multiple grocery store trips, etc). If I had completed this budget form months ago, I would have seen what we could have been saving each month. A thousand dollars?!?! I could have had one car paid off within a couple months! Then I could have rapidly been beefing up our savings account to pay off the other car. Oh. My. Goodness. I cannot even tell you how many times I slapped my own hand against my forehead when I saw how wasteful we had been. I cried.
So, now, we are tight. In fact, we haven't been this tight since we were new new newly-weds. We lived in a crumbling apartment (it had a tiny chandelier in the dining room, so I thought it was cute), and we paid reasonable rent. Of course, looking back now, we realize it was reasonable because we were living in the 'hood 'hood. I used to lay all the bills out on the table and look at our bank balance and I would stagger bills to make sure they could all get paid. Of course, we were on one income. I didn't have a job (aside from a two week stint at a daycare, but we won't go into that. I was so very naive). I remember allotting ourselves $35.00 per week for groceries, and going to the store with my calculator and envelope of money. I'd put into the cart what I could afford, and sometimes I'd slowly walk around the store and put things back that were not needed that week (like hand soap when I had a couple squirts left in the bottle at home).
We are basically at that point in our lives again. Except now we have two boys to feed. Fortunately, they are little and don't eat too much.
Unfortunately, Noah is still on formula and good gracious-- that stuff is expensive. Fortunately, my dad is so incredibly helpful and can go to Sam's Club to get us the formula we need which they don't carry at Costco. He can get it for us at Sam's in a container that sports 55% more formula than we can get in the regular grocery store-sized containers. The Sam's Club containers cost only $2.00 more than the smaller container at the regular grocery stores! This blows my mind and I am SO grateful to my dad for getting formula for us at Sam's. I'm also trying to remind myself that formula-usage is a season. Noah will be turning one soon and will be able to drink whole milk, which is MUCH cheaper than formula.
Unfortunately, both boys are in diapers/Pull-Ups. Fortunately, Michael's daycare class is busy potty-training. In fact, most of the kids in his class are potty-trained, and I'm hoping that Michael learns through watching them. Once he is potty-trained that will save us some money on diapers.
Unfortunately, Michael and I have real prescriptions that we must fill. Most of Michael's come in 90-day supplies. That takes careful planning to budget for all of his medical supplies that are needed for management of Type 1 Diabetes. Thank goodness for discount cards for testing-strips, and thank goodness for Diabetes Social Workers and nice pharmacists and friendly insurance reps who work together to make sure we can get the best deal possible for his supplies. The "best deal possible" is still utterly expensive, no doubt. But every penny saved, helps.
I have decided to make baby food for Noah in an effort to save some money on that front. So far, it's going well! I've read and re-read the blog posts on homemade baby food that my sister-in-law wrote. I've texted her to ask for suggestions and advice as I embark on this journey. I've read the baby-food "cookbooks" she gave me. So far, I've made a variety of fruits and veggies for Noah to eat. I got the confirmation from the daycare that bringing homemade baby food for Noah's lunch is okay.
I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job now about working with what we've been given. After seeing how selfish we had been with our money, I am so incredibly focused these days on being good stewards of the money we've been allotted. Every dollar is now accounted for and has a home.
I wrote this post mainly to get out my feelings on the subject of budgeting. This is in no way a pity post. I'm kind of writing this because, oddly, I'm okay with it.
This was my verse of the day on my desk "Verse of the Day" flip calendar:
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:12 (NIV).
And that's life. And it's okay.
Until Next Time,
Much love, Reba