Long before my husband and I were preparing to have kids, I ran the calculations in my head about when we would be ready. How much money would we need to earn? How big would our apartment need to be? How much do diapers, babysitters and preschools cost? It was a crude calculation for sure, but by the time I was 33, I figured I was as ready as I’d ever be. As I decorated the nursery and compared nursing pillows online, it never occurred to me how many hidden costs would be lurking around the corner. It’s no secret that kids are expensive, but what doesn’t get talked about enough is just how easy it is to rack up non-essential costs to get through the day-to-day grind of parenting.
Kids are great. I love having them, and I love my life so much more with them than before I was a mom. But it is tough, and very expensive. If the following list reads like a warning, it probably should.
1. Restaurant workers love/ hate me: I always budget for leaving a bigger tip than if it were just me and my husband. The only thing that alleviates guilt, as you watch your daughter fling spaghetti at the celebrity photos lining the trattoria walls, is knowing you can leave the waiter a juicy tip to clean it up.
2. Little shoes suck: Yes, they’re adorable and sure, there are a few I wish came in my size, but by and large, kids shoes suck. Even if you buy the exact perfect pair for the season, there’s always the possibility that they will — rub and leave blisters, fall apart in less than a month, bring on a crazy temper tantrum every time your child gets near them, or she/he will just outgrow them way before you’ve gotten your money’s worth. In short, you’re constantly buying shoes.
3. She gets the best, and the best is expensive: I’m not too fussed about organic fruits and vegetables, but I do care about what goes on her body. I’m really concerned about all the chemicals that are in cheap-scented body wash, lotion and sunscreen. Quality baby stuff costs a lot. My daughters’ daily lotion costs $12 a bottle. I probably go through it in less than two months. It adds up.
4. Time vs. money: Yes, I could spend a Sunday morning preparing a batch of baby smoothies to put in her re-sealable pouches, but that’s time I’d rather spend getting stuff done, or enjoying my weekend. Therefore, I spend about $6-10 a week on baby snacks. She loves them, and the convenience is worth the money, but it does add up.
5. Entertainment: Also known as bribery, also known as “anything that will buy me 20 minutes to shower and get dressed.” Sometimes these are toys that keep her happy in her stroller while I run errands. Sometimes this is a TV or movie download that goes on my phone so my husband and I can finish our meals without a huge dramatic meltdown. Sometimes these are gifts she’s earned for being brave or helpful. I wish it were as easy as giving her a yoyo and letting her go to town, but we live in a fast-paced digital world, and she’s on to it. She won’t be satisfied with a bouncy ball, so sometimes I’ve got to spend $12.99 on a season of cartoons. It’s not ideal parenting, but if you use it sparingly, it can be very effective and practical.
6. You spend more money on you, too: Granted, there’s a lot less going out and partying, so I’m saving on booze, clothes and clubs/ concerts, but I am spending more on “self care” stuff than I used to. A much needed afternoon to myself can easily involve a $40 massage, $20 sushi lunch, and a couple of new books on my Kindle. There’s an overwhelming sense of entitlement that I never expected to feel before I became a parent. You spend all your time taking care of these adorable psychopaths, and when you get the chance to splurge on yourself, it feels 100% justified. This also goes for gym memberships and other stuff that’s good for you and gets you out of the house — alone.
7. Crap for other kids: Oh boy, the birthdays! It’s like a war zone fueled by sugar, kids duking it out for the best toys, and parents trying desperately to speak in full sentences to one another. By the end of the party, the house is strewn with wrapping paper, colorful paper plates, and deflated balloons. Your kid is crying and probably slightly injured. Oh, and you spent $20 on an Elsa doll…again. I actually instated a “used items only” policy at my daughter’s birthday. I figured she didn’t need new plastic crap when there was so much old plastic crap floating around. It was nice to see her so thrilled by old toys, but I knew this wouldn’t fly with other families. I probably spend close to $200 a year on birthday gifts alone.
Sabrina Small is a freelance writer living in Berlin with her family. Her work can also be found on TheBillfold.com.
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