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Are Kids Really That Expensive?

Minimize the Cost of Raising a Kid without Sacrificing Quality

Becoming parents this summer has been the biggest change in our lives. So far it’s been a blast with our daughter. She’s such a happy and laid back baby.

We did our best to prepare for the big event including emotionally and financially. I’ve heard from people (friends and online blogging buddies) that raising a kid can be expensive. I decided to look at the numbers and examine how our baby girl is affecting our finances.

Can You Afford Having Kids?

Where do people get that idea that kids are expensive? One source often cited is the USDA’s Cost of Raising a Child Calculator. Based on how many kids you have and how old they are, you can get national and regional averages for the costs associated with children.

I tried it out to see what it said and compare it to our expenses. Here’s how it breaks down for a child under 1 year of age:

  • Housing ($4,375)
  • Food ($1,675)
  • Transportation ($1,863)
  • Clothing ($913)
  • Health Care ($963)
  • Childcare ($3,238)
  • Other Expenses ($950)

The grand total is $13,975 for the Southeast. The national average for a child under the age of 1 is $14,938.

Looking at the Costs

If you look at the numbers though, many of the expenses are sunk costs.

Housing

We bought our townhouse before we had our daughter. We have no intention of upgrading our housing JUST for her. We converted our guest room into her nursery. It’s the smallest bedroom area, but it’s definitely big enough for her right now.

We don’t plan on moving in the immediate future. We’re working to pay off our mortgage faster by sending in extra payments. Since the baby expenses haven’t hurt our budget we’re planning on keeping the extra payment amounts the same. However, should we need more wiggle room  in our budget, we’ll redirect those payments.

I think the increasing in housing is due to utility bills increasing. Right now, we’ve see our electric bill go up, not because of the baby though. With the heatwave we’ve had the air conditioning on. With the cool down (relatively), we’ve been using the windows and fans.

Food

We choose to breastfeed, not for the financial benefits (it’s free!), but for the health ones. So far it’s going well. Groceries have gone up as I’m eating more to accommodate my new role feeding my child. The plus side is that we’re eating out less often and cooking more meals at home.

Should something change and we have to switch to formula, it will raise the costs, but I still don’t see how it would add up to almost $1,700. Sites like Baby Cheapskate often posts deals on formula, so parents who are formula feeding can get some savings.

Transportation

While the baby hasn’t affected our transportation bills yet, she will have an effect on what car we purchase next year. Right now my husband drives a coupe and I drive small sedan. We were planning on buying a car, but we’re looking at roomier cars with the baby on board now.

Our plan is to buy the car with cash, either a family sedan or a small crossover. I’ll track our progress with our next car purchase.

Health Care

I think having a baby will affect this area of our budget the most. Who knew babies needed so many well visits? Fortunately we have well visits covered 100%. We have a $2,500 deductible, but when we had to pay that for her delivery, we had most of that reimbursed by my husband’s job.

What eats a big part of my husband’s paycheck now is the health insurance premiums. Before the baby, our plan was costing us $101.06 even paycheck. Now the family premiums are $193.33 each paycheck. If we decide to have more children, the premium doesn’t increase.

Clothing

I’m really surprised with this one. I realized that we’re fortunate to have our friends grab some of the baby’s outfits for us at our shower.

For us, we have bought a few items new, but I’m a big fan of the kids consignment shop near us. Babies grow so quickly, I wouldn’t want to spend a huge amount of money on my daughter’s clothes.

Thoughts on Having Kids

I know we’re just beginning this journey, so numbers will change as time progresses, but I want to share what we’ve learned so far. I hope having an open discussion about the finances of being parents can help us to pick up tips from one another.

I do think parents should be prepared and save money for expected and unexpected expenses. I agree with Glen’s post that many well meaning parents that sometimes they go overboard with their kids.

It’s a balancing act and we have keep an eye on our own spending. I’d love to hear your tips and stories.

You vs Debt Review

you vs debt review

Today Adam Baker from Man Vs Debt is opening up You Vs Debt for the second round. After learning about the program from Baker, I wanted to share and review some of my thoughts on the program.

You vs Debt Overview

I will say up front that I’m a fan of all of  Baker’s work on ManVs Debt and I think Adam’s done a wonderful job with this course.

You vs Debt’s Purpose and Goal

It’s not just about getting out of debt, it’s about the psychology of money. Baker and his team have put together a program designed to help people get control of their finances from debt reduction, budgeting, and lifestyle design.

Adam can speak about this because his family has personally through the process. He and his family have simplified their lives, traveled thousands of miles to the other side of the world, and crisscrossed the United States all the while paying down their debt.

Course Outline

Everyone who signs up for the class will start on the day, September 26.  It’s a six week course that will takes you through the entire process of changing your mindset, getting rid of debt, uncluttering your life, and earning more money.

Here’s a general course outline:

Week 1: Free Your Mind…

  • Day 1: Upside-Down Nation: Why Debt Doesn’t Work
  • Day 2: Direct the Rider: Your Logical Mind
  • Day 3: Motivate the Elephant: Your Emotional Mind
  • Day 4: Shape the Path: Your Environment
  • Day 5: Rally Your Spouse and Loved Ones

Week 2: Less Excuses, More Action…

  • Day 8: Track Your Spending
  • Day 9: List Every Debt You Owe
  • Day 10: Pull You Credit Report
  • Day 11: Create Your Debt Tsunami
  • Day 12: Your Financial Network Map

Week 3: Suck It Up and Budget…

  • Day 15: Reject Credit Cards
  • Day 16: Cash vs. Debit vs. Credit
  • Day 17: Simple Budget Overview
  • Day 18: Detailed Budget Screencast
  • Day 19: Your 5-Step Financial Foundation

Week 4: Stop Buying “Crap”

  • Day 22: Needs Vs. Wants
  • Day 23: Slashing Expenses: Housing & Transportation
  • Day 24: Slashing Expenses: Insurance & Food
  • Day 25: Subscriptions, Contracts, & Routines
  • Day 26: How NOT to Suck at Negotiating

Week 5: You Should Be Making More Money

  • Day 29: Earning More Money Overview
  • Day 30: Sell Your Crap: Stuff vs. Crap
  • Day 31: Salary, Resumes, Job Hunting
  • Day 32: Escape from Cubicle Nation
  • Day 33: Get Your First Client or Sale

Week 6: Making it Stick

  • Day 36: You are Going to Fail
  • Day 37: Grow and Keep Momentum
  • Day 38: Analyze 30-Day Data
  • Day 39: Suggested Resources
  • Day 40: Mexican Fisherman’s Parable

Who is This Guide For?

I would say that You Vs Debt is designed for those who are ready to get rid of their debt once and for all, but don’t know where to start. The accountability incorporated into the program can be the extra nudge that some people need to reach their financial goal of becoming debt free.

Your Take on You vs Debt

If you took the program earlier this year, please share your thoughts on it in the comments!

Sustainable Personal Finance Interview

sustainable personal  finance

As a member of the personal finance community, I’m amazed at how many people are a part of it. Unfortunately that often means that I can’t always keep up with everyone. It’s a shame because there are some wonderful bloggers with their stories and advice on handling finances responsibly and with fun.

To counteract that and get the word out on other bloggers, I’ve started the Sunday Blogger series. It’s my hope that you’ll discover some new voices in the series.

Today’s interview is with SPF from Sustainable Personal Finance. I’m excited that SPF agreed to do the interview and I love reading their blog every chance I can get. I enjoy seeing couples blog together about finances.

Sustainable Personal Finance Interview

Why did you start Sustainable Personal Finance?

Mrs. SPF and I both have an interest in doing the green thing and at the same time we both enjoy writing.  As we got engaged and then married our discussions about our personal finances increased as we realized we were always evaluating our financial decisions with our goal of sustainable living.   When do we buy locally, or choose the local food option (usually more expensive)?  What are the benefits about not having items shipped across the world.   How much value to we place on supporting the earth and fellow man and how do we balance these choices with our financial reality?

I started reading a lot more about personal finance as Mrs. SPF and I were to be wed.  I was no longer solely responsible for my own situation.  We were responsible for OUR finances.  I knew I was doing a lot of things inefficiently, and Mrs. SPF, who is 9 years younger than I, was just starting to earn income after graduating.  We needed to be smarter about our PF reality.

So I read personal finance articles – many from blogs.  After a while I started to think, hey – we have our own spin on dealing with personal finances, I wonder if we could share it?  This led to more in depth research about how our decisions actually impacted our financial and real-world lives.  I quickly learned that while we pay a bit more up front to live this sustainable lifestyle, our bottom line wasn’t impacted much and many time we’d save money long term.

Now that I’d validated we wouldn’t just be talking sideways if we wrote about Sustainable/Green/Ethical Personal Finance, I posed the ideas to Mrs. SPF.  Timing couldn’t have been worse.  We were in the midst of a 4.5 month reno/prepping/selling our house marathon (think every day, 3-10 hrs a day for 150 days).  She thought the idea was interesting but shelved it.

After we moved into the new house I brought the topic of writing together up again.  We could both write (and we both missed writing) for a site.  I explained my plan/strategy to Mrs. SPF and what I thought her commitment would be to the project would be.  I came up with a good name and ran it by a blogging mentor (Frugal Trader) and we were close to ready to launch a site.  I figured out the technical side of things and got a half dozen articles written and then we launched.

What we both wanted was a project we could work on together.  I researched the car purchase, she researched the baby purchase, she works on the garden, I fix the stuff in the house and put stuff together.  But we don’t do these things together.  We wanted a common project.  To meet common goals and to work together husband and wife writing about what we are passionate about.

How long have you’ve been blogging?

Seems longer, but a short 9 months.  Yea, we’ve been around for only 9 months.  Somehow I think people will be surprised about that.  I’ve been uber active in the blogging community and the awesome Yakezie Network for some time so we may seem “older”.  I sure have learned a lot.  Elle is one of many people who has helped us.  It is very cool we’re experience being new parents with Elle – we’re very happy about that.

You must have some favorite posts that you’ve written on Sustainable Personal Finance, which are they and why?

For this I’ll answer 2 for each Mrs. SPF and I.

Mrs. SPF is most proud of:

  1. Using a Midwife – A Personal Choice – Mrs. SPF loves this article as she shares her personal experience and opinion with using a midwife during this adventure/journey that has been her pregnancy.
  2. Baking Your Own: Make Your Wallet and Your Sweet Tooth Happy – This was an article where Mrs. SPF was able to discuss her love of baking and how she can bake quality goods, frugally, without having the devourer of her efforts taking in less than healthy ingredients.

I’m most proud of:

  1. Mom Knows Best – Financial Advice by Example.  A very personal look at my life growing up in a single parent household which includes the valuable lessons Mom taught me about personal finances.
  2. Making Money Online – 4 Decades of Deals.  The story of how i’ve made money online since the late ’80s.

How do you handle your own finances? Do you have a formal budget or a more informal system?

A lot more informal.  We have a budget, and a plan, and we talk about things.  But we’ve had so many unexpected expenses.  I find it interesting that you can read about babies, or housing costs, housing improvements, using the car less … but when it comes down to it, these things are hard to predict without some base data.  Which we need to develop.

That being said, we keep paying off debt aggressively and investing in our RRSP and TFSA while maintaining an emergency fund.

For us the big thing is not over extending ourselves in debt.  We pay 40% more than our minimum mortgage payment (bi weekly) and plan to increase this to 60% Jan 1 when we can again.  We got rid of my remaining student loans this year.  Less debt means less monthly, and hopefully not so far out, yearly payments (house).

What’s the biggest financial mistake you’ve ever made? What did you learn from it?

During university I ran up a credit card bill using cash advances.  I learned to use credit cards wisely and to never carry a balance.

What are your goals this year with Sustainable Personal Finance?

We’ve had a very good 9 months – much more success than we ever imagined we would have.  We were nominated by our peer Preet Banerjee who writesWhere Does All My Money Go and appears on our national newscast regularly for the Globe and Mail for top blog in Canada – when were just 5 1/2 months blogging.  More recently we were nominated by our blogging peers for 2 awards as top 5 finalists in the Top Green / Sustainability blog and Top Canadian blog as well!

So where do we go from these early highlights?  Just continue to produce quality content, build relationships with other bloggers and try to expand our reach.  We feel that you can act in a sustainable manner while doing the best thing for your personal financial situation and we love to write about it, so that is what we’ll do!

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I hope you take the chance not only to visit Sustainable Personal Finance, but to them out on Twitter and Facebook.

Joining the Sunday Blogger Series

If you’re interesting in being interviewed as part of the Sunday Blogger series, I have a few requirements.

  • You’ve been blogging for 3 months.
  • You’ve publish genuine content. I want to connect to genuine bloggers, not linking to a spam site. I review all the sites before sending out interview questions.
  • You’re willingly to promote other bloggers in the series. I don’t expect you to tweet  ever interview, but I would like interviewees to spread the word on their favorite bloggers. By the way, I don’t want others to just promote the posts, please share posts from your favorite interviews. They are some wonderful bloggers out there.

 

 

 

Frugal Activities at Your Library

library activities

I’ve been catching up on some reading lately by visiting my local library a couple of times this month. My mom got me into the habit of grabbing books as way to learn and relax and I hope to pass it on to our daughter.

I’ve noticed that libraries have changed quite a bit and now offer so much more than what I was used to as a kid.

Besides visiting  to borrow books and other media, there are some other ways you can enjoy your local  library branch.

  • Movie Nights: Families can enjoy a free movie at the library.
  • Adult Learning: Many local libraries open their doors for a variety of classes and programs including reading clubs, yoga, and computer/office courses.
  • Jobs: Many libraries offer job assistance centered events and programs. If you’re looking for employment, it’s worth taking a look.
  • Arts & Crafts: During the summer I noticed that my library had several activities planned for the neighborhood kids.

How do you use your local library?

Personal Finance Posts to Catch Up On

If you have some free time this weekend and want some tips and information for your finances, be sure to read some of these wonderful posts.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. I also recommend checking out my blogroll to pick up some great personal finance blogs to follow. Please also let me know what are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

Have fun this weekend with your family and try to stay cool!

Photo Credit: Friar’s Balsam

Makeover Your Bathroom for Cheap

bathroom makeover

Our three bathrooms still have the original finishing and are starting to look dated. Although bathroom remodeling costs have a high rate of return at resell time, it would be a pretty penny to tackle three of them! This is where my hours of watching HGTV are finally paying off. Here are five ideas for making over the bathrooms with a low price tag.

Replace Light Fixtures

Swapping out out of style light fixtures with a current style can quickly refresh the look of any room. Be sure to pick a style that will integrate with the overall design and look of the room. The price range for a new light fixture can range from $20 to over $500, but you can find a very nice light in the $50-$100 range.

Frame Your Mirror

I’ve noticed the trend in bathroom mirrors is to have them framed. Ours are the traditional style of mirror which is affixed directly to the wall. One of my friends told me about kits to frame the mirror without having to remove it from the wall.

Since our mirrors have started to lose some of the silvering around the edges, this solution has the extra benefit of masking that problem. The kits are available in a wide variety of finishes and materials with a price range of $150 – $250.

Change the Color

Yes, painting the room a more contemporary color is a fast and easy way to refresh the look of a room. But did you know that you can repaint that pink or blue bathtub?

It is a lot of work due to the requirement of sanding down the entire fixture before applying the porcelain paint. However, it can save a lot of money especially if your bathtub is tiled in. Since toilets and sinks are relatively cheap, I would replace them versus repainting.

Reface Cabinets

It can be costly to replace bathroom cabinets, especially when they’re attached to or built into the walls. A trick you may know from kitchen remodeling is to replace only the doors. New doors can move the look from the 1960’s to contemporary. We need to strip the white paint off our cabinets and refinish along with attaching new doors.

Replace Hardware

The hardware I’m speaking of includes the faucets, toilet paper holder, towel racks and cabinet handles or pulls. Make sure the style for all of these are complementary and the same color. These are easy to overlook because you see them every day but can add up to making the room look old.

Just because you don’t have $10-30 thousand dollars doesn’t mean you can’t remodel your bathroom. Get a great new look for under $1,000 with these tips. What changes do you want to make at your home?

Photo Credit: steve r watson