Over the last month, our house has held a toddler just entering his “terrible twos” (which basically means energetic, rambunctious, and without a knowledge of society’s basic expectations) and a newborn who has her days and nights largely juxtaposed. In other words, many of the entries for The Simple Dollar this month have been written while rocking a newborn’s cradle with my foot, often late in the night or very, very early in the morning.
This experience has taught me a lot of things – the biggest of which is that patience is the greatest virtue a parent can have. I’ve also learned a lot about how to live less expensively – and surprisingly, having a fourth member in our house has actually made living cheaper. Here’s what I mean:
Children in multiples make eating out not worth it. The effort required in hauling a toddler and a newborn to a restaurant takes away almost all of the benefit of eating out, leaving you just as frazzled as you would be at home, except with an expensive bill. There’s basically no eating out in our near future (say, a year at least), which means we’ll be saving money by eating at home.
You can reuse virtually everything from your first child. If you have an infant and think there’s any possibility of having another one, throw nothing away. We loaded up a closet with stuff and now we’re reusing it with our daughter. Don’t get rid of the stuff until you’re certain you’re done with children, even if it clutters storage space – if you do have another child, you’ll certainly reuse a lot of the stuff. Along those same lines…
If you plan on having multiple kids, invest in quality stuff the first time around. We long planned to have at least three children (and yes, that’s still the case), so we decided the stuff we bought for the first child would be high quality. We invested in a high-end breast pump, bought a very sturdy high-quality crib, a quality food processor (to puree foods we made for the little one, like steamed vegetables – I’ll talk about this in another post), and so on. These items are now being used with the second child – and they’re proving to be just as efficient and reliable as before.
Your parents are more helpful than ever before. Let them be as involved as they want to be and blow off any minor disagreements. The help that they provide when they’re around is incredible, and it seems to grow with each family addition. If you are having a child, get your parents involved, even if it means patching up a relationship. Not only does the child deserve to know and bond with his or her grandparents, the grandparents are wonderful at helping you to keep your house running and also to relieve you when you need a break. When I was younger, I wanted to live far away from my parents – now I wished they lived a lot closer.
Prepared food is the best gift of all. Of all of the items we received as gifts from well-wishing friends and family, the ones that were the most useful were the prepared foods for the freezer. Just pull out a casserole and pop it in the oven, or just grab the pre-cooked and frozen bratwursts and put them straight on the grill – it saves us the time of having to prepare meals and saves us the cost of having to buy the food. If you know of someone having a child and they have freezer space, make them a meal – if you have one coming, make some meals in advance.
The key to everything? Start establishing a routine and stick to it. There’s so much stuff that needs to be done when you’re a homeowner with multiple kids – especially if you’re trying to get ahead financially – that a routine is vital, even if it is boring.