Budgeting Babies

Yesterday we went on our first daycare tour and it was … amazing. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Within the first month of knowing I was pregnant, I was already thinking about doing daycare research. I have heard crazy stories about daycare waiting lists, and some of those crazy stories turned out to be actually true! Most of the places we called to inquire about had a year waiting list (meaning, at the time, their first availability wasn’t until August-ish of 2013, when we need daycare starting in June). Those places also happened to be insanely expensive. More than our rent – expensive. And! They were incredibly unhelpful, especially for first time parents. They only had appointments for tours at 10am on a Wednesday or 2:30pm on a Monday or some such nonsense and who can go to those appointments when we work for a living? Which just so happen to be the whole point of daycare in the first place!

We looked into nannies organizations, we looked into craigslist nannies, we scoured yelp for reviews and tried to find something that we could afford and that didn’t feel shady-Mcshadytown. Initially we were really against in-home daycare. We thought it wasn’t well supervised, and I had seen a few terrible exposes on 20/20. You know how they go: someone is scamming the in-home daycare perks and they leave babies to fend for themselves or in unsafe situations or just basic neglecting. But! In real life, they also seemed the most friendly and the most affordable – and for an infant, they also seemed to make the most sense. My baby does not need a “curriculum” beside naps, feedings, and snuggles.

So all this week Kamel and I have been in budget negotiations. Our free time has turned into excel spread sheets with with charts and graphs and shit I don’t care about, google docs with bill scheduling and payment forecasting, and blahblahblah. There were definitely times when I thought Kamel was going to have a total stress-ball meltdown, but he didn’t. And there were times when I would have much rather stomped off to the bedroom, plugged my ears and just had Kamel hand me an allowance every other week like I was back in high school, but I didn’t. Instead we compromised on our money approaches and figured out a game plane.

So Kamel and both get paid about twice a month. Rent sucks up one of his paychecks and a little bit more every month. Daycare will suck up almost 1 entire paycheck of mine. And then there is bills and student loans and all the rest of life stuff. Basically, we will be back to how it was when we were saving for the wedding: no eating out, no movies, new clothes only at birthdays and Christmas. Which sucks… because ugh such a pain, so inconvenient, no wiggle room, more stress… but we will be fine. We can do this. We can afford everything by scheduling when to pay what with what money and how.

And beyond sharing a space, getting married, getting pregnant, yadda yadda yadda – this budgeting stuff? This has been the most adult thing I think I’ve ever done. Partly because it’s not really fun spending, it’s necessary spending… but mostly because I was able to not be a dick about it, and Kamel and I were able to strategize together without tears or throwing things or hating each other.

The best news ever though, is that the daycare we were hoping for, which is also an in-home daycare, is awesome! We made an appointment for 6:00pm so both of us could go, the house is huge with a baby-gated giant front room right off the entry. Everything was ridiculously clean and organized with little toddler tables and stools, baby toys, a changing table, nap and feeding schedules on a white board, and a no-shoe policy. This place is cleaner and better organized than my house, and the carpet was so plush I could have napped on it right then and there. There are between 7-8 kids with two adults at all times, and all the kids are under 3 years old. I was hoping for a place where someone would feed and change my baby and make sure he doesn’t die. So, this place far exceeds my initial expectations!

When planning and thinking about possibly having a kid (and only because we were fortunate to not be totally caught off guard by a surprise pregnancy), we first sort of figured out we could afford one. Then we had to try and make one, then we had to navigate the wonderful world of pregnancy (joy!), and now we actually have to know the nitty gritty of what this kid is going to cost us. It seems that there is a never ending list of things we still need to figure out, and it seems that nothing goes the way we thought it would, but we just keep tackling one thing at a time. It really is useful that pregnancy takes so long. Being able to spread out expenses and not wait until the last minute to buy it all is key. Plus the part about not killing each other when we talk about money – that has been a welcome development.

27 thoughts on “Budgeting Babies”

  1. This is so exciting, Gabe is so close now.
    In my perfect imaginary fantasy world daycare would be fully subsidized. If you work for a big company they should have their own daycare in the same way that they have their own canteen / restaurant. That way you’d go to work with baby, leave it in a safe place (right there with you or with his dad) and then go home,
    That or we should go back in time, where large families prevailed, where you’d live in a huge house with your mom, and grandma, and sister and everyone would help each other. (Not sure about that, but it does help to have family close by).
    Here daycare is so, so expensive that we figured out it is better if I stay at home when the baby comes. (Mark would also be happy being a stay at home dad and taking care of the house / working for home, but for now he’s the one with the job, and I am the one figuring out a way like crazy). Even when daycare is partly subsidized by the government , this depends on your income, and since Mark has a good position, we get to pay for all of it (or most) That would mean that if I were to work outside the home 3/4 of my full salary would go to the daycare. For us the extra 1/4 would not be worth the sacrifice of commuting, me being at a job that is not in my field…, missing out on those first months with the baby. Maybe if I had THE dream job I would reconsider (but if the dream job is at the vet faculty as I hope, I think they do actually have some daycare facilities / benefits). Anyhow, as it is we are basically living on 1 salary (and we are incredibly lucky to be able to do so). Sure we don’t spend loads on money, we are quite good at the saving game, at least it is something that we both aspire to and when we make big purchases (like a DSLR camera this christmas) it is after a lot of thought and research, and analysing…. For instance we actually got this camera and simultaneously decided not to have any other presents, it was THE present.
    Budgeting is hard but I think living alone as a student helped me get good at it: there were certain things I wanted for which I saved and certain others I didnt care for at the time (like my nutrition, so I lived on pasta + tomato sauce + oatmeal + milk) for which I didn’t spend a lot. But it is just a matter of organizing and compromising. Like you said, we really want A, so let’s not do B for now.
    Excel makes me nervous, anything digital really, as I am constantly afraid everything all the servers will disappear and the data will be lost, I tend to like it on paper.
    Anyhow, sorry for the long rambling. I am very happy you found a nice daycare πŸ™‚ I am sure he will be fine, and he will be super social and immunized from the start. Yay happy times to come!

    1. The fully-subsidized daycare is interesting to me. Are there companies/countries that do this?

      And it always blows my mind that it can be cheaper NOT to work than to pay for daycare. But I know a LOT of people for whom this is the case! Something’s gotta give, man….

      1. There are LOTS of countries that fully or partially subsidize day care. France has high quality day care for all kiddos. My Canadian cousins had a year of maternity leave and now have subsidized day care. It’s just America and the utter backwardness and women-unfriendliness of this society.

        Feminist history footnote: the struggle for abortion rights was nestled into a larger struggle for reproductive support for women. Calls for free, 24 hour child care are not new and it is a damn effing shame we still need to fight for them.

        1. Sort of on this note – I am having a major problem with people (in life) commenting that I’m just working to pay for daycare. They mostly say this in a sympathetic way, but it REALLY bothers me that I am seen as the person paying for this service, and like “ah, what a waste! what a bummer!” when no one, no one, no one would even think to say to Kamel, “Aww bummer, you’re just working to pay for daycare!” Because! It is way easier to grasp that Kamel is working for other reasons? That it’s not his money paying for childcare? Something like that.

          I am not just working to pay for daycare (not that anyone here says I was, but I just feel the need to rant a teensy bit) – I am working to build my career, just like my husband, just like so many of you. And also… I hate working from home. It makes me sad and lonely. So being a stay-at-home mom in my world would not work. It would make me depressed and resentful. This is not the case for everyone and for LOTS of people the stay at home option is the bestest. But not for me. And my money is not the only money that goes into child-care-type-things. It’s everybody’s money going towards the whole family’s expenses. Which means Kamel is also working to pay for daycare… and internet, and rent, and food, and gas, and blahblahblahblahblah.

          1. Also slightly related – anytime I tell people that, in an ideal world for BOTH of us, I would work full-time and husband would stay at home, people look at me like I’ve just grown a third eyeball.

          2. My husband and I get this too- we have discussions all of the time about what we will do when we have a child (off in the future), and stay at home v. day care, etc etc. My husband really wants someone to be home with the child when it is young (first year or two) and because I’d rather go back to work, he’s seriously weighing the options of whether he can be the stay at home parent (v. day care). Sometimes this comes up in conversation, and sometimes I get really annoyed at people’s sexist attitudes and blurt this out, but either way, the reaction is the same- jaws hanging open, wide eyes, “SERIOUSLY??” attitude.

            And- my husband is a doctor (well, first year medical resident right now) and I am a lawyer. We both have time consuming, demanding, exhausting jobs that took us a very long time to earn. And people always say (and this makes me RAGE): “but… he’s a doctor! and he’s going to stay home??” Like his job is more important, mine is completely negligible, and we are making the craziest decision ever.

          3. Yes, Lauren, I totally get what you mean, I didn’t mean to bother you…. Of course you are working to develop your career, be happy, fulfilled, accomplished, etc…
            I explained *our* reasoning not trying at any moment to imply that you were only going to work for daycare, but to explain our case.
            As it is (because I am in a different country than I studied in, and i am not 100% fluent in the local language) the only jobs I can get (call center, marketing ) are jobs that I have discovered (in my experience so far) are not going to make me happy, feel useful, fulfilled or like I am developing (because something in me really wants to be in science or a clinic / farm /medical environment). That is why for me, unless I find the *dream job* doing all the sacrifices that working implies (e.g. being tired, commuting 3 hrs in total a day, etc) does not really make sense for *us*.So I am thinking of other possibilities like starting up a business maybe.
            Like Donna said even with the subsidy ” daycare costs almost as much as the extra salary having both parents working would cost.” . And if that means being in a job that most probably will make me unhappy, it just does not seem worth it *fror us*. Your particular circumstances are different
            On another note, like Maris said, Mark would be perfectly happy staying at home / working from home / taking care of the home

          4. Oh Amanda! No no … everyone has their own situations. What you said wasn’t upsetting at all! Some people stay home, and that’s totally cool. And I understand there are lots of people just working to work and staying home is a way way better option. But I think the world assumes that the woman will stop working when a baby comes OR that I somehow have less reasons to work than my husband. It’s very strange. But I totally understand what you were saying. πŸ™‚ No worries!

        2. We get one year maternity leave here in Australia with 18 weeks paid leave from the government plus whatever your company pays (if anything). But you are guaranteed to still have your job at the end of that 12 months. There are subsidies for child care too but anecdotally (is that even a word?), I’ve been told that it is still so expensive that it costs almost as much as the extra salary having both parents working would cost.

  2. I just wanted to chime in and say that we went with a home day care and are really happy with the decision. Our son was a preemie and was small (<7lbs) when he went to day care at 6 months old and a it took 45min-1+ hours for him to drink a bottle (times 3-4 per work day!). We were really worried about him not thriving in a day care situation but going back to work was the right choice. Having to deal with fewer people all of whom know our son well and really care about him has made a world of difference. They've been flexible, generous and kind and really feel like part of our family. It's fewer kids so a smaller pool of germs which meant few illnesses for our little guy when he was really small. In my state, all home day cares are licensed through the state, subject to random inspections and you can access any incidents they've had. Our day care also offered to give us references of all current and past students. He's 13 months now and we have to switch day cares because it's near my work (45 min from home) and my work situation is changing so I can't do all drop off and pick ups anymore. It's kind of devastating and scary to try to replace these people who know and love our son but we're 100% sold on keeping him in a (good) home day care situation.

    This isn't a knock on day care centers. Most of my parent friends use a day care center. They like that each room had only age-appropriate toys and all the staff have degrees in early childhood education. I certainly undesrtand these points, but these things were less important to us and we like having him exposed to a diversity of ages.

    Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love hearing good childcare stories. It takes a village – and when the village RULES, it’s an amazing amazing thing. Plus, I can’t help with the mom-guiltness and these stories, I know, will help me not sob openly at my desk when I leave my 2 month old to go back to work (baby will be in daycare at 3 months, but still.)

  3. Big high five for the successful budgeting discussions. Those can be so very hard and money is way more emotional than we like to acknowledge. I love those growth moments when you realize “wow, a year ago I would have done xyz destructive thing in this conversation, and it may not be perfect but I’m being actively productive here now!”

    I’m glad to hear that you’ve embraced home day care. It’s not for everyone, and of course it all depends on a fit between your expectations and the day care itself but independent day care is something I’ve been a fan of. I’m glad that the day care you two were eyeing is looking to be as good or better than you’d hoped for

  4. “I was hoping for a place where someone would feed and change my baby and make sure he doesn’t die. So, this place far exceeds my initial expectations!”

    Thank you, Lauren, for making me laugh and keeping it real.

    VASTLY different reason, but we’re going through budgeting woes ourselves at the moment. I alternate between “We got this!” and “OMFG WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE OFF RAMEN NOODLES.” But it’s SO good to sit down, look it all over, and feel a sense of control over it.

  5. OMG a blog post about day care that’s super informative and not guilt ridden or shame inducing. I love it! For what it’s worth, the daycare you are going with sounds awesome. We’re not in the position of needing daycare yet (husband will be an at-home parent for the first year, at least), but it’s something that’s been on my mind since well before pregnancy and will probably continue to be on my mind, as it may become optimal. And, FWIW, I’m biased toward in-home day care. My mom did in-home day care while I was growing up (although her setup wasn’t nearly as clean and organized as yours sounds), and it was great. Provided you can find the right caretaker, in-home daycare can be so warm and friendly and safe and cost-effective, which is really everything I want in a daycare.

    Also, I completely relate to your thoughts about growing up and budgeting. For us, budgeting on a limited income has been one of the most painful but rewarding parts of marriage.

  6. This post came at such a great time. Even though we arent in baby mode like you guys (well, baby planning, i guess), we just had the sit-down-figure-this-budget-shit-out talk as well. Our savings has been getting smaller and smaller and smaller, when we had planned on it getting bigger by moving into this house. And just like you guys, we’re fine, we just need to be “scheduling when to pay what with what money and how.” And we had that I-feel-like-a-bonafide-adult moment too, haha. Now that I know we can also have a successful and productive conversation about it (and hopefully the same outcome!), im confident we’ll be able to revisit the task frequently and alter it with no problems. I felt SO good at the end of the day because growing up, it seemed like every divorce and break-up was because of money and finances. BUT, even though i think we got it under control, after this post, I just want to send Kamel ALL our shit and have him make us fancy spreadsheets, etc, and schedule everything out for us!! Hahaha! We NEED a piece of Kamels brain permanently posted up in our house πŸ˜‰

  7. I have done 0 research into home day care v. day care, but I just wanted to share my own personal experience πŸ™‚

    I went to a home day care from the time I was 9 wks until I was 5 (and then I went straight to Kindergarten). Obviously I don’t remember a lot of it, but the few memories I do have are very strong (to this day, I have never found anyone who makes macaroni and cheese as good as Ms. Kaye! –the owner). Not to mention, Ms. Kaye became a very close friend to our family and honest to God, she and her family have been present at many of our major family functions (several weddings & graduations, even my grandpa’s funeral). Also my parents became good friends with some of the other parents and have kept in touch all these years. My parents obviously choose Ms. Kaye’s home day care for a reason but I think they got more out of that 1 choice then they ever could have expected and its really benefited everyone in our family.

    I don’t know if this really adds to the discussion. I think I was trying to add to the “pro” side for home day care (not that I have any “cons” for day care). Anyways. I hope that the home day care you found can provide a wonderful, fun, safe, and nurturing “home away from home” for Gabe. πŸ™‚

    1. Home day care providers can definitely become a huge part of your life after the fact. πŸ™‚ It’s a great relationship. My mother in law does childcare and maintains great relationships with the families she cares for years after the fact. Heck, she took care of me as a child and I married her son.

  8. Oh, Lauren.

    Hi. I’m Kelly. I found you ages ago via APW, and have been a faithful reader ever since. I am very, very bad at commenting on the blogs I read, and it’s something I’m really trying to work on. I couldn’t have asked for a better post to crawl out of the woodwork for, though.

    Last night my husband and I wrestled with our own budget and baby stuff. We combined finances shortly before getting married and it was an interesting transition, but we’re finally in a good, comfortable stride with it. We set a general budget for the year, broken down in \to monthly expenses and savings, etc. We then sit down every three months and tweak it, based on our recent spending history. Well, last night we sat down to do some tweaking, and added the “Maternity” line item to our savings, since we want to start trying to get pregnant in a month or two. A simple discussion over how much to save in that category per month quickly escalated to freak out mode when I had to point out to David that maternity leave is unpaid, and that it would be wise of us to save up the equivalent of three months of my salary, so that we have no trouble making ends meet while I’m on hiatus from work. He was SHOCKED. He assumed we’d be saving for baby stuff and maternity clothes and the like, and we will, of course, but he never even thought of the idea that we’d have to save money to equal my pay during that time, or else live off of his income alone.

    And of course, I was upset that he hadn’t given this a second’s thought (I mean, REALLY?!) and was half convinced he was going to try to lobby for putting off the baby-making for another year or two.

    We worked our way through it, but WOW.

    Anyway. Sorry for rambling. I love your blog and so enjoy reading along. I promise to pipe up more regularly in the future.

    1. Welcome to the commenting world! And thank you for this story. These conversations happen a lot of in our house, from both sides. Kamel has the ability to take more than 1 month off for paternity leave but it would reduce our take home pay by a lot. Until this week he was constantly floating around this idea as an option (he would really love to always work from home or just be a stay at home dad… he says, but I have my suspicions it would not be exactly as he thinks)… I continually told him “we cannot afford for you to do that, do you understand that my time off is going to create a dent in our income?” He didn’t totally get it until we sat down to for realsies budget. And then a brief panic attack happened where his world came crashing down. Thankfully, my big picture tendencies soothed him back to reality… but yes. As the pregnant one I am faced with a lot of these issues at work, about prepping for baby, etc etc much earlier than Kamel is. I think in a lot of cases Dad’s have a different learning curve because they are not actively dealing with baby every second of every day like I am.

  9. Sigh, budgeting.
    We have been largely down to one income for over a year already, with Peanut due in March, I’m hoping to be in work by this time next year again. But that will probably mean putting Peanut in care (of some description, we haven’t started looking yet) before I start job hunting, which means yet more pressure on the budget.
    And I worry constantly about the budget.
    And then Mark sits me down and reminds me that we actually have (currently) most of a years worth of his take-home income in savings. (Well, its in revolving credit in the mortgage, but its there). So even if he lost his job, we would be a long way from struggle street for a while.
    But we have financial goals: like owning 50-60%+ of our house before we look to move to something bigger, and going to a pacific island for a holiday sometime in the next couple of years.
    So, we are trying to live within his income, and still increase our savings, and it still feels like hard work. And to be honest, I’m glad I keep thinking as if we have no money, because it helps with our goals, but I also know I can buy whatever we need, which is great.
    Its a hard mind-set to explain. I might have to do my own blog post about it…

  10. I know most Scandinavian countries have fully (if not close to fully) subsidised daycare. They also do awesome amounts of parental leave. I think Sweden gives six months to each parent, so the Dad is also a stay-at-home parent for six months. In Australia we have subsidised childcare. It’s means-tested but still quite generous – we only pay about 50% of our fees.

    We had wanted to do family day care but it doesn’t seem to be as popular in our state as it is elsewhere, and the only one in area advertised itself as ‘faith-based care’ with a really scary lady in charge.

    In terms of budgeting for the baby, we ended up needing to revise once the baby came along because I’d assumed I would breastfeed (and it went horribly wrong), so we had to suddenly start calculating for formula with an outlay for bottles and all the accoutrement that goes with them. Friends of ours had a baby with severe reflux and their special formula was ridiculously expensive.

    We also ended up forking out for more medicine, creams and unguents, etc than we’d budgeted for after he started childcare because he caught every bug and rash going through the place, including an awesome bacterial pneumonia.

    Oh, and our baby grew waaaay faster than we thought and hardly used some sized baby clothes before he grew out of them, so it feels like I’m always shopping for onesies.

  11. This is why I like your blog. You’re hashing through things that I anticipate dealing with in like 6 years. It’s nice to have a preview of how they can go well, even with issues and conflicting pieces. Also, a preview of things to think about that I hadn’t considered. Eesh.
    I went to a home daycare and LOVED it. It helped that they had a giant front room with indoor swings (that I still remember as huge and full size, but must have been tiny) and I worked at another one when I was 13. All good things.

  12. This is so timely–we also started to get into the nitty-gritty of seriously looking at child care and budgets this week. I had in my head that I had a choice between going back to work or staying home (current job is proving to be moving me backward rather than forward on the career track), but was rather crushed to realize that financially, that’s not an option. Meanwhile my husband had been thinking that the prices I was throwing out for day care were per month rather than per week–ha! If only… as it is, day care is 150% the cost of our mortgage. I feel like in general, we’re pretty comfortable in our income, but readjusting to put 25% into the new child care expense has me scrounging for what we can cut.

    As someone who’s a couple months behind you on the road to baby, I’m definitely loving all your down-to-earth, real-life pregnancy posts–not something it’s easy to find on the interwebs.

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