Maxed out.

03May2013

The CRUNCH:
Maxed out.

CRUNCH deets:
You both enjoyed a little spontaneous shopping before your bambino was born, but that was when you were DINKS and could afford to splurge. You’re well out of disposable-income territory, but your wallet never got the memo. From the pimped-out stroller and organic diapers to yet another hundred dollar piece of baby-wearing fabric supposedly better than the last… it’s no wonder you’re hiding those credit card statements.

The Fix:
Stop spending money!

Fix deets:
When our oldest was five months and his sleep issues started getting worse, another mom suggested trying a swing. It’s not her fault – she probably didn’t mean for us to rush out and spend a ridiculous amount on the mac daddy of all swings – but we were DESPERATE. Not only did we throw that money away, but we had to own our bad decision every time we saw the monstrosity eating up valuable real estate in our family room. We finally gave it to a new-mom-to-be with the caveat “this may or may not help you,” and moved on. Sort of.

The takeaway from that experience was to re-think our purchases before making them, especially if we’re desperate. So yup, today’s Fix may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how hard it can sometimes be to live those three little words.

Life with a newborn/sick toddler/post-mat-leave-returning-to-work-parent is all about survival. You HAVE to splurge just to get by on a functioning level. So you’ll pay extra for takeout/grocery delivery/cleaning services and rightfully so – your life is NUTS! But when you recognize that you’re starting to come out of the fog, that’s when you need to adapt. Once your head’s back above water, the easiest way to save money is to spend time. Arranging a weekly child-swap with a neighbourhood friend means you don’t have to pay a sitter and you also don’t have to question that sitter’s credentials. If you’re willing to spend a few more minutes in the kitchen (it doesn’t feel like work if your groove’s on) don’t bother to buy pre-portioned cheesestrings/minigos/applesauce that cost more and create more garbage. There are plenty of leak-proof containers on the market plus when you mix plain yoghurt with frozen berries you don’t need to worry about added sweeteners. And when your kids are old enough to skip naps, it may be painful to admit you don’t NEED a cleaning service anymore, but it’s probably true. Of course it’s your call if it’s worth your dime – there’s definitely something to be said for that peace of mind! Just question that cost once in a while when you’re trying to figure out where the heck your money’s going, and make sure you’re deciding based on current circumstances instead of continuing with the status quo.

There are some basic tips to avoid unnecessary spending: don’t carry cash, don’t carry your credit card unless you’re specifically on a shopping trip, and don’t go online when you get those ‘LAST CHANCE TO SAVE’ emails in your inbox. But also take a look at the big picture if you’re looking to chop: unnecessary spending. Parting is such sweet sorrow – except when it means more moolah in your pocket. Here are some things we’ve said buy-bye to over the years:

  • Gyms. The reality simply never lived up to the hype and it wasn’t worth that pretty penny.
  • Books. As in owning them. We love reading the talk of the town but you know what? It’s still just as great when we get our hands on a library copy. And, bonus, we don’t have to find a home for it when we’re done – our house is small enough! Plus the library splurges for Audiobooks, which we never would, and they’re a game-changer.
  • Cable. We love us some TV-time, but with ghetto bunny ears we get the major networks, which is plenty. Sure, it’s a short-term-sacrifice sometimes, especially now that it’s time to play ball, but it’s definitely a long-term-gain when we consider the going rate to channel-surf.
  • Big telecom at home. We use TekSavvy for internet and phone, and they’re awesome. Ridiculously cheap compared to Bell/Rogers and the bandwidth limits are bananas.
  • Cell plans. Our family cell is pay-per-use for a whopping eleven dollars a month. It’s mostly for emergencies – which means we barely use it – which means less time spent texting/twittering/ignoring our kiddos when we’re not supposed to be “multi-tasking”.
  • Aeroplan credit cards. The annual fee sure wasn’t worth it for us (would have been nice if we’d done the calc before signing up).
  • Costco. For our family, bulk buying means bulk spending and bulk eating. No thank you.

Remember this:
If you’re trying and can’t rein in your spending you might have a real problem, which is no joke. But if you’re just buying because everybody else is doing it, well, everybody else is racking up plenty-o-debt too. Buying mindfully means buying less, period. Not only more money in the bank but also less maintenance and less clutter. So it’s a good thing you won’t need a hiding spot for those bills any more!

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