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Mother’s situation: Stretching family finances
I’m breastfeeding my six-month-old baby and have two other children: a preschooler and an eight-year-old. I’ve decided that I need to stay home rather than going back to work. While this is the right decision for my family and we shall not need to spend any money on child care, we are going to struggle financially. How do other families go about finding bargains and stretching family finances further when mother stays home?
I guess the starting point for stretching family finances is to write a comprehensive budget of your current expenses. Then look at what you can cut back on, what can be eliminated, and what you consider to be essential.
The hardest part is accepting you can’t have everything you want!
Some things to ask yourself are:
- Are you entitled to any government support that may be available in your country?
- Are you using the cheapest utility providers? Change to cheaper ones where possible. Can you get less expensive broadband Internet access and insurance, for instance?
- Do you really need a car or more than one car?
- Can you cut back on or forgo vacations?
- Can you buy clothes secondhand or for less at local discount stores?
- Can you switch brands to buy generic or supermarket brands wherever possible?
- Can you get haircuts at reduced cost at local beauty colleges/schools or salons looking for models for their students or trainee stylists?
- Can you plan your menu in advance so as to be economical and not waste food?
- Is it possible to consider remortgaging your home to a lower rate mortgage or transferring to interest only for a period, or extending the period of the mortgage? If you are renting, can you move to somewhere with a cheaper rate?
If budgeting leaves you still in need of some income, can you do an evening job when your partner is home, perhaps in a supermarket, for instance, to pull in a bit of extra cash for the family finances?
Rae Vacher Lowe, Whitley Bay, UK
After I had my first baby, I fully intended going back to work. I’d booked a nursery place while my baby was still in the womb. I’m in the UK, so I had maternity leave guaranteed for six months.
In my head, I had this idea that a six-month-old would be a lot more mature than actually turns out to be the case. When six months came around, I’d still never left my baby with anyone other than her dad for more than an hour at a time and breastfeeding was still happening on and off frequently, day and night. In fact, that was working really well by this point. Breastfeeding punctuated our days, it just happened, ten minutes here or there with a lovely longer feed and nap together for an hour or two in the afternoons and we both enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t get my head round the idea of handing her over to anyone else who would not be able to care for her in this way.
We had not budgeted for my not returning to the workplace. I had a promising career waiting for me, one that I’d enjoyed before becoming a mum. I’d been earning well. Somehow, this began to seem secondary to the work I was doing to care for my baby.
Oddly, there was little agonizing involved for us. My husband and I decided we’d manage somehow in order to be together. We agreed to downsize by moving to a less expensive area and I started to think of small ways in which I could contribute some money to the family finances, which ultimately, over the following five years, led to the development of my own small cottage industry. I’m hardly a successful entrepreneur but have discovered versatility and new creative skills that have led me to walk a very different path to the one I was on before my children came along. Perhaps you may also find you end up doing something entirely different to the work you had in mind before having a baby.
Verity Smythe-Patterson, Enfield, London, UK
This is going to make me sound a bit boring, but what about making a list of expenditures? There are the bills and big expenses and there’s also the money we spend every day. Keeping a money diary could help you decide what might be removed or what less costly alternatives might be found.
When my son and I go swimming at the pool, we get off the bus two stops before the pool. This adds ten minutes’ walking time to our journey but we’re both in good physical health and can easily manage the distance. Because it’s a change of zone, the ticket we buy is half the price!
Emilia Bertolo, Kent, UK
When you are not going back to work there are some savings. You will spend less money on work clothes and travel costs—little things, but these may help the family finances. Perhaps you may want to do some work from home that you can combine with being a mother, such as child minding?
Making small adjustments can really make a difference. There are nearly always less costly alternatives to just about everything!
Patricia Bennett, Cowbridge, Wales, UK
After I would pay for child care, travel, and little extras for office clothes and coffee with colleagues, it worked out that I would only be slightly better off if I were to return to my job. I feel really fortunate to be able to spend this time with my little one while he’s still small.
Jen Page, Chicago, Illinois, USA
This might not help in your particular instance, but may help other first time mums. I did what my parents did and saved my wages for the last six months before I went on maternity leave. (My parents did this for a year but were more organized!) We lived on my husband’s wages to get used to the reduced income and saved what I was earning as a buffer to live on for the next two years.
We also saved money by small economies such as buying dried pulses (pre-packed bulk food, such as beans, peas, and lentils), making food from scratch, and taking picnics on days out. When we go to museums or attractions, our children take their own pocket money to spend if they want a toy or magazine, which saves any argument and some expense. They earn pocket money for chores like lawn mowing. We sell unwanted toys and clothes on eBay, too.
Jane Jenkins, Leatherhead, UK
Remember why you are making your particular choices, set your priorities, plan for events, downgrade your phone, give up the car if you can, and find out what’s going on within walking distance of your home. Learn to love the library and park and make “fake aways” at a fraction of the cost of more expensive outings.
Create your own hand-made gifts. If you are lucky enough to be able to rely on extended family members, then ask for money instead of gifts where appropriate. Currently, swimming trips and our shoes are paid by using this method and asking nicely.
Tessa Clark, Oxfordshire, UK
Frequent the charity shops in affluent towns. Doing this saved my family a fortune for Christmas and birthday gifts as well as on clothes, which you can pick up at bargain prices.
Katrina Voysey, Chipstead, Surrey, UK
Mother’s new situation: Family’s Bottle-feeding Culture
I am the first member of my family (and my husband’s family) in recent generations to breastfeed my baby. I have met with a lot of negativity from the start. Both my parents and my husband’s parents want to take their turn to care for their grandson. In their eyes, this involves spending time with him without my being there. My son is not quite three months and is still breastfeeding very frequently. They do not want to hear why I won’t allow him to take a bottle or a pacifier. They think he needs to be in a routine, both for feeding and sleep, and that I am spoiling him by not parenting the way they feel I should. My husband is mostly supportive but naturally feels that by doing things differently we are implicitly criticizing the way in which our parents raised us. What have other new parents experienced when bottle-feeding is a part of their family’s culture? How did you deal with the tricky situations that inevitably arise over the differences in approach to parenting babies?
Please send responses for publication to Barbara at email@example.com by November 5, 2016.