The Me Time Bandaid

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Categories Babysitting, Finances and Saving, Going out, Making Time for Me, Organization, Parenting, Time ManagementTags , 1 Comment

Like most parents-to-be my husband and I envisioned what our life would be like after the arrival of our fraternal little bundles of joy with keen optimism. We decided that our version of parenthood would involve a budget that would always include a babysitter fund.  We were happy to accept hand-me-down clothing, take more local vacations and make other financial sacrifices as a trade for some more time to ourselves as a couple.

A month before Molly and Jack’s c-scheduled arrival we opened up an account with a nanny site and posted an advertisement for a handful of regular babysitters.  I wanted a sitter who would be available during the day from time-to-time so I would be able to get a break or a nap when my husband was at work and another sitter or two who would be available for our evening date nights.  The well-thought out plan allowed us time to receive resumes, review them together towards the end of my pregnancy/ first few days of the twins’ lives, schedule phone and face-to-face interviews and then test out our sitters while we went out to a restaurant walking distance from our house, so we were nearby.

A few days after our new family returned from the hospital my husbands’ grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse.  He received a call from his father urging him to head to the hospital immediately at around 2:45AM, while we were finishing up a middle of the night feeding of Molly and Jack.  Chris drove to the hospital while I put the kids back to bed and waited for his call.  He returned home, just after breakfast and the family had already begun to make funeral arrangements.

2.5 week old fraternal twins

Molly and Jack were barely a week old and we both knew that it would be difficult to manage their care at a visitation and a funeral.  We hadn’t even called the babysitters who had applied to care for Molly and Jack and over half of our family would be attending the funeral.  On the night of the visitation, less than two weeks after their birth, we separated from our newborns for the very first time, under the charge of my best friend and my brother.  I believe I provided a laundry list of highly unnecessary instructions and then we took a deep breath and we left our children for a few hours that evening. We came home to sleeping twins and our babysitters watching a Storage Wars Marathon on TV – hardly the difficult situation that I had written a novel to prepare them for.  The next day we left Molly and Jack in the care of my parents, and a significantly shorter set of “care” instructions, while we went to the service and the visitation (but not before a milk pumping pit stop).

We knew that we’d be leaving the twins under the care of others early on, however we certainly didn’t think that we’d be doing it that soon.  We both wish that Great Grandma Hazel had been able to meet Molly and Jack and we are so thankful for the people in our lives who stepped up during our VERY early days of parenthood.

When we interviewed our sitters and left Molly and Jack alone as intended that fall, it was just a little bit easier knowing that we had done it before.  We still have two of our original babysitters who have cared for Molly and Jack since they were just a month old and nowadays they look forward to their time with their sitters just as much as we enjoy getting out for a date.

To view a post I wrote on my personal blog on interview questions to ask a potential babysitter click here.

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Discount Programs for Multiples

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Categories Finances and Saving, Products3 Comments

We’re trying something new. We’d like to elicit your help in developing the definitive list of discount programs for multiples. Know about a company that offers discounts or freebies for families of multiples? Add it below yourself! Have you learned that one of the items on our list is out-of-date? Please leave a comment on the item and we’ll retire it.

Above all, though, take advantage of these offers. Most of the gifts and coupons are most helpful in the first year, so don’t wait. Have a friend expecting multiples? Perhaps you could offer to handle getting them signed up for these offers as (part of?) your baby shower gift. You will probably have to wait until the babies are born, but I certainly could have used the help as a new mom of twins!

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Twinfant Tuesday: How to Afford Formula

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Categories Feeding, Finances and Saving, Formula, Twinfant TuesdayTags 2 Comments

7 ideas for saving money on formula, with a particular emphasis on twins, triplets and more... because families of multiples need extra help!Babies are expensive. Next to diapers and daycare, infant formula may be the number one expense. Yes, we all know that “breast is best” but the fact is that exclusive breastfeeding simply isn’t an option for all of us. Many MoMs simply can’t produce enough milk for multiple babies, while for others, the logistics of breastfeeding several babies while providing for their other needs puts nursing beyond reach. Those of us who gave birth prematurely know that preemies and breastfeeding don’t always mix.

Six months worth of formula for just one baby averages out at $860 in the US and ranges from $510 to $3062 in Canada. Now multiply that cost to account for our multiple babies, and I start to feel a little sick.

Unfortunately, I have no magic wand to make this all better, but here are what other MoMs have done to maximize the bang for their formula buck.

  1. Breastfeed/pump. Even a little helps, if you can maintain your sanity while nursing or pumping. Many insurance companies now cover breast pumps and associated supplies, so pumping can be practically free, aside from the additional food you’ll eat to make that milk. Breastfeeding actually requires more calories than pregnancy, I was surprised to learn.
  2. Government assistance. There are two types of US food assistance that may apply to families with infants: WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps).Even if you don’t qualify for SNAP (income is 130% of poverty or less), you may qualify for WIC, so do your research. WIC serves 53 percent of all US-born infants, so your chances are good!While implementation varies by state, WIC generally provides families with vouchers for high-nutrition items, including formula for infants who are not exclusively breastfed.In Canada, social assistance recipients may be additionally eligible for special financial assistance in buying formula, depending on province. Regular, soy-based and lactose-free formulas are all covered, although additional medical documentation may be required for those last two types. This is in addition to the universal child care benefit of $100/month for any child up to the age of 6.All current HDYDI authors live in the US or Canada.

    If you have information about government support for formula-fed infants in your country, please let us know in the comments.

  3. Free samples. Doctors and hospitals are well supplied with formula samples from companies trying to get you committed to their brand, usually in full-size containers. Don’t be too proud to ask for additional free samples when you exhaust the supply that you may have received in the first few days. Keep in touch with the lactation consultants at your hospital. They can hook you up! Yes, they’re professionals committed to breastfeeding success, but they’re all about making sure babies are nourished. Also consider contacting formula manufacturers to request samples. I’ll talk more about making a multiples-specific pitch below in number 6.
  4. Shop around. Here’s a big secret: you don’t have to commit to a formula brand. Formula is like any other food product. The generic stuff is usually comparable to the brand name, at a lower cost. With the more expensive brands, you’re more likely paying for better marketing than improved quality. Find out whether a warehouse club like Sam’s Club or Costco is worth the cost of membership in formula savings. Buy formula in bulk when it’s on sale, being aware of the expiration date, of course. Maybe purchasing formula through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service may save you cash. Perhaps your local grocery store has good deals on its store brand formula. A lot of store brand formula lines now include soy and lactose-free offerings. Those of us who need high-calorie preemie formula probably still need to go with the brand names.
  5. Coupons. I have a love-hate relationship with coupons. As a user of in-store coupons when I see them, I just wish that stuff would be offered at the lower price point without the hassle of having to scrounge and clip… or at least that coupon savings would be automated at the register. When it comes to formula, though, coupons can save you a whole bunch. Check out formula company websites, and consider following the Baby Formula Coupons Facebook page. Jen Wood mentioned that her Mother of Multiples club had a coupon exchange table at every meeting where parents could drop off their unused coupons for other parents to use. Why not start something similar in your community?
  6. Manufacturers’ multiples programs. A number of the major formula and baby food manufacturers offer programs specific to multiple birth families, usually in the form of free samples or coupons. You need a doctor’s referral to qualify for the Enfamil program, which provides a case of formula per baby. Call 1-800-4-GERBER to sign up for the Gerber Multiple Births program, which includes Gerber Good Start formula. This post at The Krazy Coupon Lady even has a letter composed for you to send to companies that don’t have an official program.
  7. Insurance. Don’t forget to look into your medical insurance options. Especially if you have a child or children with special dietary needs, such as those associated with premature, food intolerances, or allergies, you insurance may cover part of all of your formula expenses.

Do you have a penny-pinching approach that we’ve missed?

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Thoughts on Working Part-time

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Finances and Saving, Household and Family Management, Lifestyle, Mommy Issues, Organization, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Routines, SAHM, Toddlers, Working3 Comments

School started two weeks ago, and I’m ready to reflect on getting back to work part-time.

The first week was a little sketchy. I started getting random headaches, my eyes were irritated and red, and I was still pretty exhausted. I was worried that this part-time decision wasn’t going to help anything. But now that I have another week down, I’m feeling like I’m back in the groove. In fact, I’m extremely happy with my new schedule.

I’m up and in the shower at about 6am, out the door by 6:45, twins dropped off at my mom’s around 7am, and at school by 7:10. Not much different from our summer schedule, except I have to actually get dressed instead of wearing tank tops and shorts, and I don’t do breakfast for the kids. Two classes and three hours later, I pick up the twins, give them their snack in the car, and we go home to nap for two hours. This is when I get some downtime, do some of my own things, or take a nap myself. Big Sis sometimes gets picked up from preschool after lunch (I’ve been trying out continuing with a half-day for her), and we go on an afternoon outing, again no different from our summer schedule.

The BIG difference is that I am not so exhausted that I can’t enjoy being with my kids. It used to be that I was completely drained after a whole day of work, but now I get a little break while the twins nap, so I have time to recharge. I now have the time and patience to listen to 4yo stories, soothe 21mo boo-boos, and generally be present and engaged.

By no means is it easy though. The twins are only getting more active each day, and one of my children is a climber. I had never experienced this before (Big Sis is much more low key), so it is completely shocking to me. My boy, at 19m, vaulted his crib rails, landed on his feet, and took off running. He is climbing everything climbable: shelves, beds, TV stands, dollhouses, play kitchens, you name it. We don’t go to the library anymore because he will scale the shelves there. And not only is he interested in the climbing, he also likes to jump on the surfaces on which he’s climbed. So I will come out of the shower to see him balanced on his tiptoes at the edge of the armchair in the playroom, bouncing up and down with a big grin on his face. And when he sees me he’ll say, “Ta-Da!” (Don’t have a clue where he gets that from…) His twin isn’t so much into climbing, but she will find and eat any and all little bits off the floor. I’ve got to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she’s not ingesting nasty stuff. These kids sure know how to keep me on my toes. Therefore, I am much more convinced now that my mom would not be capable of entertaining and chasing them all day every day.

Another bonus to this part-time schedule? Surprisingly, I’ve gotten even more efficient. I thought that with three kids I was already very efficient. And I am– consolidated errands, organized outings, great time management skills. I routinely do all 3 baths and bedtimes in 30 minutes. But now that I’m only at work for less than 3 hours a day, I find myself planning even further ahead, making lists and crossing things out right away, not procrastinating on any work stuff. My lessons are prepared days in advance, and I have calendars marked for the entire school year for holidays and days that we’re on a different school schedule. I don’t dread going to work anymore; on the contrary, I think I’ve actually fallen back in love with my profession.

I’ve been feeling happier and more productive. I’ve had interest in reading again, and even planned the kids’ Halloween costumes already. I have energy to think ahead, and I look forward to weekends not just for no work, but to actively plan activities that include Daddy.

Even considering the financial sacrifice we’re making, I don’t see how there could be any better alternative to this. It’s like the other shoe has dropped, after so long of such conflicted emotions about doing this. I’m elated that I made the leap on this decision.

lunchldyd is a part-time teacher and full-time mother to 21mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister.

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Affording Cloth Diapers for Twins

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Categories Finances and Saving, InfantsTags , Leave a comment

The Rebecca Foundation helps low-income families get started with cloth diapering, eliminating the expense of the initial investment.

I found out at about 6 weeks that my unexpected pregnancy was growing our family by two instead of one. The radiologist said she wanted to show me something and turned the screen so I could see. Two separate sacs, two little beating hearts.

The first thought I had after “Oh My God” was “How are we going to afford them?”. We were already struggling to make ends meet, and the overwhelming thought of “two of everything” kept me up at night.

We already cloth diapered our next youngest, so it was a natural to cloth diaper the twins as well. I already knew how, and it was already a part of our routine. We chose cloth to save money, but that first time around, we had the money to buy a small stash before our youngest was born. We weren’t so lucky this time, and that small stash was not going to be enough.

Cloth was a great option for us. We had a good washing machine and we already knew I’d be home with the kids, so there would be no daycare rules to fight.

I’ll admit the first day I looked into cloth diapering, I wasn’t sure. The information overload, some of it contradictory, was a little much. I found a forum and started asking questions. Getting direct answers instead of a generic information sheet really helped and soon I was convincing my husband. I touted the cost savings, as little as $300 for a lifetime of cloth – though I did spend twice that on our son. I bought a few prefolds and a cover and showed my husband how simple it was. I promised to take on the washing.

With the news of the twins, one of my husband’s first reactions was “we will need more diapers,” and he was right. I had only bought a handful of infant sized diapers, and our son was (and is) still very much using his all-in-one size. The twins would be small, so I knew infant sizes were going to be required. But we didn’t have it in the budget. We didn’t have the budget for anything. I knew our family would come through for cribs, bottles, and clothes, but no one supported the cloth diapering.

Then a family friend sent me a link on Facebook: The Rebecca Foundation Cloth Diaper Closet.  This non-profit provides loaner diapers to lower income families, helping them spread out the cost of buying. They eliminate the need to buy two stashes by taking care of that infant stage, and they are a great support for those families just starting in cloth.

We were on WIC, the US government program that assists with food costs for low-income women and children. I thought we might qualify for the Rebecca Foundation’s offerings. I learned that WIC did, in fact, qualify us, as did being an enlisted military family. The outpouring of caring from the lady on the other end of the phone helped my fears. We were getting help. We could figure this out. We could afford the twins. I bawled on the phone with her, I was so relieved.

For us, cloth diapers and The Rebecca Foundation were a life-saver. Even without family support, cloth works for us. It saves us money, there is no running out at 2 am because I suddenly realize we’re out of diapers. I don’t deal with diaper rash constantly. Using cloth, like any aspect of parenting, is a personal decision, but with charities like The Rebecca Foundation, the cost of the initial investment doesn’t have get in the way of cloth diapering.

Jennifer is a stay at home mom of three singletons, with her first set of twins due in September. She is the proud wife of an Army soldier, homeschools her 4 year old, and loves to read, write, and play video games in her down time.

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Bedroom Configurations

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Categories Ask the Moms, Ask the Readers, Attitude, Balance, Finances and Saving, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlers9 Comments

Just this past weekend we almost put in an offer on a house.

I know. Crazy since we had already decided to put that dream on hold to pursue my working part-time for this next school year, or possibly two. However, the husband had continued to look at listings online, and I’ve been open to moving to an area close to where I’ve decided to send the kids for elementary school (for its Mandarin dual immersion program).

This house is walking distance to the school, right next to a golf course. It’s just within our price range. Large lot, big square footage, a house our family of 5 could be comfortable in for several years. However… It has only 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, the same as we currently have. Though they are bigger than the ones we currently have, and there is space to add a fourth bedroom and third bathroom when someday we could afford it. However… The school district (other than this dual immersion elementary school) is not ideal, which means even though the area is desirable, the house will not appreciate as much as homes in other nearby cities. However… Though we could pay the new mortgage if we cut back on our lifestyle and watch our spending, it would be uncomfortably tight while I’m part-time, and that would be after sinking all our savings into the down payment.

For these reasons, my conservative husband and I decided the time is not right for us to move right now. We really like this house, in fact it is the only one that I have liked, and the housing market in our area is on another surge, but we’d be scrambling to sell our current house, working out all the details of our financing with our future budget, and generally putting ourselves under a great deal of stress. It is doable, but not something we feel ready to take on.

But this has gotten me thinking. If I was willing to move to a 3 bedroom house, then I guess I’m not as eager to move my twins into separate bedrooms as I thought. True, this house has bigger bedrooms and more common living space as well, but the twins would still be sharing a bedroom, or the girls would have to share. I did not think that I would be ok with that. But I guess I am, for the right house. Which means, then, that I should have no problems staying at our current house for a few more years.

So, what are your bedroom configurations, fellow MoMs? Do you have boy/girl twins sharing a bedroom? Until what age? How do you create space separation in a shared bedroom?

lunchldyd is mom to 19mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister.

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A Compromise

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Difference, Emotion, Fear, Feeling Overwhelmed, Finances and Saving, Guilt, Joy, Lifestyle, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, SAHM, Working15 Comments

A few days ago marked the close of another school year, the first one I taught after my twins were born. Having only worked 6 weeks the year prior before taking my maternity leave, it was a difficult adjustment. The first several weeks seemed like just an exhausted blur, and the weeks following did not get much better. The month of March (the “long March”) was the worst. I was feeling depressed, rundown, burnt out, just plain tired and uninspired.

The crawling babies began to walk, then run, then climb, and by the end of the school year their naps were hit-and-miss because they were ready to transition to only one. So I had cranky babies and a preschooler to pick up from school, then feed and bathe all three after a full day of work. And I constantly worried about my aging mom, who I counted on every single day in order for me to go to work. I started to rethink this decision made a year ago

Clearly, I knew my husband’s position. We’ve had this discussion many times before; I’ve been wanting to be a SAHM ever since our first was born. But the decision we made came mostly from his arguments, all of which are valid: We have family nearby, they’re willing to help, these are our prime working years, I should be building my career and our family’s financial wealth. But he doesn’t understand the guilt that comes from having nothing left to give to the kids crying and tugging at you for your attention at the end of each day. He doesn’t understand that I blissfully enjoyed almost an entire year at home with my firstborn (starting 10 weeks before her siblings were born so she had me completely to herself), and the sadness I feel that the twins will NEVER get to experience that, just by the fact there are two of them plus an older sister.

One morning in early May, after a night of tormented sleep, I sought out my administrators to ask if there were any options for me to relieve some of this distress. Other than resign and lose my job security and all the years of service credit I’ve built with the district, the only other option was to work part-time. I never considered this an option because… well, because it is rarely done. I’ve only known two colleagues who have ever done it, and currently there is only one other teacher working part-time in the entire district. But, surprisingly, after almost collapsing into tears while telling my principal of the difficulties of trying to be the best mom I could while also being the best teacher I could, she was completely supportive. And, it turns out, so was my assistant principal working on the master schedule (the schedule of all courses during all class periods for every teacher at the school)– he was able to give me two morning classes a day.

My husband and I then had this discussion once again, but this time I was offering an alternative. What if I could keep my job security, keep my vested years and retirement, but also spend more quality time with the kids? I had the numbers to present to him, and my mom had already signed off on the idea. We could take the financial hit temporarily; my mom would only have to watch them for less than 3 hours a day instead of 8. I could feel fulfilled, as I am keeping my career, but also not be completely worn out before I even pick up my kids. Surprising me yet again, my husband agreed.

Life changes after having kids. This is the way we’ve decided to compromise. My new contract was signed last Friday. I’m not absolutely sure yet that this is the best way to go for our family, but I am trying something that I think might work. We will see.

lunchldyd is currently on summer vacation from her job as a high school teacher. Her husband has deferred his hopes of moving into a bigger house soon because of her part-time working decision. 

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How to Afford Twins Giveaway!!

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Categories Finances and Saving, Theme WeekTags , 12 Comments

HDYDI’s money saving “How to Afford Twins” theme week is now over!  We sincerely hope that many of you learned some great new ways to save, budget, cut back, or bring in a little extra. Having kids is an expensive endeavor, and having two or more at once can make things even more expensive.

So, to reward our readers for our awesome money saving week and to help you know how to afford twins, triplets, and more, we decided to pull our own resources (none of us are paid to post here and there are no ads on our site) and host a giveaway!  And we will have three separate winners so we can spread the love!

giveawayBut, to enter, you do need to check out our “How to Afford Twins” series. (You can also check out How Do You Do It?’s Pinterest Board “How to Afford Twins.”)

Here are the topics that we covered this week (in case you missed some):

Enter the Giveaway for a chance to win one of three gift cards!

After you check out a few posts, leave a comment below, telling us which one you enjoyed (or checked out!) and then enter the giveaway in the rafflecopter box! Score some extra entries for following How Do You Do It? on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The drawing goes from Sunday, September 29, 2013 to Saturday, October 5 at midnight. Winners will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond.

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How to Afford Twins: Reviewing My Finances

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Categories Divorce, Finances and Saving, Financial Literacy, How Do The Moms Do It, Theme WeekTags Leave a comment

To me, money is a tool I use to accomplish my goals, not a goal itself. There’s nothing wrong with money accumulation being a goal. Nothing at all. It’s just not a goal of mine. My life goal is joy accumulation. Money matters to me in that it helps me and my children find our joy through fulfilling relationships and activities.

I needed to review my finances after I got divorced. I don’t create a monthly budget as many families do. Instead, I have a general idea of where my money is going and where I want it to go.

I pride myself on being financially independent, as does my ex-husband. When we split up in March of last year, we didn’t see any need to bring lawyers into the mix. We just split our shared savings down the middle and each walked away with our own retirement savings. He took the house. I took the furniture. He took the cat. I took the kids. We agreed to a child support payment based on the difference between rents on a house for three and an apartment for one, plus half the kids’ groceries.

Reviewing My Finances from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: photosteve101

The split was amiable. My ex is prompt with his child support payments. I was the primary breadwinner in our marriage. Our 7-year-olds attend public school. Despite all these marks favouring my financial health, there simply wasn’t going to be as much money coming into our family as there had been before. I couldn’t just tighten my belt for a while until things got back to normal, because my income plus child support is now our normal. I took some major steps in adjusting my expenditures to make things work.

My ex-husband and I had purchased supplementary life insurance from Primerica and reviewed our finances when we were married, and I was happy with the experience. Once the initial whirlwind was over–my ex moving out, signing the divorce papers, my buying a new house and moving back to Central Texas from El Paso, the kids getting settled at their new school–I met with a rep from Primerica and took a serious (but free) look at what my finances looked like. I could always follow up with a real financial planner later if I needed. I looked at what was coming in, what was going out, what I had saved, and where I could cut. I was already in the market for additional life insurance. If something were to happen to me, I wanted money not to be a concern for my ex, since he would likely have to change careers to raise the children.

I highly recommend meeting with a financial planner, but aware that not all planners are made equal. Choose carefully. Look for someone who is ethically bound to put your interests first (a fiduciary), not someone who earns a commission for selling you something, unless you’re fully prepared not to buy and have the wherewithal to see through self-serving advice. I wasn’t looking for a new job, so I knew I’d stand firm against the whole recruitment aspect of the Primerica experience.

The most important short-term goal I had for my finances was for my children not to see a major change in their lifestyle. Divorce is hard enough on them without the girls picking up on the financial challenges that come with it. My ex-husband and I have kept our discussions during and after our divorce focused on the kids’ well-being. Co-parenting, for us, just is not about money.

Here’s how I go about being financially responsible as a divorced single mom:

  1. Know how much money is coming in and how much is going out

    This is hard and painful and ugly. It makes me twitchy thinking about it. I wrote out all my monthly expenses: bills, groceries, entertainment, clothes, pet care, school costs, childcare, healthcare, gas, parking. I looked at what comes into my bank account in the form of my salary and child support. I decided that I could afford to keep my lawn service, but that I needed to stop eating out with the kids. The girls could take dance lessons, but piano would have to wait. Now that I had closed on my house and paid off my college and car loans, I could afford to put the annual maximum in my Roth IRA again. I’d reduced my contributions when my ex informed me that he would be leaving.

  2. Prioritize retirement

    This is a little counterintuitive. You might think that saving for college would be the most urgent focus. I think of my retirement investments as a gift to my children, in that supporting me financially in my old age won’t be their problem. The more I put into retirement now, the more I’m earning interest on for longer. I looked at my current health, my lifestyle choices, how old I’d like to continue working and how much I’d like to have to live on, and mapped out how much I’ll need squirreled away for age 70 and on.

  3. Expect the best, but plan for the worst

    I don’t expect things to go wrong. I seem to keep landing on my feet, thanks to amazing friends, exceptional daughters, and years of therapy. I try to plan for the worst. I have a will that specifies who would take custody of my children if something were to happen to me while they were still little. (Their dad first, of course, but if something happened to him, his parents. If something happened to them, it would be close family friends.) I have life insurance that would cover the girls’ needs through college tuition in the event that someone else did have to raise them without my income coming in. I may let my policy lapse once they’re done with the college. They won’t need my financial support any more at that point, most likely.

    I have health insurance and go to all my scheduled check ups. I upped my car insurance, paying an extra $5 monthly for a $500 reduction in my deductible. I don’t plan to get in any accidents, but I’m willing to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I could manage if I did.

  4. Set priorities on all other expenses

    I want my kids to grow up to be happy, healthy, wholesome, productive adults. I invest in the things that contribute to that goal. I don’t need to pay for anything else. It’s a challenge for me, but I choose to prioritize for my family, not keeping up with the Joneses. My daughters take tap and ballet lessons because it fulfills them and brings them joy. They’re not longer taking soccer, which is Daddy’s passion, or piano lessons, which is mine.

    Do I need to buy as many books as I like to? No, I can check them out of the library and move my margin scribbles to a notebook. Do I need to hire a babysitter once a week so I can go to choir practice? That’s a hard one, but I really just can’t afford it.

    I’m celebrating my birthday tomorrow night with friends. My birthday was in May, but this weekend happens the girls’ paternal grandparents are in town. It’s not just a matter of being able to afford a babysitter or cashing in on a babysitting favour. It’s also that I enjoy the time I have with my children, which is limited since I work outside the home. I don’t particularly feel like leaving them to go out without them. This weekend, though, they’re brilliantly happy to be spending time with their Grammy and Grampy, so it’s time for me to hang out with my friends for a bit. Budgeting isn’t just for money. I also budget my time.

  5. Make wise investments

    I could have rented a home after I moved, but I knew that I wanted the money I spent on housing to be an investment. I swallowed my pride and accepted a gift from my mother to help with the down payment. It helped that I had near-perfect credit. In order to keep it that way, I avoided anything that could negatively affect my credit until after I closed on the house. I didn’t apply for anything that might involve someone checking my credit. I kept my credit card balance at zero. I had paid every bill on time for the previous decade or more. My mortgage payment came out to $450 less per month than rent for comparable homes in my neighborhood, per month.

    Do I miss the granite countertops and tile floors of the first home I owned? Absolutely. Given my current financial reality, though, I can’t afford something like the house I had when I was married. If you already own your home, look into refinancing. Yes, rates are going up, but they may very well be less than what you already have. It doesn’t cost you anything to look, and costs surprisingly little to complete.

    I also take advantage of the flexible spending accounts offered by my employer. I can put tax-free money aside for childcare and medical expenses, up to $5000 per year. I max out my daycare allotment, since I’ll spend significantly more than that on after school care and summer camp. I just have to send in my receipts on a monthly basis to get reimbursed. I put less aside for medical expenses, enough to cover our prescriptions, my glasses and contact lenses, our dental co-pays and my medical co-pays. Thanks to the army, the girls don’t have co-pays or deductibles.

  6. Pay off debt

    I’ve generally avoided credit cards, using them only to build up my credit and paying off the balance in full every month. Last year, though, I allowed myself to go into debt immediately after I got divorced. Moving from El Paso to Central Texas wasn’t cheap, and I had to pay for help moving, since I knew hardly anyone there. Even with the gift from my mother, paying for all the little things that go into setting up a new home added up, and I felt that it was very important to buffer my children from the financial fallout from the divorce. (Perhaps that was wrong. I just didn’t want to pass on the type of bitterness I’d seen during the unravelling of my parents’ marriage.)

    Now, I’m really focusing on paying off my debt. I’m choosing to pay extra on both my mortgage and the card that is costing me the most in interest in any given month. Of course, that requires me to think and review my balances and interest rates monthly. Some people advise to just put extra against your debt with the lowest balance. When that’s paid off, shift all the money you were paying into that debt into the next highest debt until you’re debt-free. There’s something to be said for paying money for convenience or simplicity. There’s no one right way to get out of debt beyond making the effort and prioritizing it.

  7. Minimize debt accrual

    I’m not putting anything new on credit cards or taking out any new loans. I want to be getting out of debt, not getting deeper. Some people cut up their credit cards. I’ve even heard of freezing a card in a block of ice to keep from using it on a whim, but having it around for an emergency. Fortunately, I have the self-control to carry my cards and not use them.

  8. Know when it’s worth paying more

    Saving money is not my highest priority. Joy is. There are some things that are worth paying for, slowing the march towards my financial goals, to maximize joy. My lawncare service and pest control company fall in that category. So do my chocolate habit, my love of baking for friends, our annual cookie decorating party, the occasional theatrical production. There are luxuries worth spending on. I hope to never be in a financial position to have to cut every one of our wants out of our budget.It really boils down to wants and needs, that simple dichotomy I keep preaching to my children. We fulfill our needs first: love, housing, nutrition, safety, kindness, education. Then, with what’s left, we choose carefully between our wants to decide where we want to spend what time, money and energy is left.

Do you plan out your finances?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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