Before my twin girls — now 4 1/2 — were born, my husband and I saved pretty aggressively, but we didn’t have any sort of written budget. Within some degree of reason, we spent more or less what we wanted to, when we wanted to.
When I became pregnant, we knew that we wanted to accommodate me being home until our girls started school. We loosely knew we could afford it, but we didn’t have a true sense for what it would mean for our monthly spendingI sat down to work through our finances, with the goal of understanding what we were spending on a monthly basis. Outside of our mortgage and utilities, which are drafted from our bank account, we pay for everything on a credit card. (We pay the statement in full each month, but that allows us to take advantage of some type of cash-back reward program.)
I dug through our files and online statements to reconstruct what we’d spent for the past year. I plotted our mortgage and utilities, and then I combed through our credit card statements to see what our other monthly expenses were.
I made a list of common spending categories:
- Dry cleaners
- Car insurance / maintenance
We knew our lifestyle would change dramatically when the girls were born. With that anticipation, reeling in much of our spending was actually pretty straightforward. Because cutting back expenses meant affording our twins.My first shocker was how much we were spending eating out every month…about $400! We knew our grocery budget would increase, but we knew we could reduce our total food budget dramatically. These days, we spend $500 – $600 a month on groceries, but only about $100 on restaurants. That allows us one reasonably-priced meal out a week, and the opportunity to pick up a pizza two or three times a month. Once the girls were born, reality was that it was much harder to go out to eat…to pack all the necessary gear, and to cross our fingers they would sit contentedly…or later, that they would eat what we ordered for them. These days, at age 4 ½, the girls are much more predictable, but we’re no longer tempted to go out three or four times a week. It’s a treat to enjoy a nice soup and sandwich for Saturday lunch. We limit our really fancy restaurant meals to a few times a year, versus a few times a month.
We cut back on our cable package. Once upon a time, Hubby had a sports package and a DVR upstairs, and I had a DVR downstairs to watch my favorite shows. When our girls were born, we realized we were watching much less TV. We now have only basic channels and one DVR box…and with that we still don’t have time to watch all the shows we’d like.
We also cut back on our cell phone expenses. This may seem like a drastic change in today’s information-rich culture, but spending $30 a month on our family cell plan…versus what I know can be some pretty crazy numbers in other households…was a great motivational factor for us. My husband and I bought trac phones for about $30 each. We buy 300 minutes per phone each month. That’s proven plenty to use our phones when we’re out and about, as needed. My internet access is restricted to home, via my laptop, and I’m fine by that. I’ll admit that my friends love to laugh at my throw-back basic cell phone, but it gets the job done.
Our lifestyle change allowed relatively easy cuts in other areas, as well. With me not working, my dry cleaning bill is almost nil (as my yoga pants are wash and wear…HA!). As far as entertainment goes, to be honest, we haven’t been to a movie or concert since our girls were born. We attend lots of free family events, and Hubby and I savor our TV time after the girlies are in bed. Our travel is much more limited and planned well in advance. The majority of our clothing expenditure these days is spent on the girls, and I do my best to shop end-of-season sales and use coupons.
While it felt a little daunting to be thinking about DRASTICALLY CUTTING BACK expenses before the girls were born, we fell into our new spending routine pretty easily. I think it was a combination of lifestyle changes brought about by the birth of our girls, coupled with a shift in priorities, that made the changes relatively painless.
What changes has your family made in spending since your children were born? Were they easy to implement, or were some areas more challenging?
MandyE is mom to 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.