10 Tips to Help Parents Stay Out of Debt

Cobbler shaker (right), jigger, and a bar spoon.

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People say that when you have a baby, your world gets flipped upside down.    That’s not true.  Your world gets dropped in a martini shaker and left to the whims of a sadistic bartender with a shaking fetish.  Everything changes.    That sounds like an exaggeration and nobody believes it until it happens, but it’s true.

When you find out you are about to reproduce, you will experience a phenomenon called “nesting”.   Nesting is the idea that, if you take your credit cards and beat them against the curb until they bleed and VISA calls you asking for mercy, you will be transformed into the best parent ever, regardless of what you may actually screw up.   It’s the way parents calm their fears by spending money, often on things that aren’t needed.

Q.  How do you avoid becoming a debt-ridden, worried mess of an over-protective, over-extended new parent?

A. What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhinoceros?

I can’t help with the rest, but here’s 10 ways you can avoid the debt problems.

  1. Have a budget.   I may have said this before.   It’s possible this counts as a recurring theme here.  If you don’t have a budget, you aren’t in control of your money.  If you aren’t in control, then how do you know where it has gone or where it is supposed to go?
  2. Budget for baby crap.    This will be a recurring expense for years, so get used to it.   A friend of mine is on the cusp of having everyone out of diapers for the first time since 1993.   Do you think they plan that expense?  Diapers.com has $10 off and free shipping on orders over $49.  Use code “ LiveReal” during checkout.
  3. Double the number you have in #2.  Seriously.  It will cost you more than you think, but it doesn’t have to cost you as much as you fear.  It’s far better to have too much budgeted and find yourself with extra money than it is to budget too little and be forced to make up the difference at the feet of Master Card.
  4. Only take the advice of people you know and trust. Every random jerkface on the street has (usually) well-intentioned advice for new and expecting parents.   Ignore them all.  If they aren’t your doctor, your mother(assuming she did her job right), or friends with children, they are clueless and their advice should be immediately round-filed.   Ditto for parenting magazines.   The writers don’t know better than you do.   Read the magazines for six months and watch for conflicting advice, not only in the same magazine, but often from the same writer!   Don’t add the stress of bad advice from strangers to what is already a stressful time.
  5. Don’t get every gadget designed to cushion the baby. A wipe warmer is a waste of money.   Do you want your baby to be scared of a little chill forever?  Cold wipes build character.    If that isn’t good enough, hold the wipe in your hand for a few seconds before using it.   There are a million other gadgets to keep your little one from ever feeling a moment of discomfort.   Don’t waste your cash.  It may only be 10 pounds, but it’s tougher than you think.
  6. Don’t get every gadget designed to cushion the parent. They make ergonomic bottles, braces to hold your arms in the right position to feed, fancy cloths to catch baby vomit.   Tough it up. Support your baby yourself.  Build some muscle and some character.   Use cloth diapers to catch various treasures your little brat will spit up on you.   Spending more doesn’t always make it better.  The ergonomic bottles that make it easier to feed a baby, make it harder for the baby to hold the bottle.   This is actually making your life more difficult.
  7. Focus on the necessities. Yes, the fancy formula with the pre-digested proteins has a nicer label.   It doesn’t make a difference.    The generic brand at the warehouse store usually has the exact same ingredients in the exact same ratios as the brand name at the baby store–for half the price.   There is nothing special about the blankets in the baby section–except the price.    The fancy bottle warmer doesn’t do anything that a cup of warm water on the counter won’t handle.   You need:  A crib, unless you are doing a family bed; a easy-to-clean mat to change diapers(on the floor works!); and a diaper bag(back-to-school backpacks are more ergonomic and easy to organize than anything in the baby store!).  Everything else is a luxury.
  8. Time counts more than stuff. No matter what else you hear, no matter how old your child gets, time with you counts more than anything else you could do or buy.   Be there for your kids and the rest is gravy.
  9. Brand-name and designer labels are not status symbols. The opinions of the other soccer mommies do not matter.   The opinions of the random jerkfaces on the street do not matter.   Designer labels do not make you a better parent and are not an indicator of a happy baby.
  10. Always remember:  Babies bounce and have short memories. While I don’t recommend bouncing your baby on the floor, they are surprisingly resilient.   They don’t hold grudges, either.   There is room to make mistakes without screwing up your kid.

For a hundred thousand years, people raised babies with nothing more than a scrap of hide to alternately chew on or wipe with.  You can probably get buy with just a bit more.   Relax and enjoy the process of raising your kids.   Money doesn’t matter nearly as much as your presence.

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    1. Thanks for the advice! If we ever have a kid, I am hoping we can raise it realistically. I actually laughed at “wipe warmer”, really?! Who buys a wipe warmer? 🙂

      • OMG I made fun of those things when I was shopping for my second baby! They seem like such a frivolous, unnecessary expense.

        As for this post – this is the kind of advice I wish I would have read BEFORE I had #1 and #2 – lots of money would have been saved! 😉


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