That's me and my son Noah a couple of years ago.
I brown-bag my lunch and wear hand-me-down shoes. Last week, caught outside in a rainstorm, I decided not to buy an umbrella. The weather would clear up soon, I reasoned. Besides, you don't get that wet if you walk briskly down the sidewalk ducking under store awnings for shelter.
I wasn't always this cheap.
My transformation began in 2008 when the economy cratered. I was fortunate; I held on to my job while anxiously watching as colleagues, friends and family were laid off or saw their income plummet.
My financial crisis was personal: I had a son! A sweet lovely little baby -- with a gigantic price tag. By the time he enters college, Noah's sunny face may cost us $469,000 according to a calculator from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which tracks these sorts of things.
That's right, nearly a half-million dollars. And that's not counting college tuition.
We had a second child last year. She is adorable and the light of my life, of course. But, worth noting: My sweet blue-eyed girl adds another $280,000 to our long-term budget.
All together, raising these two children until they turn college age could cost more than $750,000. Just writing that down has tied my stomach into knots. You can check your kids' costs at the USDA's website.
Before my son was born, we decided that my husband would stay home with him. Our challenge: Half the income, with double the family.
At the time, the rest of the country was struggling through the same sobering exercise: What do we really need? How can we spend less? For many families these questions were urgent. The foreclosure rate spiked -- people lost their homes. There weren't always good answers or solutions.
The economy is no longer on life support. Indeed, some economists lately are sounding upbeat on our financial prospects. Yet unemployment is still stubbornly high. Wages stagnant.
The scars of the past few years are hard to erase: We're all still worried about the future. Will we be able to retire? Should I trust the stock market again? How can I possibly pay my children's college tuition? Should I ever ever trust in real estate again?
We hope our new site HuffPost Money can help.
We don't promise to have all the answers to life's money problems, but we'd like to be the place where you come to share your stories of spending and saving.
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