I never realized just how much disposable income I had until I gave birth to my first kid.
Before my daughter was born, it was so easy to throw money around. Weekend getaway? Sure, let's go! Get my hair highlighted for $200? Yes, please!
Now every penny that we have that isn't socked away for the future is accounted for -- and the vast majority of it goes towards our family.
If you're looking for a lesson in personal finance, all you have to do is get pregnant. Parents learn so many life lessons in such a short time, that they form a special club of their own. I've found that, when you're a mom, you just get it.
Here are seven things I learned about money after I became a mom. If you're a mother, you may know what I mean. If not, well, here's what you have to look forward to:
1. Going out for lunch is a luxury -- diapers aren't.
When you become a mom, your priorities change. Drastically. Enough said.
2. You won't believe how fast kids grow.
A pair of tennis shoes for a 4-year-old can cost as much as $50! So your best bet is to often shop consignment stores for the wee ones because kids grow so fast that second-hand clothes are basically brand new. If you shop carefully, you'll likely find expensive brands that you may not be able to purchase new. The same goes for you: Gently worn clothing is a great way to save on items that you won't wear often -- like maternity clothes! For more tips, here are seven easy ways to save on kids' clothing.
3. If you grocery shop without a list, you'll spend double.
When you have a family, planning ahead for meals and snacks reduces your food budget significantly. From shopping with a cart instead of a basket (the effort of holding stuff may make you crave indulgences) to keeping your kids at home so they don't beg, here are 14 steps to grocery shopping perfection.
Additionally, before you make an impulse buy, think seriously about the trade-off between time and money. For example, some moms will advise you to forgo the bag of pre-cut baby carrots, but I think my time is worth more -- it's a fast, healthy snack kids love that you don't have to prepare. Here's more on how to start thinking about what your time is worth.
4. Rainy days happen (and umbrellas are important).
Even a few dollars saved every month can build a significant nest egg -- or an emergency fund. Should you or your spouse get laid off, that cushion can see you through tough times. Or if one of your children suffers a significant illness, you won't have to worry so much about paying for treatments. Being a mom means being prepared for everything... even the worst-case scenario.
5. Don't feel guilty about spending on yourself.
Okay, spending your monthly mortgage payment on a spa weekend isn't smart, but a good haircut or a new dress every now and then makes for a happier mom. Here's why splurges are important and how to splurge wisely as a mother. For example, check out local deals site for coupons for a massage. (Check out our insider guide to Groupon.) You'll feel even better because you got pampered for a steal.
6. The 529 isn't a hot new club.
It's the 529 education plan, which is operated by a state or institution to help families save for future college costs. It's never too early to start thinking about this because, by the time your kid joins the ranks of higher education, tuition may feel more like paying out the Mega Millions jackpot.
7. The desire to spoil kids is almost overwhelming.
If we could give them the world, we would. There are lots of reasons not to create your own little Veruca Salt, but saying no all of the time can be a real bore -- and not just for your child. No matter how hard you try to shelter them from the massive amount of marketing aimed at kids, they will inevitably want the latest gadget and the hottest toy. At some point, all of us wonder, "Am I spoiling my child?"
Here's a secret: Although it's important for kids to hear "no," timing your gifts responsibly and making sure kids understand the value of a dollar means that you can sometimes indulge them. For example, you can find toys, sporting goods and entertainment for cheap if you shop carefully, and you'll reap huge rewards in the form of that big smile on your little one's face.
Amy L. Hatch is a writer and editor, as well as the co-founder of chambanamoms.com. She currently lives in Illinois with her husband and two children.
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