*Okay, just as a heads up, this is a genuine and slightly uncomfortable topic for me to talk about, but I feel it’s more common than people like to think.*
Money: you can never get enough of it. When you plan on having a family, one of the first things you do is get your finances together to make sure you can afford All The Things. Aside from all the baby gear, there’s time off work (for one or both parents, and anywhere from a few weeks to indefinite leave), more doctor appointments, emergency savings, a college fund… just an impossible amount of things to account for. The good news is you can always start saving way before you have a baby. There’s a million and one sites to learn how to coupon and bargain hunt, stretch a dollar, and still save money for a family trip to Disneyland. But realistically, that’s for people with a career. What about people who just have a job?
“That’s the same thing!” you yell at your computer screen. But no, it isn’t. A person with a career has set hours every week. They get a salary. They maybe work in an office environment. If they want to take time off, they give advanced notice and it’s no problem. A person with a job has a schedule that can change week-to-week. They get a check every one or two weeks. They work at a shop doing customer service or sales. If they want time off, they need to give at least two weeks notice and still might not get all the time they asked for because their shifts can’t be covered that long. It’s extremely different, especially when it comes to the money.
My husband and I both worked in a service industry. When I got pregnant, I let my boss know I wouldn’t be coming back after maternity leave so she could look for a replacement. My husband was lucky enough to get paternity leave, and stayed home the first 7 weeks after the baby came. We both saved the best we could before then, but on a single income it’s difficult to pay all our bills and afford groceries. Just the necessities is still a squeak past what he earns each month, and we have a fantastic grandma who helps us by buying formula and diapers. Without her, we would probably be on a broke college student diet to be able to afford our baby’s food.
I looked for months for any tips to get us through this until my husband could get a raise, or we could move somewhere cheaper, or I could find a way to earn some income. What did I find? Fucking nothing. Everything online is about using coupons, creating stockpiles, freezing bulk amounts of food, and buying things on sale. The most helpful thing I did was create a budget and calculate what our expenses were each month. We buy generic, shop the cheapest prices, buy less meat, and we still barely scrape by. What about assistance, you might ask. Even on one income, we make too much for WIC assistance. We are stuck on the line between too little and too much. It is a tricky place to be, and there isn’t much we can do about it.
So what am I telling you this for? There is a lot of unexpected things that come with being married and having children. Save more than you think you should, if you in fact can. If you are fortunate enough to have people to help you, take the help. When you’re ready for a baby shower, ask for gift cards to get groceries. Your baby won’t need toys for a long time, and even when they do, they don’t know that a box of tissues isn’t as fun as a light-up dancing puppy robot. Do your best, and be considerate of your friends with kids. If you have a more comfortable lifestyle, offer to pick up their groceries or diapers. Bring them dinner. Even if they don’t need the help financially, they will appreciate the gesture of kindness.