How completely selfish it turns out I am

Bloggy post to follow.

Having a clearer view than ever before of my household’s budgeting needs and spending patterns*, the following two facts come into focus.

  1. Whereas until recently we believed based on income-vs-expense calculations that we “should” be able to put away a few hundred dollars each month, and it remained a general mystery to us why this wasn’t actually happening, we now see how we are in fact living exactly on the edge. The amount we make is exactly, practically to the dollar, the amount we spend. This is fine except we are not growing our emergency fund, which is bad in itself, and means also we are not reaching the point where we can begin saving for a down payment on a house.**

  2. I can see ways we might trim our spending by even as much as $500 a month. This would probably be an unalloyed good.

Should be a no brainer. Granted there’s the fact that trimming these expenses would involve things like:

*losing Hulu and Amazon Prime (the latter of which we use to stream Amazon to our TV through our Wii),

*downgrading our internet connection,

*telling the kids their birthday celebrations shall consist of a cake and zero guests (because our house can’t handle multiple guests but the school disallows inviting just one kid if you don’t invite the whole class, and we’re just not up for whatever kind of networking it would take to bypass the school in getting invites out),

*Resolutely insisting on “beans and rice” type meals once or twice a week.

Little things like this, which we could handle mostly stress free as we are a happy family, and which as we can see, would add up substantially. Specifically, cutting corners on these “little things” could save us $200 a month.

$100 more could be saved (“saved?” in this case) by downgrading my wife’s health insurance policy, which is risky. So maybe we’d do that, maybe not.

And then there’s the final $200, and what that $200 per month would consist in, would be our own personal discretionary allowances. The money each of us is allowed to spend however we want, whenever we want.

And here’s the thing. As we broach the topic of trimming expenses, I am dead certain that our personal allowances will be the first thing she suggests we get rid of. Because she’s this incredibly selfless individual who sees the allowance as an extravagance, an amazing gift, surprise money each month she can barely imagine how to spend.

And the personal allowance is absolutely the last thing I would want to allow to be chopped. Because I am this incredibly selfish individual, it turns out, who sees the allowance as my due, as a modicum of some kind of freedom, as the assurance that maybe I’ll have money for a nicer laptop when this one finally goes kaput. As MY MONEY. As the small, perhaps symbolic but totally spendable token that shows that we didn’t sacrifice everything. That having kids was not a complete mistake.***

And this is why I’m avoiding the subject. For this completely self-centered reason.

I have no one else to tell, so I tell the SDMB.

(Then there’s the ridiculous dance and sports activities we blow $118 each month on. This will only double once our twins get a little older. I hate, HATE, spending this money. But to my wife it’s nonnegotiable. You’re not doing your job as a parent if you don’t have your kids involved in extra-curriculars, ideally physically oriented ones. Probably most of you agree with her but gah, that’s over $1200 a year! Now I’m off topic.)

(And the fucking JCPenney photographs we spend upwards of $200 a year on. :smack:)

  • Via the app You Need a Budget, which I highly recommend

** What has been happening is that unanticipated expenses and yearly expenses which we basically keep forgetting are going to happen end up adding up to the margin. No individual bit of such spending ever seemed significant enough to account for the loss, but, in fact, in aggregate, all such spending was exactly what accounted for the loss.

***Holy moly did I just say that? They’re beautiful, seriously they are. They’ll surely go places. Man I need to stop posting so late.

So don’t eliminate the personal allowance, just reduce it by a set amount or percentage…maybe you each kick in $50/month to a special bank account that won’t be touched except for dire emergencies.

Look at the bright side, at least you’re breaking even.

Good on you to have done the math. At least now you’ve faced the problem. That’s a good thing ( I haven’t done it yet). Now comes the problem solving phase. Do it with your wife. Aim for creative solutions that make you both happy.

For instance, how about taking the kid off soccer, and starting a neighbourhood soccer team, coached by the kids parents? Kid gets exercise; you get exercise and family time; less costs; kid gets to meet neighborhood kids; after sports, kids go to the parent’s house for parties consisting of lemonade and cookies. There, five problems solved at one stroke, and not just yours, but neighborhood families who have the same problem, too.

Would it be reasonable to anticipate a raise or promotion that might provide the desired extra money?

What about having a quarterly Craigslist “garage sale” of any unwanted or unused items you have laying around?

Ever done your grocery shopping at Aldi? I can feed my family of 6 for $80 a week, featuring three regular dinners (roast chicken, hamburgers, lasagna, etc) and three meatless or cheap dinners (hot dogs, mac&cheese) per week.
We eat out once per week, on Sunday. We do PB&J, grilled cheese, or cold cuts for lunch, cereal or oatmeal for breakfast (Saturday is pancakes, eggs, and bacon) and snacks are usually things like graham crackers or other boxed fare from Aldi that run a dollar and a half per box.

Carpooling might also be a potential way to save a few dollars in gas per week. Gas prices being so high, it doesn’t take many gallons saved to be worthwhile.

I wouldn’t want to give up my “me” money, either.

Easy answer - cut off her monthly allowance and keep yours. Everybody is happy AND you still save money!

Um, on second thought…

Give the kids the option of birthday celebration or the dance lessons - you might be surprised!

The school … what? How does your kid’s school get to decide who they can and cannot socialize with and invite to their own gorram parties?

It’s actually very common around here, especially in elementary and middle schools.

The ban is not on inviting people, but on issuing said invitations at the school building.

So if little Jack wants to invite three friends to his party, Jack is not allowed to give those three invitations out at school.

Only invitations that are inclusive of everyone in the class may be given out.

It’s supposed to help reduce bullying and ostrasizing of children. The logic is that invitations are just bad news in general. At the very best, some kids will feel left out as Jack hands out his invites and doesn’t pick them, and at the very worst, parents and kids will do lovely things like create handmade invitations with party favors already in them, for everyone in the class except the sole student that they are targeting for emotional abuse.

Teachers don’t have time for that sort of petty emotional crap, so they just sidestep the whole issue by punting it off school grounds.

Beat me to it. I was also wondering how the school controls who you invite to your house.

Eh, that’s not uncommon. Usually e-invites are sent to the parents for kids birthday parties to the selected classmates. Our school facilitates this by allowing us to search out the other kids’ parents emails via the class directory function in Renweb.

In reading the OP’s post, I would like to mention that he isn’t “due” anything merely for providing for the kids he sired. They didn’t ask to be brought into this world, right? It’s up to the OP to adjust to their reality, not them to his.

The fact that the OP can say this:

Shows that the OP hasn’t fully made this adjustment yet.

Frylock, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to man up here. The fact that you’re not addressing the issue that your family is living on the financial brink merely so you can save for a new laptop (really?)… well, it shows that you value the laptop and the “feeling of freedom” more than your family’s financial security. And that’s not the best choice.

In short: You know why you’re feeling conflicted? Because you know what the right thing to do is, and you don’t want to do it. Want to stop feeling conflicted? Do the right thing.

(… waits to get yelled at…)

Since when does the school have any say in what your kid does on his personal time? Tell the school to go fuck themselves.

“losing Hulu and Amazon Prime”, downgrading internet

Some people would suggest you drop your TV service completely and just use Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix and OTA (over the air TV)–and probably keep the internet as is.

I could not possibly be happier not to have children than I am right now. This planet has lost its fucking mind.

We don’t currently have cable service.

Seems reasonable to me. The classroom should be nurturing and safe to the greatest extent possible. And keeping party invites off campus is not hard, and helps with that goal.

See clarificatory posts from others above. It’s not that the school is saying who we can and can’t invite, it’s saying who we can and can’t invite using their campus as an invite-distribution center.

JohnT, honestly I meant it to be clear from the OP that nothing you said would be news to me. The part you quoted, for example, I thought contained clear markers of ironic distance between what I really think and how I find myself feeling about things.

I don’t feel conflicted: I feel exactly one way about things.

I disagree with this. But that’s an entirely different conversation, and I’ll stop there.

There are a lot of luxuries in your OP. The question is what is more important, having the luxuries now, vs. temporarily doing without and saving a nest egg for emergencies, contingencies, etc.

If you severely tightened the belt for 9 months and cut back on everything you could, how much could you save? At the end of the 9 months you could relax your saving regimen and give somethings back to yourself, plus you would have nice emergency fund.