Things I’ve Had to Cut Back on Since Becoming a Dad
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: having a baby changes everything.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: having a baby changes everything.
In fact, in a relatively short space of time, your life is almost unrecognizable — sure, the core remnants of it still exist, but nothing is ever the same — and I mean this in the most positive way possible.
I love my son more than I could describe. Being a father to little Sidney is a privilege and pleasure, never a chore — but when I found out about my impending fatherhood, I had my fair share of worries.
Before I even met the little dude I worried about his well-being and safety, helping him grow up in a world that often seems strange and volatile, being a decent dad, and all of the other parental concerns. But, in the short term, the thing that kept me awake most at night was money.
My wife and I are by no means scraping around for cash, but we’re not exactly what you’d call mega-flush either. Living in the most expensive city in the UK didn’t help.
So one frosty winter’s night we sat down and had a long discussion about our plans. We had a lot of difficult decisions to make.
I was learning to drive at the time and that cost a pretty penny, plus we had lots of baby hardware and software to buy — we also needed to decide where we were going to live soon after Sidney was born.
After plenty of talking, pacing, head scratching, and tactical hand gesturing, we decided on the things we were going to sacrifice, change, and cut back on to offer ourselves, and our son, a more financially stable future.
The average rent for a one bedroom flat or apartment in Greater North London is around £1,100 ($1,368) per month; we were paying £950 ($1,171).
If we wanted to provide Sidney with his own bedroom in the same area, it would have cost us around £1,400 ($1,725) per month before council tax and utility bills — and that by no means guarantees any kind of outdoor space.
If we wanted to move back to where I’m from, literally just west of London, the prices are pretty much the same because of its proximity to the capital and Royal Windsor — and if you wanted to commute in for work, it would cost an additional £400 ($493) per month for train and tube passes. Childcare hadn’t even been worked into the equation at that point.
So we made the bold decision to move up to North Staffordshire where my wife hails from, a place that is a hell of a lot cheaper to live than London and where we knew a few people too.
I decided to go freelance full-time and mix up my working hours with a little daddy day care action, and my wife managed to negotiate a long-distance, flexible remote working situation with her employer.
By changing our locations and tweaking our working lifestyles, we have saved a sizable amount on our outgoings, managed to minimize childcare costs, and have so much more space. We both have workstations, we have a garden, and Sid has his own little chill-out den where he can giggle and throw his toys around to his heart’s content.
Our rent for a three-bedroom house costs us £675 ($832) per month, and childcare costs us £140 per month ($172). (Sid goes to a local nursery once a week, and his grandma’s once a week.) Even with childcare, we have potentially saved ourselves £585 per month by making geographical changes and having the opportunity to work remotely. We’re also a short walk to the town and the local parks, so we don’t need to jump in the car everyday.
My wife loves wine and chocolate; I have a penchant for beer and unusual savory goods (which is, or was, a bit of a culinary Russian roulette).
We used to go out with our friends a couple of times a week and hit the pubs or go to a gig. Of course, when you have a baby you can’t just swan out of the house and leave your child some cash for pizza, but we had to consciously think about our spending nonetheless.
When we went food shopping we would get the foundations of our grocery list, then we would impulse-buy chocolate, random items from the international section, wine, and a smorgasbord of real ales. We would also buy too much of certain items and they would expire before we had the chance to eat them.
Not wanting to be wasteful in any way, we started shopping online so we could prevent the impulse monkey from scratching our backs while we shopped, and make more conscious decisions. I cut right back on my beer and odd item buying, and Lyns on her wine and sweet treats, and we would buy them from the store as a treat once in a while.
We used to spend £55 ($46) per week, but we managed to reduce it to £30 ($37) before Sid was born to make allowances for his sundries, including nappies, baby foods, and formula.
Once Sidney was born, our weekly shop went back up to around £55, which essentially meant we broke even in the long-run. Most importantly, by being more conservative and thoughtful with our shopping, we have managed to make meals stretch, improve our diets, and experiment with our cooking. Admittedly , I do still like the odd mystery item from time to time — and yes, it still backfires half the time.
My wife has a thing for shoes she’s never going to wear and bags she’s never going to carry.
On average, she bought around two pairs of shoes and a handbag every month. Now, I know that might be small fry compared to other people, but we had very little space at the time, and the place looked like a poorly run footwear and faux leather satchel emporium.
She agreed to cutback on the shoes and bags if I stopped popping into the local pub for random pints to and from work, or to the high street. And so we did.
Lyns would put any loose pennies below the value of one pound into a “shoe and bags” savings tin and bought only one treat item every two months; she also cleared out many of the bags and shoes that she didn’t need. Some went to charity, and some were sold on eBay.
Not only did we figure out that this saved us £70 ($86) per month, but we also made £180 (£221) from eBay sales; money that went towards buying Sid’s special baby stuff.
I’d better focus on myself now and my spending.
My casual beer and coffee (mainly beer) habit weighed in at around £72 per month, based on having an average of two casual coffees and four casual pints per week (on separate days). By treating myself to one spontaneous supping fest per week, we managed to save a total of £56 ($69) per month.
Another thing we stopped doing on a weekly basis was getting takeaway food. Rather than having an Indian or Chinese meal delivered at the weekend, we would grab items from the supermarket and make our own themed meal, and rather than going out at night (this became increasingly difficult the more bulbous Lyns got anyway) we would watch a movie that corresponded with the cuisine we cooked. Once we cobbled together a beef Ramen, bought a couple of Asahi beers, and watched Battle Royale. It was great — apart from the fact that “Japan’s number one beer” is actually brewed in Kent, as I learned when I looked at the bottle. Illusions melted.
Overall, this saved us an approximate total of £110 ($135) per month based on a monthly spend of £90 ($110) rather than £200 ($246).
Having a baby is a wonderfully topsy turvy magical mystery tour. The changes we made to our lifestyle certainly helped us to prepare for parenthood (although nothing really can) and carve out a more comfortable situation for our son — but what I have learned above all else is that you will do whatever you can for your kid no matter what. Plus, they give you back so much in return, and that, without a doubt, is completely priceless.
These days, we do still get the odd takeaway, enjoy the odd night out, plan family trips, and have a few spare shoes and bags in the house, we’ve just learned to spend more sparingly. Plus, I’ve started brewing my own beer — it works out at 80 pence (98 cents) per pint rather than £4 ($4.90) — bonus!
Dan Hughes is a writer with a penchant for oddball fiction, the bass guitar, beer, Bukowski and traveling to strange places. You can find out more about him by getting lost in his Catchy Space.
This story is part of The Billfold’s Change Series.
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