I have always been…

I have always been terrible with money, and especially with keeping strictly to a budget. If left to my own devices, I tend to live slightly outside my means (this is true whether my annual income is $15,000, $50,000 or $100,000), running up credit card bills I can't quite afford to pay off each month which balloon over time to frightening proportions. Kevin has been trying to help me fix this bad habit. Thanks to his good judgement, we pretty much have the credit cards paid off every month, which is a tremendous feeling, not to have that ridiculous interest rate debt, but I hate to make him play bad cop, saying we can't afford something I want.

I want to make clear that we are lucky enough that we can easily afford everything we actually need; Kavi is in no danger of not having a roof over her head. This is all about the stuff I want, rather than need. Apparently, I can't just have everything I want. Who knew? :-) The point being, I want to have a better sense of money myself, and have the ability to live within my means. But boy, I hate budgeting.

We need to be on a slightly tight budget this fall, and Kevin suggested that I try thinking in terms of the babysitting, which costs us $10/hr. We're budgeted for ten hours of babysitting a week -- if I want more, it comes out of our discretionary budget (for books, clothes, movies, Xmas and birthday presents, travel over the holidays, eating out, etc.)

I am finding it startlingly effective. I go out to look at clothes. I would very much like some new clothes, as all my maternity stuff is too big, but I don't quite fit into my normal clothes yet. (Soon, hopefully, as I am teetering on the border between XL and L currently, but there are a few months to live through until I'm back to my normal M/L.) One top I consider is $60, from a chic little boutique store. It is lovely, with a vibrant pattern in brown and orange and gold. It is also six hours of babysitting -- six blessed hours of me handing Kavi over to Mya and going away away away. (You are going to think I do not love my baby, and I do, but lord, being with her (24 hrs/day * 7 days/week - 10 hrs budgeted babysitting = ) 158 hrs/week is too much. Even if you subtract the time when she's sleeping and the time when Kev can watch her, it is just barely something I can cope with.) So six more hours is worth more than the cute top, which honestly, is trendy and distinctive enough that I will probably only wear it a few times in the next few months.

On the other hand, the $20 t-shirt from Gap is two hours of babysitting and is totally worth it, because it is soft and dark forest green and has a nice shape to it (so it's not just a generic t-shirt) and I suspect I will wear it to death, as is so often the case with Gap's basic items, even if they don't seem so exciting up front. So I buy it with no regrets.

On the third hand, the $50 dress (five hours of babysitting) from the boutique store I'm not nearly so clear about. On the one hand, beautiful dress, good color for me, fits great -- it isn't too tight in the chest, does go in at the waist, and then flares out beautifully to a full skirt. (It does have spaghetti straps, which is to laugh, given the industrial size bra I have to wear these days, but I have a cute tiny brown sweater that should handle that issue nicely.) Plus, I do need something to wear for a reading that's coming up in a few weeks, and I will be very sad if I feel like I look like crap. And it's not so often that I find a beautiful dress that I love and that fits well. On the downside, I will probably only wear it a few times a year, because I just don't need to dress up that often. So in the end I buy it, but I feel a bit uneasy about the five hours of babysitting I have said goodbye to. I think it's probably worth it, but ask me again later today when Kavi is screaming for no good reason, and I may rethink that decision.

The point of all this is not actually my recent wardrobe choices, but that it's surprisingly easier to be budget-conscious this way. Weird. I wonder if there's something I could have used for a similar comparison before I needed babysitting. I'm having a hard time coming up with something, though.

MINOR SIDE QUESTION: If you have a kid, how do you get a haircut or your eyebrows done? Do you just need someone else to watch the kid then? I take Kavi along to the grocery store or Target, but I don't think I can really take care of her while I'm in a stylist's chair. But if I let my hair and eyebrows grow any longer in their current untamed fashion, I will start scaring other peoples' children.

4 thoughts on “I have always been…”

  1. Budgetting doesn’t always have to be on a weekly basis. If you say, “I’m going to give up 1 or 2 hours of babysitting each week,” you’ll have that dress in a month and not feel guilty about it. Maybe you can’t give up 5 hours this week, but 1 or 2 hours over the next few weeks isn’t so bad.

    On the oter topic, hair appointments are why god gave kids two parents. 🙂 Or sometimes family nearby. Or good friends.


  2. I am most amused to be a form of currency. Am I tradable anywhere else?

    Also, the last time I got my hair cut, the woman before me had gotten her hair cut & colored, and was getting waxed. Her infant (2 months, maybe 3?) had apparently stayed quiet in his stroller for the whole thing. (Though I assume she took breaks between the various stages of her beautification to interact with him).

  3. This post reminds me of a friend who used candy bars as a unit of measure. For spending money, I think, rather than calories.

    Maybe earlier you could have used “casual lunch out” (at the $7 to $10 range) as a variable spending item.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Hmm…maybe. It’s tricky, because really you want it to be something that you want almost an infinite amount of for it to be a really useful measure. 🙂 Buying books probably is something I want to do more often than eating out, personally, and even that, I don’t want nearly enough of to have it be a useful measure.

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