When I first quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom, I budgeted down to the penny to make ends meet. Every cent of our income was accounted for and pre-allocated to “spending buckets.” I ran an incredibly tight financial ship. I thought this was the only way to survive as a family on one income.
I used to be so frugal that I would coupon three hours per week and drive to four different stores to snag the best deals for each item on my grocery list. My kids wore only secondhand clothing and we did mostly free activities around town to avoid spending money.
I would have never in a million years purchase something brand-new that I thought could be purchased secondhand. I was the queen of delayed gratification.
It never occurred to me that life with kids changes as you add more little ones to the mix and they start growing up.
Over the 10 years of my kids being here (they’re 10, 8 and 6), I’ve greatly loosened my focus on frugality. As my children get older, I find that I’d rather focus on making memories with them (which often cost money) than nickel and dime our budget to death. They are only going to be little and in my home for so long, and I want to make the most of that time.
For example, the old me would have never spent thousands of dollars on a vacation. Now, though, we save up and go to Disney World every four years, taking our extended family with us. We pay their way in all (or at least partly). Same goes for annual beach vacations or camping trips with extended family and friends.
You may be thinking, “It’s twice as expensive to take an extra two to four people on vacation with you.” You would be correct.
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Sometimes we pay for double the rooms and double the admission fees wherever we go. It’s a price we gladly pay for giving our children the privilege of making lifelong memories with their grandparents and cousins.
When we rent a beach house, we don’t just get two rooms and cram our family of five in there. We find a place with four bedrooms and invite one set of grandparents to join us.
When we plan a camping trip, we don’t just think of our own schedule. We coordinate with family friends and book a site larger than we need, just in case extra cousins can come with us.
We now splurge on things that the old me would have considered frivolous: $40 photo books to commemorate our family vacations, $15 licensed picture frames to display our pre-arranged photography package images from amusement parks and $20 T-shirts to remind us of the wonderful times we’ve had together, every time we wear them.
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These are all things that I wouldn’t have “wasted” our precious income on eight years ago. You could say that I now go to extra lengths (and costs) to preserve memories for our children.
Don’t get me wrong, I still keep an eye out for deals and coupons. Deep down, I am still frugal. The main difference is that my purchase of these items no longer hinges upon finding a deal. I simply use my budgeting willpower to save up extra funds for each special trip.
Now that my children are approaching tween age, and I realize just how quickly another eight or 10 more years will pass, I can’t spend our money on memories quickly enough.
We can always get more money. My husband and I can always scrimp and coupon again, if necessary. However, we can’t bring back their childhoods or create new memories with grandparents once they are no longer with us.
To me, this is money well wasted.
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