When Josh and I got engaged, we drew up a Tenaim, which is a Jewish engagement contract. In the old days, it spoke about the dowry and the date of the wedding and what happens if we decided to break off the engagement. Our Tenaim contained all of the things that were important to us at the time--all of our intentions for the marriage.
We wrote about wanting children and how we were going to set up the home and even what type of bank accounts we would hold. And, of course, laugh now, in our shiny happy engagement naivete, we wrote in the Tenaim: "we promise to continue exploring the world and placing travel as a priority."
Our desire to travel hasn't changed, but our budget certainly has after two kids. Even though we lived modestly early on as a teacher and film festival director, we didn't think twice about using our extra money to head over to London. Our friend came back from a trip to India and we nodded as we listened to his stories: "we want to go there too." We went out for sushi and plotted out a future vacation in Japan.
After the twins were born, we saw how little we really understood about financial choices back when we were making that Tenaim. I really wish I could pull aside every engaged couple today and help them make their registry. Hold off on the fine china that is going to clutter your cabinets and invest in a large stack of colourful Tupperware plates that your future kids can drop on the floor. Scratch the cocktail glasses off that list (believe me, a gin and tonic tastes the same out of a jelly jar and you're probably going to switch to beer anyway after you have kids--who has time for mixed drinks?) because you're going to need the shelf space to store the Leapfrog products. Forget the fancy CD collection--you'll never get a chance to listen to it once the kids are here (and often, I leave their stuff playing even when they're not in the car because it's too much trouble to change the CD).
We spent money like idiots before we had kids. I purchased coffee every day on my way to work. Now we buy the beans at Costco and make it ourselves at home. We used to spend hours in the bookstore, buying anything that looked interesting (and sometimes not finishing the book after we discovered the writing didn't match the cover). Now we rent from the library. We spent our money on crepe makers which are never used anymore, udon noodle bowls that haven't seen a dinner guest in four years, and knee-high boots which are eschewed in favour of Merrills (better for chasing down twins).
It's not that the money is spent only on the kids, but now, when we purchase new things it needs to serve a purpose beyond being pretty or making us happy or perhaps being used at a dinner party in the future. It needs to be useful...now. As in right now, everyday. I'm not against owning a waffle maker if I'm willing to use the waffle maker at least two mornings a week every week (I'm not, so that item was recently scratched from a list). An item needs to save time or space if it is replacing an item we already have. For instance, we recently purchased a new vacuum even though we had one that worked semi-fine. The new vacuum saved a lot of time because it worked more efficiently and it took up less space--a double win.
Others have also seen their spending change after kids. My Life in Holland answered a question on her blog about what she enjoys spending money on and her answer is nothing. "I don't like spending money. When I do, I feel guilty. Always, always there's a little voice in my head asking me if what I'm buying is really necessary and if I can't get it cheaper."
Uber Parents spoke about her monthly budget this week and when that budget actually began: "I know we didn’t have it right after we got married because I can remember spending money with reckless abandon and stupidity. And, I can remember the reality and restriction of moving to the budget. Yikes! We had to learn some self control! It was painful in the beginning, but now I would feel lost without it."
If I could go back in time, I would have told those kids writing out their Tenaim to jot down a few lines about saving money. I would have told them to talk to couples who have been married for a few years and ask them how their budget has changed. I would have purchased items thinking far down into the future.
Feh--who am I kidding? I would have told them to enjoy it while they can because a lot was going to change once kids came into the picture. But I also would have told them to scratch the fine china off the registry.
Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of more than 1500 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2009. She is also an editor at Bridges, the awareness consortium, and the keeper of the IComLeavWe list (International Comment Leaving Week) which is currently open for the month of November. Join along--don't you love comments?
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