Back when the parents of today's preschoolers were deciding to have children, the world was a much more successful place -- or so it seemed. The United States had come out of the post-Sept. 11 recession and people were buying houses, enjoying success in their jobs, and having fun. Then the economy began to tank and job loss because the norm. Phrases such as sub-prime mortgage and foreclosure entered the everyday vernacular.
These days, with friends, family and neighbors experiencing first-hand what it's like to lose a job firsthand, parents are left to figure out ways to ensure the happy, carefree childhood they envisioned for their preschoolers, toddlers and infants is secure.
How things have changed
Military mom Rita, who writes My Precious Pennies
, has a six-month old daughter. She's concerned about providing extracurricular activities and, most importantly, higher education, for her daughter, things that weren't concerns for her before."When I was pregnant, we figured this was just a rough patch and things would get better sooner than later. We were saving and watching our money, but it certainly wasn't a habit or even a priority - kind of whenever we remembered or felt like it. Now it's clear that while things will eventually get better, it's not going to be next week, next month...and might not even be next year. We're in it for the long haul, so saving is a MAJOR priority and pretty high up on the list," Rita said.
Financial expert Cheryl Ingber of JustAnswer, says that it's important for young children to have life be as normal as possible. "Young children should not have to feel any difference in their day to day lives, and shouldn't 'want' for anything. If they need new clothes, new shoes, etc., that should be provided, even if the parents need to reallocate their budget or forego other things; however, new toys and other items that are not necessary to the child's well-being, don't necessarily need to be bought at this particular time," Ingber said. She suggests refurbishing old toys to give them new life.
Despite the good learning opportunity the down economy presents, experts say that young children should be shielded from fiscal matters. "There's no reason to share money fears, and it will only cause confusion and sometimes, worry, in the children. They're too young to understand all the ramifications of the troubled economy.," Ingber said.
However, if a child does ask about money matters, then parents should be honest, but basic in their answers. "They should phrase what needs to be said, in the simplest of terms, while acknowledging and being empathetic to their children's concerns. Reassure them that even though there are economic problems being experienced by our country, their particular/personal situation will most likely remain the same. They can be told something like: 'people are working very hard at their jobs to make money for their families to pay for important things like their houses and food and electricity and you don't have to worry about that. Mommy and daddy are taking care of that for you and when you're old enough, you will have a job and earn money to take care of your family," said Ingber.
Moms like Rita are taking charge of the situation, by taking steps to save more and live better. Rita is an avid couponer, who shares money saving advice on her blog. She says that she's been able to save big bucks on toiletries by stocking up when prices are rock bottom, and combining that with coupons.
Other moms have taken to services like The Grocery Game to help them save. Additionally, trimming the fat in a budget -- entertainment, lattes, etc -- is a way to cut back. But when it comes to high oil bills, families are just stretched to the bone.
Impacting all families
Of course, the concerns aren't limited to families of young children. Families with kids in college now are both facing hard economic choices, but ofr college kids, the stress is theres too. "On top of the stress of school, they also worry about whether they'll be able to work enough hours to pay their rent – and then will they have the time to study," says single mom Pam Fowler of Smith Seckman Reid, Inc. Fowler's daughters are both in college. "When you think about having children you dream for them to be intelligent, wealthy and successful. But when you have them you realize that deep down inside you just want them to be healthy, happy, and satisfied. I thought college life for them would be fun, a time for them to become independent , and that their biggest worries would be studying and boys. Unfortunately, it's so much more."
Money Saving Tips
Rita shared these tips for living more frugally.
- Plan menus - I sit down and plan out the meals for the next week, make a grocery list from that, and go to the store with it.
- Don't deviate from the list - Every purchase, down to the toothpaste, should be planned - no more impulse buys.
- Minimize my trips out - I normally do one trip a week. Even though the commissary is a grand 5 minutes away, that's still gas we're wasting. By simply PLANNING we can save time and money.
- Stockpile - I wait around for sales, and when they come along I load up. I have about...6 packs of diapers in my stockpile, and probably enough basic toiletries for all the families on our block. If you have the room, why pay double for something later when you can get it now and just put it away?
- Created a monthly budget, which try to stick to it. - I'll be honest and admit that sometimes we don't make our goals, and we still waste money on fast food and such, but with a budget I know where every single penny is going. Gone are the days that I get a credit card bill and go "how in the world did we spend so much $$?".