Living in the material world

“Honey, I have some news.  We’re pregnant”.

I can’t say the same for every father, but the first time I heard these words, the little devil on my right shoulder whispered “No, she is pregnant”.  Call it self preservation, but my initial reaction was a gut defence and momentary panic. Besides, men can’t get pregnant…  However, the same thought fleeted my mind a few times over the initial months.  Our first child was not planned, so I figured this was just a natural response of a shocked male (notice the avoidance of the term ‘Man’).  I just didn’t feel ready to be a Dad yet and the response proved that I was far too immature for the task ahead.

3 years passed and those words came once more, although a little shorter.  “Honey, I’m pregnant”.  This time the baby was planned.  This time we wanted the baby to join our happy family.  Regrettably the little devil reared his ugly head again, “No, she is pregnant, not we”.

I should never have had another chance with this beautiful woman after such a thought, which I have admitted to my wife in a controlled environment, long after the birth of our boys.

Today, my boys are 7 and 4.  If you have read my first post you will be aware that I am to be a father once more.  No, twice more – Twins.  As you may have guessed, we planned for one more child but didn’t gamble on twins.  A consultant broke the news to us and that little devil repeated the same words.  However on this occasion my wife gazed into my eyes and displayed all the confused emotions of joy and dread as I had felt with each pregnancy. I’d like to think that she too had a little devil denying her part, but I guess it’s a little more difficult for a woman to pull off.

Looking back, I can see where my reactions have come from.  The responsibility of parenthood is life changing. There is so much to think about and a man’s natural reaction is to go to ground and take stock of everything, but primarily and primitively, the sustainability of extra lives. How are you going to finance the family?

Income

Wages, benefits and capital are the first thing to look at – I’ll focus on this in another Blog for the UK reader as I am somewhat of a specialist in the field through my day job.

Globally there are many good websites and bloggers. I’d recommend fellow bloggers such as ‘Frugaldod’ of the US, who has great money advice and tips, as well as a great website to browse.

New Dads and Dads to be.  Wherever you are on the planet, the experienced Dad can tell you that it does somehow work out.  You aren’t immediately on the streets.  Your finances can leak holes, but you somehow manage so long as you monitor finances regularly.  You live within your means and your kids are fed. You manage and after a rocky start of buying prams, cots, clothes, nappies, creams and potions, your finances begin to look better and gradually but surely stabilise.

FYI new dads, the experienced Dad will judge your wasteful spending on new brand items such as prams, high chairs and sterilisers.  These are high price items for the sake of praying on your naivety.  They all pretty much do the same job.   They have all been tested and safety approved by a regulating body.  Do your research and stand your ground, your child is safe so long as you recognise the regulating body.  If in doubt, consider 2 points:

  1. How did the human race survive and cope over thousands of years without the baby monitor with the web cam or the vibrating baby rocker?
  2. Most items are used for a limited period of at best, 6 months as kids grow and develop rapidly.

False hope

As you find yourself getting over the initial years, you begin to see the light and maybe some free cash in your wallet.  Don’t be fooled.  Once you’ve survived the panic of your baby being at risk without every fad out there, the most trying time of parenthood begins.

‘The Material World’

As an open minded person I have tried to be responsible.  I will always help fellow man. I have rescued gods creation, from a fly trapped in the car to a human struggling with suicidal thoughts.  I have been on a spiritual journey listened to the Beatles on loop. I have admired George Harrison and fell in love with his later works, form which I have gained inspiration for this post.

I have learned about living in the Material world and how to live minimalist.  Avoiding spending and having basic needs.  This has aided me as a parent, because the transition has been a lot smoother for me than other Dads I know, who simply struggled in letting go of their material desires.

As children get older they begin to develop their own unique identity.  This is guided by the good parent, who must eventually – yet reluctantly – begin to loosen the shackles and allow their children to experience life and forge their own opinions.  This is both rewarding and damaging at once, particularly where finances are concerned.

Once they enter school, they enter the realms of education and social acceptance.  Different children and groups will expose your child to new things.  They will forge friendships, follow people and want to be part of a crowd.  All this comes with a price for Dad, who will inevitably be expected or at least nagged, to part with cash.

Here are some of the likely and expensive moments you can expect to encounter repeatedly from the early years.  And guess what?  Yep, they re-occur long after kids leave for college!

  1.  New toys and must have gadgets.  When first released, every toy is expensive and the makers know it.  Many items however, will reduce but be aware, a large price reduction will likely be followed by a new toy or gadget.  This is fine for most toys, but technology can be a problem.  In my experience some collectable toys change just when your child is about to complete the set.  Very annoying, as some changes can be major, resulting in the same toy bought twice, simply because of a change in branding, size or even colour.
  2. computers, consoles, phones and other tech.  As with toys and gadgets, these are always expensive at first.  New technology usually results in the cheaper and ‘older’ tech such as games and devices becoming unsupported and useless. You could end up parting with good money for pointless items that could also be an embarrassment for your child.
  3. New tastes.  This is often overlooked.  As your kids grow, they want new experiences.  Taste buds change and as with toys, they want to experience what you or their peers experience. Many fast food outlets now promote via TV ads aired during kids programs.  They also offer toys of the moment that often link to a craze or a film release – you know what I refer to here.  Think.  Could you do it at home for less money? Does your child want the food or the toy?
  4. Birthday parties and play dates.  Parties can be expensive as they often require a gift and card.  Play dates aren’t initially pricey on first reflection, but be prepared to need to return a favour of offloading your child on someone else.  You’ll have to feed extra children and entertain them.  Do you know the child or their parents?  Is it a friendship you want your child to have and also, do you want to socialise with the parents.  Selfish I know, but think about it.

Do your research

Each of the above can be planned for financially, socially and morally.  All you need is a strategy similar to marketing and business.  For the material (toys, gadgets, tech and foods), get online and search the comparison sites.  If you know the  model, fad, craze or even the manufacturer, get online and research the developments of the company and the market history of the brands.  You’ll notice trends and can plan for price drops and deletion of products.

Plenty of comparison sites will go to great lengths to rate products and compare prices for you.  just try your search engine and try multiple comparison sites.  When looking at ratings and reviews, always look at multiple reviews.  Your research should also reach the school gates.  Chat to fellow parents – thy may have the negative or positive experiences you need to hear.

All research applies to parties and play dates.  Know the venues and certainly research the parents and children.  If you aren’t going to stick around on the day, you want to be sure the people you are exposing your child to are safe, responsible and carry the values and morals you want your child to experience.  Always go with your instincts and if not certain, just don’t risk it.

Pricing

High price goods are often those that are newly released.  Some will keep up with a trend.  Some brands never go out of style, so a sudden price drop for no apparent reason could go hand in hand with something else.  It could be as simple as a change in manufacturer or a scheduled release, such as a follow up film or cartoon series.  Alternatively, it could be a product that is due for recall.

If a price does drop and your child REALLY wants it, consider buying in bulk. Even go as far as buying the complete set or doubles!  You can justify by putting toys away for special occasions, replacement toys for breakages or for those friends and family birthday parties your child will inevitably be invited to.

deals and coupons

there are plenty of sites and stores that offer deals a nd coupons, particularly for bulk purchases. Many are too good to be true, but consider a multiple purchase for holiday gifts and birthdays. So long as you stick to a limit ie 10 pounds or dollars for gifts, you will spot deals on your journey. Snap em’ up and store them.

Tip of the day: multiple purchases

Today’s tip runs with the blog theme.  It is simple.  If your child falls in love with an item, be sure to invest in duplicates.  The favourite toy, blanket, pillow or clothing may easily become a comforter or soother and rue the day it is lost.  You need to be able to replace effortlessly and quickly.  My son loved 3 teddies.  One was lost on a bus.  Never found again – it is out of circulation.  One was left in a supermarket – a replacement was sourced on another continent but at a high online price.  The third and most favoured teddy of 5 years is still here.  But it is warn, battered and soon to fall apart.  It cannot be replaced nor survive another repair.  If only I bought two or three at the time…

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