Life Lessons from my Toddler’s First Birthday

My baby turned one last week!  I’ve been trying to call her a toddler, because she really isn’t a baby any more, but it’s quite an adjustment.  It is amazing how much a tiny human changes in 12 months.

The ‘Party’

When it came time to think about her first birthday party, I knew I wanted to keep it low-key, especially since it falls so soon after the holidays.  The Frugalwoods party for Babywoods’ first birthday was an inspiration and validated that yes, it really is okay to have a simple celebration for your one-year-old.  For me taking this approach was  mostly about simplifying life and not creating unnecessary stress to put on an event that our child won’t even remember.  (Saving $$ was a bonus!)

Our siblings and my mother-in-law do not live close to us, so the guest list consisted of me, my husband, my daughter, my father-in-law, and my mom.  Unfortunately, my mom was sick, but we finally figured out Skype and she was able to join us virtually!

Our party agenda consisted of lunch, opening presents from Grandpa, and of course eating CAKE!  Because first birthdays are all about the cake smash, right?  I made the cake myself…and it was actually kind of fun.  It turned out like a strawberry shortcake since I put fruit on top and made a whipped cream icing.

Parenting and Relationships

A moment from last weekend really made me reflect on how our relationships with our parents have grown during our child’s first year.

My father-in-law is not a man of many words, but I have loved watching his face light up when he interacts with our daughter.  For her birthday, his gifts consisted of some classic books that belonged to my husband as a child, including Raggedy Ann, Raggedy Andy, and The Little Engine That Could.  The titles also included a book of poems.  He commented that he enjoys poetry and hopes it will be something she enjoys, too.  My heart melted a little when he said that.  Not only were his gifts frugal and useful, but they were incredibly heartfelt.

I already had a good relationship with my mom, but this past year I have valued her even more.  My mom was truly meant to be a grandma.  She is a nurturing, caring person by nature and also by career – she works in public health and deals with kids all the time.  Though my mom does not have the financial means to spoil our daughter the way I’m sure she would like to, there is ZERO need from our perspective for her to do so. The best gift she can provide is her time and attention.  Though she lives 2 1/2 hours away, we have focused on making sure we spend as much time with her as possible so that she can see her granddaughter grow and develop.

Fellow parents – what unexpected lessons did you learn from your child/children’s first year?

Friday’s Odds and Ends: Shopping, Giving, Making a Will

  • I bought zero consumer items on Black Friday.  A handful of things were purchased in store on Monday: some candy for family stocking stuffers, snacks and gift cards for daycare teachers, and a small Crayola gift for my daughter for Christmas.  This was probably 50+% of my holiday shopping – we are keeping it simple this year.  Of course it’s great to save money, but for me it’s also about reducing STRESS.  Figuring out what to buy people, and what they should buy me (and now my child, too!) can be exhausting.
  • Our household contributions to charity have not been impressive this year.  I did, however, participate in #givingTuesday.  A donation was made to the local food bank, an impressively run organization that serves our entire metro area and beyond.  Two sets of infant PJs were also donated to a children’s charity, via their Amazon wish list.  The last time I checked over 2,500 items had been purchased!  Using an Amazon wish list is a pretty brilliant way for charities to receive the exact goods they need, in exactly the right quantities.
  • The hubs and I finally met with a lawyer about making a will.  This is definitely filed under the category of ‘boring adulty stuff,’ but now that we have a child – and  actually have some significant assets as well – it’s important to get it taken care of.  More to come on this topic as we finalize the documents!

How having a child helped us save more money

When I found out I was pregnant last year, I spent some time crunching the numbers and worrying about how we would afford it. Any time I talked to current parents about how they found money for daycare and diapers and such, their answer was typically something to the effect of “it all just works out.”

Now that we’re 10 months into this parenting gig, I have to say they were all right. We pay a crazy amount for daycare, but other than that our expenses have been manageable. In fact, this year I paid off my car (early), and my spouse and I have both increased our 401(k) contributions.

Here are some things that helped us get here:

Baby stuff. I am lucky to have a couple of close friends with kids not much older than mine. We have been the recipients of borrowed clothes, toys, baby bathtub, play mat…the list goes on. We were also very blessed by friends and family at our baby showers as we received nearly everything we needed for the first 6+ months of babyhood. In addition, we have grandparents who have gifted a few toys and clothes and send us diapers monthly from Amazon.

We didn’t go overboard decorating the baby’s room. I bought a well rated, inexpensive crib on Amazon (with my Amazon registry completion discount). My mom gave me a very sturdy old dresser to use, rather than us buying a fancy new one (and we just put a changing pad on top rather than buying a changing table). Instead of buying a glider rocker, we re-purposed an Ikea Poang chair and put a new cover on it.

Food. As a DINK (double income, no kids) household, we went out to eat quite a bit pre-baby. We are foodies. Going out to eat is a form of entertainment for us.  Now that we have a kiddo, it’s often a lot easier to eat at home. We meal plan before our weekend grocery shopping and focus on fast meals for weeknights (which my husband makes) or meals that I can prep on Sundays. I’m pretty lucky – my husband is a good cook!

Our daughter is now at an age where she is eating solid foods regularly and this has really made me look at how we eat. Most of the time she eats what we eat, and if she can’t eat what we’re eating, it’s probably not that healthy. It has made me a lot more conscious of planning meals that are well balanced and nutritional. It’s not particularly easy to find meals that meet those criteria when you go out to eat.

My spouse and I both like going out to lunch during the week too, but we’ve also cut back there. As part of our meal planning I usually target a couple of meals that will make good lunch leftovers.

Alcohol. As a new parent, I’ve found alcohol and sleep deprivation (or disrupted sleep) generally don’t go well together. While I’ll still enjoy a good beer or glass of wine sometimes after the little one goes to bed, the quantity has lessened and it typically is consumed at home rather than at a bar or restaurant where the cost is 3x as much.

Entertainment. We only have one babysitter at this stage and her name is Grandma and she lives 2 ½ hours away. So at this stage of life we don’t do much in the way of concerts, sporting events, movies, etc. We do sometimes have a date night when my mom visits but other than that, our entertainment budget consists mostly of Netflix and HBO Now.

Travel. Some people travel quite a bit with their little ones. I guess one of the advantages (or disadvantages?) of being older when having a child is that we’ve both done a lot of kid-free travel, which makes traveling with a little one sound a lot less appealing. I’m excited to travel the world with our daughter, but for the next couple years it will mostly be road trips rather than ambitious air travel.

Taxes. I contribute the max ($5,000) in a dependent care flex account through work. Even though we’ll spend more than that on daycare this year, it does help offset the tax burden. Knowing we would have a lot of out of pocket spending for medical this year since we had a baby, I also contributed the max to a flexible spending account. The flex account deductions and our 401(k) contributions all reduce our taxable income and ensure we’ll qualify for the child tax credit.

The bottom line is that we are fortunate to have a healthy household income. We had a lot of discretionary spending in our budget previously and we have now become a lot more intentional in how we spend our money.

How have kids impacted your spending and budget?

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