Balling on a Budget: Making Parenthood Work when you’re Strapped for Cash

It’s no secret, our first daughter, Violet, was unplanned. I was 18 and in the middle of an education degree and Dan was 20 and had just left his job as a landscaper. We lived with his mum, and had absolutely nothing in the way of savings.

There we were, jobless and broke, and we’d been told we were expecting a baby. I think the first word we both though of was “shit”. Despite what the world might have expected us to do in a situation where we had no income, we decided to continue with the pregnancy. We loved each other, and we had always wanted children together, and god, you know I would never forgive myself if we had decided to terminate and then had fertility issues down the track. All we’ve ever wanted was to be parents together.

Despite having next to nothing, what we did have was love and support from everyone around us, and to this day it continues. Becoming parents so young hasn’t been easy, and I’d hardly say we’re now suddenly “well off”, because we’re not. We’re still rocking this gig on a budget.

We have always managed to make things work, whether it be strategy or pure luck, I thought I would share how we’ve made it to where we are today with you.

Find a job and stick with it (even if it’s just for now). God, it sounds easy. But the reality was, for about 4 months of my pregnancy with Violet, Dan didn’t have an income, and I was part time at a burger restaurant. It wasn’t because he didn’t want a job. Big cities can be tough, and it’s certainly a case of take what you can get. Once he got it, he stuck to it, as painful as it was at times. It paid the bills, and as long as that happened we could focus on finding something better in the background. So take what you can get and remember there will always be time to work on the bigger picture once you’ve got an income.

Take all the help you can get. I get it, it’s a pride thing. But there are systems in place to help your financial situation, systems that EVERYONE here in Australia is entitled to, not just low income earners. Enquire about what you’re entitled to and don’t be ashamed to claim it. The systems are in place to help, not only your financial situation but your overall wellbeing. That also goes for accepting help from family and friends, they’re here to help and they certainly wouldn’t offer if they didn’t want to help you.

Keep track of what you’re spending. Something we certainly haven’t always been good at. You don’t have to be as crazy as keeping every receipt, but taking note of your bank statements is a step in the right direction. You’d be surprised just how much a daily coffee on your way to work adds up.

Make it yourself. Food that is. I would say clothing but you know this girl has no idea how to sew (properly anyways). Honestly though, homemade things will always save you money. Especially snacks. Feeding a toddler can be pricey when you buy pre-packaged snacks. Try batches of pizza scrolls, muffins, sausage rolls. They can be frozen and reheated and end up cheaper because you’re making batches.

Take moments over “things”. Whilst kids are little, and even as they get older toys always seem to be present. But remember they’re often tossed aside when something new comes along. Opt for experiences over gifts, especially in a sense of saving money. Beach trips, park trips, even just going for a stroll adds a bit of joy and money doesn’t have to be spent doing any of those things. Heck, even get out the hose in your backyard. The simplest things can bring joy to kids, you’ve just got to be enthusiastic and they’ll follow suit.

Don’t be trapped by loans. It is SO tempting, I know. Credit cards, car loans, short term personal loans… such a great way to get what you want, but long term… it is so much more expensive. Consider budgeting for the things you want, save for them first and then splurge. It makes all the difference week to week when you don’t have the weight of loan repayments. Though I do understand this way of doing things isn’t for everyone. And by all means, go ahead if you know it will work with you and your budget. But personally from my perspective, it’s one less financial stress for our family.

Make the big hard decisions. Sometimes it means picking up and moving, sometimes it means giving up things that take up too much of your budget. Sometimes it certainly is a bit of a sacrifice. However I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t be having children if you’re not ready to make some sacrifices.

I’ll be honest, I could go on and on here about how to make it work with little money. But truth be told, you probably already knew a lot of these points. A lot of people will put off having children for the sake of finances, which of course is a personal decision. But in my opinion there really is no “right time” to have children. You could want to buy a house first, or a new car, go on that dream vacay, get the dream job… all valid reasons to put it off, but there will always be something else to do.

We get to do all of our big dreams with our girls by our side, and although we’ve made a few sacrifices, we make it work. And I’d much rather have a couple tiny hands to hold through the tough parts of life, than to be handling it solo.

Xo Emily @ Loving Little One

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