Mom on a shoestring
The budget is in place, the kids have agreed, but Mom fancies just one little splurge...
When I was younger and dimmer (well, not that young really as I was a bit of a late breeder), I once said that it wasn’t much more expensive to have three children than to have one. This might have been because I was thrilled - yet shocked - to be pregnant again when my middle daughter was only 8 months old. I really don’t know to this day how that happened.

When I said that, I was speaking from a point of such deep ignorance that sociological studies should be conducted on it. Of course babies aren’t that much more expensive once you have one, you can pass on clothes and breast feed them until the cow unions start complaining that you are treading on their territory, but once they start going to school, wanting to watch movies with friends, and taking up sport they are very expensive and 3 are more pricey than 1.

Given that I am a tail-end Baby Boomer, I am not too bright about money. I sort of always thought it would be there. I have a good job (and I am thankful for it on a daily basis), but we always seem to have rather less than we need to make it to the end of the month. It might not help that we are a single parent family, then again if we had a man in the house he would probably cost a bit.

So, I have decided that the family needs to become money savvy and that limits need to be set. So far this has included banning takeout food, my children Alex, 14, Hannah 12, and Grace, 11, are actually pretty okay with this because they fanasize about having a mother who cooks, no doubt they also harbour little fantasies about a mother who is available to offer lifts for school outings and to bleach socks, but they have to learn the difference between fantasy and reality at some point, right?

The R100-a-day plan

In order to reorganise our finances we decided to set a limit. R100 a day for all needs of the eating kind, the stationery kind, and if we had to go over on a big expense we would have to revise the R100-a-day plan. In fact it worked quite well during the school holidays, I actually did cook, well I told my daughters what to cook, how lovely that they go to a school that still teaches cookery. Christmas gifts were kept small and generally they were pretty good humoured about it all.

In fact that sad confession is that they may have learned the lesson better than I have. This week I was paid some money that I hadn’t expected to be receive this month. So we went off to a shopping centre where I had an appointment and which just happened to have a food store clothing shop.

I really need a new cardigan (okay maybe no one ever needs a cardigan but I will defend my right to wear one to the end). I found the perfect garment, soft, no doubt made of some synthetic horror, charcoal (got to love that colour) and cheap. At the same time my youngest child was pondering whether or not to buy a T-shirt with her remaining Christmas money; she decided to rather save it.

I took my booty to the queue only to be met by a stern glare from the middle child and to be told, “I thought we were trying to live within a budget?”

She was right, I was sort of wrong. I put back the cardie and then sulked and moaned about how much I sacrifice and how I just wanted one nice thing. I was, in short, nasty and mean and brattish. And I have apologised. The only solution I can see is to listen to my children and to honour commitments we have made as a family: do I feel good about this? Hell no, I want the cardie, but I am quite proud of the child.

P.S. She doesn’t know about the consolation chocolate I bought myself and scoffed in the car when I went to buy milk later in the evening. Guess it’s even more expensive to have a mother than to have 3 children.

Does each subsequent kid cost as much than the first one?

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