Darcy’s Money Stories: After Kiddos

Each chapter of my life brings a ton more stories…here we go…looking forward to getting this all off my mind to be able to start focusing on manifesting money for our current family dreams. 🙂

  • Having gotten pregnant while wrapping up graduate school, I was happy to have completed my higher education, but I felt like my career was just beginning (hence the whole next section will mostly relate to my career progression). I was tired of working at non-profits to barely pay the bills, and felt like I would be the most effective working from the “inside” at the local government level. I had set my sights on working for the City of Portland before going back to graduate school, but still wasn’t exactly sure how that would play out.
  • Applying for jobs while newly pregnant was an adventure. I had the mixed feelings of being anxious to prove myself in my career while becoming a loving new Mama. There were so many unknowns about what my life would be like in barely six months. At one point I ended up getting very close to a job offer, but in a third interview the employer still felt a hesitancy in me that they couldn’t explain. I admitted that I was pregnant and they basically told me that I would be given ZERO maternity leave (aside from the few sick days that I could have accrued in my first five months).
  • Realizing the complete lack of maternity leave, I ended opting to stay at my current p/t non-profit job organizing environmental lectures until they could find someone to take over for me. Then I work for a temp agency for about two months before Kieran arrived (10 days overdue!). I did a week’s worth of filing at PDC (where Hubby now works!) and then several weeks of mindless data entry for Regence. It was the first time in my career where I had a job with virtually no decision making, and it felt very strange to simply punch in and punch out each day. (They kindly offered me a long-term job, which I very politely refused…over my dead body could I work in such a mindless cube job!)
  • Before quitting my job to go on truly unpaid maternity leave, I had budgeted out my various options. Childcare is very expensive in Portland, and in some ways it could have been smarter for me to simply stay at home, but I also felt like that I had a critical career window to apply my fresh graduate school skills. Plus, as much as we loved our starter home, I knew that there was no way could possibly afford a larger home on a single income and that we couldn’t possibly fit more than one child into our tiny place (While the place was 1200 square feet, the second bedroom was a glorified closet).
  • My grandfather passed away when I was pregnant with Kieran, and I was given a gift of $10,000 from my Grandmother from his estate. Thankfully I was able to pay my student loan and my phone bill for about a year with this money. I was very grateful, since I didn’t want to dip into our savings in order to take a maternity leave.
  • After taking three months of leave I started looking for job prospects, and quickly came across a part-time job at the City of Portland, coordinating their River Renaissance Initiative. Even though it was technically a paid internship, I was filling in for the Program Coordinator. So, the duties were fulfilling but the pay was minimal. When I accepted the position they didn’t know whether it would be funded for more than six weeks, but I proved myself valuable, and they kept me on a temporary basis for ten months. I quickly found some expensive childcare downtown so I could nurse on breaks, and during that time I basically lost money on weeks with holidays (since I wasn’t paid any vacation/holiday), but I felt like it was a foot in the door at the City. I was pretty crushed not to land the permanent position (mostly because they were trying to hire someone who could do my manager’s job who literally only got paid to schmooze for long lunches and approve my work. I was actually kind of bitter about this at the time, because as nice as a person as he was, my manager showed up late and left early, earning over six figures, while I worked passionately to prove myself. He did give me one piece of solid advice: When someone calls or emails, return their message within an hour to let them know you’re on it, even it takes you longer to track down the answer. Customer service is key with community outreach projects, so I’ve tried my best to follow this rule).
A few weeks after starting my new job at the City of Portland, I was asked to help organize an educational river cruise. It was a great gig, and I even took Kieran along…the first of many community meetings and events for our kids!
  • I left this job at the City when Kieran had just turned a year and stayed home with him for almost six months. Initially, there was someone I had met on a river cruise from the private sector who continued to try to recruit me for a position. He even took me out to Higgin’s (a lovely upscale restaurant where lots of business types do lunch), and was eager to tell me how family-friendly the position would be, how flexible my schedule would be, and that I’d be able to work part-time and earn twice as much. In the end, the contracts didn’t pan out (and I don’t think I would have been the right fit anyway).
During my time “off” between jobs, I worked on several small home project like stripping and repainting this door (with six small bevels on each window pain!). I loved the tongue-in-cheek paint color: The Ego Has Landed. 🙂
  • Our home projects, which I was mostly the foreman on, were all done with the idea of adding enough value to our home to sell at enough of a profit to be able to afford a bigger home. Literally as soon as Kieran was born, Kevin started itching to move. Our chimney was falling down, and we spent somewhere around $8k to fix it. Meanwhile our tiny cottage was feeling smaller and smaller. This put pressure on me to find a job that would help make our dream home a reality.
  • With some serendipity, I found out about another temporary job at the City, helping out in the community outreach group at the Portland Water Bureau. Again, I knew that I was skilled enough to do the job of any of the permanent staff members, but needed to get my foot in the door once more. This time I at least negotiated for enough to earn a few dollars after childcare tuition was paid, I think I started at $19 an hour with no benefits.
  • Eventually, after interviewing for a half dozen other City jobs, I landed my first full-time permanent position since I had left college. It was about time. The job ended up including several interesting community projects, and I was finally saving for retirement. Just the other day I was in a conversation with Miel about my desire to start saving for retirement again and I quickly realized how sensitive I’ve felt about this subject…knowing that Miel has socked every spare nickle while I’ve either been lagging on the career end or overpaying for childcare to the point that I couldn’t afford to save much more. So this is definitely a money story I need to clear up.
  • Plus, I feel like I/we need to clear up how much kids cost. Our largest kid related expense has certainly been childcare. I don’t even want to tally up the tens of thousands of dollars that we’ve spent. Partly because I ran the math between working and staying at home, I’ve always felt like it was my salary paying for tuition. I remember getting into a little debate with a someone who commented on this blog about why we didn’t “share” this expense. It was really more of mental division than anything, just like how I always wanted to be the one to pay my own student loans back. In the end, I’m very happy with the caring and educational environment that my two oldest kids were essentially raised in during their early years. However, I am very happy now not to be paying tuition (just one more year of Kindergarten tuition…although I do plan on hiring a p/t nanny in the fall to give me dedicated time for coaching calls).
  • For the most part I feel like we’ve been fairly frugal. I’ve overspent on cute clothes, but also bought pretty much everything on sale. I’ve bought more books than I “should” have, but we’ve kept the toy purchases to a minimum. We’ve chosen to prioritize experience expenses, like swim or dance classes. These “non-essentials” do make new neural pathways, on top of simply being fun.
  • I can’t recall specific arguments we’ve had about money related to kid expenses, but there have been debates/spats about how much things costs and both of us lamenting that kids are expensive. This may be a “fact,” but only if we convince ourselves of it.
  • We were able to sell our first home within just a few weeks while I was newly pregnant with Makenna. I worked overtime to get everything decluttered and perfect (it didn’t even look like a child lived there because we knew the new owners wouldn’t have room for kids!). All our work paid off, and we were able to earn $70k in equity in just three years in our starter home.
  • We essentially plunged every last dime into our next (and current) home, where we have lived for almost seven years and plan to live for the foreseeable future.
  • When we moved into our new home, which is 1665 square feet, it was obvious that we had very little furniture to fill it. Our second-hand couch went straight to the basement, and for over a month our living room only had a lawyer’s book case, some plants and a lamp. Our tiny cheap dining table went to the backyard to use as a potting bench. Despite our desire to have nice antique furniture, IKEA soon became our friend. Over the fall we bought and assembled a dining tables, chairs, coffee table, entertainment console and twin bed. Thankfully, they actually look pretty decent and we haven’t regretted our purchases or are anxious to buy new stuff once the kids get better…they now have a distressed character with fork marks and kid tracks.
  • What we had already accumulated was a ton of kid gear, and now that our youngest is almost a year old, we’re getting anxious to purge our basement once and for all…
  • Thankfully our “new” 1904 home had already been fully renovated and initially we only had a few repairs to make. Almost seven years later and we are now gearing up for some major repairs to replace the roof and finally make the basement dry.
  • Otherwise, back to life with kids, once Makenna was born (a lovely and inexpensive home birth), we tried to keep our expenses down, knowing that childcare for two kids would be like having another mortgage payment.
  • Just as I was returning to work full-time was when I first got the idea to start writing this blog. I had gotten a wedding invite for a close friend in Denmark for the following summer, but even with such advance notice, I knew we couldn’t afford it. It made my heart sad and I was frustrating thinking that I didn’t know when we could ever afford such a trip. Miel’s DINKs Finance blog was becoming very successful and earning around $2k each month, which was basically what I was taking home after my childcare bills. Miel had continued to tell me that I should start writing a blog, but I had always shrugged it off…but admittedly once I learned how much she was earning, I thought long and hard about the idea. I brainstormed topics that I would want to write about and started making plans.
  • To date this blog hasn’t earned more than a few random ads. I had agreed to do the writing, which I did diligently for the first several years, but Miel was too busy making life better for others around the globe. I honestly could never fault her for wanting to travel/work in Africa instead of help me make my blog earn an income, but it is something that I suppose I should fully forgive as in some ways it feels like we are restarting this venture five years after we first set out. She has still been my biggest fan and I’m truly excited to see what we can accomplish together.
  • Now back to that time just after kids, I guess it feels like it was a time of getting our financial systems down. I took the time to set up all our accounts on autopay, but was also very good about monitoring our budget as we set about saving up for our big trip to Denmark. We had regular “Money Honey” chats, which were probably just as important for our marriage as our bank account.
  • Thankfully, we were able to reach our savings goal, and afford our $7500 three-week vacation to Denmark. It’s still amazing to me that we were able to save so diligently and that our budget was so accurate. Very soon I’ll be coming up with a budget for a trip we plan to take back to Europe next summer, and I’m actually looking forward to saving toward the goal…that’s just the incentive I need to save money. Somehow saving to the replace the roof just doesn’t inspire me the same way! 😉
  • One “last” note here is that we have had a challenge of not wanting my Mom in particular to spoil the kids with stuff. I wrote about our “official gift policy” first four years ago, and it can still be a challenge at times. My Mom (who is completely loving and generous!) does her best to comply, but it means that she often saves stuff up to give for the holidays and she loves bringing the girls second hand clothes that she’s scored, which are adorable but not always necessary.
Lastly, in retrospect, having kids hasn’t really changed who we are or what we prioritize in life. We still want to live as down-to-earth as possible, avoiding the consumer culture as much as we can. We believe spending money on experiences and travel is more important than buying stuff.
In my next post I’ll reflect on life after we received a family inheritance, since it has changed things for us financially…although plenty still feels the same…
Have a beautiful day,

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