Category Archives: cost of kids

Paternity Leave Finances

Figuring out your family finances during paternity can be complex and highly personal. Often it can make you question whether you are financially prepared for a child, and all the pressure that comes with parenthood.

With my first pregnancy I was working for a small non-profit, and quickly realized I was not guaranteed any leave under the FMLA policy (not even unpaid with workplace under 50 employees).  Yes,  U.S. maternity leave ranks the same Ghana, Swaziland, and Zambia . As a result I opted to leave my job, and hope to find a position that would work with motherhood.

The next big question was,  “How the hell were we going to manage an unpaid maternity leave?”   So, I remember creating a spreadsheet of various timelines and how much we could manage to scrape by on. Perhaps our saving grace was that I had been making very little in my part-time non-profit gig through grad school, so we were used to paying the bulk of our bills on Hubby’s paycheck. Sadly and honestly, the only way I managed to stay home to raise our Big Guy for his first four months was with a small inheritance of a few thousand dollars. As it was, Hubby only managed to take a week of vacation time off.

Fortunately, our financial circumstances improved substantially between our first and second children, so at least I didn’t have to wonder whether we could afford our mortgage and groceries.  I still had to figure our finances out to see how long we could manage on a single income, turns out that I started working part-time from home when Girly was six weeks and returned to full-time when she was eight months when I drained every last hour of unpaid leave.  Hard to believe that this wouldn’t have been possible if our family wasn’t covered by Hubby’s employer paid health insurance.

How did you manage your finances during your family leave?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Swap Mamas

As any modern American parent knows, kids come with a whole lot of stuff. While we have tried to keep our consumption in check, there is the simple fact that these little people need a whole lot of stuff!

We’ve tried to share the wealth. Instead of having everything collect dust between children, we lent out our co-sleeper, bouncy, boppy, exersaucer….out to new-parent friends. They were eternally grateful, and we felt like the favor was mutual: less stuff = greener planet.

With our Girly in wobbler-hood I’ve been thinking about all this stuff in our basement again. I even started a Google Doc to share with my local Mama friends, but the problem is that most of them are already Mamas and have duplicates of the same gadgets themselves. 

I was elated to finally find a mama bartering community online, Swap Mamas. It keeps tabs on how much “Swap Karma” you’ve earned by giving, swapping or getting. I love that!

I’ve been saving much of my stuff with the hope of my Twin Sis finally settling down from her African safari-like career, but I think I may just save a few special items and figure that when it’s her time she’ll just have to join the swap community! (Hint, hint sis 😉

Have you tried swapping your kid stuff?
Has it saved your family money?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Eco-healthy Child Care

Before becoming a working Mama, I would have never imagined forking over half my salary for quality child care. Yet, for us child care is an investment in my career and our children that I’m not willing to scrimp on. Obviously with this type of expense, you want to make sure that you are “investing” in your values.

Fortunately, when I started searching for child care I had a wonderful resource. The Oregon Environmental Council had just started a program certifying eco-healthy child care centers. The program has gone national, and become a powerful resource for parents and care givers .

I would agree with the critique that some of the voluntary measures aren’t ambitious enough, but it at least sets a bar for caregivers to aspire to and the resources to learn how their business practices impact the children they serve. I’m certain that no caregiver would ever want to harm a child, but with all the toxins in the world today some education is required, not just good intentions.

How do you make sure your kids are in a healthy environment?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

College vs. Retirement

Which should you choose to invest in first, college savings or retirement?  How do you evaluate the perks and pitfalls?

Like many parents we’ve wanted to open college saving accounts since our kiddos were born, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Our two biggest reasons have been the fact that I’m still paying on my own college loans, and our expensive child care tab.

So, we’ve been telling ourselves that as soon as our child care costs go down we’ll open accounts, and this month our tuition was reduced by $120 when our BigGuy moved up to the Older Preschool class. So I’ve been researching my options (the first month of “savings” is going to dance and swim classes).

Most states have 529 plans, and the beauty of the Oregon College Savings Plan is that you can start with as little as $25 and contribute as little as $15 per pay period per account. There are also 15 different investment funds to chose from and plenty of other tax perks. The calculator is pretty nifty, but also scary to see how much its going to cost.

But like most financial decisions, life really isn’t that simple. With Obama’s new student loan policy offering more tax benefits to parents, I’ve been wondering whether it even makes since to save for college. According to my employer calculations, for every $100 I contribute to my retirement it will only draw about $60 from my paycheck. While there are many tax benefits for college savings, it’s not clear to me if they can actually match that rate. Plus, whether retirement or college savings, there’s risk of loosing out like many have in the recession. We can just hope that once the economy has recovered it will be more sustainable all the way around.

So, back to the question, would it pay off to put more into our retirement and let that fund grow so that we have more of income available once college time arrives? I’ve heard multiple times that you can’t get a loan for your retirement, but it also feels kind of selfish to talk myself out investing in our kiddos’ future.  I haven’t made my mind up about which path to take (or both) and would love your comments.

Do you have a college savings plan? 
Or are you maxing your retirement first?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

New era for family finances

Call me a green socialist (or a tax and spend liberal like my Hubby likes to tease), but I couldn’t be more thrilled by the signing of the health care bill. I’m still in disbelief about how contentious its been…doesn’t everyone get sick, Democrats and Republicans alike?! Perhaps its because I lived in Denmark, but universal health care seems like a simple solution, especially when it could cost less for everyone and provide a societal safety net thats hard to put a price tag on.  I consider my family to be very lucky to have employer covered health insurance. Even though I know that we work hard to earn it, I believe that health care should be a human right, not an employer based privilege. Stories about families struggling due to health care costs are heart breaking, and I am hopeful that the new health care bill will improve the lives of many families.

The passage of the new student loan program is exciting too, both for myself and our kids. I was among the first in my family to graduate from college and while emotionally supportive, my parents couldn’t financially put my Sis and I through school. Between college and grad school I took out significant student loans, $66k total for six years of schooling, while working part-time throughout.
I been making payments for ten years now, and it really feels like I’m trapped in a sanctioned bank racket.  My loan has a 3.25% fixed interest, and last year I paid $3,456, but $3,051.74 was paid in interest, so only $404.26 was paid on my principle. Yet, even after a decade of consistent $288 monthly auto-payments, my loan still amounts to $46k. In all honesty, I was expecting that I may still be paying off my student loans when my children start college. This has been a challenge, because I want to start saving for college, but need to pay off my own debt first.

Thankfully student loan forgiveness is now available to hard working college grads. Moreover, families won’t have to incur the same level of debt to begin with larger tax credits and more Pell grants.  I am so thrilled that the next generation will not face the same insurmountable student debt. Thanks to my fellow “green socialists” who voted, spoke up and worked to make these significant policies possible.

Will your family benefit from the health care bill?
Are you saddled with student loans?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.