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How Being Debt Free Allows Me To Be A Better Parent

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Debt FreeWe Worry Less About Money Because We Are Debt Free

We are fortunate to be debt free at this stage of our lives. I’m grateful to be debt free as a new parent and I know that it is makes me a better parent than if I was not debt free.

Recently we had a baby.  She is a wonderful baby and makes us look like we are already at Level 1000 in the parenting game.  She slept through the night at 7 weeks and is a really happy baby. We are over the moon in love with her and I’m finally starting to get a hang of the staying home thing without it impacting my views of myself and worth.

(Another topic for another time – I need some more distance to gather my thoughts).

Babies are Expensive:

I have shared what we bought for her as well as how we are funding my extended maternity leave but what we haven’t talked (partly due to shitty feelings of shame on my part) is that we formula feed her and have been since the very beginning.  Those shitty feelings are mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t exclusively breastfeed her.  I still give her as much as I have at every feed however it is not enough to sustain her and she needs to mainly consume formula.  I really wanted to and went to so many appointments with lactation consultants as well as I take a cocktail of prescribed medication and herbs every day.

But it didn’t work and I will not starve my child.  So formula it is.

Mom Guilt:

I feel shitty because I feel like I let her down.  I kind of knew it was going to be a struggle (due to my medical history) but I didn’t think I would feel this badly about it.  The information I got in the pre-natal classes made me feel like my kid would be a danger to society if I didn’t breastfeed which didn’t make me feel great (really).  I worry about my actions now and how they will impact her in the future.  My mom guilt is strong with this one and while I will likely never get over it I made peace with it.

Formula is Expensive:

One thing that needs to be made very clear is that formula is EXPENSIVE.  Crazy expensive.  There is a reason why it is locked up or heavily monitored at some stores.  If you use it while the baby is under 2 months it is recommended to use a sterile product, like Ready to Feed or Liquid Concentrate.  At the end of our use of the sterile products the Liquid Concentrate was costing us $4.50/day and Ready to Feed was even higher at $8.80/day.  Powder is slightly cheaper, $4.28/day, so we moved to it once we got approval from the pediatrician.  Powder is not ideal when they are little or if they have a weakened immune system.

There aren’t a lot of coupons or rebates that you can get ongoing to help reduce the costs (at least in Canada) with the formula that we use.  It is also one thing for me to switch brands when something is on sale but generally that’s not recommended for babies.  Their little bodies and digestive systems aren’t fully formed yet so it’s not great to throw whatever is on sale into a bottle.  If you need more specialty formulas (soy, lactose free etc.) it’s even more expensive.

Budgeting for Basic Needs:

When we budgeted for diapers I felt confident that it would cost us about $500/year.  Based on what we have spent in 2 months we are right on track.  I remember the day I realized we forget to plan for the formula.  I called Scott sobbing (pregnant lady tears) saying that we didn’t plan for this and it was all my fault.  After he calmed me down we put aside $1,500 to cover formula based on my plan to use powder from the beginning in my limited tear soaked research.

How are we doing with the $1,500 you ask? Not so great. We have gone through about 30% of the money and we are only 20% into the year.  That’s not really great planning but I had no idea how much she was going to want to consume.  She went through her first 2 growth spurts with the expensive formula so she was drinking about 24-30oz some days. (Little piglet!)

What Did I Know About Planning for Formula?

While I’m not thrilled with the poor planning on my part I’m not freaking out about it either. Not having debt of any kind (outside the mortgage) makes me less stressed about money and more present.   Having a respectable amount of savings has allowed us to feed our daughter without going into debt. We don’t have massive debt payments taking up our income. If I blow through the formula money I’m not worried about my ability to feed my daughter.  This is a VERY fortunate situation to be in.  Part of it is not having debt and part of it is just dumb luck.  We have financial privilege and that has set us up to help with any other future things that come along the way.

Budgeting for the WIN

Also having a budget allows me to tweak things really quickly.  I can look at the gaps and add money to that fund to support it as required. This makes me a better parent (a VERY lucky and privileged one at that) because I can focus on her.  I don’t have to deal with debt repayment, lack of sleep and little miss piglet all at the same time.  I can be present and engaged and not give her less food because I can’t afford it.

So tell me: If you are debt free what does that make you better at? If you aren’t debt free yet (you can do it!) what are you looking forward to focusing on after that?

Sarah

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6 comments

  1. HUGS on the breastfeeding. You may not need to hear this now but I couldn’t breastfeed exclusively ever – from day one JB was an angry baby because I had nothing to give! It took a week for any milk to come in, so JB has always been on formula. We did the best we could including drinking tons of water and Mother’s Milk tea to keep me producing too but exclusively never happened. Same for a lot of my friends in various ways. And we never even considered budgeting for formula! Whoops. But I don’t feel bad about that because the most important thing is that they’re fed, and healthy.

    We have a massive mortgage right now but we only had a small one at the time that JB was born and it was pretty incredible how freeing it was to be otherwise debt free with a very healthy savings account during a physically and sleep challenging time.

    • Couple of Sense says:

      Thanks for the HUGS!
      I like hearing other people’s stories because it helps me feel like I’m not alone. Feeding her is the most important thing so that is what a focus on and try to step away from the mom guilt.
      We are in the same position as you when JB was born. We are so lucky that we could do that and be in this place. I barely feel like myself and I wouldn’t want to be stressed out about money now too.

      Thanks for sharing your story. Made me feel better.
      Sarah

  2. Congratulations on making it through a tough decision. Earlier this year I helped my sister see that breastfeeding was causing her more stress than it should, mostly because she wasn’t able to produce enough. Getting over that hump of accepting formula as the healthier option for some mothers and babies is the hard part! Watching your baby grow and thrive daily will hopefully validate this decision for you.

    By the way, being able to afford the stuff that kids need is only a small part of why being debt free will make you a better parent. The emotional upsides of being financially stable will be what benefits your kids the most as they grow 😉

    • Couple of Sense says:

      I agree! Without worrying about consumer debt I can have less stress and be fully present and engaged while my baby is young and help support her development. Having a baby is tough all on its own. Dealing with stress from debt would be even worse.

      Thank you for the support! She is much happier and I know she is getting what she needs!
      Sarah

  3. Casey says:

    Without knowing your story, when I read the title, I thought, “Yes! It does help me be a better parent! Cool thought!”

    But I’m at a different stage, and maybe this would be relevant for some of your other readers (or for you, years down the road). I have one daughter who is 25 and on her own, and another one who is 17 and in her senior year of high school.

    Here is what being debt free except the mortgage means to us: If daughter 1 is struggling a bit, I can easily shift some funds and send her some help. OR if she is financially ok but having a rough week? I can send her a surprise care package and not worry about it.

    If daughter 2 has an unexpected school expense, or if things (like the yearbook) are more expensive than I expected – I don’t freak out. We simply pay the thing. We take care of it. We can be more relaxed and allow her to fully enjoy her senior year (within reason) ~and~ we are still setting money aside for community college (her choice).

    Being debt-free helps us focus on what matters. It keeps small “crises” from being anything but a blip on the screen – and helps us handle the big, important stuff (good and bad). I didn’t have that relaxed feeling when my kids were babies, but it makes all the difference in the world now.

    • Couple of Sense says:

      Thanks for sharing your thought process! Your points make sense; I’m glad you can be there to support your kids. I can see how in the future it will help!

      Being there for what matters is a big deal. And not having consumer debt makes a huge difference in that the extras don’t seem like extras all. I’m glad I have that feeling now and once the mortgage is paid off I assume I will feel even better!!

      Sarah

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