Friday, February 25, 2011

Numbers crunched

So I suppose an altogether unsurprising post-script to the whole Daycare Drama that unfolded this week would be that last night my wife and I sat down with note and receipts and a laptop running Excel and tried to figure out a household budget for the second half of the year, because when maternity leave is up sometime in the July timeframe we are going to have two small children in daycare, which will more than double our current daycare expenses (it gets cheaper as the kids get older, so the baby will add more to the bottom line outlay than the little guy currently does). We succeeded, more or less. There was no fighting or hurt feelings, at the very least, something I am given to understand cannot always be counted on when most couples discuss money in terms other than “What if we won the lottery?”

We had actually been saying for a while that we really needed to crunch the numbers and figure everything out, and I had been counterbalancing my wife’s concerns with my trademark optimism, believing not only that we could definitely handle the additional line item of infant care but that we would probably end up finding it surprisingly easy. Turns out I was half right. We got all the numbers to add up and balance, but it took some doing. We’re not going to be suffering, by any means, as always we’re going to be just fine. It’s just the version of fine that has very little wiggle room, and in the past couple years we’ve gotten admittedly self-indulgent about wiggling.

It’s in my nature to put a positive spin on things, and credit where credit is due, my wife actually gave voice to this particular spin and I am wholeheartedly embracing it. This may very well be the year that I plow through all of the entertainments that mock me from various shelves and surfaces around my home, unwatched or unread or unlistened to. I’m not going to be able to swing by Barnes & Noble or Best Buy and drop cash on DVDs or books just because, whenever I feel the urge. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be consuming DVDs and books at my usual clip; it just means it’ll be the movie a friend of a friend thought I’d like, or the tv series all of my buddies have been waiting for me to catch up on (actually I’m pretty sure they stopped waiting for that a while ago) or the comics I picked up because I saw a full run for sale at a convention or the pulp paperbacks I bought in bulk last summer at the used bookstore so I could read whatever I was in the mood for at the beach. Honestly when I think about all the things lying around the house that I had every intention of taking in but still haven’t made time for yet, and realize what that says about how my rate of acquisition far outstrips my actual rate of intake, it’s kind of embarrassing. But there it is.

Of course once I finish watching it I'll have to remember who actually loaned it to me in the first place.
And, believe me I’ll be the first to say it, this is the most minor economic inconvenience imaginable. My family is going to be able to pay every single bill without breaking a sweat, with two kids in daycare, two mortgages, two cars, and two dogs and a cat. The downside of this will be a marked decrease in take-out meals and collectibles? Boo-freaking-hoo. If I get really desperate to pick up a new graphic novel maybe I’ll finally get off my butt and eBay away some crap I have no use for to begin with. Stranger things and all.

Plus, it’s all more or less temporary. Like I said, the daycare costs go down on a regular basis as the center concedes that children do get easier to take care of as they age. The cars are new enough that when they get paid off in a couple years we won’t immediately be replacing them. If there is so much as a hint of a glimmer of a possibility of a housing market recovery, that second mortgage will get unloaded lickety-split. I still haven’t gotten the small-but-count-it raise my recent performance review seemed to indicate was in the cards. So it’s really all just a case of dropping some luxuries to make room for a new necessity which crashes into the budget all at once, and then gradually adding the luxuries back to the mix as everything gets easier, a process which will start almost right away.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be too surprised if there ends up being a couple of instances in the next few weeks of really, monumentally silly splurging, while there’s still time to shrug it off, before it becomes the height of fiscal irresponsibility. If I report that my wife and I went out for Brazilian churrascaria and then bought a Blu-Ray player and several box sets for it on the way home, you’ll have a little pre-insight as to why that seemed like a good idea at the time.


  1. I feel ya, man. I remember this calculation well. The arrival of Kid #2 killed "fun spending" dead. I used to fritter away a few bucks here and there when the mood struck. Now my Amazon wishlist grows larger and larger, only to be released around my birthday and Christmas, when people give me gift cards.

    A pathetically minor sacrifice. That said, I do miss the extra dough, and look forward to the end of privatized child care. Elder Kid will hit the public schools in September 2012. The sudden decrease in household expenses will be so great that I'll have to restrain myself from rushing out and buying a solid gold Camaro.

    To add to the situation, having two young ones so decreases my free time that I couldn't indulge my nerdier proclivities much even if I had the cash. Rather than enjoy the awful, overwrought prose of Robert E. Howard or check out the latest folderol involving Spider-Man's misadventures and tight pants, I'm explaining the Wizard of Oz to a preschooler, pulling papers out of a baby's mouth, and trying not to speak out loud all of the obscene puns that pop in my head.

    Man, it's so hard to keep those quiet sometimes.

    Isn't it beautiful that our financial sacrifices are so pathetic? They even have expiration dates. Hell yeah.

  2. I am now going to find it difficult to restrain myself from buying a solid gold Camaro every day, since you've put the idea in my head. Darn you.