You know those lists that break down what it will cost to raise a child from birth to 18? Those lists that scare the bejezus out of you and make you feel like short of winning the lottery, you would never, ever, ever be able to have a child? Nevermind the fact that people do it everyday with what resources they have at their disposal. Those figures can be paralyzing. Thankfully I didn't do the math when figuring out if or when I could afford to become a parent. Biology alone took care of that. It wasn't until after I had children that I stumbled upon the magical lists of sure financial apocolypse and by then, I could laugh at them. I couldn't figure out where these people were getting their numbers from, so I decided to take a good long look at the costs associated with children and had to concede that they were way off. You have the basics of food, clothing, shelter, diapers and double A batteries, but where children really, really become a money suck is in the HIDDEN costs. I've been a field researcher for approximately 14 years and in my time of indepth study, I've found a few surprising costs that none of those lists tell you about and in my quest to educate the world on what children do cost, I am sharing these top secret money sucks on my blog. Here are my Top Ten Hidden Costs of Raising Children:
1. Toilet Paper. It is entirely possible, once children enter the picture, to go through up to 7 rolls of toilet paper per day. Lest you think my children have some sort of exotic dyssentary thing going on, I can assure you that only 1 of these rolls is actually used for the purpose in which it was designed to serve. The rest of the time it's entirely outside the realm of it's specific purpose like "Look Mom, I am playing hospital with my life sized scary gorilla stuffed animal. He got into a bad crash and I put him in a full body cast...." (in this case that body cast used up 1.5 rolls) Or "Look Mom, I don't have a clue what that rolly thing is in the bathroom, and since I was taking a bath the brand new roll of TP you put in here has now swelled to three times the normal size and will now disinegrate into a huge indistinguisable pile of mush that you'll be fishing out of the shower drain for the next week" or "Mom I cleaned up the gallon of orange juice the toddler just spilled all over the kitchen. I couldn't find any paper towels, so I used....." (any guesses?) So yes, if you cut toilet paper completely out of the picture, you may just find enough savings to send at least three children to the Ivy League school of their choice.
2. Hair ties. Now I was going to say "if you have girls" but I am rethinking that because I've seen my boys use said items for sling shot things and I now know they are part of the mystery that surrounds the "disposable hair tie" I have purchased no less than 15 million hair ties since having children and I currently know the location of ONE. It's in my hair. The girls are griping at me that they can't find one for their hair and I am not sure what to tell them. Shall I go buy more of that which disappears the second I bring them into the house? I think a buzz cutt for all individuals whose hair is on their nerves would be more effective, if not a huge savings in toiletries to clean aforementioned hair. Something to think about....
3. Batteries. That battery thing up above? No exaggeration there. What the heck is with every single item children will want or need needing batteries? I keep trying to sway my family into a battery themed Christmas (you know, where all they get is replacement batteries for all the shiz they already own....and we gift them a year's supply) and so far, no one will bite. I myself think it's absolutely brilliant to gift batteries rather than more shiz that takes MORE batteries, but unfortunately, no one here agrees. Bummer.
4. Band-aids. Thank you to whoever invented cartoon themed band-aids. You've just reduced my daughter's wedding budget by half. Oh my Lord, band-aids. The second any child under the age of 10 realizes there are band-aids in the house, there's a sudden rash of "boo boos" that can only be corrected by 10 Hello Kitty band-aids. And yes, I know, there are plain Band-Aids, but when you're in Wal-Mart for 5 hours getting your 20 list items, Band-Aids can be an effective bribe for the kid in the cart that really doesn't want to be in the cart "Here, hold these Sponge Bob band-aids." I'm kind of thinking I'm shooting myself in the foot with that one, because all the time in the cart lends itself to enough time to think up a dozen feigned maladies that would need such sticker therapy. Maybe it's just the children expressing themselves though body art, and if it wouldn't qualify me for "Rotten Mom of the Year" I would maybe consider getting them band-aid tattoos to satisfy their need for a "boo boo" and a band-aid. Hey, just thinking of it from a financial perspective and tattoos, over the course of time, would equal much less money than the band-aids. Totally.
5. Play-Dough. Rotten evil goo straight from the pits of hell that morphs into rotten hard encrusted goo that turns you into a contender to be the *leader* of the pits of hell. When I lived in an enclosure with carpeting, I hated stuff this with a white hot fury. Digging crusty play-dough out of carpet with a fork is not my idea of a good time, but it never once occured to me to just abstain from buying the colorful goop. It made my children happy. For you know, three minutes and that three minutes of childish delight was totally worth the three hours I spent removing it's remains from every nook and cranny. (Dude, I totally did the math. The ratio is DEFINITELY three minutes to three hours. Add one hour of cleaning time for every minute you allow access to the Play-Dough) The nifty thing about Play-Dough is that is comes in plastic containers with lids. You know, to keep is soft and pliable for days, or even months. But when the child realizes that the containers might be more fun than the contents, it doesn't do you much good to try and convince them to use them. It's way too hard to get each little piece, when they number into the millions, back into the container. Play-Dough is a cheap entertainment tool, but the man power to clean it up, is not. Factoring in that whole "Time is Money" thing, Play-Dough is very, very expensive.
6. Another in the realm of the artsy-fartsy. Crayons (and for the very brave, markers) I am one of those smart individuals that buys a whole bunch of crayons and markers when they are at their lowest price, right before school for the rest of the world starts. It takes about 2 weeks for us to "run out" of crayons, which may not seem dramatic, but when you buy 150 packs of crayons you kind of expect they will last at least double that amount of time. No, it takes about two weeks for the girls to whine to me that they don't have ANYTHING to color with. My answer? Go check the couch cushions. They argue about it, because they KNOW they didn't PUT them there, but out of desperation they will check anyways. Hmmm...look three whole packs of crayons, in a random assortment, right where Mom said they'd be. No pink? Go deeper girls. Check under the couch.... And markers? Seriously why is it SO hard to put them caps back on the freakin markers? I thought briefly about gluing the lids to the markers, but then I realized that was kind of stupid. But thinking further I figured it might be a good bit of fun to do it anyways and then situate the children in front of a hidden camera to catch it all on film. Mean yes? Funny? Absolutely. Which brings me to my next item...
7. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Self-explanatory. Buy stock in this company and then go rent a u-haul to bring home enough magic erasers to ensure you are never, ever without the Magic Eraser. One pallet for each child between the ages of 6 months and 4 years. You'll thank me later.
8. Food. No, I am not talking about the massive quantity of food it takes to actually nourish your children. I am talking about the food that just comes home and gets wasted because when it comes to backwards engineering most children are completely clueless. You know, like it being the same set of motor skills to CLOSE the bread that it did to OPEN the bread? That kind of thing. You can nag, instruct and even belittle them into closing the bread in your presence. But for solo sandwich making missions, when parental supervision is not in place, expect there to be at least three stale pieces of bread when you open the bag for a sandwich. Food waste can be stopped in a very safe and effective manner. Offer to make the offending child a sandwich when you make yours. Use the stale, crusty-ass bread on theirs. Repeat as often as necessary.
9. Parental lapse in judgement. This is deep and wide. This is personal. This is when you think your toddler is old enough to do things they are obviously not old enough to do. Like stay in the bathtub for the five seconds it takes you to retrieve a towel from the laundry room right across the hall. Expect a loss of an entire bottle of baby shampoo and 16,000 gallons of water to remove soap from the toddler's person. Do not allow toddler to "take a turn" brushing their own teeth because the next day they will try this operation solo and empty the contents of three different kinds of toothpaste all over the bathroom. Do not allow toddler....okay, let's just do a wide net here. If you can afford it, get a very nice, safe, humane cage for toddler. This will save me from listing all things that can be emptied by a toddler with more than 5 seconds at their disposal. Trust me.
10. Gas. One of the biggest surprises of my adventure in motherhood was how active and social my homeschooled children would become. I was kind of betting on the whole idea that homeschool=homebodies. This is a great fallacy. Homeschooled children have a social calendar that would rival any CEO or world leader. You must budget triple your family's gas budget to meet the needs of children who demand to interact with the outside world. This can be frustrating. This can have you demaning they get busy inventing "an effin teleportation device if you want to pass Science this year" but try to keep your expectations for having any money for anything other than gas very, very low. Gas. It costs money. Lots and lots of money.
And there you have my Top Ten Hidden Expenses. There are a great many more, but I am totally not going to contribute to the mass hysteria that is the 'Budgeting for a child..." It's better if you know this AFTER you fall in love with the sweet little baby and would do just about anything to keep them safe, happy and healthy (and socially acceptable...)
(On a mushy note, I wouldn't trade any amount of money or material possession for my amazing, funny, sweet, messy, pain-in-my-arse children. If I had to answer the question "Is it worth it." The answer would be "Without a doubt, totally, absolutely"...and all the other adjectives that are more politce than "HELL YES!!)