If you’re like me… well, you have a hard time spending money on yourself. Many parents, and in particular, many single parents, are stretching every dollar and feel as though money spent on themselves is somehow money taken away from the kids.
This is utter hooey. I believe the technical term is Equine Stercus.
Look. I’m not going to tell you to carry a Coach purse while your kids carry their school books in brown paper bags; there’s a finite amount of money in your budget, and certain needs that must be met, and some things will remain more than what you might be able to afford.
But I’ll bet you can afford more than you might think. And at least here in America, we’ve all been granted the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and a bit of retail therapy.
There are a few different ways you can finagle your spending to insure that you have a bit of money around to spend on YOU even after the kids have gotten everything they need. Think of them as reallocation of funds (rather than just “money saved,” which will result in your not spending it), and suddenly you can afford a few more things.
Method 1: Remove their cost, fund yours
Now you know that I am never going to tell you to brew your coffee in old socks instead of filters or insist that you should be making your own soap. That’s just not how I roll. You want to do that stuff? Great, have a good time. But it’s not for everyone, and I do place sanity just above solvency on the grand scale of What Matters.
That said? If you’re a parent, and especially if you have two or more kids, I think there is absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t learn how to cut hair and cut your kids’ hair. Kids’ haircuts are only slightly less expensive than adult cuts. If you have a boy (or three), you’re talking monthly haircut times the number of kids, and it can really add up.
I’ll grant you that if you’re not particularly good at it, by around age twelve or so, your kids are going to refuse to let you hack up their heads. Which is fine. But do little kids need salon haircuts? I don’t think so. Plus? Start cutting their hair when they’re little, and you’ll actually be good at it when they’re old enough to care.
I spent $9 on a clearance clipper set a number of years ago (it contained electric clippers as well as a comb and good scissors). I cut my son’s hair every month and my daughter’s hair every three to six months. With the money I am saving over taking them for cuts—even if I figure the Walmart salon or similar cheapo establishment—I go get a really good haircut whenever I need one.
[The fact that several people have asked where I take my daughter for her cuts and then gasp in amazement and admiration when I tell them I do it myself is just a fringe benefit.]
Method 2: Lower their cost, increase yours
I’m a big proponent of recycling, which is a fancy way of saying that I don’t have a problem with stuff that’s already been used. I shop consignment and thrift stores for both the kids and myself, and I’m happy to do it. The thing that I sometimes have to remind myself is this: It’s okay to sometimes spend a little more on myself.
I don’t actually know how much it would cost to outfit my kids if I made a habit of buying all of their clothes new. All I know is that between what I buy used and what I buy on clearance, I don’t spend very much. And this is a good and right and splendiferous thing, as kids have the nasty habit of spilling all manner of grossness on their clothes and/or outgrowing them.
Well guess what… I’m pretty tidy, and I’m done growing (I hope). So if every now and then I want to buy myself a pair of pants or a sweater or whatever for a bit more than I would normally spend (not full retail, because LET’S NOT GET CRAZY HERE, but you know, more than it costs at Goodwill), I do it. My kids have pretty nice clothes. I deserve to have nice clothes, too. If I can afford it, I remind myself of how much I’ve saved on their wardrobes, and then I spend a little more on mine.
Method 3: Remove a miscellanous cost, fund something else
Do you remember how in this post I mentioned skipping a Starbucks run and putting the money in your vacation fund? You can apply that principle to just about anything.
One of the nice things about not approaching your budget in terms of a jailhouse lockdown (no eating out! no extras! you don’t need coffee! bad girl!) is that you have some wiggle room when you might want or need something above and beyond the usual expenditures. Plus, it’s a good way to reward yourself for being mindful of how you spend your money.
So, yes, Starbucks might be a good start. If you’re on a tight budget, hopefully you’re not stopping there every morning. But maybe you’ve allotted yourself a once-a-week visit. (Which, by the way, is a nice little bit of self-pampering if that’s your thing!) Maybe you reallocate that money to something else (like, um, really good lipstick?) for a month.
Or maybe you’re a book hound, like me, and you pretty much cave and buy your kids books whenever they ask because, books! Books are good! We love books! But you know, sometimes there’s a great book coming out *coughcough* and I see the hardback price and I fret over whether or not I can really afford it. Guess what? If I stop buying Captain Underpants and Don’t Let the Pigeon Touch You (or whatever he’s up to now) for a month—and stick to the library and the free book swap and the gazillion other books we have in the house, because you know I’m not advocating swearing off books—I can usually find the money for the book I really want.
As always, my stuff and your stuff are not likely to be the same. I mean, hey, if it is, come on over! But the idea is to take the overarching concept and apply it to what matters to you. Saving money on stuff is great, but what’s the point if you’re constantly depriving yourself? Then you just end up bitter and grumpy, and probably in bad shoes, besides. No good can come of that.