Out last post detailed the first half of our Victoria, B.C. trip last year when we went to Butchart Gardens. June was definitely a great time to go and see all of the flowers in bloom and it seemed far less crowded that it would […]
This past June as soon as school got out we took a weekend trip up to Victoria, B.C. with the younger kids. One of our goals this year is to increase our travel and since Victoria is so close to us we decided to take […]
I really love the idea of small changes over time adding up to huge improvements later on in life. When we first started our journey towards better financial health way back during the 2008 financial crisis we made many small changes that reduced our spending, raised our income and increased our savings rate. Over the last 10+ years many of the small habits we started are so ingrained in us that we don’t even think about it any more. We have added a couple of kids since then and now we have one in college and our expenses have dramatically increased so small changes are much more important for our overall financial health. I find that when we don’t keep track of the smaller things the larger ones get lost as well. One of our biggest costs every month is child care and keeping those costs low is a priority for us right now as we head into another school year where we could potentially be paying way more than we budgeted for if we are not careful.
As ridiculous as it seems, “sleeping in” until 5:30 am every day costs us around $300 a month. How you might ask? When I sleep in I start work an hour later and we end up paying for an extra hour of child care after school. At $15 an hour for two kids times 5 days a week is $75 a week extra in child care. Multiply that times 4 and you are at $300 a month which of course would be higher in a 5 week month. It is kind of ridiculous to think of that extra hour of snooze time as costing us so much money a month and $3900 a year if we do it all 52 weeks!
Small changes over time add up to huge improvements later on in life.
We are super lucky to have flexible schedules and childcare that charges us by the hour for after care instead of a blanket amount each month but it also leads to childcare costs not being steady and harder to budget. Starting this summer is our first time having to pay for after care for both kids. Prior to that our son was in a more traditional day care setting and had a flat monthly rate which was great for budgeting but it never went down when we missed days. Now that he is a preschooler his official school end time is at lunchtime and we pay for afternoon care by the hour. Our daughter gets out at 3:00 and we pay for care after that time.
One of the good things about this arrangement is that we are able to put our child care costs on a credit card and earn cash back for something we would be paying anyway. This only works though if you are paying off your credit card every month and not paying any interest. We find out about three weeks in advance how much our bill will be and prior to that I put a placeholder in my Quicken account for an estimated amount that is over what I think it will be and that helps us prepare for making a large payment on the next payday. I budget for childcare based on when they bill us. We get billed on a monthly basis from September through the first half of June and then we get a separate bill for care from the second half of June through the end of August. Last year all of the charges for the second half of June, and all of July and August went through in September so it was quite a large amount but I knew it was coming so I was able to set aside money and schedule my payments out in advance. This uneven way for charging us for child care is part of the reason why we have had a hard time budgeting over the past few years. Our expenses vary so much based on which month we are in that it is difficult to plan. Putting our expenses into Quicken months in advance and then looking at our lowest point over the next six months has really helped keep things in perspective.
We budget six to nine month in advance to get a bigger picture of where our finances are heading.
To reduce our child care costs Mr. Oscoey and I do a mini split-shift with work . I go in super early and pick the kids up as soon as I can and he drops them off when school opens so we are not paying for before care as well. We do this to save money and because our son can’t really be dropped off early enough to make a difference in paying for before care for our daughter. It does cause some issues, mainly because sometimes Mr. Oscoey has to go in earlier but so far we have been able to work it out where I work from home before dropping the kids off closer to 9:00 but honestly this is pretty exhausting for me. I usually end up having to work another hour at night and spreading my 8 hours out over the course of the day like that makes the work day seem soooo much longer. My commute is pretty bad and when I split my working hours up I end up spending the entire day working, driving, working, driving, eating dinner, and then working some more and that is not super fun. I need down time every day and when I work those crazy split shifts I don’t get enough.
Last year when we were only paying for after care for one kid some months Mr. Oscoey was able to get off early and pick the kids up by 3:00 nearly every day our bill was only $150 for an entire month which is super cheap. Based on our normal pick up time for this year with two kids in after care we will end up paying $262.50 a week if I sleep in until 5:30. This ends up being over $1000 a month which is a huge chunk of our budget. If I can leave in time to save an hour of after care every day that will lower our bill by $75 a week and $3900 a year! Unfortunately when Mr. Oscoey got off work early enough to pick up the kids and avoid after care he would have to work late at night and we would not get grown up time. For everything there is a trade off and finding balance while being a working parent is difficult.
Leaving an hour earlier will save us $3900 a year in child care costs!
If we wanted to save $3900 dollars a year and pick the kids up right after school I would have to get up at 4:30 every morning and unfortunately that is not an easy task for me. I need my sleep, like really need my eight solid hours a night and I would have to go to bed immediately after the kids if I wanted to get up at 4:30 in the morning every day. Leaving earlier would also be a guarantee that I would not see the kids in the morning, even for a little bit, nor would I get alone time with Mr. Oscoey at night. Being a working parent is all about balance and I love seeing my kids in the morning before I leave. We snuggle on the couch for a few minutes and we talk about our day for a bit. Sometimes if they get up early enough I am able to eat breakfast with them and maybe read a book. The days that I don’t see my son before I leave it is hit or miss whether or not he will cry for a long time because he didn’t see me before school and that is hard to hear about when it happens.
Alone time with your spouse is also key to a healthy marriage and difficult for any couple with small children. Mornings are spent packing lunches and getting ready for school/work and the evening is the only time Mr. Oscoey and I are able to catch up about work or talk about what our family plans are. I also spend some some of that time working on the blog and balancing our checkbook. Right now we are trying to watch “Game of Thrones” which is pretty inappropriate for kids so we are only able to watch when we are alone. Running the numbers on how much we would save if I leave earlier in the morning was pretty eye opening though and I think I will try to find a compromise where I can leave earlier some of the time and maybe have Mr. Oscoey pick up early when he can. I don’t want to lose too much of my morning time with the kids nor my evening time with Mr. Oscoey so we will have to find a way to reduce our costs without bringing too much stress into our lives.
Balance is key when you are a working parent.
What could we do with an extra $3900 a year? I can think of so many things but I would absolutely love to travel with part of it and invest the rest. If we saved $3900 for the remaining 6 years that we are paying for after care for both kids it would be a grand total of $23,400 plus interest! This small change would have a huge impact over time. It is definitely something I am going to work on and see if even leaving 30 minutes earlier will save us that hour of child care in the afternoon.
What small changes are you making that have a huge impact on your life?
Last April we took a road trip to Walla Walla, Washington for a kid-friendly attempt at doing a bit of Wine Weekend. We have been saying for many years that we would love to go to Walla Walla to pick up wine and this year […]
Mr. Oscoey and I have always loved San Francisco. We went there once many years ago by ourselves for a whirlwind 18 hour trip and had always wanted to go back but never found the time or money. Last fall (while I was laid off […]
Travelling has always been something that we have wanted to do as a family but we have never actually done much of. Before we had the youngest we took 2-4 small trips a year spread between Oregon, the Washington Coast and Vancouver, BC for a weekend or so with a relatively tight budget. Our cheapest trip was probably the first one we took with our oldest and our two dachshunds (Oscoey’s namesakes) to Cannon Beach where we stayed for two nights for under $300.00. Our budget was very tight for so long that when we finally started having a little bit extra real travel was so far out of our minds we just continued to take the same trips until we had to take a break.
Our younger kids also really enjoy a pretty set routine and traveling threw them way off so we decided to take a break until they were old enough to communicate better with us. It is much easier to find out what is bothering a three year old versus a one year old and waiting cut down on traveling with crying children which is not very fun.
We love the Oregon Coast and Portland. They are some of our favorite places to go and it is pretty easy to find pet friendly accommodations. We have not taken George yet but Zoey loves the beach and is like a puppy again running around in the sand. If you go slightly north or south of Cannon Beach and book kind of last minute you can usually find a decent Airbnb with a kitchen for a reasonable price. We are super frugal and cook our own meals when we are on these short weekend trips and that drastically cuts down on the cost. We basically spend in food for our trip exactly what we would have spent at home for groceries plus maybe $20 extra for special treats such as chips, a small amount of candy and maybe ice cream one night as a treat. You don’t have to spend a lot on food to make a trip special. Just buy something you wouldn’t normally buy and that makes it special in your kid’s eye. Hint: Pringles are never present in our house but I always buy a can before a beach trip and the kids love it!
Our first big trip as a family (sadly without our oldest) was to San Francisco in February. We had been talking about going for a long time and then when we heard that Paine Field was opening up and that tickets were ridiculously cheap we decided to take the plunge. I was super nervous since it was the kids’ first plane ride but we ended up having an awesome time! Look for a future post on our not so frugal trip to San Francisco! The most important part about San Francisco was that it proved that we could finally start broadening our reach when it comes to travel. Our kids did great and although we were all exhausted the last day we came back with so many memories and it expanded our kids’ world so much I would do it again in a heartbeat. The shared experience of the trip was a huge bonding moment for our family and brought us out of the winter funk that we were in with the endless cycle of school, work and weekends filled with housework and birthday parties. None of those things are done alone as a whole family and spending several days alone together was priceless.
This spring we took a short trip to Eastern Washington which is something we have wanted to do for several years but it never “worked out”. This year with my new determination to actually take some of the trips we have been talking about I decided we were just going to do it and see if it worked. The drive was about five hours for us which is the longest our kids have ever been in a car and I fully admit my expectations for the amount of crying we would endure were pretty dismal. Luckily our kids did pretty well. Our son was a little bit cranky for the last bit on the way home but otherwise he was able to sit still (with breaks) for the whole trip with minimal fussing which was a huge relief!
One of our stops was the Petrified Forest on the Columbia River. I was really excited to go hiking and explore but the weather ended up being really yucky and cold which we were not prepared for so we ended up walking around the visitor center for a little bit and then heading home. Our kids were tired from swimming that morning and not impressed with rocks that used to be trees but driving out there again would make an excellent day trip so we plan on going back at some point. We haven’t done a lot of exploring around our state with the younger two kids but several trips are definitely on our radar.
We also made it out to the tulip fields this spring. We hadn’t been in a couple of years and I put it on our calendar so that we would remember. Usually we go to Roozengaarde but this year we ventured to Tulip Town since the owners are retiring and it may be the last year. Going to the tulip fields this year inspired me to start thinking about Holland as a travel option. We are a few years away from International travel (besides Canada) and I know it will take a while to plan so I am starting to gather ideas.
Overall our Declaration of More Travel has gone well. We are headed to Victoria, B.C. this summer and most likely will do our traditional beach trip at the end of the summer. I am already looking ahead towards Thanksgiving and Christmas break. At some point this summer I want to sit down as a family and make a list of where we want to go in the next year. Bringing the kids in as part of the process makes it fun for them and I might even start talking about how to create a travel budget as part of our goal to have financially literate children and because our 5yo really, really wants to go to Hawaii and that is going to be a very expensive trip for sure!
I wish we hadn’t hesitated so much about taking our kids places but in reality the timing has worked out perfectly and I am really glad we are now becoming a family that travels, even if it is mostly free local day trips. Building memories doesn’t have to be expensive!
How are you getting your family out more and exploring your world?
It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen […]
A few months back I wrote my first post after going back to work (A not so Brief Hiatus) about the gap in blogging while I went back to work. I didn’t blog for eight months last time which was almost the entire length of […]
Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out on Whidbey Island. A better part of my childhood was spent out there walking in the woods with my Grandpa learning the names of the trees, looking for frogs and clearing trails. It is one of my favorite places and I am really grateful that we are able to pass on the tradition with our kids. Many of the trails we made as kids are still there but need some major work.
My grandparents were uber frugal before it was a fancy way to reach Financial Independence. When I was little they built a house on inherited land and set it up as their home base while they traveled all over the country. They bought every thing on sale, used items until they were very broken and heated their home with the wood they chopped outside in the yard. The grandkids would stay out there periodically and we played outside all day long making forts, wandering around in the woods and hitting golf balls into the woods (which we still find today). We had so much fun and learned a lot about how to be out in the woods safely. My Dad and my Grandpa taught us which plants to avoid, which ones we could eat and we helped out keeping the property clear and the trails open.
We went for a walk the last time we were out there and it was awesome to see my Dad interacting with the kids the same way he had with us when we were little. My kids have a set of fresh eyes when walking in the woods. We have not been out to Whidbey as much as I would have liked in the last year because of ongoing sickness and a crazy schedule but being out there recently reminded me of how much I would love to have a wooded retreat of our own to take the kids out to on the weekends. Mr. Oscoey and I have talked about someday buying property with woods and streams and such but “someday” has always been too far out to be tangible.
There is something to be said for spending time walking the same woods over the course of many seasons or even years. The surroundings change as the seasons move forward and plants you may have seen in April will have withered away by August. I remember when my Grandpa and Grandma cleared this path 30 or so years ago. It took many months and lots of help from the relatives but everyone worked together to get the project done. When my oldest daughter was about five I remember seeing a litter of baby coyotes play in the clearing which is one of my all time favorite memories.
One of the best parts of walking in the woods is learning to be more aware of your surroundings. We came across some deer tracks on our walk and the kids loved hearing about how you could tell the age of the track and where the deer went afterwards. We also spent quite a bit of time experimenting with stepping on branches to see if we could get them to snap and make a loud noise. This kind of random fun experiment is one of the best ways to get kids engaged with science without making it seem like a chore. We talked about which branches were better for snapping (drier ones) and how the larger ones required more weight to snap and everyone took turns snapping and helping each other snap branches. The kids had a lot of fun trying it out and they were very tired after our long walk!
We had a great time walking out in the woods and the kids learned quite a bit about their surroundings while spending quality time with Grandpa. I am hoping to get back out there once a month or so now that our schedule has cleared a little bit. We are not afraid of the weather so we will be out in all sorts of conditions! I also want to make more time to spend outside at our house but our kids go to bed so early these days it is hard to find the time.
How do you spend your outdoor time?
Mr. Oscoey and I took some time a little bit ago to spend some time together since I have so much more free time now that I have been laid off. We had a great time exploring the Amazon Spheres, Pike Place Market and just […]