Are kids expensive? Are kids cheap?
No one knows and everyone claims they do.
The only thing I actually know is that there are plenty of ways to be frugal when it comes to having a toddler. It’s not just about learning to say no to their wants. It’s also clearly about learning to say no to my wants. Because I want to buy my baby everything.
There are plenty of ways to scale back some of your spending when it comes to having kids. Opting for secondhand items. Scoring finds straight from the curb. Using your library and other parts of your community. The list goes on. That’s the good news.
The bad news? Well, like most things in my life, it can get a little awkward.
“It only looks like pee.”
We are at that glorious stage in parenting. Our child can finally communicate clearly and we can understand him to ensure that his needs are always met.
But he does say “Poo!” really loudly and pull down the back of his diaper. (Sometimes he pulls down the front, too, but that is another adventure for another day.)
We had a hunch that this poopy dance meant that it was time to entertain the idea of potty training. I brought it up at work because I am now That Mom, and one of my team members asked if we wanted his family’s training potty that his kids had long outgrown.
Obviously, frugal queen that I am, I said yes. Also, I said yes because I’m not actually sure what the etiquette is when it comes to refusing the proffer of a potty.
It seemed simple enough. Said coworker would bring the potty to work the next day, I would thank him, and then I would take it home.
I was quick to learn, though, that nothing is easy when it comes to potty training. Not even acquiring a free potty.
Here’s what I didn’t take into consideration: what I would actually do with the potty for an entire day. You see, our school has embraced the open office concept that so many businesses torture their employees with. (And also, we are out of space so they have to embrace it because our offices all got turned into mini intervention rooms so kids can learn in closet-size spaces now.) Problem solver that I am, I decided I would just stash the potty under my desk.
My coworker walked in with the potty, hefted it toward me, and said:
Don’t worry. The seat’s really clean. It only looks like pee. It’s just fading.”
And it was all downhill from there. Not only did my coteacher trip over said potty, but a handful of students spent the better part of the passing periods speculating as to what that thing behind my desk might be. (I mean, they already think I sleep in my room. Why not add a toilet?)
The grand finale, though, came when I realized that I had to carry the potty to my car. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find a big enough box for it. So I waited as long as I could, hoping that most kids would have left the building, and dashed out the door with my sweater draped over it.
Of course, I had to navigate a gaggle of girls waiting for a ride. A student waved and shouted:
Bye, Miss! Wait. What was is that?”
Dear reader, that is the only time in 11 years that I ignored a student and ran to my car.
“You know I’m not a big fan of this curb garbage stuff.”
I’m not big on manifestations or mantras. They’re a little to woo-woo for me.
While I might not be willing to drink the Kool-Aid quite yet, the universe seems to be serving up a steaming platter of Told You So.
Just a short time ago, I wrote about spending less over the summer. One of my strategies was going to be to look for curb finds. Since that lawnmower turned up, our slice of suburbia has been a treasure trove of garbage.
I was driving home from work to pick up my son, and I stomped on my break. There it was under a stained old mattress: A toddler basketball hoop. I also noticed a toy kitchen.
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I might not be a total numbers junkie on this blog, but I did really enjoy geometry. And I’m good at Tetris. So I knew right off the bat that the toy kitchen wasn’t going to fit in my Camry. Surely, the basketball hoop would.
After shoving, spinning, and praying to the trash gods that I could get the hoop to fit, I realized it wouldn’t.
Not only that but it sloshed some kind of gross liquid all over my leather seats and maybe even put a small dent in the interior of my door. Defeated, I brought the hoop back to the dirty mattress.
Then, I did what any self-reliant woman would do.
I called my dad.
I quickly explained my camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle dilemma, and he paused.
“I could come by with the truck.”
I replied, “I’d love that but I’d hate for you to drive for 10 or 15 minutes only to have someone take it before us.”
My dad countered:
OK. You know I’m not a big fan of this curb garbage stuff. How about I buy him a new kitchen instead?”
After I hung up, I did the only thing left to do.
I called my husband.
You see, I’d had some time to think through my Tetris problem, and I was fairly convinced that if the hoop came out of the base and my husband could drop this rear seats, it might actually fit in his car.
I’m happy to say that HP is thrilled to shoot hoops in his curb garbage. Someone else got the kitchen.
“Close the garage door!”
Last week, I was out late running errands. It was the night before garbage day, and my headlights caught something in their beams.
Four houses down from us, our neighbors had created a towering trash heap. Furniture, bookshelves, you name it, it was probably there.
My eye caught something that looked like a kids chair, but I had to keep driving. You know. Because I didn’t want to be a creep in a car.
Apparently, though, I have no problem being a creep on foot.
After I parked, I texted my husband that I was sure I found something good. We did a back and forth tag team (someone had to watch the sleeping baby!), and we realized we both hit the jackpot.
We unearthed two chairs and a water table full of little toys. None of it was cracked, none of it seemed broken.
We left everything splayed out in the garage so we could clean it up in the morning and show HP. Only later did I realize just how awkward it is when your garage door is wide open, your neighbor’s garbage is inside, and the mom walks by with her dog and stops to do a double take.
Before she could go get the whole family to confirm, I shouted to my husband, “Close the garage door!”
My plan, now that I’ve regained a few drops of composure, is to say thanks if she comes by to look again.
Or maybe I’ll only let HP play with the toys in the backyard.
Only time will tell.
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“You know, we’re not actually poor.”
We hadn’t been at Niagara Falls for more than a few hours and I could feel myself reflexively tightening my purse strings.
And I’m not talking about my backpack either.
I wasn’t so worried about this trip. HP is little, and he’s perfectly content to scoot in a stroller, show off his newly perfected march to strangers, and look at the water. (“Big! Big! Blue! Splash!”)
But I started talking to Mr. P about how much fun a return trip might be in a few years. We were somewhere between the second wax museum and the Ferris wheel (or was it the mini golf and the 12th arcade?) when I told my husband that the more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t sure we should come back.
He looked me square in the eye and said, “You know, we’re not actually poor. We can swing whatever trip we want so long as we plan for it.”
I stopped mid-stride. Not because it was my husband who sounded like the money blogger all of a sudden, but because this was pretty big talk from someone who once thought it was better to forgo food entirely than spring for a lunch.
Final Thoughts on Frugally Awkward Toddler Time
Kids don’t have to be expensive (you know, once we overhaul the daycare and higher education systems in the States). But there’s a good chance no matter who you parent and no matter how you parent, things are going to get awkward.
It’s OK, fam. I’ll share my awkward stories if you share yours.