Money is SUCH a tricky subject. I was at lunch with a girlfriend of mine, and we were reminiscing about that infamous episode of Sex and the City where Carrie gets judged and scolded for her too expensive shoes by a friend with children. Yes, my boys definitely came with a price tag and it wasn’t a little one, but I try not to judge how my friends choose to spend their money. As long as they can afford it, then good for them!
But January does imply a certain, “Back to Budget Basics” in my household. The boys both have birthdays in December and of course a certain jolly man in a red suit arrives bearing gifts. Not to mention holiday outfits, hosting dinners and more. After a while it feels like I’m just throwing around dollar bills in the air like I’m Oprah (newsflash, I’m not!). So, in ushers the month of January and reality hits, and boy is it a sucker punch.
So, let’s get real and just talk about it. Here is what I spend my money on, even when times are tighter. No excuses or apologies for it, just the numbers.
1. Food: Man do I spend serious money in this category! Our grocery bills just continue to grow and I spend a surprising amount of moolah a month here. A monthly average can range anywhere from $700 – $900. This doesn’t include the occasional work lunch, my coffee obsession or happy hours.
Apparently this is normal (thank you USDA!) And I am fortunate to be able to feed these little ones with fresh healthy foods. But if this is the low to moderate amount on the USDA scale it really opens your eyes to how hard this is for so many families!
2. Travel: I consider this to be a top priority. I would estimate that we spend between $6,000 – $8,000 a year in travel. Sounds like a lot right?! It is!
We have family all over the US and try to make sure and see everyone once a year. It’s important to me that we have strong family bonds and memories. Even that doesn’t feel like enough time, but it sure means a lot of plane tickets. Now that there are 4 of us traveling it means rental cars too! We tend to choose travel over other items like the landscaping that definitely needs a major overhaul. We will get there with those old plants, but for now, this has become a higher priority.
I believe in the power of travel. For me, experiences are what opens minds, and creates understanding and compassionate human beings. I want to expose my children to as many cultures and ways of life as possible. Also, unplugging on vacation is such great family bonding.
That means investing in travel wether it’s a car ride to the beach or an international trip. The wide range of $6-8K is that we tend to take a “big” trip every other year. I’ve never spent money on travel that I now regret. Sadly, I can’t say the same for my old trendy clothes! Eek!
3. Childcare: This comes as no big shocker. Pre-school and babysitters take up a healthy amount of our monthly income. Childcare costs are nothing to scoff at. Yes, we knew kids would be pricey and we were right! Gone are the days of the $3/hr babysitter. Although, one area I don’t apologize for is paying for babysitters. We don’t have family nearby and even most of my girlfriends are a healthy drive away. My marriage is worth taking a night every few weeks to put on lipstick and reconnect. Yes it’s expensive ($12-$15/hr!) but we barely get to talk without a demand for MILK! or DADDY LET’S RACE! In the end, I never regret the time and money we spend in this bucket even if it sometimes feels like a luxury. And if you are lucky to have a family member nearby to babysit, give them big hugs, look them in they eye and say thank you!
So, that’s where my money tends to run like water. Of course, highlights and shoes get their fair share too, ha! Does your list look like this? What do you choose to prioritize financially?