Crunching the Numbers

What do you do if you feel like it's time to move out and up—but you don't have the budget? Dealing with disappointment when crunching the numbers at home.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about money (well, more than usual since I pretty much always have the family budget in mind). I’m thinking about it for the obvious reasons: The economy is going down the toilet, and I’m praying my responsible-mortgage-owning-pay-all-bills-on-time butt can weather the storm. I’m thinking about it because we just did our taxes and, despite saving/paying a lot of dough last year, I still owe. A lot. (Hello, self employment tax!) And I’m thinking about it because we are considering having another child. In short, I just don’t know if we can afford it.

Last year, my husband and I made good money—more than ever. The funny thing, though, is that we do not feel any more wealthy. We still budget down to our last dollar each month in order to pay for food, gas, childcare/preschool and other daily necessities. We didn’t do anything extravagant such as take a vacation or buy any big ticket items.

My husband did trade his gas-guzzling Jeep for a car, and it does carry a higher payment, but it’s nothing compared to what he was paying in fuel. All the extra income did was allow us to pay cash for some home upkeep items and let us eat dinner out a bit more often without worrying so much about the bank balance.

I don’t know how people do it who make what we do and live in more expensive parts of town. Perhaps they’re not making it? I guess I should be happy we aren’t in over our heads on our mortgage.

But here’s the rub. We need a bigger house, and we need to get to a better school district. I’ve done the best I can for my daughter where we are, camping out overnight in the freezing rain to get her into a magnet school. But I still wonder whether this is the best option. I would feel better knowing I don’t have to worry about schools at all—that I can just send her to the one down the street and trust that her education will be excellent. In order to do that, we need to move.

Without even mentioning the dismal housing market, I know we’ll have to take on a bigger house payment. If we took what we’re paying now in preschool tuition and childcare and folded that into a monthly mortgage payment, then it would be manageable once she reached grade school. But if we have another child and have to pay for daycare on top of that? Um…

I have to say that I’m feeling discouraged and a bit trapped. Current economic conditions make it difficult to envision increasing our income by much when you factor in the rising cost of living. Daycare costs already are through the roof. And I’m angry that we’ve played by the rules and are not finding much reward. Thanks, in large part, to irresponsible lenders and borrowers, my wealth and mobility are compromised.

Whatever happens, I’m sure we’ll make it. We’ve weathered hard times before and will do it again. It’s just scarier now because our child is affected, and because I just don’t know if we’ll be able to give her a little brother or sister along with all of the other advantages we want for her. I know some people don’t let factors like this affect their decision to have more children, but I wouldn’t feel responsible if I didn’t consider it.

Looks like we’ve got some tough choices ahead.

15 thoughts on “Crunching the Numbers

  1. I hear you. I HEAR you loud and clear. I am here at my home office after dropping off a 4 year old at preschool, trying to get a chapter or two written while baby boy throws things at me from his exersaucer. Our house is microscopic. We have cheap cars. We have professional educations. We do EVERYTHING right- 401(k), save, work hard, think outside of the box… and yet I cannot even fathom buying a bigger house. My magic wand is broken. I do have some hope, however, and this is something that I encourage a lot of my young, professional friends to do- we moved to a small town. I’m from Philly and my husband is from Toronto, but when it came to our nest, we chose to live in southern delaware, close to Salisbury, MD and a few other great little small towns. While we still have the pains I mentioned before, our childcare costs are reasonable, our household expenses and taxes are low, and there is so much less pressure to “do it all”. We still have good schools, private school options and all of the extra cirricular activities you could want, but its just… more relaxed. I see how much my friends are paying for houses and daycare in the ‘burbs back home and I wonder HOW they can even begin to think about families when the mortage on their townhouse is $1500 per month, and $5000 per year in property taxes. Small town America is desperate for young professionals- my town could use a few more pediatricians, OB/GYNs, accountants, dentists, nurses…. Good luck. I’m with you every step of the way.

  2. I know what you mean. We make more money than we ever have before, but we don’t see how we could afford a bigger house right now. We’d like to have a third child, but where would we put it? Correction: Where would we put its toys? It’s weighing on my mind so much that last night I dreamed about finishing out our attic, and the dream was so real that now I really want to do it, despite that my husband tells me that an adult can’t even stand up in small attic. Hey, as long as a kid can fit in there, that’s all that matters, right?!

  3. Justice Fergie says:

    UGH. I FEEL YOU on this one. we are in a similar trap and lately I’ve been in a misearble funk b/c of it.

    we thought the solution to our problems was to move from expensive Maryland to affordable Atlanta this summer before the baby arrives. but now, as it turns out, we won’t be able to sell our house at a decent price in this crappy market (see my blog today for more). and so, we are stuck where we are for now. a small house, with a 3rd child on the way; no fenced-in yard; having to pay for private school for 2 PLUS a nanny so that i can work full-time (because I have to in order to pay the bills). i’m so bummed. but am trying to look on the positive side…but it’s tough! it’s crazy because hubby and i make good money. i just don’t know how people with lower-paying jobs are making it.

  4. just4ofus says:

    All of that money worry does suck.
    We go to a financial advisor that REALLY helps us out. She steers us in the right direction and has really helped us pay off student loans, direct our 401K’s, and she tells ya like it is when you want to spend.
    We live in the suburbs and send our kids to public schools. We didn’t want the expense of private school as I see saving for college is most important, not private school tuition (and we can’t do both). Our taxes aren’t bad, but we are about 30 min drive to work each way. Blue Ash is close (great schools.. i am bias.. i went to Sycamore) and b/c of their business in Blue Ash TAXES ARE CHEAP! about 1600 semi annual for a 250,000 house. Houses are more expensive, but worth it for the area.
    We also use in home daycare b/c of the expense of it. WAY CHEAPER, but we have to pick up by 5:00 pm.
    So there are downfalls.
    I often wonder too, how are those people making it? Maybe they are over their heads. Our financial advisor says… true wealth isn’t in what you own it’s in your overall NET WORTH. She’s right.
    I may not have any furniture in my living room, or my new floors that I want, but I have no credit card debt, a savings account and good retirement.

  5. Interesting post, and something that has been weighing on my mind lately, as well. (In fact, I just re-fi’d my home to get a locked rate b/c I’m scared of what could happen.)

    It’s funny, because I live on a quarter of the income I used to live on, and I still make it. It’s tough, and if that income magically came back into my life, I’d probably still be struggling, because I’d find other things to spend my money on.

    And remember, if you move to a “good” school district in Cincinnati–it’s not only the price tag of the house, but the annual taxes, etc., you have to worry about!

  6. The Spunky Mommy says:

    Please know that you ARE responsible and that’s why you still have a roof over your heads and food on the table. It is a very scary world and with everything going on right now (with even the responsible people about to lose their homes due to unforeseen circumstances and running out of savings), your post is timely and relates to many of us. My family is in the exact same boat – two incomes, made more last year than ever before, we had our first child last year and SURPIRSE! We owe several THOUSAND dollars in taxes this year because we made “just enough” to push us into a middle-income tax bracket. Slap in the face. In the northeast (as with Chicago, San Fran, etc.) two full-time working parents making “decent” money pay more per month on daycare than their mortgage (for an “average” $350,000 house) and still have to pay all the other bills. It kills me. I’m just glad we are healthy and able to work. I don’t know how we’d do it otherwise…

  7. We’re right there with you. I don’t know how “The Joneses” do it. We can’t keep up. Our 2yr old’s daycare costs as much as our mortgage each month (more in a 5 week month). Our only debt is one car payment and the mortgage. We’re still in our “starter house” which by the looks of the economy we’ll be in for longer than we thought when we bought it 5 years ago.

    We’re doing fine now and can afford a few extras (vacation/home improvement) but just found out Baby #2 is coming before Thanksgiving. We’re excited, but thinking about double daycare next year is keeping me up at night more than the 3 trips to the bathroom.

    Glad to know we’re not the only ones stuck in the middle (not rich, not poor).

  8. It’s so frustrating. We have the same concerns, too. I’d love to have a third child–and I think if we really wanted to, we could make it work somehow. The kids could share bedrooms–lots of kids do. But as far as money, I just don’t think we can really afford it. My husband and I really worked hard to build our own house (with our own freakin’ bare hands.) And maybe 4 years ago we could of sold it, moved to an older home, and made a good profit. But, that would be tough now. (Besides, I really love my neighbors and they’d be hard to give up. But I digress…)

    We’re not in the best school district either. So we pretty much decided to send our children to Catholic school, the same schools I went to as a kid. The tuition won’t be easy on the wallet. But, after paying daycare for two children at one time maybe it won’t be too much of a blow.

    Tuition for a third kid, though? We definitely have to sell the house and trade my already crappy and about-to-explode-on-the-side-of-the road’ 99 Isuzu in for a horse and buggy. Make that a donkey. The horse would be too expensive.

  9. Whoa, this post hits home with me LOUD and CLEAR.

    It’s not just you feeling this way, it’s everyone. My husband and I are feeling trapped and annoyed right along with you….

  10. Shari Schmidt says:

    We’re sending our girls to the public school preschool next year after two years in a private preschool we LOVE. I hate to say it out loud, but we live in a good school district and pay healthy taxes for the privilege. I feel like I want to take advantage of what is “free” rather than continue to pay private preschool tuition. We’re both successfully employed and we aren’t worried about losing the house, but every day the economic news gets worse. We feel the same jitters as everyone else, even though on paper we shouldn’t.

  11. Anonymous says:

    We are in the same situation. We live in Seattle and the cost of living, daycare, mortgage payment etc is very, very high. We are responsible professionals. We choose to not have debt and we don’t take out car loans or charge more than what we can payoff each month. We both had late starts in our career and are trying to catch up by saving more for retirement. We are trying to save at least something for her college as well. We have decided to only have one child. This is a big trend in the Seattle area where the median house is around 500-$600,000. Daycare is $1300-$1400 per month and 1/3 of this city’s pop wit kids send their kids to private school.

  12. Anonymous says:

    yes, my family is in the same boat. We have had our duplex on the market since september, hoping to move closer to my sons’ daycare. We had our plans all mapped out, and it’s just laughable how they got tossed into the garbage. I try every day not to be depressed about the housing market, but it’s so hard, when like the others posted, we do everything “right”. We have been trying for another child, and I have mixed emotions about our lack of success. Partly I’m sad, and partly relieved, as we have no room for another baby!

    I’m sorry for everyone else, but I do feel a little better knowing I’m not the only one stuck.

  13. Oh, I feel you! We’re going through similar things here, too. We’re so lucky to have jobs that are steady and pay well, but who knows what will happen further down the road? And like you, we budget down to the last penny and don’t feel any wealthier despite bringing home the most money we’ve ever made. On top of that, we’re making a concerted effort to save money and have some liquid assests in case the worst does happen, and that’s hard to do when you have so much to pay and worry about.

    This is making me think about a lot of the things we’re dealing with lately … thanks for that. I think I’ve found inspriation for a new post…

  14. Anonymous says:

    I share your frustration and fear. My husband isn’t working right now, and we are extremely stretched financially. I am really good at worrying about money, because I get a lot of practice. That said, I try really hard not to let short-term worries drive long-term decisions. Let’s face it, having a child is not a rational decision, but it’s one that you make based on hope and faith – you close your eyes and jump. I would never presume to tell anyone whether or not to have a child, but having had three, I know several things: 1) the years that I paid for childcare went by in the blink of an eye; 2) no matter how stretched we are, I’ve never regretted having any of my children for a single instant; 3) all of my worrying about money is wasted, because things never happen the way that I worry they’re going to – sometimes they work out better and sometimes they work out worse, but never the way I anticipated, so all my fretting gets me nothing. (That perspective hasn’t completely stopped me from worrying, but I can say that it’s helped.) Good luck.

  15. Nameless for Now says:

    i can totally relate. We have one child and another due in October. We struggled with infertility with first one, so this was a total shock, albeit a happy one.

    I would love to stay home with them, but after adding up the numbers there’s just no way. We have a very modest mortgage ($910) and one car payment…no other debt. Currently we both contribute to our 401Ks and a joint savings account.

    The only way it would be remotely possible is if my husband stopped contributing to savings and 401K, which I don’t feel comfortable with AT ALL.

    Interestingly, I read an article in our local paper yesterday about the rising cost of food, and how it is affecting families…and we’re talking about staples like bread, milk and eggs. What’s going on?!?!

    Like everyone else here, it is a relief to know that I’m not alone…I didn’t think we were that profligate!

    Keep on keepin’ on, everyone.

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