Money, Musings, Parenting

How We Raised Our Baby on a Single Income Budget

I recently came across a Smart Parenting article that estimated the cost of raising a baby from 0 to 2 years at P1 million. Doing some quick math in my head, I concluded that it couldn’t possibly have cost even close to that much for us, because we got through on just my husband’s salary with no outstanding debt and even some savings set aside. I decided to make my own estimate and compare it with that of the article (whose figures were based on a survey of parents they interviewed).

The disclaimer I wish to make though is that I included only the items in the article’s infographic, so that I could make a direct comparison of costs. There are definitely several more items that we bought that are not included in the article, and so the actual total expenses of both our family and the families interviewed are probably more than these estimates. Still, by comparing our expenses per item listed, I discovered a huge difference. Whereas the interviewed families spent over P1 million, our family spent just over P350k. Here’s the comparison I made, together with notes on how we were able to cut costs.

There were some items that had cost more for us, and these generally were related to health and travel needs, which are both big priorities for us. For example, we chose to avail of vaccinations at a private hospital, even though we could have actually gotten them for free at a health center, because we wanted to minimize the risk of Wolf experiencing side effects. We chose a lightweight yet durable stroller, even though there are many cheaper options, because we wanted to use the stroller for travel abroad with Wolf.

Several people have wondered how we have been able to afford raising Wolf on a single income thus far. I think that while we lost one income stream from my job, we were able to bring down our cost of living, even without sacrificing our quality of life. We still go out to eat at least once a week, we’ve traveled abroad twice with Wolf, and we managed to throw Wolf pretty fun baptismal and birthday parties. I think that me being out of a job challenged us to be more resourceful while still remembering to indulge sometimes. Here are the rules we followed in order to make us happy and comfortable on a single income:

  1. We used our credit cards to our advantage. This, I believe, is the key to our success. I am proud to say that ever since we began using credit cards, we have always paid the balances in full. Especially after Wolf was born, we used our cards, not to pay for things we couldn’t afford, but to track our expenses and adjust every month. Most expenses of middle-class consumers can be paid for by credit card. By swiping almost every purchase, we could see exactly where our money was going, feel remorse when our spending on unnecessary things would go a bit overboard, and compensate by dialing down our splurging the next month. We have two credit cards—one is for all the necessities such as groceries and gas, while the other one is for luxuries like eating out. The latter has a much lower credit limit, which we never max out. Bear in mind that if you wish to try doing this, you MUST pay in full and on time always, or else this will backfire big time. Nowadays, it’s easy to track your running balance by viewing your accounts online. Do not swipe for anything unless you have the cash to pay for it!
  2. We saved before spending. We set up our accounts to auto-debit a fixed amount every month. We never touched the money once it was debited. Admittedly, we have not been able to save as much as I would like to, but the fact that we were still able to set aside savings on a single income has helped us feel a bit more at ease. Soon, we will increase this fixed amount once we are able to add to our income streams.
  3. We took projects on the side. Since we are both musicians, we are able to utilize our skills to earn a little extra sometimes, which is a great help whenever there are unexpected expenses. Unless it will compromise our health, we never say no to more money. Haha.
  4. We looked for cheaper yet more effective maintenance products. The boom in online selling has made finding affordable alternatives to consumables such as bath and grooming products such a breeze. More expensive doesn’t always mean better. Thanks to online sites that gave me access to hundreds of user reviews, I have been able to find products that work much better than the previous ones we used and yet cost much less. We never settled for an inferior item just because it was cheaper. In this way, we never felt deprived. On the contrary, we felt like winners every time we got to spend less for better quality!
  5. We invested in lifestyle upgrades that allowed us to save more in the long run. I know that sounds too good to be true, but there are such things! One such investment was our plasma sterilizer. The outright cost was high, but it continues to make my life so convenient. I save so much time and energy popping all Wolf’s toys plus our toothbrushes and my makeup tools in the sterilizer instead of wiping or washing them, and they come out absolutely clean! The amount of money and stress we have saved from avoiding potential hospital confinement is so worth the investment. And I get to spend less time doing chores and more time playing with Wolf. One other such investment is our espresso machine, which we chose to buy using GCs my dad gave us last Christmas. Prior to the purchase, my husband used to drink Starbucks every day. Once he learned to make his own latte, complete with latte art, he realized how he could have superior coffee at home for much less. An added bonus was that we got to spend more quality time at the table. Our daily coffee ritual has become a family tradition that Wolf has dubbed “coffee party.” While we sip our coffee, he sips the extra milk. Haha.
  6. We remained generous with our families. My husband and I have always had this mutual understanding that when it comes to our relatives, especially our parents, we help financially whenever we can. He is free to contribute money to help his family whenever needed, and likewise, I can shell out money for family matters without hearing any complaint from him. This may seem counter-intuitive to financial management, but I believe that as long as your budget can accommodate it, you should help out others, as generosity comes back hundredfold. I grew up seeing my parents share their wealth and feel happier than if they had spent it all on themselves. I believe that if you keep thinking that you do not have enough to give to others, you will place limits on your ability to earn more. But if you give freely because you know that there is so much more to come, you will find ways to make more money reach your hands. Ultimately, sharing your wealth helps you develop a mindset of prosperity.

Although I originally wanted most of my posts to be finance-related, hence my blog domain name, this is officially my first post that talks heavily about money. I tried writing one several months back, but it just didn’t feel right then. It felt fake. The fact of the matter is we are all a work in progress, and perhaps at that time, financially, even though I’ve always been pretty thrifty, I was too raw to come up with any experience worth sharing. But now, Wolf is about to turn two years old, and our family has managed to raise him well on a single income. I am proud of that feat, and while writing about it, the words flowed easily. I hope that this post helps others in a situation similar to ours.

Our family has managed well thus far, but that is not to say that we are complacent. Having just one income stream may sometimes be necessary, but it should not remain a permanent condition. That is why we are embarking soon on our journey to increase our income streams and achieve financial freedom. If you are reading this now, I hope that in ten years, you will learn of our family’s success, and you yourself will have acquired the same prosperity. Here’s to our future!

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Parenting

My Top Three Shows for Kids

I have been a parent for less than two years, and so far, I consider my parenting style to be more on the free range end of the spectrum. I never worry too much when Wolf gets sick, I always let him make a mess while he learns to eat by himself, and I let him sleep long even if it means a later breakfast.

If there is one thing I do try to control, it is Wolf’s screen time. I believe that parents need to place strict limits on young children’s media use. Babies and young toddlers are at a developmental stage wherein passive media consumption offers no learning value. In line with the guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, I waited until Wolf was 18 months before letting him watch shows, and even then, I did not make it a daily activity. Normally, per day, he gets as little as no screen time at all to a maximum of 25 minutes (the length of one episode of shows for small children is usually less than this). The exception is when he is sick and needs to nebulize three times a day, and screen time is the only way he will sit still long enough to nebulize. On such days, he exceeds 25 minutes, but I do my best to keep total screen time under an hour.

I am also very particular about the shows that I let Wolf watch. I look for shows that are interactive, have good storylines, have characters worth emulating, and are paced appropriately for Wolf’s age. This last criterion is something that I see other parents overlook but I think is really critical. I’ve come across many shows that are deemed appropriate for young viewers but are actually way too fast-paced and overstimulating. These shows have too many flashy images and superfluous sound effects that actually cause distress to young brains. When I preview a new show, I also watch Wolf’s face carefully. If he seems overwhelmed, the show does not get my vote. If he becomes engrossed to the point that when I ask him something, he cannot respond, I also deem it inappropriate. I find it of utmost importance that even during screen time, Wolf and I can engage in conversations about what he is watching. That way, his consumption is not passive. He can verbally identify the objects in the shows. He does not just sit and watch. He reacts to what he is viewing, and that is how I know that his brain is somewhat able to process the show.

Even considering that I expose him only to high quality shows, I realize the stark difference in his development between when he watches shows and when we read together. It is night and day. 100% of the words he has learned is from reading and actual conversations with adults. He has not learned any new words from watching, although he is able to recognize and identify objects that he has learned when they appear in the shows. And so as much as possible, I limit his screen time—both the amount and the type of shows he watches.

I know that not all parents, especially those who are working, have the time to scrutinize which shows are good choices for their young kids. And so I have come up with three shows that I recommend for toddlers to assist parents who are on the lookout for high quality shows. These are all available on Netflix. I will discuss the factors that make these shows high quality. Being a musician, I will also talk about the superior musical qualities of each show. Haha.

The Furchester Hotel

The Furchester Hotel

The Furchester Hotel is the latest series of Sesame Street, which is the show that holds the distinction of being named specifically by the American Academy of Pediatrics as high quality and recommended for young viewers. The story follows a family of monster puppets and their misadventures in managing their half-star hotel business. Every episode features a conflict (dubbed a “Furchester catastrophe”), several attempts to solve the problem, a “monster idea,” and then a solution. The show strongly imparts key values of perseverance, resourcefulness, and cooperation. There is also a lot of singing, and the musical style does not take after the usual sing-song nursery rhyme tradition of many kids’ shows. The songs are fun, jazzy, and cleverly written.

Kazoops!

Kazoops!

A Netflix original, this show revolves around the Kazoops family. The main character is Monty Kazoops, a boy with a pet pig and a huge imagination, which he uses to think outside the box and challenge preconceived notions about the world. The rest of his family are all unique and interesting characters. From his hyper grandmother who loves to surf and paint to his sister who is a budding rockstar, the Kazoops family demonstrates to kids how the world is our oyster, and there are so many wonders to explore if we “just imagine.” Every time Monty goes on an adventure in his mind, there is a song unique to the episode’s theme. The songs are usually accompanied by an acoustic guitar and feature laidback, folksy voices, reminiscent of campfires and roadtrips.

Puffin Rock

Puffin Rock

Another wonderful creation by Netflix, Puffin Rock follows Oona the puffin and her little brother, Baba, as they grow up and explore their home, an island on the coast of Ireland. There is a narrator and beautiful 2D animation, making this series the closest to an actual book among my three recommendations. Through their adventures, Oona and Baba learn about other animals on the island and the value of friendship and family. This show is like a mini Discovery Channel or Animal Planet because of the many interesting facts about animals that it presents. Even adults are able to learn new things about various animals such as puffins and seagulls. The animation is a treat for the eyes. It is like watching a painting in motion. The theme song is a dreamy number that succinctly encompasses the beauty of the animation and gentle temperament of Oona and Baba. The theme song is so good that I look forward to hearing it again and again! Haha.

And that rounds up my top three shows for kids. I hope you guys enjoy watching these with your kids as much as I do! I’d love to hear your recommendations too, so hit me up with any of your personal favorite shows for kids.

Musings, Uncategorized

My First Boudoir Shoot

A boudoir shoot is an intimate photography session, often with subjects posing in lingerie or nude. The word “boudoir” is French for “bedroom.”

Having always been quite liberated, a boudoir shoot has long been something I wanted to do one day. I first thought of giving my husband boudoir pictures as a wedding gift four years ago, but back then, I did not have the time to schedule a shoot.

Last August 26, my husband turned dirty thirty, which granted me another opportunity to gift him boudoir pictures. I did my best to make it a surprise by scheduling the shoot when he wasn’t around. But alas, on the shoot date, he came home unexpectedly early and caught me in full makeup! I said I had a lunch party, which of course he didn’t believe, as I don’t wear full makeup to such events. Nevertheless, he could not for the life of him figure out what I was up to. When I gave him the pictures on his birthday, accompanied by a flirty little dance, he was suitably surprised and of course pleased.

My photographer for the boudoir shoot was none other than our family’s go-to photographer, Ida Roccio Ferrer-David. She did my maternity shoot, Wolf’s newborn and baptism pictures, and our family portraits. As always, she did a great job with my boudoir shots. She made me feel comfortable and relaxed even while I was baring so much skin. She was able to execute the mood and theme I described, which was sultry night vs morning afterglow. We followed my photo pegs and several other pegs she suggested in line with my ideas. She was also very good at directing my poses, which may perhaps be due to the fact that she herself has modeled for several advertisements (that’s actually also something I’d like to try, but I haven’t been making time to go to the VTR sessions). She took us through the boudoir shoot at a leisurely, relaxed pace, allowing me enough time to rest in between poses.

Do a quick Google search of “boudoir pictures” and you will find that it’s incredibly easy to end up with tacky boudoir photos. But as I’ve mentioned before, Ida is consistently able to produce tasteful, elegant shots that I had no doubt she could deliver classy photos once again.

I think that a set of boudoir photos is one of the best surprises I’ve given my husband. Based on his reaction to his birthday gift, I am sure he’d agree! Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but if having a boudoir shoot is something you’ve been considering, go do it. As long as you get a capable photographer, you won’t regret it! Below are a few of my boudoir pictures. These shots, along with several much more provocative ones, gave my husband a very happy dirty thirty birthday!

Boudoir photo

Boudoir photo

Boudoir photo

Boudoir photo

Boudoir photo

Boudoir photo

Parenting, Travel

How Travel Benefits My Baby

From the get-go, I did not hesitate to bring Wolf around with me wherever I went. I first took him to a restaurant when he was just two weeks old. I took him to a classical concert on his third week. At three months, he would tag along to my wedding gigs. He had his first road trip and pool experience at six months. He has been to Japan twice—once at ten months, and again at one year, five months.

Baby eating in high chair

Some parents prefer to shelter infants and refrain from bringing them outside often. I am inclined to do the opposite; I believe that the more of the outside world my baby experiences, the better. It was my instinct to allow Wolf to explore new places and meet new faces early on. Now that Wolf’s an older baby, his personality and constitution are becoming more evident. I can really appreciate now the benefits that Wolf has gained from his explorations. Travelling often has aided in Wolf’s development of the following traits:

  1. Wolf is sociable. He never went through the “nangingilala” stage of babies (stranger anxiety), wherein babies become fussy or inconsolable around strangers. He eases up to new faces quickly, and he often finds pleasure in entertaining others with his antics.
  2. Wolf is well-behaved. He can endure long trips in his car seat, and he doesn’t complain as long as he is full and rested. He is also used to eating out with us at restaurants, where he is comfortable sitting in a high chair and eating alongside us. I do not allow him any screen time while eating, and he knows how to be content enjoying the meal with us and interacting with the other diners.
  3. Wolf is healthy. He is always quick to recover from a cough or cold, and being sick does not dampen his pleasant disposition. He has never needed to be hospitalized for any illness. I believe that his regular exposure outside, combined with my willingness to breastfeed anywhere, have both played a part in toughening up his immune system.
  4. Wolf is talkative. At one year and seven months, he knows more than 60 words. Many of these are words that he was able to say when travelling. I noticed that although I introduced several of these words early on through reading to him, it was often when he would see the actual objects outside that he would learn to say the words. He learned to say “tree” when he saw trees in Tagaytay. He learned to say “meow” and “butterfly” when he saw cats and butterflies in Baguio. He learned to say “train” after riding numerous trains in Japan.
  5. Wolf is confident. Much of the time, I bring Wolf outside so that he can be where I am. At such a young age, Wolf is happiest and most reassured when he is with me and his dad. When we go out and I let Wolf lead the way, he is always excited to walk ahead, but he also looks back to make sure I’m still there. Then he smiles and toddles on boldly. He is empowered to explore, because he knows his parents are at his side, happily watching him find his stride in the world.Baby in butterfly sanctuary

I realize now that my baby’s name, Wolfgang, is so apt. His name means “travelling wolf.” Indeed, he has gone on many excursions with us, and he will definitely go on many more. Here’s to our wolf pack’s next adventure!

Family in Japan