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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