Money. Whether you have a lot or not so much, there's no denying that you cannot live without it. Every basic need (except for air) costs money: food, water, shelter and clothing. We save it, slave for it at a cubicle, and daydream about ways to use it. And no matter how much we have, we always want more.
Throughout our lives, there's always phases of wealth and phases of how-am-I-going-to-pay-for-this-bill? Some points of our lives, like college, are naturally more on the penny-pinching side of the fence. We squander our money on beer and nights out exploring, but scrounge for quarters to wash our clothes. That's part of the college experience, and that is 100% okay.
On the other hand, there are parts of life that are not so easily maintained when you're broke. Being broke in college has a slight romantic glow to it, but being broke AF when you're a parent downright sucks. No one is immune to job layoffs or employee pay cuts, and "underemployment" is an unfortunate but real thing. Here are 15 struggles you'll understand when you're a broke AF parent.
While it’s a good idea to keep a budget no matter what your income is, the budget certainly is scrutinized a bit more during leaner times. The food budget is one of the more easily adjustable elements of a family budget. After all, there is no debt collector that comes to your door if you've missed your weekly grocery trip. Also, no one fines you if you spend $50 or even $100 less than your normal allotment. No one, except of course, your stomach.
You can't not buy food, but you can certainly scrimp. Instead of running out to the store, use up the odds and ends from the pantry or fridge. Simply dump canned soup, leftover veggies, or extra chicken from the night before into a casserole dish. The key is to add rice so it's like you planned the whole thing out... Hey, I'm not saying it's the tastiest meal ever.
It's hard to believe that I used to live life without constant access to the internet. Gasp! I never even watched a YouTube video until I went away to college, mostly because my parents’ stone-age dial up could not speed up enough to stream it. I survived (dare I say, thrived) without Wi-Fi, dial-up, and 3G. Yet, it seems almost horrific to even think about living today without it. How would I check the weather, get the news, read email, and buy stuff (I'm looking at you, Amazon Prime) without the internet?
Unfortunately, staying connected to the web is not cheap. (Technically, it could be cheap, but everyone knows you can't binge on Netflix with the slow connection speed.) So... if you want to keep Paw Patrol streaming, what's a broke AF parent to do? Mooch that Wi-Fi, baby! You know this is what’s what when you walk into McDonald’s and there’s one coke on the table for three people with laptops.
I am married to the biggest Jim Carrey fan, so naturally one of my favorite movies is Fun with Dick and Jane. The first time I saw it, I laughed. To be honest though, I couldn’t really appreciate it until the 5th time I saw it, and I felt Jim Carrey's situation a little too close to home. One of my favorite scenes was when Dick, Jane and their son ate at a buffet and they had a laughable amount of food on their plate. In retrospect, that scene was not funny - it was real. Very real. If you’ve ever felt the effects of an empty wallet on your stomach, then you know how it feels to try and get your kid a warm and filling meal.
Sure you might get a free meal from Grandma, but that isn’t the only way to eat. Any broke parent knows how to hit the buffet just right and get every penny worth.
Whether you're broke or not, nature calls. It’s one of those little things that really puts the rich in their place: we all bleed the same, and we all poop the same. Which means that no matter what your bank account says, you still have to buy toilet paper. And if you have kids, you know how much TP you can go through in a month. Hint: the Sam’s Club size.
Toilet paper just isn’t one of those fun things to buy. Ice cream? Now that’s fun to buy. Bath products, books, food, toys? All fun. Disposable paper meant for wiping your derriere? Not at all fun, especially when the budget says buy food OR toilet paper. You can’t do both.
I definitely do not support stealing, but toilet paper thievery is so common in public buildings, that many stores and libraries even post signs thanking customers in advance for not stealing their TP. But seriously, if you have to do it, you have to do it.
...every night for free dinner. What's better than a warm dinner served up by Grandma? A free warm dinner served up by Grandma. Even better: a free warm dinner and dessert. Yeah, that sounds good. We’re not called the boomerang generation for nothing! We already established that the food budget is the most adjustable so heading over to Grandma and Grandpa's house for a free meal helps stretch the remaining food budget. This is definitely one of those win-win situations; the grandparents get a dose of grandchildren, while your family gets a delicious free meal.
Just don't tell your kids that's why you visit Grandma so much. No one ever wants to feel used, and telling your kids you only visit Grandma for free food definitely sends a bad message. Flip it around: focus on the kindness of the grandparents and turn it into a teaching lesson about what the kids can do to help fight world hunger.
If there's one thing parents can all agree on, it is laundry: little people go through a lot of clothes. Like mountains of it. Everest-sized mountains of laundry. Even if you manage to find time to fold it all, the pile never truly ends because there are always residual socks.
Unless you own your own washer and dryer, you also know that laundromat machines are pure evil. Seriously, $4 for one load? One load in an already smelly washer? No, thank you. But the thing about laundry is that even though we clean it 24/7 (or at least that’s what it seems like), it’s just going to get dirty again. Ka-ching!
Broke parents still have to clean those clothes, but sometimes the budget is just way too maxed out to even think about laundry. Luckily, a little ingenuity can get you by, and all broke parents can use this tip. I like to call it the We Are Saving Energy Laundry Method. Hand wash those dirty footie pjs and hang them outside. Just tell people you’re going green.
TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive" is one show that makes me feel 100% better about all of my house keeping skills. Even my unfolded Everest laundry pile doesn't seem so bad when compared to a house filled with a decade’s worth of old, unwashed 2-liter soda bottles and enough flies to make an exhibit at the zoo.
Hoarding is another skill down-on-your-luck-parents have mastered, but I don't mean to imitate the insane hoarding like on the TV show. Broke parents know how to hoard the freebies, like extra ketchup and napkins from take-out or restaurants. It may seem odd to visit a friend's house and dine with Arby special sauce and Panera napkins but free is the best price of all. It may not seem like much, but if you add up the cost of all the condiments (if you had purchased them), you could at least pay for a tank of gas with the savings.
All cultures have interesting ways of dealing with that little problem of babies not having control over their bladders or bowels. Some societies simply cut out the crotch of the pants and let babies do their business as they go. Still, other countries have high rates of moms successfully using "elimination communication" to potty train babies.
In our country, diapers are the number one choice of poop catcher, but the cost of all those diapers certainly adds up. I went into a baby store a few years ago where the owner had a made a display about how much one year of diapers would cost. Based on an estimated number of changes plus age and average price of diapers, she estimated diaper costs could range up into the thousands. Parents pinching pennies know that you can stretch the diaper budget by waiting as long as possible between diaper changes. Of course, this is definitely not good because that can lead to chemical burns, yeast infections, and raw bottoms. And the medication to fix those issues, let alone the pain your baby will go through, is way worse than paying for some diapers.
When parents first learn that another couple is expecting a baby, of course they are happy for the newly expecting couple. Happy because now they can dump their unwanted stuff on the youngster, all under the guise of being charitable. After all, what’s a better way for finally getting that stuff out of your garage! But whether you accept or reject the hand-me-downs has a lot more to do with your lack of funds than your sense of taste.
When you've got money to burn, it's easy to refuse the hand-me-downs and buy all fresh, unstained, and decade-appropriate baby gear, but sometimes, the pride takes a hit and you have to take that ugly or stained hand-me-down from who-knows-what decade.
Sadly though, if times are tough, you may not have a choice but to smile, say thank you, and then actually use the gosh darn thing. On a more positive note, don’t forget to take a picture of your kid as evidence to be used for family gatherings and showing their future spouse.
Who doesn't love a birthday party? Birthdays mean you successfully survived another orbit around the sun - and that should surely be something to celebrate, right? Balloons, cakes, merriment, music, and presents are just the beginning of why birthdays are the best holiday ever. Yep, in our house, birthdays are holidays.
But if you are a broke AF parent, you cringe everytime your child gets one of those hand-crafted birthday party invites. Not only are your kids showing up in "used" clothing, but you have to buy a present, and chances are that's coming from the thrift shop too. No one likes being broke, but birthday parties can highlight that fact, which is never a great feeling. No, you can’t run away from the birthday party even if Sammy bought Jesse the coolest new thing-a-jig and you could only afford the tiniest do-dad. It’s the thought that counts, right?
On the bright side, at least your kids get a free meal.
Browse through a town recreation planner and you'll see that all kids' sports and classes have one thing in common: a high price tag. Even the mommy-and-me classes for infants cost more than a month's worth of diapers. Your baby might nap, nurse, poop, scream, burp, or sleep throughout the entire class and you still must pay. You might have signed up for one class thinking you get mom friends out of it, but even if all the other moms are awful, you still have to pay. See the common theme? They all involve you paying a lot of money.
Yet if you skip the extracurricular activities, the mom-shamers will be quick to call you out for keeping your kids in a bubble. The classic case of darned if you and darned if you don’t.
Broke parents know that the library can be their secret socializing parenting hack. The library is a great way to work some socialization into your calendar without breaking the bank since most libraries hold story times, music classes, and even art classes for free.
When I had my first baby, the moms in my due date club posted pictures of their nurseries about a month before we all had our babies. Seriously, these real life women put Pinterest to shame. I'm talking complete and total masterpieces; everything was "on theme" and themes went way beyond just a simple color. Individual Etsy pieces were coordinated with custom fabric, designer furniture, and personalized everything. I then stared at everything I owned and shed a single tear.
Out of curiosity, I went and priced out everything to recreate one of those nurseries and I about fainted at the price tag. I could totally have the nursery of my dreams… so long as it stayed in my dreams.
Broke AF parents know that each child doesn't get the luxury of a pimped out nursery. Babies have been sleeping in boxes in the Netherlands, and they turned out A-Okay, so I'm guessing my un-themed nursery is more than fine.
Between AirBnB and Southwest commercials, it's hard to avoid thinking about vacations. Although I must admit that nothing makes me want to escape to paradise more than when I’ve come home to a house covered in baby powder and yogurt.
I firmly believe that vacations are truly necessary to help reduce stress and improve mental health. No matter what we list as our day job, we all need a break now and then.
Unfortunately, bank account balances are quick to snap us back to reality and remind us that even if we need a vacation, we don't always get one. (It also tells me that I cannot have a maid to come clean up the aforementioned yogurt and baby powder mess.) Many parents in need of a break find a financial loophole while planning a staycation.
To be fair, the awesomeness of your staycation totally depends on where you live. I wouldn't mind moving to Hawaii and then I'd staycation forever.
I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like watching TV, but does anybody actually enjoy watching commercials? They interrupt episodes at just the most climatic part of the show, they last as long as the segment of the actual episode, and they vary in volume from one to the next (I can't be the only one annoyed by that, right?)
The only thing more annoying than watching commercials is watching your child watch a commercial and immediately need ALL THE THINGS - which, of course, they aren't getting because of the aforementioned lack of funds. That’s the cue for the whining.
It’s particularly comical when the child has no use whatsoever for the product in question. Why do I hate commercials so much? I’m glad you asked. After watching a commercial on a home improvement channel, my son became obsessed with suction cups. I’m not totally unconvinced that all commercials are brainwashing.
The only thing more fun than picking out school supplies was picking out Back to School clothes. As a child, I just assumed this was the norm. Shopping for new clothes may seem like a luxury, but for kids, it's a necessity. You can only pull off "capris" for so long before people start to notice that your son is really just wearing pants three sizes too small. So despite any other financial "wants" that are put on hold, kids' clothing and shoes are necessary.
Of course, as parents, we do what we need to do for our children, and in this case, it means that our wardrobe doesn't get the necessary updates. Just because adults don’t grow at the rate of a child, doesn’t mean we don’t ever need new clothes. Next time you see a mom with less-than-perfect shoes and worn leggings, don't say she's lost her motivation. Consider her a good mom for giving up her clothing budget for her kids.