Having/raising a kid cheaply - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 07:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, so maybe this sounds like a really naive idea. After all, I've never had to support anyone but myself up to this point and I don't really know what's necessary. It just seems like so much of the spending I see new parents doing is REALLY unnecessary. $600 strollers, 4 gajillion toys, enough clothes that they'd never have to wash them (inevitably leading to a huge donation with the tags still on), all sorts of gadgets, etc.

I already live pretty frugally, with very little shopping, cheap housing, conserving everything, and riding my bike everywhere. I can sew and crochet and have no problems shopping at thrift stores. So what do the moms here think? Is it likely that I'll be able to do this without noticing much of a financial impact, or am I in for a huge wake-up call?

Mom to Thora, born at home 9/28/2011. Currently in Madison, WI, but gearing up for a move to Providence, RI in August! I'd love to meet some folks.
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#2 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 07:45 PM
 
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I found the first year or two didn't cost very much money...babies nurse, then toddlers don't eat much...but as your children get older they start to cost more.

Preschool costs (in our state) and while baby clothing is extremely cheap, older child clothing is more expensive (doesn't show up as much in consignment stores)

But maybe in a few years your financial situation will improve?

Someone once pointed out to me...and it surprised me at the time but now I realize that it is VERY true...the number of children you have influences your spending in ways you don't expect -- you end up living in a bigger house than you would live in by yourself, you drive a bigger car, you will pay more to live in better school districts, you have less time for working...there are a lot of hidden costs.

 

 

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#3 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 07:49 PM
 
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It just seems like so much of the spending I see new parents doing is REALLY unnecessary. $600 strollers, 4 gajillion toys, enough clothes that they'd never have to wash them (inevitably leading to a huge donation with the tags still on), all sorts of gadgets, etc
Yes, there are definitely instances of this...but this is not the majority of parents.

I work with a lot of low income parents through my job and often a large percentage of their income is going towards supporting their children -- feeding them, clothing them, keeping them healthy and safe -- they are not being extravagant by anyone's standards.

Children cost money. They are very worth it (I have a large family) but they do cost.

 

 

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#4 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 07:56 PM
 
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My children cost money in food, activities, clothes, braces... they are worth it of course, but they are spendy. Mine are older too, the baby doesn't cost me much at all. My kids are 16, 12, 7, 4, and 18months.
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#5 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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But maybe in a few years your financial situation will improve?
I suppose I should have mentioned that while I currently don't have a job (finishing my MS thesis) my partner has excellent funding for his PhD so we're really not even that broke except for loans that need to be paid back. We're just frugal to the point that most would probably call us cheap, or at least crazy. I hadn't thought about the hidden costs though...thanks.

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#6 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 08:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My children cost money in food, activities, clothes, braces... they are worth it of course, but they are spendy. Mine are older too, the baby doesn't cost me much at all. My kids are 16, 12, 7, 4, and 18months.
Oh crap, teenagers come from babies. Teenagers are expensive

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#7 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 08:04 PM
 
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We always bought what was necessary when we needed it. For example we do a lot of walking, so we bought a decent (mid-range) stroller. I'm sure I've put 1,000 km on it. We co-sleep, so we don't need a crib. Change tables and baby bathtubs are completely unnecessary. We never outfitted a "nursery" the way some people do. We bought a few clothes, but recieved lots more as gifts when the baby was born. I buy lots of clothes second hand, and receive lots of hand-me-downs from friends. Now that the kids are older I buy a small number of quality toys, not endless amounts of junk. Rather than enrolling in expensive classes, we take advantage of the many free or nearly free drop-in activities in our neighbourhood. At birthdays we try and be fairly specific (at least with the grandparents) about what the kids need so we don't end up with useless stuff that we can't return. We still live in the same 2 br condo we did when we first got together and take the bus most places (although dp has recently acquired a car as a job perk). But, my oldest is not quite three and has yet to be influenced by the demands of media and her peers. Although we will try to instill our values of small footprint (low) consumption, I'm sure there will come a time when she wants things that cost more money.

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#8 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 08:26 PM
 
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I think it really depends on you as a person also, if you don't want a $600 stroller then don't get one. So many parents try to keep up with the Jonses, but you don't have to. Although I must say after having DD I only would want 1 more kid because you do have to buy some stuff, but it's AMAZING what people will give you. I got an awesome jogging stroller-free, money to buy a back pack, I was a hairstylist who was really loved by my clients so a lot of them gave me TONS of stuff for the baby. Plus you can find so much of what you may need for a baby at yard sales, thrift stores, etc....Reality is kids cost money, but they are super worth it.

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#9 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 08:30 PM
 
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They aren't terribly expensive when they are babies, but even then there are the hidden costs. I agree that much of the junk people buy is unnecessary, but not everyone buys all that crap, either.

We used daycare, which is expensive. If you are a SAHM, you don't have daycare, but of course, you don't have a salary and there are the opportunity costs to your career and your retirement.

Mine are now elementary school aged, when activities and gear start to cost. Our kids do much less in the way of activities than most of their peers, but it adds up fast. For example, Dd1 takes tae kwon do, which is about $110/month, plus more for equipment and promotions. She's also a very good violin player, so there's rental for the instrument. She is at a point now where private lessons would be of great benefit in addition to the lessons provided by her great public school, and I think we'll be starting those this summer, probably to the tune (couldn't help myself) of $160-200/month. Braces may be in her future--they are certainly in her younger sister's future.

I also agree that you may find that you need a bigger car, a larger or more expensive house in a good district if you public school, etc. We also are committed to paying for four years of public college, which is a big line in our budget.

We are also quite frugal, but don't fool yourself. Kids are expensive.
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#10 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 09:29 PM
 
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We used daycare, which is expensive. If you are a SAHM, you don't have daycare, but of course, you don't have a salary and there are the opportunity costs to your career and your retirement.
I think this right here is probably the biggest reason why kids are expensive. Add up all of the expenses, and then subtract all of the money you aren't earning--there's really no way around how much it all adds up. Of course it's all worth it, but we are a frugal family and I think our 3 y.o. DS has already "cost" us well over $100,000. He's so worth it

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#11 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 10:25 PM
 
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Oh crap, teenagers come from babies. Teenagers are expensive
Just be sure you have a girl. The girl teens eat less.
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#12 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 10:32 PM
 
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During the first year of DD's life, I was told I'd spend $10K.

I came nowhere near close to that. I kept track for a while, and it was a few thousand.

The biggest "expense" was the four weeks I did not get paid while I was on mat leave. I did get paid for 4 weeks, which is mostly unheard of in the US.

We have low daycare costs -- thank goodness -- and we get most of the stuff for her from freecycle. She is very picky about clothes, so she wears about the same 4 pairs of pants, 2 skirts and about 4-6 tee-shirts over and over.

We weren't planning to get a baby swing, but a friend got us one. We got lots of clothes and such off of freecycle. We also score toys at a local coop sale -- where they do have some older children's clothing.

I do choose to spend on a few fun classes, but I am so tired of commuting to them that I'll probably stop.

I imagine the cost goes up when they start to express preferences to take ballet, tae kwan do, etc.
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#13 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 11:07 PM
 
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I agree, children get more expensive as they get older. With a baby, you can cosleep, breastfeed, cloth diaper and dress the baby in hand-me-downs. But eventually that baby will grow into a child who will want to eat, want their own bedroom, and will wear clothes that can't be found in thrift stores (good luck finding used jeans for an 8yo boy that still have the knees intact!).

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#14 of 29 Old 06-02-2008, 11:15 PM
 
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Just be sure you have a girl. The girl teens eat less.
Yeah, but anything you save on food goes to clothes, hair, etc.

My 10 yo isn't very picky about her clothing, but she is extremely slender. I buy slim jeans and have to take them in for her. So thrift store stuff is a non-starter.
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#15 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 01:22 AM
 
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When we just had ds1 and even dd, I made the "babies are cheap" argument.

Now that my older two are 7 and 4, there are expenses. Ds1 takes tae kwon do. It has been extremely good for him. His behavior, his focus. It's great. However, it costs $75 a month, it's $50 to test for a belt and now that he's getting ready to test again we have to shell out $110 for sparring gear. Dd wants to take gymnastics in the fall. There's more money. Sure, I could say no, but these are things that they both love to do and I want to fund it.

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#16 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 01:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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All good things for me to think about. Thank you. I really hope I find a job quickly this fall so I can start saving for FutureChild's swimming lessons and such...

Mom to Thora, born at home 9/28/2011. Currently in Madison, WI, but gearing up for a move to Providence, RI in August! I'd love to meet some folks.
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#17 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 07:58 AM
 
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I pretty much got to the point where the first year and half or so was essentially free. My biggest expense was cloth diapers (still cheaper than buying disposables) but I was able to resell much of it, recouping some of the initial cost. Our other big expense was the carseats.

You can buy clothes in thrift stores, in lots on eBay, and you may luck out and be given hand-me downs.

Yes they get more expensive as they get older but I've still found ways to be frugal about it (such as with clothing and food). I learned how to cut my hair a long time ago and I cut my kids hair now too. Little things like that tend to add up, hopefully making things like expensive lessons not such a karate kick in the pocket book
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#18 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 10:11 AM
 
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I pretty much agree with what was said here. I would also suggest asking for non traditional gifts when it comes time for birthdays/holidays. Like, swim lessons for the summer, a pass to the zoo, etc. That helps us keep costs down and not have 1000 outfits or toys we don't need.
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#19 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 07:08 PM
 
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I found the first year or two didn't cost very much money...babies nurse, then toddlers don't eat much...but as your children get older they start to cost more.

Someone once pointed out to me...and it surprised me at the time but now I realize that it is VERY true...the number of children you have influences your spending in ways you don't expect -- you end up living in a bigger house than you would live in by yourself, you drive a bigger car, you will pay more to live in better school districts, you have less time for working...there are a lot of hidden costs.

We plan to homeschool, so we probably won't be out the money that local public schools demand (instruments, uniforms, lab fees, whatever), just a few select things the kids want/need like one sport and one instrument or whatever. At least that's my hope. *sigh*

What honestly terrifies me is feeding 2, possibly 3 teenage boys. Heck, I could pack away half a pizza for dinner in my teenage years, and those were my "skinny" days.

Oh, not to mention medical costs. You will most likely need to see a doc at some point for whatever reason, and I'm sure our family is way overdue for an ER visit at this point. The way my boys run around after each other? It's amazing they don't have permanent concussions. And dental work... *shudder* It's hard enough for me to write that check for me and hubby, I'm a little afraid of what those totals might be in a few years.

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#20 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 08:23 PM
 
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I think it really depends on you as a person also, if you don't want a $600 stroller then don't get one. So many parents try to keep up with the Jonses, but you don't have to.
Sometimes having an expensive stroller isn't about keeping up with the Joneses, but about getting the right "tool" for the job.

I bought a Phil and Ted's Sport this past winter. I don't drive, so I walk or bus everywhere, and I needed a stroller that could handle most terrains and still be small enough to fit through doors and on buses. For me, the $400 was well worth it, and I'll be able to use it until my 2 year old starts kindergarten.

I used cheaper strollers, or strollers I bought used before now, and I found I was having to replace them every year to year and a half... over the past 11 years I've gone through more strollers than I care to admit. Only 2 have survived more than 2 years of use.

I have kids in the range from preteen to toddler, and if you get it in your head that you don't need to keep up with the Joneses, it's not that bad cost wise. Well, I take that back, my preteen boys are eating machines.
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#21 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 08:25 PM
 
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Oh, not to mention medical costs. You will most likely need to see a doc at some point for whatever reason, and I'm sure our family is way overdue for an ER visit at this point. The way my boys run around after each other? It's amazing they don't have permanent concussions. And dental work... *shudder* It's hard enough for me to write that check for me and hubby, I'm a little afraid of what those totals might be in a few years.

you can't choose a healthy model of a child either DD1 hasn't been that bad, her birth was out of pocket, as well as her care for allergies (several grand over a few years), she has had to have several $$ dental procedures done, with another one this summer in the hospital. All of those require complete prepayment before the surgery. I don't want to think about braces, etc... because of her type of mouth injury, is is likely she will need them. DD2 however has been my expensive child. Insurance only covers so much, the co-pays, deductibles for hospital stays, medical equipment that insurance refused to pay for but she had to have, etc.... I don't have an exact number but I know we have spent close to 20K on her and she is 19m old. She had meds that cost 1300.00 a dose! She has been worth every penny, but I would of never in a billion years imagined that I would have a child requiring as much medical care and cash as she has.

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#22 of 29 Old 06-03-2008, 09:03 PM
 
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ITA the medical costs....we don't go to the dr often but even having 2 kids on high deductible insurance costs about $180 a month. Ds had a little hernia in his first year and I am thankful we had low cost insurnace through the state because it saved us thousands!!!

I think having a lot of skills is good--especially gardening/cooking to lower the food costs. We are a family of big eaters. I have also found that having some basic knowledge about how to treat illness at home (using fairly inexpensive natural supplements/herbs and food) has saved us money as well since one dr visit for us is 116.00 and they only give you a script for abx anyway.

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#23 of 29 Old 06-04-2008, 01:26 AM
 
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Babies are 'cheap', toddler are not that expensive... school age is $$ and the teen years well... braces, bigger clothes, MORE FOOD, etc etc etc...

I dont even want to look at my budget:
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#24 of 29 Old 06-04-2008, 03:21 AM
 
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We raise our kids cheaply. We buy minimal equipment, clothing, etc. Our biggest way that our kids have cost us money.... medical bills. My middle child especially! I would like very much to have him in a big cushy bubble so we can stop already with dislocated joints, stitches, stuff jammed up the nose, pokes with forks to his own eyes, etc, etc, etc. Not to mention he has leg/foot problems. This is stuff one can't really plan for! Here we shop at thrift stores so that we can clothe the entire family for $300/year and yet then Owen costs us several thousand a year in medical expenses.

Kids aren't cheap. That doesn't mean that you can't raise kids with a frugal lifestyle, it just means there are expenses that come up with bringing more people into your family.

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#25 of 29 Old 06-04-2008, 10:38 AM
 
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It's really easy (in my experience at least) to raise children frugally. They can be really cheap as babies/toddlers/preschoolers and then the price tag rises a bit.

For babies I need a good sling or carrier; diapers, covers, snappis, & wipes; some clothing (usually either gifted to us or bought at garage sales & thrift stores); a quality car seat; a firm mattress on your bed and a bed rail if you don't push the bed against the wall; and I like an infant seat of some sort to be able to place the babe while I pee (bought ours for $5 at a thrift store). A changing table can be convenient, but you can safely change the diapers on the floor.

There is a need for some toys as they grow, but we found that less is definitely more and choosing multi-purpose open ended toys are best. We're honestly finding as my DD1 grows that she enjoys homemade toys more than many of her purchased toys.

We've been blessed with very healthy children so medical costs have been minimal (and DH has a really good health insurance plan with minimal co-pays and free prescriptions). A healthy diet and breastfeeding can go a long way to minimize the trips to the doctor as well.

We homeschool and find that the kids *don't* buy into the fashion trends and will easily find clothing at garage sales and thrift stores that fit their own style well.

We do some activities that have a price tag (gymnastics, gaming tournaments, etc) but save cash gifts from aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. to use for that purpose. It helps when you start saving when they're babies!

Yes, there is a pricetag that comes with children, but it's hard to run a cost/benefit analysis on these little lives.
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#26 of 29 Old 06-04-2008, 10:50 AM
 
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I think alot of it depends on choices you CAN make. I was blessed as a single mum to be bale to do homedaycare so I never had that added expense of putting my OWNB children in daycare. Other mums of CDing babes hand down to me their outgrown CD. My mom homeschools my lil sis and passes down to me all her old supplies and books for my kids. We live in town near enough to walk everywhere and someone GAVE me a lovely double stroller. I sewed my own slings, clothes, etc on a sewing machine that I bought used from a friend for 15 bucks! People are constantly dropping off bags of clothes that if they cannot be used for us to wear I use as fabric to sew stuff like bibs and blankets. Our two biggest expenses really are rent and food. (A family of six eats ALOT!!!!) But my goal there is to find a new place where I can garden liek crazy and cut down on produce costs.....
I am luccky also that my kids are really not big into consumerism so they do not insist on namebrand clothes or the latest toys. I really hope that continues as they get older.
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#27 of 29 Old 06-05-2008, 10:31 AM
 
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We are very frugal with DD... one thing that helped immensely was our family and friends threw us a HUGE baby shower. They got us re-useable things, like a baby bathtub and gender-neutral clothing. Toys and any clothes we needed are normally yard-sale finds... MIL is a yard-sale-extravagant, and she loves having 'more things' to buy. We're stocked until DD hits the 2T size in clothing.

MIL/FIL bought us a crib set, which she now uses, but the first 6-months we co-slept. Baby food is freaking expensive, but we home-make a lot of it and also give DD "real" meals, like, oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, etc.

There's also the expenses associated with healthcare... We do take DD to well-baby visits, minus the vacc's, and we take her if she's sick. One walk-in appointment plus the perscription from it was easy $120. Luckily our insurance pays for normal WBV's, though.

And the diapers, and diaper cream, and Charlie's Soap for the diapers, and replacing covers when they get ratty (pet peeve of mine. ) and the "Oh, wow, Mori would LOVE that toy!" when we're out at a craft fair, and... and.. and..

It all adds up. But, then, with #2, we're already set. We might need a few more diapers, but toys and clothing, etc, is already covered.
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#28 of 29 Old 06-05-2008, 11:42 AM
 
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You can absolutely raise kids frugally. I have 6 children, ranging in age from 8 months to 16 years and I spend about the same amount on all of them (OK, the 8 mo not so much, she's very cheap!). It's about choices. My kids play sports, take lessons and do all of those things...but we also don't go on a lot of vacations and we grow a lot of our own food. I consider my children my "entertainment" budget, as it were. I don't go to movies or out to eat - I do go to a basketball game every night throughout the winter. Can you live the same life you had when you were single? No, but hopefully the choice to have kids makes it more rewarding. There are lots of ways to get through the "little" parenting expenses - babies are cheap - teens can get jobs and around here, everyone has a pair of cleats that can be swapped for another.

Both my teens have jobs and they are allowed to spend their money as they see fit. I require them to pay for certain things - for example, every kid who plays basketball is entitled to a new pair of basketball sneakers (as needed) up to $50. If you want a pair that costs more than that, you have to pony up. This of course, is mostly true for my teens who don't have anyone to hand them down a pair of "sexy" b-ball sneakers. My younger kids are up to their ankles each year in choices for shoes and cool clothes.

I've also so raised my children frugally throughout their lives that my oldest son once wouldn't allow me to buy him sports shorts that cost $20. He was appalled and "ordered" me to take him to the thrift store first!

Throughout their lives I have tried to give my children a keen understanding of the hours of work to cost ratio. "it takes your Dad 8 hours of work - one full day - to pay our electric bill each month." "It takes me one week's worth of research and writing to pay for camp."

As for name brands and what so and so has - blast it - you get what you get!:-)

Unschooling, writer mom of Matt, 22; Lydia, 21; Alex, 18; Liam, 16; Jack, 9; Kiara, 7; Seamus, 5; Anais, 1 and ??? May 2015. About to hit the road in an RV full time. Currently live off grid in Alaska.
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#29 of 29 Old 06-05-2008, 11:44 AM
 
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I pretty much got to the point where the first year and half or so was essentially free.
I found this to be the case after the first two kids.

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
14yo ds   11yo dd  9yo ds and 7yo ds and 2yo ds  
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