There must come a point in every person's life when they wake up with a startling realization: Things cost money.
I know. I know. For those of you geniuses who are already aware of this, it seems rather obvious. For those of you who have not had this earth-shattering revelation, you'll think it's obvious, too, because you won't get it, because you haven't had it yet. It's okay. I was once like you. Yesterday, in fact.
It's time to make decisions about what we're going to do with Laylee for preschool next year. We've always said we'd do a playgroup when she was 2, a homeschool co-op when she was 3, and a formal preschool when she was 4. (Okay, I've always said all of that to Dan while he ate string cheese, wrote code, and nodded at appropriate times.)
Since Laylee is now 4 and registration for the next school year is due, I've been running all over the area checking out preschools and getting my name on waiting lists. The variety of program options is mind-boggling. The price range is wide. I am left doubting that it's even possible for one preschool to be EIGHT TIMES better than another, even if the prices would indicate that it should be.
Two nights ago, I told Dan that I had narrowed the choices down and gave him the pros and cons of each one. What? One costs a hundred dollars less per month than the other? I think we have a winner.
Not so fast. They incubate baby chicks at the higher priced school, for the love of Mike! And they're both very reasonably priced for the service they offer.
So Dan said, "Show me the money."
My task yesterday was to look at our expenses for the past few months and make sure we had enough excess income to pay for preschool.
Not only do we not have any excess income, but we're consistently overspending our current budget by several hundred dollars each month. Our budget is conservative enough that we're not getting into debt of any kind, but neither are we moving forward with any of our long-term financial goals, such as replacing the roof on our house, ever traveling again, or avoiding having to work at Wal-Mart well into our nineties.
So now I've finally stared the financial reality of parenthood in the face and it ain't pretty. Pre-yesterday, I would go grocery shopping with a list of ingredients for all the meals I planned to make. If a new recipe called for a $5 garnish, I would throw it in the cart. A family needs to eat, doesn't it, and it was in the recipe so it was non-negotiable. Frequently I would see a new brand of sippy cup that looked fun, a DVD that I NEEDED for only $5.99, a book about how to save money, a $10 six-pack of low-fat/low-calorie diet cupcakes, a pair of $80 ski boots, and just throw them all in the cart.
Dan is always putting money into the bank. Someone needs to spend it, right? Not anymore. From this moment forward, every single expenditure represents a portion of Laylee's preschool fund.
When I let half a container of sour cream go bad: How does it feel to rinse 30 minutes of preschool down the sink? A skirt I adore is on "Clearance" at Eddie Bauer in the size I plan to be six months from now. Is it worth one week of preschool to hang the dream skirt on my wall as a weight-loss talisman?
Can I really trade an entire month of preschool for a sweet pair of leather boots?
I'm finally starting to understand why my mom never bought new shoes.