25 February 2008

Mostly Status Quo

Not so much to blog about these past few days. My mom is visiting, so I've been focused on that. It's always really motivating to have her visit, and she's such a help to me and the babes. I have actually gotten through a few long-put-off personal projects with her help, and my freezer is filling up with delicious food for the twins and me to eat in the coming weeks. Yay for moms!

I went to a party on Saturday night and left my mom on babysitting duty, which she was happy to cover. Even better, she let me sleep in on Sunday. I stayed in bed until 9:00 a.m. I have not done that since the twins were born almost two years ago. It was heavenly. I was not fully asleep from about 6:45 a.m. on since the twins were up, our place is small, and they are loud, but it was still wonderful to just lounge in bed and doze. Delicious. We kept the "lazy/relaxed" theme all day; no one took a shower and I basically wore my pajamas even though we took a walk to get a coffee and then took the kids to the coop in the afternoon. I was wearing fleece pants and a sweatshirt, so it was OK. I guess.

On Saturday, we had a surprisingly fun morning at the mall. I had made an appointment for the twins to get their pictures taken since I missed out on that at eighteen months. I tried at eighteen months, but it just didn't work. The photographer was a dud, the kids were cranky, and it was clearly not meant to be. So I waited for my mom to arrive and help me out and off we went.

It could not have gone better. The photographer was excellent and the kids cooperative. Maddie was not feeling great, but she rallied, and Riley was a total ham. I got great individual shots of them, a nice one of them together, and one of the three of us. I even got one of me with Maddie and one of me with Riley, too. After the photo session was done, we did a bit of shopping and found Maddie an adorable outfit for her second birthday (love it when Mom is buying!) and then had some lunch. It was one of those mornings where everything just worked. Now I need to get the photos in frames. I may have a friend scan some of them (naughty me, and I work in publishing, which makes it even worse), and if so, I'll post some of them.

When my dad was here last week, we went out to a local burger joint for dinner one night. The twins were very concerned that a baby at the next table was going to eat their fries. They spent most of the dinner saying, "Baby no fry. No baby fry." My dad and I were amused by their concern as it was clear to us adults that there was absolutely no danger of the baby touching the fries. So every time one of the twins would say, "Baby no fry," we'd chuckle and reassure them that there was nothing to worry about, the baby was not going to eat their fries.

Both kids have latched on to saying, "Baby no fry!" now and will randomly just blurt it out. Riley likes to shout it at the top of his lungs when he wakes up in the morning (which has been around 5:30 a.m. the past few mornings). I'm sure it doesn't help that I've been singing, "No baby, no fry" to the tune of Bob Marley's "No woman, no cry." How was I supposed to resist?

One of the long-shelved projects that I've managed to get started on since my mom arrived is the creation of a budget. It was as depressing as I expected, seeing as I had to acknowledge that indeed, the money I have coming in each month is less than my fixed expenses. So I need to make more money and stop eating, putting gas in my car, and going out for coffee. Sigh. I'm not exactly sure what to do about this. Clearly I need to cut back on my monthly Roth contribution as I max it out every year and that just might not happen for the next little while. I'm also considering using some life insurance money to pay off my car and free up that bit of monthly income. It's not like I'm a frivolous spender, so the whole thing is really very disheartening. We're lucky to have some savings and some life insurance money, albeit not much of either anymore.

Then there's the fact that I'm in a bit of a strange financial situation at daycare. Since John and I started the twins at their daycare, we have paid $X/hour based on actual hours the kids are there with an eight-hour-per-day minimum charge. They are there eight hours/day (9-ish to 5-ish) and I continue to write my check accordingly, based on the fee that was set out when the kids started there sixteen months ago. 

Well, the daycare has grown a bit since we started, and they now have a website that one of the women who works there was proudly telling me about. I made a mental note to check it out and managed to do so last week. The fees are posted on the site, and it would appear that new clients pay a flat daily or weekly rate for an 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. day rather than paying by the hour.

Here's the clincher: the weekly rate is $70 per kid more than I  pay right now. So I'm paying them $140 less per week than I would pay them if I were a new client. Of course, it's their responsibility to tell me if tuition has gone up, and they've never said a word. And the twins are there for eight hour days rather than nine, but so are many of the other kids whose parents pay for nine hours regardless of whether or not the kids are there for the entire nine hours.

Because I am who I am, I feel guilty about knowing that new people pay so much more than me even though I know that I'm not the one who should have to bring this up. It's weighing on me, though. The people who own and work for the daycare have done so many favors for me, and even at the new price, they are still cheaper than basically any other daycare I found when I did my initial research. If I already can barely afford to pay them what I pay them, it's not like I have cheaper options. 

Come to think of it, months ago, one of the women at daycare told me she had a personal question for me and then asked how I was doing financially. I'm close to this woman, and I assumed that she was just worried about how I was managing after John's death. I'm sure that's true. But perhaps that's when they raised the rates? Who knows.

What I want to do and what I think I should do is have a candid conversation about the fact that I can't afford to pay more than what I'm paying, I know that what I'm paying is less than what they could be charging, and I just want to clear the air. I'd feel a lot better if that was all on the table. And if I need to start paying more? Well, I'll just have to see how to deal with that.

There are, of course, drastic solutions to my financial situation. 

I could sell my house (or try) and move back to Oregon or to a smaller, cheaper rental. The twins and I could live in a one-bedroom--they could have the bedroom and I could sleep in the living room, for example. I know we could get a one-bedroom for way less than my mortgage.

I could not work since a big chunk of my income goes to daycare, and if I weren't working I'd get Social Security income in addition to what the kids get. But I don't think the math works out on the money there, either, since I'd have to buy private health insurance and what we'd get from SSI would still not be enough to cover our fixed expenses as they are.

In the end, I'll probably have to ask my parents for money. When will I be a real grown-up?!


edie & ella said...

Girl -- you are more grown up than many people would be given the cards you have been dealt lately. I am amazed at how well you have handled having 2 babies and losing your husband. Life is costly. I realize the babies are a blessing and you do what you have to do but that makes it no less challenging. Hang in there and if I start buying lottery tickets and happen to win big I will keep you in mind. samantha

caro said...

Maybe they've grandfathered in "old" clients at the old rates on purpose? I think there are some folks at my kids' day cares who pay less because they've been there since before rate increases.

Jan said...

Think how much pleasure it would give you to help your children out if they were ever in your situation. It's hardly as if you've been running up credit card debt on Jimmy Choos.

My daycare gives a discount for siblings, and I know they sometimes make arrangements for people who they consider good clients. I think your plan to talk to them is nice, but more than you should feel obligated to do.

Rosemary said...

Long time lurker delurking to say that I think you are doing the right thing facing this budget head on. My stress levels actually dropped after my budget, even though I now knew I was living beyond my means. Amazing how much better I felt when I knew the scope of the problem.

By the way, you should not feel obligated to mention the fees. Sometimes, people want to do nice things for others, but don't want it to be a big deal. Just a thought.

Sandra said...

I agree with Caro about rates for previous clients - that may well be the case. No other $$ advice to offer BUT must add that I LOVE the Marley connection! I was actually humming it while reading the story, before I got to your line about it!

erk said...

It's the daycare's business about how much they charge. People get grandfathered all the time into old rates when other people's rates go up. The only way you should remotely feel guilty is if there is another widowed mother of twins who started the same day you did who is paying a higher rate.

It's like when I was playing online Scrabble with HCB and in-laws. We were using a dictionary (SOWPODS) that is used for Scrabble tournaments in all countries but the US, Canada, and Thailand. And, well, it accepted my admittedly sketchy word "vin" and HCB's admittedly sketchier word "woon." (Both of which are foreign language words... ) Online Scrabble permitted it. My inlaws challenged the words.

HCB volunteered to deduct the points from his final score. I had to be the bitch who refused to do such a cockamamie thing. It's not that I'm COMPETITIVE or ANYTHING but come on. It's in the dictionary! Maybe not the dictionary that the inlaws are using, but in the SOWPODS dictionary! I'm not deducting any points!

OK, so maybe that wasn't so much like your situation after all. But you get the point. Maybe.

Rachel said...

I'm glad you had such a nice time with your mother.

Eh, I wouldn't worry about the day care fees. They are probably cutting you a deal because they know you can't afford to pay more. Like you said, it is on them.

Maybe you could put up ads on your blog to bring in a little extra $? Blogher is accepting applications again, and I think you get enough traffic to make it worthwhile.

thrice said...

I think it is normal, in today's world to have financial troubles. I just don't understand how people pay for everything. I wish it were different.

Snickollet said...

Rachel--Thanks for the tip about BlogHer. I'd been contacted by them a while ago and neglected to follow through, so I just submitted an application to see if I can get that ball rolling.


Heather said...

Snick, the only other piece of assvice I have for you on the daycare thing comes from a daycare I sat on the board for for 7 years. Prices go *down* as kids get older. For an example, the last year I was on the board, kids up to 12 months were $750/mo, 12 to 24 months was $625/mo, 24 to 36 months was $525/mo, and starting with PK3s (two falls before the child would be old enough to start kindergarten), the rates were $425/mo. I don't say this to say my daycare was representative (different location, likely different features, different market), but just to show the decrease for different aged kids. So, maybe they aren't raising your rates (and that's their responsibility to bring up with you) to effectively adjust down for the amount of effort older kids take than the little bitties. Just a thought.

Elle said...

I wish this weren't true for you, but you are far from the only person around our ages who has this kind of trouble. I have to ask my dad for money to fix my car, STILL. You, at least, have some pretty good reasons for it.

Budgeting helps a lot, and don't be afraid to use some of those saving to pay off loans that have interest attached to them. You're saving money in the long run with that. The same with your ROTH contributions. Yes, it's important to save for retirement, but that's not going to do you any good if you're running a deficit every month *now*. Some of the money you put towards retirement could go to paying off interest-bearing loans right now.

In my own case, I was just a financial dope and let the interest on my student loans compound when it wasn't necessary. I stick to a strict budget, run ads and do paid blogging to help pay them off, in addition to my real job. I think ads are a great idea for your site -- you must get enough traffic, and I know *I* would find them interesting enough to click ;)

Christie said...

I know you don't know me, but I am a regular lurker. But I am also a working mommy with daycare woes of my own. About a year ago, my daycare raised their rates as well. About the same time, my hubby got laid off from a good paying job, and was unable to find a descent job. The daycare owners were aware of my situation, and since I had been taking my kids there for over 2 years, and had always paid my tuition on time, they chose not to raise my rates. Perhaps yours has done the same for you.

At any rate, I agree with the previous comments that you do not need to feel badly about your finanacial situation. I have a 2 income household, and my hubby has recently had to get a second job just to make ends meet. We're not big spenders either, and we barely contribute 5% to our retirement account. I think its just difficult to survive financially in today's economy. You're doing wonderful, and I admire you for all you're able to accomplish.

OTRgirl said...

We've been doing a financial course through Dave Ramsey (http://www.daveramsey.com/etc/cms/baby_steps_2867.htmlc). Much of his style drives me crazy, but he has some real practical suggestions for how to handle finances:

1. Get $1000 in an emergency fund asap. As crazy and counter-intuitive as that sounds, it's the first step.
2. Pay off debt via debt snowball. List all you owe from least amount to greatest. Don't worry about interest rates. Pay off smallest debt while paying minimums on all others. Next take what you paid for that smallest debt and add it to the minimum for the next on the list. Proceed until your only debt is your mortgage.
3. Get 3-6 months expenses into savings.
4. 15% income into IRA and pre-tax retirement
5. College funding
6. Pay off the house
7. Build wealth and give.

He has some great advice about life insurance. Get rid of your permanent life insurance and get term life instead. It's MUCH cheaper. All the 'savings' you build up through your permanent life insurance, if you just invested that money into an IRA, you'd have WAY more money than doing it through a life insurance plan.

Don't know if that's more confusing than helpful...

I'm like you, I'd rather have a clear the air discussion with the day care than feel vaguely guilty.

Anonymous said...

If you have ads, I promise I will a) read your site 50 times a day; and b) click obsessively on all of the ads.

Please don't be so hard on yourself. A lot of people don't bother to address any financial issues... it is the "grown ups" who face reality.

NanarocksWeen said...

Get the ads. A lot of us read regularly, and we're all here to help if we can.

Glory Laine said...

My mom has ran a day care for 25 years and always honors the starting fee. She also gives a sibling discount so I wonder if this is the case for you. Beleive me two full time children with a mom who pays on time and picks up on time is a dream. Don't feel guilty. They need you just like you need them.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I've never commented before, but would like you to know that you should not feel guilty about the daycare/money issue. I ran a daycare for three years, and when tuition went up, it only applied to new people. If this new tuition rate were to apply to you, they would have conferenced with you and gave you the opportunity to sign the new contract, or find new care.

Also, there is often a multi-child discount that should apply. I know not all the same rules apply to all daycare's, but if it was that important for you to pay the new tuition rates, they would have said so.

Keen said...

Dude, you *are* a real grownup, and you're dealing with a whole lot more than a lot of real grownups are. And for many of the reasons others have mentioned above, I know your day care situation will be fine.

Kudos to you for sitting down and working out a budget. I know that's hard to do. I've felt so much more relaxed and in control since I went on a budget in January, though, and it's helped me improve my spending habits considerably. Now it just feels normal.

I'm so glad you're having fun with your mom. Sleeping in and wearing pajamas all day sounds impossibly delicious.

Anonymous said...

Delurking to confirm what everyone else has already said. My daycare gives a discount for siblings and decreases the tuition as the children get older. I do believe your day care people know what you are paying. Perhaps you have been grandfathered in, or perhaps they are simply being kind and looking out for you. In a world full of bad stuff, its nice to think they are looking out for you.
I think the idea of paying off the car to reduce monthly debt is probably a good one. I think the idea of a one bedroom place should be reserved for a last resort. You need your own room/space.


Kizz said...

From what I can tell this is what being a real grown up is all about. Not sure when that changes

Jamie & Kamil said...

Delurking to say your story about the fries made me laugh out loud. Honestly. I could just visualize the whole event. Sounds just like something my 2-yr-old would do at our favorite burger joint.

debangel said...

I really think they need to spell that "groan-up", don't you? It won't be like this forever, so just keep hanging in there! You have some serious guts, girl! We're all cheering you on.

What kind of coffee do you drink? Straybucks? Can I send you a card? (Cheaper than flying you to CA for a Frappucino)

mlg said...

oh no..you are a real grown up. Kids don't have these worries. Teenagers and college students either. These are the things that make us a grown up.

Your sanity is the first priority to making a good life for the kids. I always do whatever I can make that my first priority and thank the universe for the gifts of windfalls, lower rates, good sales, etc. Every little bit helps and folks like you get it because you give it. Give thanks and give back how you can.

I miss the twos, which weren't so terrible at my house either...

monica said...

Following up on a previous comment - as the kids get older, daycare costs should decrease and then SOMEDAY - in 3 -4 years - they kids will actually go to school!!!!! You will still have afterschool costs, but they will be much less (I pay 300 a month for my 2nd grader here just north of Boston). My just turned five year old still costs me $1500 a month in his transitional kindergarten at a Center, but next year - wooooo-hoooo! - I will have most of that back in my budget (that is almost as much as I pay in mortgage!) (minus the 300 it will cost for his afterschool). I guess my point is that you should not loose sight of the fact that daycare will actually go away someday. I had to borrow from home equity to get thru the years that both of mine were in full time daycare, but I knew it was not forever, so I just dealt with it. I would definitely use that life insurance money to pay off debts, reduce interest costs and let you have a cushion...

As far as the budget goes - I read a book once (maybe it was Dave Ramsey mentioned by another poster) who pointed out all the ways we spend little bits of money - that really add up in the end. Coffee at Starbucks (or Dunkin or wherever) was his biggest issue. One bit of advice he gives is to literally log every single penny you spend and see where all the hidden costs go.

Good luck!

Suzanne said...

I just read an article by a guy who lives in NY about how for many people, especially those who live in cities where real estate is very expensive, owning a home does not make sense. The gist of it was that where better housing is cheaper to rent it makes better economic sense to rent vs. buy. And the difference in rent vs. mortgage you can invest and get a greater return than you can from your property. Unless you are going to live there like 30 years. And even then the return rarely matches that of most other investments. So while selling your place may be drastic it may make most sense financially.

I know it's frustrating to realize that you may need to rely on your parents for help but you are doing your best in the wake of really tough circumstances. And you are doing a great job. Look ahead 30 years - if one of your children were in the same position and you could help them wouldn't you do it in a second without hesitation?

Angela said...

You are one of the most "grown up people" around! You are doing an amazing job and please don't forget it. I agree with the other commenters about the daycare fees, it's up to the daycare to let you know if their rates are being raised, try not to worry about it.
I'm so glad your visit with your Mom is going so great, can't wait to see photos of Riley and Maddie. So cute "Baby no fry"!

Mama Nabi said...

Baby no fry! I want to echo some of the other commenters - I have a feeling that the daycare decided to 'grandfather' you in the old rate. If you really need to have it out in the open, you could ask them about the new rate... but I suspect it's not necessary, that the daycare probably feels that conversation is not needed.
Perhaps some day you can pay them back in another way...

Christine said...

What a newsy, great post, although I'm sorry for your difficulties. Money problems suck. On the daycare thing, maybe they are willing to look the other way due to your situ. Or like others have said, you could be grandfathered in. If it makes you feel better to mention it, do it. But maybe this is some of the help it's so tough to accept but you should.

And you are most assuredly a grownup.

Meggerz said...

A vote here for Oregon, purely out of personal interest - I'd love to do a photo shoot for you and the babes free of charge :)

Jen said...

dude... they have a web page? email me it..

second.. when we got set up there a year ago, it was the same deal as what you explained you went through.. a dollar amount per hour and then hours per week. we also pay extra when we need them to watch ben on fridays, if shiela has an appointment or something and i can't bring him to work.

i can also GUARANTEE you that they would be up front with you if they chose to raise rates.. it's very common for daycares to raise rates on the newcomers and it just, over a period of time, slowly bumps things up for them.. but if our group is anything like how my mom ran her family daycare, they sorta "grandfather" the existing people in. in addition.. they KNOW what you've been going through for the past year (plus)and i would even consider asking them if they would consider giving you a bit of a decrease, even if just for a short period of time so you can get your feet under you. i'd be shocked if they didn't ok that.. seriously. your kids (and you) are part of their family now.. just as we are.. and if they knew you were struggling, they'd be the first to make the offer to help.

don't worry about them.. trust me on that. i'm pretty sure R would watch them for free if it came down to it..

also.. don't worry about what the rest of us pay or don't pay.. we make the arrangements when we sign up and we obviously make arrangements that work for us. we, like you, originally picked this place because we could actually "afford" it.. but i can't imagine there being another place where i would feel more comfortable bringing ben after experiencing the level of their compassion and care for the kids.

you're good.

and don't move to oregon.. we'd miss you too much. we should buy a two family together.. shiela and i are wanting out of apartment living, but can't afford a single family and i'm too shy to contemplate buying a "condo" i.e. duplex and share it with a stranger.

geez.. i'm rambling again...

Ben's mom #1

leigh said...

Long time reader, first time poster. I'm a fan of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. There is some preachiness that I could do without. But his advice is solid. He provides a series of steps to help manage your money and prioritize. You're doing great! Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

my Dad died unexpectedly when I was nine. With 3 teenagers and two young kids, and having just started back to college to get her degree - my Mom was up a creek Big time.
To my knowledge, other than the occassional meal and babysitting, my grandparents did not provide monetary support. My Mom sure could have used the help, no matter how minimal just to feed and clothe us and pay the bills. If your In-laws and parents can financially help - take it - and do nice things for them -artwork from the kids, photos, etc to let them know your appreciate all they do. If they ask how they can help, take your own advice in your blog entry about how to help someone who has just lost a loved one - be specific about how they can help you. (i've used your advice many times already)
mommie doris

Leggy/Clover said...

I haven't read what others wrote, but I don't think you owe the day care anything. It sounds like they grandfathered you in- which a lot of businesses, like hair salons, etc. will do for long-time clients.
I'm sorry you are having so many money woes. Its gotta be so hard.
And dude, if you aren't a grown-up, what the hell does that say about the rest of us?

Anonymous said...

Have you checked into Social Security benifits for you and the kids? I think the kids should be entitled to receiving some benifits from John's social Security. I'm not very clear on how exactly that all works, but it would be something to look into.

Julia said...

Giving up the house you and your husband bought for your family shouldn't be the solution to this, and it would suck immensely if it had to be. I hope it doesn't come to that.

And maybe the daycare grandfathered you in on the old rates, or maybe they just feel bad asking you for more.

On a much less important subject-- I recently bought very good frames in bulk. Let me know if you want/need some.

And sorry for going MIA-- just now digging through my reader. Very, very bad friend. Hangs head in shame.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I was in this EXACT same situation! Not with the daycare, with the overall situation.

Shameful, huh?

But as a widow, with all that I'd been through, I figured, sure, sell the house, that's a reasonable step, right? Somehow it did not seem drastic, even though it was not a step I was ready to take.

But I did NOT have any other plan. That was it!

Wotta life.

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