Today's post is awesome. I actually convinced my assistant/life organizer/occasional therapist Melissa to do an interview on the site! I hired her back in December, and she has been sooooo helpful keeping everything running smoothly for M$M while I've been psycho-style creating new businesses and launching courses.
One of the glaring holes in the content that I cook up for this site is anything related to having kids and dealing with the financial situations that come with that reality. I don't have kids yet (sorry mom), and when I do, I'll be in a pretty good place financially. So to supplement that and give some good content to Millennial parents – I'm just going to let awesome parents tell their story.
So here's why I'm interviewing Mel today: She has three kids (and another one the way!!!), works online from home, and somehow does all of it. I'm always amazed by her ability to balance it all, because I struggle with just doing my stuff without having to worry about little humans running around. Enjoy! ~M$M
1. So walk me through a day in the life. How the heck do you manage to raise three kids while working from home for a ridiculous blogger?
Two words for the person contemplating working from home with kids– structure, and flexibility. I get up and work in my bed before my feet hit the floor. I knock out a lot of the everyday stuff for M$M as a habit, and then get the kids going for the day. Fortunately, my oldest two, 5 and 3, entertain themselves a lot, and my amazing husband has usually supplied them with some kind of snack before leaving the house in the morning, so they are pretty chill.
My current baby (just shy of a year and a half) is a late sleeper, so I get work done in relative peace. Then, we do whatever we need to do during the day. If that is more work, the kids get to play or watch Netflix on iPads (#millennialmom). If I can, I try to get out of the house with them, even if it is just to walk around the mall or go to a park.
Nap time, although flexible in timing, is sacrosanct. I either work more or chill, because mommin' don't quit for me just because bed time happens!
But giving yourself a general structure, and then allowing flexibility within it is key in my book.
2. What was life like for you and your husband before you started having children?
Before we had kids, I had plans of going to law school. We got married young (for millennials, at least–24 years old) and we were beyond broke. No joke, his first teaching job paid $24,000. Tiny apartment, ancient Buick LeSabre and paid off CR-V (only one of those is still with us today), our biggest splurges were gym memberships and a lot of Taco Bell.
We were only married for about 7 months when we found out we were expecting our first, so there was no wildlife, amazing trips, or even really, a honeymoon (he started teaching the Monday after our wedding!).
3. What was the biggest thing that changed from a personal finance perspective after you had your first child?
Financially, before we were pregnant, we were mildly aimless. We had been brought up in Christian homes and had a pretty good grasp on the Dave Ramsey Tithe 10, Save 10, live on 80 idea. Still had credit card debt from my last year in college, and still broke as a joke, so we weren't really doing much for our future.
But having the prospect of a tiny dependent really lights a fire under your butt. My husband looked for opportunities to take on paid church musician work and chances to grow his resume in that area; something that has majorly benefitted us down the road.
4. How did you adjust?
We were incredibly blessed by family and friends and co-workers. We had literally every item purchased off our baby registry. My mom and I made our crib bedding (and everything we got was gender neutral for future kids). We had stacks on stacks of diapers and didn't have a need to buy our daughter clothes for a full year.
I chose to nurse my kids, saving a crap-ton on formula, and made baby food for her when she got a bit older. We took our lunches to work, didn't get a new car, didn't buy clothes a lot, used Netflix and Redbox instead of movie theaters. Basically, we lived a step above college kid status. But the biggest blessing, which you can relate to, was moving in with my parents for about 6 months to save for a down payment.
We got in on the housing market at an amazing time, and that 6 months (while I was expecting our second child, whom I brought back as a newborn to my childhood room) was absolutely foundational in where we are today financially.
5. Is having three children a financial strain, or do you just figure it out as you go?
Everyone thinks that they can't afford kids, and I disagree. Here we are expecting our 4th (yes, the final one for sure) in October and we are exponentially better off than we were when we started 6 years ago.
Yeah, they might get more expensive down the road, but for now, we save clothes for the next kid in vacuum bags, shop at thrift stores for everyday play clothes (because kids destroy absolutely everything, even if you paid $30 for the outfit), and find cheap entertainment.
We still go on family trips– we've been to Puerto Rico (where my husband's family is from) twice with kids by using the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards cards (I just earned my companion pass and can't wait to fly my husband for free with me!).
I guess having them all 2 years apart we haven't really felt much in the way of a financial hit because it's been continuous haha.
6. What are some of the biggest ways that you have saved money as your family has grown?
As I mentioned, we still haven't paid for a single flight ticket. We haggled the heck out of the one car my husband and I have financed and got it at an amazingly low rate. We shop our insurances annually.
We hired a financial advisor to handle our retirement accounts and help us stay on track with our personal savings goals. And savings has become an automatic thing. My husband handles our finances like a pro– tithing and savings happen as soon as he sees the money in the bank. It's just what we do.
That isn't to say that we are financially awesome– I still spend WAY too much on fast-food, especially with the kids. I'm pretty sure I should have stock in Taco Bell by now.
7. Do you ever sleep?
I nap, occasionally. I dunno, I've never been much of a nighttime sleeper. My brain doesn't shut off very quickly. And our youngest still doesn't sleep through the night regularly, so I'm not sure I've had more than a couple days (like literally two) where I was operating on a full-nights' sleep. I probably don't even know what I'm missing at this point.
8. Are there any costs during the process of growing your family that you didn't see coming?
Honestly, the rising cost of health insurance hit us like a mack truck (who didn't get absolutely wrecked by it?). The difference in expenses between my first and third delivery was INSANE. We have since moved to a Health Sharing Ministry as my husband's public school policy premiums alone would've been about the same as our mortgage and escrow.
That has helped drastically. And honestly, I recommend it to anyone who is serious about getting their family policy expenses in check.
9. What are your biggest tips for young couples that are either starting or continuing to grow their families?
First of all, enjoy life in whatever stage you're in. I've been to more than enough funerals of young and old alike to know that none of this does you any good if you hated life while you were at it, broke or wealthy.
Second, be thinking long-term.
So many of my peers (well, people my age at least) still don't have their crap together because it's all about right now. You don't want kids for five years? Cool, still get a life insurance policy, still get to saving money. It's possible to be responsible and enjoy life. I enjoy life more NOW because we have the financial breathing room to do so BECAUSE we have lived responsibly.
Don't worry about having an old car, not living in the newest neighborhood, or putting your kids in hand-me-downs.
No one worth your time is judging that, anyway. And honestly, for us, tithing has been a game-changer. We've been through two different job losses and have still never had a year where we were worse off than the year before.
I attribute that to putting money in its rightful place in our lives. Money is a tool to be used, not a thing to rule our lives. Do jobs you love and live within those means, and that's how you find a lasting happiness.