Beneficial Baby Budget

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Full disclosure – we didn’t really do much of the “budget baby” situation. I didn’t buy anything used, we purchased what we need on Amazon Prime for full price and never looked back. I had an Honest diaper subscription for the first year and paid an extraordinary amount for glass bottles and rubber Natursutton nipples.

However, now that we are in a parenting groove, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks. I will admit, some things are worth paying for. Those glass bottles and those expensive pacifiers, for instance, since they were the only ones Joey would take. And to be honest, I felt better not putting weird chemicals and plastic in his mouth all the time.

Other super expensive things that come with baby? Formula (if you don’t have the privilege of a great breastfeeding experience), diapers and wipes, and contraptions to hold them.

These are the things that dented our budget. That overdrew our checking account, that made it so we could only eat ramen for a lengthy bit of time. I wish I was kidding.

However, this was a situation I was glad to be in, looking back. I felt really good about how we were raising our newborn, and there were things I wasn’t willing to sacrifice for him, but would definitely sacrifice for us. Hence, ramen.

If you’re on a major budget, I am probably not the best example. I prefer to be totally transparent, so whether this makes you like me more or not, it is the truth.

Fast forward into toddlerhood, and we are no longer in the initial – first parent of a newborn scared of everything wondering if we are doing it wrong – phase. No, we are officially in the – how can we save some more money for private school or college without having to eat ramen – phase. I like this phase a lot more.

Some things still apply – Joey’s primary cup is made of stainless steel (not plastic), he uses the same expensive pacifiers, though I can’t remember the last time I replaced them, and many of his clothes are from the used clothing store in town.

Alternatively, we now buy Kirkland brand diapers and wipes, feed him whole milk instead of formula and prefer to let him wander instead of containing his wild being.

Though probably not mainstream, I do want to share our three most beneficial baby budget tips for toddlers.

  1. Joey has had a horrible time with diapers. He HATES getting his diaper changed, and for the longest time, we couldn’t figure out why. No major diaper rash, no irritation. But then it hit me – it hurts when I wipe him! The wipes themselves hurt.
    1. We can’t afford the expensive, sensitive skin, fragrance free wipes. I mean, we go through them like we do blueberries (Joey is quite messy, if you haven’t noticed).  And on top of that, I can’t afford the time to make my own wipes from fabric scraps and soap.
    2. What did I do? I kept the buttload of Kirkland wipes I had, and added a quarter cup of extra water to his diaper warmer. THEN, I added a tablespoon of coconut oil to the top of the pack and let it seep all the way through. It took two days and his little bum is much happier. Sometimes, I even add some coconut oil to the diaper I’m about to put on him, for extra measure. Soft bum, happy mum.
  2. Meals. Food for babies. It’s freaking expensive. Especially if you buy the pre-packaged snacks “made for toddlers” at the store. Give yourself a baby boy with the energy of a navy seal and you’ve got yourself broke as a joke.
    1. Joey snacks on meal-type foods. The only snacks that are really in our cupboards are dried fruit and granola bars. Throw in some Goldfish and some sweet potato chips and we have ourselves a snack party.
    2. For most snacks, Joey eats things like mandarins, avocados and parsnip fries. Believe it or not, fruit and vegetables are way cheaper than pre-packages snack foods. I know that this saves us a pretty penny, and keeps our cupboards and bodies clean.
  3. Finally, strategic child care. And when I say strategic, I mean PLANNED SO WELL THAT FRIENDS THINK WE HAVE NO FLEXIBILITY.
    1. An entire section of the upcoming Mompreneur Ecourse is focused on strategic childcare. That’s how important I think this is. It will cost more than enough to find childcare, nevermind actually pay for said childcare. Your time is money, literally, so have a plan and don’t spend your evening scrambling for a babysitter for the next morning.
    2. Figure out what you have in your budget for daycare, and then use it. It’s worth more than you think to have that sort of reliability in your life. Then, when needed, use the remaining days to take advantage of grandmas and friends and sitters. I get more done in the two days Joey goes to daycare than any other day, simply because I have the reliability of those days. 8-6, no matter what. That’s worth the few hundred dollars a month for me, even if I don’t get to work the other days at all.

I told you they were not mainstream J But this is what has been the most beneficial for us, as a family of three. We are small, and not super tight with money, this I know. But these are the tools we’ve implemented to keep our baby and ourselves healthy, on budget and happy.

xoxo

Anxiety's Name is Money

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So I’m sitting in the studio, working away on fun things – like vectorizing this awesome drawing of a woman with a braid, or researching moleskin journals to have embossed, or creating a wireframe for this new community center website.

Then, I remember it’s Monday, and that means admin. So I do the necessary things of creating some invoices for some recent projects and orders, returning some overdue emails and wrapping up some final files for some spec work I did.

But admin Monday also means I have to deal with real money. And this Monday, it means rent.

I handle all the moola stuff for the office. As in, paying all the bills, making sure we don’t get evicted for having a late rent check and collecting rent and utility money from my great office mates. But to do this, I have to do math, and that stresses me out. And I also have to look at my bank statement. Which means I have to see what the balance is. Which means…

Money gives me anxiety. Money also makes me happy. It’s a love hate relationship. But at this very moment, when I type my username into the little online banking window, and go to press Login, my heart literally ends up in my throat. My heart starts beating really fast, my pupils dilate and I feel dizzy, like I could throw up right here, right now. In an office full of people, clients included. In broad daylight, in my safe space, surrounded by people I love, I had a full blown anxiety attack.

You see, I know what my panic attacks feel like, and I can feel them coming on like a freaking freight train. I know I have a hard time stopping them, and most of the time, once I’m in it, I have to lock myself in a dark room and cry before it passes. To stop them, even if it’s at all possible, I have to distract myself. Fast.

I also have to make sure that there aren’t other underlying issues causing my freak out moment. And then ask myself if I hydrated myself adequately today. And have I had enough to eat, or is my blood sugar plummeting along with my sanity.

Ya, this ain’t my first rodeo.

And they are so stupid. To me, anyway. I mean, I just had an anxiety attack because I was too afraid to look at my bank account balance. I know it’s fine, I’m not overdrawn. I haven’t made any extraordinary purchases that would surprise me. I haven’t received an alert in my email telling me I’m too low, or that there was unverified activity, or that I couldn’t make a payment.

It’s fine. It’s totally fine. Yet, I can’t look. Physically cannot press Login.

So I didn’t. I gave up. I walked away. I went over to the couch and drank some water and looked at some photos of Joey.

Then I prayed. Then I remembered this conversation I had just hours earlier with a dear friend.

Just give it up to Him. Whatever your turmoil, your struggle, your fear. Give it up to Him.

Jesus is not telling me that in order to live a full and wonderful life, that I have to “face my fears.” He’s telling me that I need to let Him handle it. Pass it to Him, and give myself grace.

I gave my fear to Him today. Or at least I tried. Even as I write this, my hands are still shaky. I feel like I need a shot or a nap or a cup of coffee. I think I’m more frustrated that I’m not a “secure” enough person to look at my own bank account balance. That I manage. That I put money into, and take money out of. That number is not a reflection of who I am. Nor how hard I work. Nor my value to Him. It’s just a stupid number.

Anxiety can be so scary. It’s something I deal with Every. Single. Day. And money usually plays a part. Or lack of time.

And to those who also have this struggle. You are not alone. I am here, sitting on the couch, dealing with the aftermath of an anxiety attack, knowing that the rest of my day might be shot to hell because I have to deal with what feels like an anxiety hangover.

And to those who don’t… well… are there any of you?

Why God Invented Wine

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Hey you.

Ya, you. Feeling a little down?

What is it with this season? Every entrepreneur I know is major struggling right now. Like, we need to have a major vent sesh over some wine. Preferably on a patio, with twinkly lights and no babies and where the wine is free. Because, to be totally honest, we are all feeling broke as a joke. And no, this is not a joke.

Here’s the thing: we get the ebb and flow of business ownership. Highs are super high, and awesome, and usually really productive and most often turn a nice little profitable paycheck at the end. But then we hit that low… when we feel like we’ve officially run out of ideas, energy and money.

You at a low? Ya, me too. So are my friends.

Rach said today, “Let’s just build a compound where we can self-sustain and create things, together!” I agree. But it’s not feasible. We know that, you know that, and God didn’t teach us to run away and hide from our problems.

Though to be honest, I’m totally down for a neighborhood full of my best friends and where we could all walk to a collaborative studio right down the street and our kids could all play in the court and we’d have intellectual conversations over cheese plates on the front porch.

#tangent. Whatevs. It’s a nice daydream.

There is no answer. I would love to be able to write a blog post that has all the answers, that contained enough motivational words of wisdom to pull us all out of this funk and prove to us that we were MADE to do this.

There is no proof, either. We are trusting God, the universe or whatever higher power you believe in that what we are doing is the path that was laid for us. Our prayer today is simply “Isn’t it time for some proof?”

We haven’t earned anything. There is no magic equation that equals “you did this, so you get this as a reward.” Everyone goes down their own path, has their own journey. Some are similar, some feel parallel, and some feel so different from one another that we wonder if there is a possibility that we aren’t both human.

My only tidbit of knowledge is this today: you are not alone. There is no need to sit on your kitchen floor eating mac and cheese and drinking wine, alone. Worst case, at least call me so I can do that with you. Best case, remember that there is someone else out there (eh hem!) doing the exact same thing.

Oh, one more tip. Some great advice that was once given me. Don’t quit when you feel like giving up. You know the saying, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going.” You will make a much more rational, educated and clear headed decision later. It’s ok to quit (or so I’m told, it’s a hard concept for me), just do it with a clear head on your shoulders. Not crying on the couch while watching Chip and Joanna wishing you could be them.

And also (see, I wasn’t done), don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t feel like a fraud. Trust us, our doctors, therapists, mom’s cell phone and now this tribe all know us well. Your bank account balance is not a representation of your success, and neither is your current email inbox.

Wine?

Taxes for the Weary

So, let's talk about something that no one really wants to talk about. 

Taxes.

But really, everyone deals with them at some point in their lives. And here's what I'm finding:

There are tons of blogs about taxes and how to pay them, deduct for them, track them, plan for them, and emotionally prep yourself for what you'll be dealing with. But if we are completely honest with ourselves, how many of these posts are actually true life situations that young people share with the world?

Money is uncomfortable. More than that, telling other people about your money is uncomfortable. And terrifying. I feel like I want to throw up a little even when discussing it with my mom. 

I'm going to put myself out there for a minute today and tell you my money story. My only hope is that it helps someone else out there when they get to a point in their business when money is not only scary, but it's something they will deal with every day, whether they want to or not.

I started my business almost 5 years ago. My first year, I grossed something like $6,000 total. Living was difficult, but hey, we've all been broke at one time or another. My second year got a little better - I rented an office, started to actually make a living and not live off noodles, and had a reputation beginning to build.

I have more than doubled every year since. Doubled, meaning gross income, net profit, contracted service costs, hours worked, clients served, equipment needed, sleep lost, and the list goes on. 

Don't be deceived by those who claim they have increased at such and such a percent over the years - they may mean money, but really, that success comes with an increase in everything.

Included in those things is KNOWLEDGE.

I cannot tell you how much I've learned in a very short amount of time about money. Never, ever, in a million years, did I think I needed to understand money like I do now. And I anticipate it only means I will learn more as I grow up. I'm astounded already, what my brain will hold in knowledge, simply about this subject, by the time I teach #babyandreini about it. Our bodies are amazing, aren't they?

But back to money. I nearly fainted the first time my tax bill was over $1,000 at the end of the year. And it wasn't that far into my business. I knew and understood that the more I made, the more taxes I paid. But silly me, I kind of attributed that ratio to be the same as my business grew.

I was wrong.

Unless you're a business or accounting major, you don't learn the tax code. And let me tell you people, it's gnarly.


Here are some things I heard that were supposed to put my heart and mind at ease when I thought about taxes and money (but be forewarned, I should NOT have listened):

  • Getting married and filing jointly will give you tax break.
  • You get to write off all that interest you pay on your new home, and what you pay is mostly interest that first year.
  • A growing business means growing deductions.
  • Your new baby is a write off.
  • Your spouse has his taxes taken out of his paycheck already, so you only have to worry about yours.
  • His return could be used as part of your tax payment.
  • If you file early, you'll have lots of time to prepare for the April 15th deadline.
  • Send your taxes to an accountant. They will be done more accurately and you'll pay less in the end.
  • Pay your estimated taxes and you'll have a nice small, if not eliminated, tax bill at the end of the year.

Shall I continue?

Though all these statements are true, they did not help me.


Here are my list of tips, re, what I think the list above should have said:

  • Getting married and filing jointly MAY give you a tax break. However, as an entrepreneur, it may be beneficial to consult an advisor on ways around this. Key - you have self employment tax. Since you're married, it's not as simple as filing as an individual. And now your income is combined. If you both grow in worth, your tax bill grows, too.
  • Yes, you get to write off your interest. However, there is a flat deduction that most accountants file for a married couple. Find out what this is, look at your end of year mortgage statement, and make sure your accountant has all the information to make sure you get the highest deduction. 
  • A growing business DOES NOT mean a perfect ratio of deductions. Let me explain: My business grew by 62% last year. In 2014, I made 1/3 of what I made in 2015. However, my cost of doing business did not increase by 62%. Which means that though my deductions were more, they were not nearly THAT MUCH. As a creative business owner, there are only so many computers I can buy and miles I can drive... there's a tipping point, and I hit it. Hard. 
  • As far as the baby, ya, we'll see. I don't trust it, though. We are planning for that deduction to just simply not exist, then maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised when our tax bill is a little lower than expected.
  • This is the biggie - your spouse and their retained earnings. EVEN WHEN you think they are withholding enough, withhold more. Find the bracket that spouse falls into, and MAKE SURE they are taking that percentage out of their paycheck. And if that amount, nevermind if you're married to a self employed creative like myself and have COMBINED INCOME, is not being withheld every month, you will owe taxes at the end of the year. Goodbye the days of tax returns. 
  • Which leads me to this point - if there is no return, there is no help. If you're lucky enough to get a return, yes, it may be used as part of your tax owed. But most likely, it won't be enough.
  • No matter how early or how much you prepare or think you understand your finances, you'll never really be prepared. Tax is spooky... it comes out of nowhere...
  • Yes, send your book keeping out for review and have an accountant do your taxes. But then, if you feel like you need it, REVIEW THEM YOURSELF. And maybe even get a second opinion, too. This will prevent any mistakes, and more importantly, you're much less likely to go crazy trying to do them yourself.
  • Finally, the estimates. Sure, pay your estimates. Just remember that those estimates are based on the previous year. If you plan on growing, they won't cover what you need to pay. Or, if you're getting married, or buying a house, or have any major life changes coming your way, they don't take those into account. Tell your accountant about these plans, and have them adjust your payments accordingly. And then pay them. Really, pay them.
Granted, this is just my experience and things that I have learned the last 5 years. It may or may not apply to you, and it is definitely not coming from an accountant, who would probably scold me for providing tax advice. But, as I was in inconsolable after our tax bill got delivered last week, of course I went online to find another creative's story on how to deal. I couldn't find one, and it made me wonder why.

Hence, this story. It's true, it's raw and it's not pretty. It's not something that is easily shared, whether it's because we are scared to share our story, uncomfortable getting this personal, or afraid that the tax gods are going to come after us for telling the truth. 

I encourage you all to be honest about your money, be open with other business owners and spouses of entrepreneurs about your experience, and then maybe we can all help each other emotionally deal with this. 

Money is the worst thing to fight about. It's also the worst thing to deal with alone. And trust me, it feels like a huge weight is lifted when it's understood and shared with someone else.