So far in our debt reduction journey, our biggest asset has been our increased income. I’ve done things to cut expenses (like lower our car insurance coverage, call to get our cell plan costs reduced, and try to practice meal planning), but there hasn’t really been a “big” sacrifice up to this point (though, not getting my hair done in 4.5 months has been a medium-sized sacrifice).
Then when we were hit with so many expenses in the month of July, some of your comments about stepping back and assessing the big picture really made me take pause.
Here I was, all pat-me-on-the-back about our successes, and fully aware of the temptations of increasing spending when income increases, and yet I was 100% falling into that trap.
But here’s the thing…sometimes you can’t compromise on price. One of those areas (in my humble opinion) is on quality child care. At this point, everyone is well aware of my stress and struggle with finding an appropriate child care situation. We moved our girls from their in-home care to a traditional daycare less than a month ago. Since then, I have been an absolute wreck. It just didn’t feel right.
I kept trying to give it a chance – thinking it was all in my head. I was just having a little mini-freak out and needed to get used to it and everything would be okay. But still, that feeling in my gut persisted.
Their last day was a Thursday. The girls had screamed and cried when I dropped them off (as they always have), and I brushed it off as just the fact that they still hadn’t adjusted to the new place. That afternoon when I went to pick them up my husband was with me. When we walked in their room the kids were running wild, as always (the ratio is 8 children: 1 adult, which I have never felt comfortable with; both my husband and I swear that we were told the ratio would be 6:1, but we toured so many places I want to give them the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming we were simply lied to). The teacher said the kids had just finished coloring and handed us a couple pictures.
My husband and I looked at the pictures, then at each other, skepticism in our eyes. We thanked the teacher, collected our girls and stepped out into the hallway.
Husband: There is no way the girls colored those pictures!
Me: No way!!! Look at all the colors used! Look at how dark and thick the lines are – like the crayons were pushed down with serious pressure! (pause) I don’t feel good about this!
Husband: Let’s quit right now.
Now, I know this sounds borderline-ridiculous if you aren’t a parent. There was no abuse and nothing terrible happened. The facility is brand new, sparkly clean, and has all top-of-the-line equipment. But it felt like a glorified babysitter with no structure and no enrichment for our children. Plus the babysitter kept changing (we’ve seen at least 5 or 6 different “teachers”…no clue who the “official” teacher is since they seem to change so frequently). To top it all off, the babysitter is a liar.
We know our girls. I’ve colored with them about a million times. First, I know they don’t have the patience to sit down and color all over a sheet of paper, they’re lucky to get a quarter of the page colored. They would never use so many different crayons (they usually stick with 1 or 2 colors, max), and their preferred method of “coloring” is like the crayon is a dagger and they’re stabbing the sheet of paper. Picture a lot of little dots. Not long, exaggerated lines across the entire page. This teacher totally did these drawings while the kids were running wild (no structure, barely any supervision), and claimed they kids did them. Also, I should mention that the teachers still don’t know our girls apart and really don’t make any effort to even try.
I didn’t want to be impulsive so I insisted we come home and talk everything over before immediately quitting, but we both knew we were headed in that direction.
Friday I drove the girls to the Jewish Community Center (JCC). They had gone to daycare there from age 6 months – 1 year while I was finishing my dissertation and we LOVED it. The biggest deterrence at this point is that we have since moved and no longer live nearby.
But as soon as we got there, a feeling of relief and warmth swept over me similar to walking into your grandmother’s house. I doubt the girls remember the JCC (its been a year since they’d been there), but they instantly seemed to feel right at home. While I sat in the director’s office filling out my enrollment paperwork, the girls played with a Noah’s ark set and a giant stuffed dog, laughing and squealing and generally entertaining the office staff.
In spite of the drive (about 30-40 minutes each way), I feel so at peace. A glorious, greatly-welcomed and cherished sense of peace that I haven’t had for a long time. This was the right decision for us.
And, of course, it comes at a cost. In total, the JCC childcare is actually slightly cheaper than our old daycare ($950/month instead of $1,000, though we get 3 days instead of 2). But, you have to actually join the community center, which requires an additional monthly fee ($105/month). There are also enrollment fees (for both the JCC and the childcare). Also unlike our previous childcare, the JCC is a structured preschool. We provide our own lunches (our old place provided food for us), there’s a materials fee, and there is an expectation of parent involvement (room parents, organizing a teacher’s appreciation luncheon in the Spring, etc. etc. etc.). So, in all, the JCC will end up costing a little more than our old childcare center. And it is worth every.single.penny.
But how do we pay for it?
Well, here comes my first big sacrifice since starting to blog. I’m canceling my gym membership (yes – the membership I just barely got not even 2 months ago). The JCC has a fitness center that we’ll have access to and even though it’s small, outdated, and not nearly as nice as our fancy-pants current gym, it will get the job done just fine. So at least we’ll be saving $70/month there.
I’m definitely a little bummed to say goodbye to our current gym. I’d gotten into a nice routine of gym-going and really enjoyed it. But this is the right thing to do for our family right now. What would I sacrifice to make sure our children have the best possible childcare we can offer? A lot. I’ll sacrifice my fancy gym. And, if required, I’ll even sacrifice prolonging our debt-eradication journey for a month or two. I’d rather pay more and feel good about where my girls are being cared for than be able to put an extra couple hundred bucks toward debt each month. And I try to remind myself that this is a season in life. When they turn 3 there are so many, many more options for preschool that are much more affordable (one that I really like is within walking distance of our home and will only cost $600/month for BOTH to go to FULL TIME preschool Monday-Friday!!!). So this is a one year thing, not a “forever” thing.
This is obviously an intensely personal decision and its one I’m not asking for opinions on. I know there were lots of suggestions about ways to find cheaper childcare (and, trust me, I have looked into them all)! But this is what felt right for us. I appreciate that there may be dissenting opinions and people who will disagree with our decision (which is totally fine – we are all welcome to our own opinions). I just wanted to let you all know about what’s transpired in this regard and to let you know the budget will be changing (again).
Thanks for your continued support. I really appreciated the kind words on this post where I was clearly not doing well. Turns out, I should’ve just trusted my gut from the get-go.
What sacrifices have you made to get out of debt? What was your biggest sacrifice?
I just want to say that I realize $70/month for the gym isn’t a big deal from a numbers perspective, but in terms of emotions its the biggest sacrifice I’ve made to date. I also credit this to you all because if I weren’t blogging, I am almost certain I would have just kept the gym membership in spite of our new membership at the JCC, rising costs of childcare, etc. etc. etc. So a big THANK YOU for keeping me accountable! : )
PS: Still working on the budget update. Probably won’t be done today but I promise to have it up sometime tomorrow (I’m crashing the Tuesday time-slot two weeks in a row like a total rebel!)
Post-post-script: Just for fun I had my girls do some drawing over the weekend. Here’s a side-by-side of a drawing actually done by Brooke compared to the drawing by the daycare teacher, pretending to be Brooke:
You see what I’m saying here? Ain’t. No. Way.