Workin' It
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Workin' It

"Workin' It" is the blog for working parents who are committed to the frugal lifestyle. This blog addresses some of the issues working families face in keeping their lifestyle frugal, including childcare, work expenses, and the constant trade off between time and cost. The author and her husband, both law school graduates, work full-time; the author has a law firm, and dear husband a property management business. They also have an eight month old. Despite all that we have on our plates, we're still committed to living life frugally.
  • Then what? Whatcha gonna do...

     When the new wears off and the old shines through?

     This song has been bouncing around in my head for the past two years. Funny, but true. Why would one country song that I was never much into stick with me like that?

    Maybe because it's true? For quite a while, Americans have been the "friend" in the song's opening who's never quite satisfied. With two pretty kids and a real nice wife, but still not happy with a pretty nice life. Where does that come from? How can the most materially prosperous people in the world be so deeply unhappy with lives where we are, for the most part, safe, warm, fed, clean, and dry? What were we all so unhappy about that we had to stuff ourselves--literally and figuratively--to avoid facing it?

    Could it be life itself? Are we now suffering the hangover from decades of binge drinking crap to blot out the existential fear of creating our own lives?

    Once upon a time, from what I'm told, people went through a period of life called "adolescence." And during this "adolescence," they engaged in a process known as "growing up." Part of growing up, according to the ancient myths, was being stupid, shallow, and self-absorbed, and then the other part was confronting life. Dealing with the big questions, figuring out what one most wanted out of life, and setting out on the path for that. It was never an easy process, and indeed, most people continued the process throughout their lives. But they did it.

    Now, however, we seem to be stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence. Like teenagers, the only noun we know is "I," and our main verb is "want." We work hard, sure, but so do the teens at McD's. Like teens, we seem to think that our money is all ours to have fun with--the bills are something Mom and Dad will take care of. Budgeting, saving, planning, sacrificing...these are things for the old people (which, sorry guys, is us!). Responsible living means facing that one has responsibilities. Budgeting requires long-term thinking, goal-setting, and prioritizing. It involves facing the simple truth that we can't have everything, that some doors are closed, others are open, and we have to own up to being in charge of which we walk through. 

    It's a rough business, this being a grown up. There's a natural regret for roads not taken; there's a natural trepedation for a future unknown. But grown ups deal with it. They don't go out and buy a new TV to quell their anxiety. They don't ignore the credit card bill because they know they've spent too much. They don't let some outside source (often the media) tell them that newer, shinier, faster will soothe them and let them forget all their troubles. No matter how much crap you buy, you're still as old as you were before you went in the store.Your days on this earth are still as limited, and somehow or another, you have to figure out how to make them meaningful. Is that scary? You bet. But--and here's the kicker--that's what grown ups do.

    You can't fill an inner hole with outer dirt. Having the coolest iPhone doesn't make confronting your own mortality (and morality) any easier. The cutest Coach bag won't do crap to bring you peace with yourself. Do I have the answers? Heck no. But I'm fairly sure that Madison Avenue and Wall Street don't have 'em, either. Walmart ain't gonna be there when you leave this world, but you sure will be. There's no thing you can buy that will make that an easier trip, but there's a whole lot you can do that just might. It's a tragedy when a teenager is taken from this world because they haven't lived yet; can we say, however old we get, that we've really lived if we've never confronted life as an adult?

    It's your life but remember this
    There's bound to be some consequences
    Sneaking under other fences. 

  • May we be guided in peace

     One of my greatest challenges is my inner pessimist. You know, that wicked little devil on the shoulder saying, "You'll never lose the weight anyways, so eat the Doritos! Heck, have the whole bag and follow it up with some cookies. Why not?" That voice was the same one, prior to meeting my beloved Hofpapa, which would always say, "You'll never be out of debt anyways! Buy the shoes!" Although I have my sweet husband to keep me out of the cookie jar now (literally and metaphorically), I still struggle to believe in tomorrow, especially when the news is always telling us that the (financial) world is ending today!

     Then I discovered dirt. I spent a full weekend digging, raking, and hoeing, putting in beautiful new false cypress, and sowing a garden full of lettuces, peas, broccoli, spinach, and onions. For once, instead of focusing on where I wasn't yet, I enjoyed where I was. No, I don't have my farm yet. But I have a little piece of land in a beautiful neighborhood where the Bradford pears are blooming. Once my plants were in and watered, I walked through that beautiful neighborhood with my sixteen month old, whose smiles I have the privilege of enjoying for free every day, and whom I thankfully am in the position to care for pretty well. Even with all the uncertainty in the world, I spent that afternoon being rich.

    I don't by any means discount that there's real financial carnage going on. Folks are losing their homes, their retirements, their security. We've kept our fingers crossed and prayed, hoping for enough clients to come through the door. A few weeks ago, we finally accepted that I am simply not cut out to profitably run a solo practice. Despite the economy, employment opportunities seem to have become available for both me and the Hofpapa (although there is nothing certain yet). I spend a lot of time worrying, afraid to check the ever-dwindling savings account. But for now, the sunshine is still free, and the mortgage is still payed. I am not ready to grab the Doritos and the AmEx yet, because I refuse to accept that there cannot be a brighter future for us, even if it's a struggle to get there. Even if we have to move "backwards," give up the house, move again, downsize, simplify, we'll make it through, because we have each other, and we still live in a country full of opportunity. 

    As my husband put it once, "You've been American-poor. That's still princely compared to real poverty." That's enough for me now. That little voice, which has always lead me to dig holes for myself, can buzz off; I have holes to dig for my plants instead. 

  • Lest We Forget...

    What it's really all about!

     Laura Ingalls-Wilder put it better than I ever could, in her book Farmer Boy:

    Father looked at him a long time. Then he took out his wallet and opened it, and slowly he took out a round, big silver half-dollar. He asked: "Almanzo, do you know what this is?"
    "Half a dollar," Almanzo answered.
    "Yes. But do you know what half a dollar is?"
    Almanzo didn't know it was anything but half a dollar.
    "It's work, son," Father said. "That's what money is; it's hard work. You know how to raise potatoes, Almanzo?"
    "Yes," Almanzo said.
    "Say you have a seed potato in the spring, what do you do with it?"
    "You cut it up," Almanzo said.
    "Go on, son."
    "Then you harrow - first you manure the field, and plow it. Then you harrow, and mark the ground. And plant the potatoes, and plow them, and hoe them. You plow and hoe them twice."
    "That's right son, and then?"
    "Then you dig them and put them down cellar."
    "Yes. Then you pick them over all winter; you throw out all the little ones and the rotten ones. Come spring, you load them up and haul them here to Malone, and you sell them. And if you get a good price, son, how much do you show for all that work? How much do you get for half a bushel of potatoes?"
    "Half a dollar," Almanzo said.
    "Yes," said Father. "That's what's in this half-dollar, Almanzo. The work that raised half a bushel of potatoes is in it."
    Almanzo looked at the round piece of money that Father held up. It looked small, compared with all that work.
    "You can have it, Almanzo," Father said. Almanzo could hardly believe his ears. Father gave him the heavy half-dollar.
    "It's yours," said Father. "You could buy a suckling pig with it, if you want to. You could raise it and it would raise a litter of pigs, worth four, five dollars apiece. Or you can trade that half-dollar for lemonade, and drink it up. You do as you want, it's your money."

  • Sometimes it's bad...

    And sometimes it's worse.

     Hofpapa and I call Kentucky our home. As you may have seen, Kentucky has frozen into one gigantic, crystalline Ice-Beast of a state. Half a million people without power, and a bad situation all around. Thankfully, Hofpapa and I were able to ride it out in relative comfort, thanks largely to preparation. Unlike a lot of folks, we have:

    * Plenty of food that doesn't require heating, although thankfully, we didn't have to use it. Cold cut sandwiches are yummy! And definitely better than being hungry or having to brave ice-encased roads. We also had some water put away...when the power goes down long enough, yucky stuff can happen with the water.

    * Warm clothes, blankets, and a general tolerance of cold. Being the cheap souls we are, the house is normally on 60. While it wasn't terribly comfortable when the heater shut off and it dropped to 45F while we were asleep, it wasn't the huge difference that a lot of folks we know felt going from 75 to 45. 

    * A well-insulated house. This is largely luck, because the previous owners reinsulated the house and replaced the windows with energy-efficient ones. Some steps we've taken since buying the house include keeping up with our caulking and weatherstripping, and installing little foam draft-blockers in the power outlets (given free by the power company!). We further improved it while the heat was out by closing off rooms and hanging blankets over windows in the living area.

    * Alternate heat sources. I haven't yet gotten my much coveted wooden cook stove, but a kerosene heater still keeps things toasty warm. 

    * Candles. Flashlights. Awesome emergency radio-alarm-cell phone charger with plenty of batteries. Sitting in the cold and dark stinks.

    * Board games, books, and a general willingness to sit around and just hang out as a family (as a large extended family after an aunt and uncle and their kids showed up once their power went out!).

    * Self-employment. This might seem like a strange item to include on this list, but it worked out wonderfully: we simply stayed in, worked on projects that didn't require us to go out, and continued/rescheduled things that would require driving on an icy road.

    Most folks use cost as their main reason for not being prepared in case of an emergency. That's beyond silly, that's dangerous. After all, no one says you have to blow $5000 and do it all at once. You can add a couple of cans of food to the weekly shopping budget fairly easily. A house can be insulated with a $5 tube of caulk, free foam inserts for power outlets, some nails, and some quilts from the Goodwill. Candles can be gotten quite inexpensively, a few at a time, by watching the circulars (I've had great luck with RiteAid for tapers) or again, checking the thrift store. Water? Give those empty soda bottles a good washing. 

    Now then, some things, such as a kerosene heater, are a decent-sized investment (ours ran about $200 plus the kerosene). If it's important, though, you can do like Granny did--decide it's important, budget and save for it. $200 is only two and half months at $20/week. 

     The most important preparation, beyond anything you can buy, is attitude. Was fourteen folks in one little house ideal? Well, not unless you think about it as a chance to spend time together. The teenagers, after moaning and groaning about no Internet, took advantage of all the snow and ice to sled for hours on end. While we didn't lose our power, thankfully, we knew it was chance. We made sure things were in place as best as we could before the storm hit, and then simply resolved to ride it out, together, doing what we had to to make sure everyone came through it okay and well taken care of. That's something anyone can decide to do, no matter how much they have in their pantry.

  • I'll tell you once more before I get off the floor...

    Don't bring me down. I've consumed, regurgiated, and crammed in yet more economic doom and gloom. So I thought perhaps it's time to share a real life example of the type of financial sanity that will lead us out of the current mess.

    I met yesterday with The Successful Cousin (I come from a family of Cousins, including The Beautiful Cousin, The Sweet Cousin, The Funny Cousin...I'm The Loud Cousin, last I checked).

    A few things struck me about The Successful Cousin (hereinafter, TSC).

    1. Even though she's set up to retire quite comfortably at 38, no one would guess it. She's not a conspicuous consumer; although she always looks pretty and professional, nothing about her screams "Look! I spend lots of money!"

    2. She's smart, savvy, and constantly educating herself. Although she's by trade a database architect, or something equally technical, she can converse with knowledge and insight about tax law, accounting, and literature. That kind of savvy helps her make much better financial decisions, better job decisions...she's a smart chick, and that carries through to pretty much everything.

    3.  She's charitable. TSC has causes that are important to her, and she supports them with both time and money. Her charitable giving is planned, it makes sense in relationship to her means, and it seems to help her keep everything else in balance.

    4. She knows who she is, and doesn't have to buy stuff to fill any holes. TSC has been through the wringer in this life; she's been through more tragedies than any one person should have to. But she's come through it all knowing exactly who she is and what she believes in. She doesn't buy "stuff" if she's angry; she deals with whatever has upset her.

    5. She's honest. She's honest with herself, with her husband, with her friends, and with her family (which I'm lucky enough to be part of), and she's honest about her money. TSC has a nice home--which she could afford. TSC goes out sometimes--but she can afford it. She could probably stretch and live in a bigger, fancier house and go out to fancy dinners, but it wouldn't be honest, because she couldn't sustainably afford it.

    In short, TSC is all about hard work, thrift, kindness, and honesty. These values seem to have been pushed aside for the last 20 years in favor of bigger, faster, and louder, but I'm hopeful that if anything good is going to come from the financial crisis, it's this: more folks living like TSC, because she absolutely deserves the title of The Successful Cousin.  

  • Five Ways to Survive and Thrive through...Whatever

    Let's be frank: it's ugly out there. The sky isn't necessarily falling, but snow, sleet, rain, hail, and the neighbor's cat are coming down on our financial heads. And if you listen to some experts, it's about to get a lot uglier; we're talking pushing Cinderella's stepsisters outta the ugly tree and watching them hit every branch on the way down ugly. But, short of full scale societal collapse, you can survive and even thrive through these times. Here's how:

    1. Change your thinking.

    Frugal living is not so different from dieting; while crazy methods can help you short-term, sustainable improvement requires lifestyle change. And the only way that sort of thing can stick is if you change your thinking. And "I'm so deprived" thinking will derail frugal living just as quickly as it will a diet. It's time to look at frugal living as a challenge, as a way to bring greater joy and propserity into your life. Instead of saying, "Oh, but I work so hard, and this lipstick is only $6, and I deserve it!" say: "Is this a worthy use of my money? Does this deserve half an hour of my work?" Similarly, instead of bemoaning having chicken thighs--again--because they're on sale, relish the challenge of finding a new and tasty way to cook those bad boys up. Creativity and positive thinking are the most important survival skills you need.

    2.  Know your worth.

    No, not your net worth (although that's definitely good info to have!). I mean: know your skills, who needs them, and their value on the open market.  Believe it or not, the most valuable thing you own is YOU. Even if you've worked for the same blue chip company for fifteen years, you should always know what makes you unique and valuable, and be prepared to capitalize on your skills. As the economy goes crazy, we're all self-employed.

    3. Know your non-negotiables.

    You must have certain things: food, shelter, serviceable clothing, essential medicine. You <i>know</i> you need these things. What you need now is a reliable plan to acquire those things, as well as realistic standards. "Food" doesn't have to be gourmet, nor can many of us afford for it to be McDonald's every night; food needs to be nutritious and filling, and if dinner consists of mac and cheese and broccoli, everyone gets fed protein, carbs, and veggies. "Shelter" doesn't have to mean your own house if you can't afford it; shelter can be a trailer, an apartment, a duplex. And so on: know what you need, and what you need to do to secure it.

    4. Commit now to sustainable changes.

    If you've been living la vida debt-a, it can be really hard to step off that train and start living within your means. It's also easy to burn yourself out if you decide to go from being John McSpendy to trying to be a black-belt frugal champion over night. Pick a change, implement it, and move on. For the indebted among us, let me recommend starting with freezing the credit cards (literally, in a big dish of water in the freezer). If that doesn't work (um, guilty), shred the puppies; mail that emergency card to someone you can trust. If you don't have a budget, now's the time to commit to making one and living by it. If your budget has a leak (like, say, convenience store soda and chips), commit to plugging that leak (with soda and chips from the dollar store, perhaps). Whatever is keeping your from financial goals, it's time now to look it in the face and say, "Oh, no, baby. Not anymore. You are not going to keep me from my better life."

    5. Decide what you're really doing it for.

    Why are you working? Why do you care about your money? No one can answer these questions but you. They might sound silly, at first. "Well, I work because you have to." But think about it. Are you working and taking care of your money so that someday, you can tool around the country in RV? Is it to provide a better life for your kids? so that someday, you'll have the time to write the Great American Novel? Figuring out what really motivates you, what makes it worth the time and effort every day to do what you got to: that's the key, baby. Once you have that motivation, you have something to tap into whenever the road seems too hard.You'll find a way to do it once you really know what you're doing it for.

  • I'm so broke!

    "I'm so broke!" seems to have become a mantra among people. Especially as the economy goes straight into the sewer, folks lose their jobs, and debt threatens to consume everything, it's ringing through the hallways and richocheting off corners: "I'm so broke!"

    I wonder if it's really true, though.

    Are we broke? Are we, as a nation, bankrupt? Or have we just lost all perspective?

    "Broke," in the financial sense, is related to "broke" in the wrecked/ruined/destroyed sense. If something is broke, it doesn't work--if we're broke, our finances don't work. And that seems to be where it stops for most people: despite the fact that husband and I both have jobs, we're broke. Despite the fact that I work 60 hours a week,  I'm broke. Despite doing everything you're supposed to, I'm broke. Throw hands up in the air, wail in despair, dig the hole a little deeper.  "I'm so broke" becomes both a plaintive cry and a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

    Here's the things about "broke," though: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. So if it is broke...fix it! Once upon a time, before we stuffed our houses with mountains of Cheap Chinese Crap, if something broke...you fixed it. If a sock got a hole, you darned it. If the vacuum belt broke, you put a new one in. If Dog-dog, Baby's most beloved toy, lost his stuffing, you re-stuffed him and patched him back up.

    Somewhere, in the chorus of "I'm so broke," someone should be singing a counterpuntal "So fix it!"

    Now then, I realize what I propose isn't fun or easy. At all. I'm not sure most people even know what their finances look like, other than knowing there's more month than money. They don't even know what they don't know. It's like everyone's financial boat is sinking, and they're too freaked out to even bail water, much less patch the hole.

    Dear Hofpapa and I are looking at nearly half a million dollars of student loans, medical, and mortgage debt; paying it off means that, after we get done with work for the day, it's off to teach, or tutor, or  edit, or babysit, or whatever brings in a few more dollars to put on the debt. But we're not broke. Being self-employed is a feast-or-famine kind of game, and it's been more famine than feast of late. But still, we're not broke. We've got way more debt than money, but we're not broke. We get dang tired of not having any money, but we're not broke. We even give up sometimes and go to McDonalds, even though it'd be cheaper to eat at home. But...we..are..not...broke.

    Broke is a mindset. Broke says "My finances are insurmountably messed up. They're ruined." Broke is giving up.

    And the truth is, financially, giving up just isn't an option.

    Somehow, tomorrow, you've still got to eat. You've got to have a place to live. Even if you file bankruptcy, you can't just quit. Broke quits.

    So let's stop being broke. Let's start fixing, one little piece at a time. You can't turn a shack into the Taj Mahal over night, but you can unstop the toilet tonight, and tomorrow you can snake the bathtub drain. You can't become financially self-sufficient after years of debt overnight, either. But you can say, "Today, I'm going to figure out how much I owe, to whom." Tomorrow, you can look at your budget, look for the leaks. The next day, you can say "Groceries are killing us. I'm going to read everything I can and come up with a plan to spend less for groceries." As my father-in-law tells me when I get frustrated because I don't know how to install a shelf in the closet or repair the bathtub: "Just give yourself the time." Broke doesn't allow us to take that time; broke flashes "Game Over!" before we've even put a quarter in the machine.

    I'm done with broke. Hopefully I'm not the only one. 

  • Get down and break a sweat!

    Dear Hofpapa looked at me the other day and said, "You know, dear, it doesn't save money if you just buy MORE stuff cheaply."


    Guilty as charged. 

    I wonder how many other folks aspiring to the frugal lifestyle have the same problem: we're excellent, heck, oustanding at Step 1, which is paying less (preferably nothing!) for the things we buy. Step 2, of course, is to SAVE the money that we "save" by living as we do. Step 2, I am not so good at. I never pay more than fifty cents for a bar of soap...but seriously, does a family of three need thirty bars of soap??

    There's no point, however, in crying over spilled milk, or in beating myself up over money already spent. Now that my beloved husband has identified a problem, it's time to solve it. That which we don't need is being returned, eBayed, or given to charity. Our money is not getting spent without a much more critical eye (and my mother-in-law's voice in the back of my head screaming, "Do you need it? Do you love it? Can you do without it?"). Part of the key is needs v. wants, and I've too often let a "bargain" turn a want into a "need." 

    I'm certain I'm not alone in this problem, and I also think that part of the problem is that we don't know what we need. For at least some of us (cough, me, cough), we have so much stuff that we don't know what we have. And so, we need a whats-it, and instead of pulling out the whats-it we got for our last birthday, we buy a new one. The first step on this journey towards REALLY being frugal was getting my house cleaned (let me just say that it was a weeklong trial that required me and both in-laws full-time to get everything orderly). It's amazing--once the laundry was washed and put away, I have a gorgeous wardrobe. Once the kitchen was sorted through, I have all you could ever want to prepare meals.

    Frugality is a lifestyle. What and how you purchase is just a tiny, tiny portion of that lifestyle--the 8,000 other daily choices we make are just as important, if not moreso, in making our money work for us so that we can have the security and prosperity we want. It's time for me, at least, to attend to that 8,000.

  • This Ain't Your Grandfather's Oldsmobile

    A lot of times, when trying to figure out ways to save money, we look back towards Grandmother and Grandfather...but modern life offers lots of ways for the savvy to keep things frugal, even when without the time available to a stay-at-home parent.

     1. Computers are a fantastic way to track your budget, your spending, and your saving without being a CPA. A quick Google search for "budget spreadsheet" turns up about 290,000 options. Online banking makes it easy to see where your money's going while you're filling out those spreadsheets.

     2. Computers also allow you to track your time and coordinate schedules. While I always keep a hard-copy calendar too, I am in love with Google Calendar. It's a wonderful tool for coordinating with people, and it makes seeing how your time is allocated seamless. For those who are self-employed, it can even be a quick time-tracking tool (although I keep my billable hours as an attorney in a different program, I do track my volunteer hours and my tutoring hours in Google Calendar).

    3. Lots of technological advances have occurred that let us live frugally more easily: CFLs reduce our energy useage while still letting there be light. Low-flow toilets do for the frugal what we used to do with a jar of pebbles in the tank. Energy efficient windows reduce the power bill while keeping the house warm. Power strips keep energy vampires in control. Admittedly, a lot of this technology requires an upfront investment...but isn't it worth it to research and see what would make our lives more efficient?

    4. Comparison shop! Whereas Granny might have had a grocery, a department store, and a general goods store to pick from, we have all the abundance of modern consumer culture. Need a whizbang thingamajiggy? You can Google thingamajiggies, eBay thingamajiggies, get thingamajiggies at a discount retailer like Target, or even go straight to the thingamajiggy shop--unlike Granny, you can hunt for the best value without having to drive three towns over (unless, of course, you live in a very, very small town).

    5.  Information! If Grandpa wanted to learn how to best rotate crops, he either had to ask someone or get a book. While our options are still mostly ask or look it up, the Internet has brought truckloads of information to our laps, requiring only a connection and a good internal BS detector. Indeed, sites like this one are packed to the gills with money-saving ideas that only experience and creativity could have won (who know how much you could with vinegar, baking soda, and old pantryhose?!).

     There's plenty of penny-pinching ways to be learned from looking backwards, but there's quite a lot of advantages to being in the here and now, as well! I say we get to work, and combine the best of both worlds for a life of plenty.

  • Child Care...

    It's a killer. I was reading an article about child care costs, and I almost peed myself. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, child care is in the five figures in some states. It's a sword of Damacles over the head of most parents in this society, particularly single parents or parents who have to work. This is something you just can't scimp on, but how do we come up with $10k/year?

     A lot of times, you can't. And so you have to find another way. 

    Growing up, my parents did what's now called "split shift" parenting: Mom left for work at 7 AM and got home by 3 PM; Dad left at 11 PM and got home by 7 AM.We had aunts, family friends, and neighbors to keep us if something called away one of our parents during "their" shift.

    Now that Hofpapa and I have the Hofbaby, we take care of our munchkin through a variety of means. We're both self-employed, which means that with discipline, one of us can usually work while taking care of the baby (although I don't recommend it long-term for mental health). We live close to family, which means I have a bevy of cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course, grandparents to call on if I have to attend to an emergency in one of my cases. Soon, little guy will be big enough to put in our synagogue's excellent pre-school (which is a steal compared to daycare). However, we know our situation is not the norm; most families don't have the relative flexibility of having two self-employed parents. For those families, an affordable, reliable form of child care becomes even more important.

    For an increasing number of families, extended family is now filling this niche. It's probably the most ancient system of child-care known to man; mom has baby, mom's sister (or mother-in-law, or whomever) watches baby while mom prepares mammoth-chops. And as long as your family is dependable, it can be a wonderful solution.

    But what do you do if you don't have family around? Or a wonderful church-family to call on? You improvise. You create family that you can count on. We've spent more days than you can imagine with friends' children, and they've done the same for us. One of my most beloved and admired friends is a single mom to four; she's teamed up with another mom, and they split-shift parent each other's kids. It's grueling, but it frees up about $35,000 per year between the two moms. In the summer, community organizations, schools, and religious organizations offer a number of day-camps for low- to no-cost.

    If you have someone you can trust, a nanny is not a bad idea, particularly if you can get a college student (or even a single mom) who will watch the kiddos in exchange for room, board, and reasonable pay. 

    People are fleeing the costs of daycare, but the kids still have to be cared for. While it's a challege that faces any family with children, it's particularly acute for families with two working parents. As there's less disposable money available, we have to find new solutions; for most of us, the only way out is with creativity, love, and sacrifice. It's going to mean less "me" time, less dishwashing/checkbook balancing/TV watching time, more tired time, more trading what we can do for what others can do. But then, isn't that what being a parent has always meant?

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