Surprisingly, I find that the most expensive part of having a child, for me, is the pregnancy that precedes the arrival of the child.
For me, the main aspects of pregnancy that affect frugality for me are food aversions, food cravings, and a general exhaustion.
Here's how those things affected my ability to be frugal to the extent that I usually am.
- Usually, my method of acquiring food and feeding my family involves most of all the the following:
- Shopping as infrequently as possible, and by doing that, avoiding impulse buys.
- Buying and using what is on sale/is cheapest and pretty much only that.
- Making everything from scratch, and only relying on convenience things on the rarest of occasions.
- Supplementing the food I buy with food I forage.
- Using parts of food that otherwise would go to waste, aka taking advantage of every ounce of nutrition in everything I buy.
- Doing my darnedest to avoid food spoilage, because food in the garbage is money in the garbage.
Wow. Nearly all of those were impossible for me to do in my first trimester of pregnancy, and some even beyond that.
I've had just about the worst morning sickness I ever remember. (I'm nearly halfway through with my pregnancy now and still throwing up nearly every day, sometimes more than once a day!) Because of that, and my insane food aversions, my usual money saving methods were totally not doable.
Let me describe what I mean by my food aversions.
I didn't just have food aversions. I pretty much was averse to nearly every food out there, with just a few exceptions. I didn't want any animal products whatsoever, unless it was cheese. But not every cheese. No stinky cheeses, just plain ol' mozerella or meunster. And milk. And cream sauces. And cream cheese.
When it came to starches, I could pretty much only handle white rice, potatoes, bread, pretzels, popcorn, or pasta. Nothing strange or weird like millet, quinoa, buckwheat, no siree. Oh, and bananas.
Vegetables were also a problem. I didn't want anything even remotely acidic, or with an acidic after taste, making tomato based anything a problem, most fruit, lemons, peppers, eggplants, and lots else. I pretty much could only handle green or white vegetables- cabbage, zucchini, cucumbers, peas, green beans, kohlrabi, spinach, or broccoli.
No nuts or seeds.
Pretty much the only things I bought were potatoes, rice, pasta, bananas, cheeses, and the permitted veggies, and since I had no energy on top of everything else, I spent a lot of money on buying frozen green beans, peas, broccoli, and spinach (which are a fortune in my country!) and store bought bread.
Then, even what I bought didn't always get eaten. My nose was overly sensitive- opening the refrigerator would release a smell that would send me hurling (it didn't really smell- my husband couldn't tell a thing); I started sitting across the room while I directed Lee to take things out of the fridge for me, but even the thought of him opening the “smelly” fridge would send me to the bathroom for another vomitting session.
Because I wasn't able to be on top of what was going on in the refrigerator, lots of things in there ended up spoiling, lots of food ended up in the garbage.
On top of that, what appealed to me one day would make me hurl the next; I realized that shopping for two weeks or even a week at a time was a waste of money, because I wouldn't be able to stomach the food that appealed to me a week beforehand. I started shopping every other day nearly, all at my local, rather expensive, mom and pop's type store.
Because I was so picky with what I could and couldn't eat, and because I realized that I needed nutrition in my body in any form (because keeping any food down was a problem, but at least the stuff that didn't make me hurl had a greater chance of staying inside and giving me needed nutrition), I started shopping according to cravings. If one day chips and onion dip was what I craved, I'd buy that, because hey, carbs=energy, onion dip=sour cream=protein, and if it would settle my stomach, then it was worth it.
I don't even need to explain how my food issues didn't allow me to shop sales. There's no point buying things that are cheap if they won't get eaten.
And making things from scratch was not an option because of my extreme fatigue. One day that I was extra ambitious, I mixed up a batch of lasagna dough, and I thought I would collapse by the time I finished rolling it out. Making things from scratch was virtually unattainable, and I'll admit that I wasted my money and even bought 2 packages of expensive, imported ready made tortillas because I felt like eating wraps.
Foraging also went out the window. You need to be slightly adventerous to be able to eat foraged foods, and at the time, even green peppers and tomatoes were too adventerous for me, so wild mustard, mallow, etc... were not even on my radar for possible food options. Of course, as even getting out of bed in the morning was a struggle for me because of my fatigue, traipsing around the neighborhood, 2 kids in tow, in search of wild edibles just wasn't happening, and on the rare occasion that it did, I had no energy to wash, clean, and check them for bugs that they spoiled in the fridge before I could do anything with them.
I also spent money on foods that would alleviate my nausea, especially when a bus ride/excursion was planned. (Puking on the bus or in the middle of the grocery store=mortifying!) That meant money spent on things that I would usually never buy, like Coca Cola (a proven anti-emetic), mint candies, sucking candies, etc... Those aren't cheap, unfortunately!
Of course, needing to eat a meal twice because it didn't stay down the first time... isn't exactly frugal.
In short, I spent a lot of money on food. Wasted a lot of money on food, you might say, but I think it was worth it. I couldn't go three months or more without eating, and spending money on food that made me nauseated and wouldn't get eaten was wasting money. But oh boy, our grocery bills that month were embarassing. Even more embarassing was the fact that I was sure someone stole our credit card* because our monthly bill was the highest I've seen it! All the little things added up. A trip to the grocery store here, another trip there...
I would guess that our monthly grocery bill during the worst month of my morning sickness was close to 500 dollars, and my husband nearly had a heart attack! I understood him, as prior to my pregnancy, I had gotten our family's grocery bills as low as 125-150 dollars a month! But, I reassured my husband that this 500 dollars in one month on groceries was a one time occurrence, and rubbed in his face that the reason why those 500 dollars seemed so shocking to him was only because of the fact that I go to extreme lengths to be frugal all the time, and he got used to my doing hard work all the time to keep the bills so low. I tried telling him that instead of being annoyed at me for spending 500 dollars in a month where I was barely functioning, he should just appreciate all that I do every other month to keep our food bills so low!
Yup, food issues during pregnancy definitely makes pregnancy less than frugal.
Of course, I didn't mention the buying disposable diapers instead of cloth because dealing with cloth diapers made me sick to my stomach. Because those, even though I bought them on sale, did end up being more expensive than using the cloth diapers already in my house.
And of course, I didn't even begin to touch on medical expenses, such as doctors visits for those without free health insurance, or medicines to quell nausea (and usually the better ones are even more expensive), or the cost of maternity clothes, or the (often very large!) expenses involved in giving birth. But I'll have to deal with those topics in future posts.
But yes, pregnancy certainly is NOT frugal. If at all possible, it's always a good idea to have extra money set aside to cover these inevitable expenses, because they will come up, and you most likely won't be able to spend as little when you're pregnant as you can when you're not pregnant. And if that isn't possible... well, thats why it's always a good idea to have a fully funded emergency fund.
What do you find to be more expensive? Having a baby (not counting childbirth), or the actual pregnancy (including childbirth)? Do you set aside money to cover pregnancy before TTC, or do you just manage (or go into debt) without money set aside?
Do you find pregnancy to be expensive? What are the biggest expenses for you during pregnancy? Do your grocery bills increase when pregnant? By how much?