Friday, July 12, 2013

Miser Mom's most expensive summer ever

When it rains, it pours, or so they say.  I'm writing this post as outside of my windows I see the rain streaming down all around the house, and I'm wondering how far along we are into those proverbial forty days and forty nights.   There are no doves with olive branches in sight; but on the other hand the house is sound and comfortable.  And after seemingly-endless stretches of blistering days, the cool rain is more pleasant than otherwise.

No, the rain-and-pour I was talking about is of the more metaphorical variety.  For a plethora of unusual reasons, 2013 is turning into the most expensive summer that Miser Mom has seen in her nearly-half-a-century lifetime.  In fact, it's so surprisingly expensive I'll try to share some actual (to me, astounding) numbers.

First of all, there's the normal stuff:  credit cards, pocket money, utilities, child care, blah blah blah.  I won't bother to detail that.  Everything below comes on top of the standard outlay.

$4000 - School District Real Estate Tax
This, we expected.  You could budget for this by setting aside a bit of money each month (and in fact, we do), but the bill comes due in July, and I actually pay it in July, so I count it as summer expense.

$3000 - Charity (Big Give)
Again, this is a planned-for expense.  Every year I save up my gazillion charity envelopes and sort through them to decide who to give to.  Normally, we dole out about $2000, but this summer I tossed an extra $1K into Kiva, and then I let K-daughter choose who that money gets loaned to.  Because the Kiva money is a loan, I suppose theoretically we could get it back some day, but the current plan is to re-loan it continuously.

$1500 - Family Vacation
This number is an estimate, and it is probably a tad high (I hope).  We're going to rent a giant van to take 5 or 6 of us (plus 5 bicycles) up to Vermont to join my dad and sisters for annual family get-together.  We'll have grocery and gas expenses, plus maybe a few frivolous outings (horseback riding anyone?).   

$4000 - extra adoption expenses for X-son
Nothing in Haiti ever goes smoothly, and the current adoption-to-be is just one more example of that truism.  The twists and turns of the adoption story deserve another post of their own; suffice it to say that our adoption agency needed to switch lawyers quickly and so they asked for more money, and we said yes.

$2000 -- the final "kid bill"
Again, this expense is a long story.  Let's just say for now that I'm quite happy to put the word "final" there.

$3331 -- a Prius battery
Okay, all you Prius-haters, you can laugh at me now.  All I can say is that these batteries are supposed to last 10 years, and my Prius is a 2001 vintage.  So I think I've had a Buy-10-Get-2-Free deal on this particular battery.

$2400 -- fall tuition for K-daughter
For her first two years of college, K-daughter had what is essentially a full scholarship, because she's a ward of the state.  (I consider her my honorary daughter, but the relationship hasn't been made legal.  We're just living together -- hah!)  But for her final two years, she's transferring to a 4-year college.  She just got a bill that says that after scholarships and Stafford loans, there's still $2400 she owes.  And because I really do consider her my daughter, I wrote the check myself.   

$5000 -- more tuition
Speaking of tuition, my younger step-daughter graduated in May (and, of course, got a sewing machine from me).  For many years, we'd partnered up with her mom to put money into a college savings account.  This bit of money makes up the difference between what we saved and what the college actually ended up costing.
And . . . that's it.  More or less. As far as I know.  Yoicks!

How are we coping with an additional $25,000 of expenses on top of our usual expenses?  Sheesh!

Well, of course we've saved regularly for some of these outlays (like the real estate bill and charity stuff).  Too, we have a bit more wiggle room in the budget because in February we finally paid off our mortgage.   And we're also taking advantage of windfalls (like summer training that my college is paying me to do, a bit of army pay, and an NSF grant I got).  

We're also deferring plans we'd made for other projects.  I'd really hoped to start up a Donor Advised Fund, but I had to admit that that's not realistically going to happen in the next year or two because we won't have the minimum deposit at hand. And we're also putting off saving for my next sabbatical (although we have other schemes in the works for that).

But because of the saving/windfall/lack-of-mortgage trifecta, we're going to make it through okay, I'm pretty sure.  Go figure.  And (with the possible exception of that giant battery), the stuff we're spending money on feels like a Good and Righteous Thing, the kind of stuff we really ought to do, you know?  It seems that both literally and metaphorically, I can say:  There are no doves with olive branches in sight; but on the other hand the house is sound and comfortable.  After seemingly-endless stretches of blistering days, the cool rain is more pleasant than otherwise.


  1. Thats one heck of a summer bill. I don't think its to crazy when you consider some of the things are expenses you were saving for and check had to write a check for. School is expensive and get more expensive by the year. That Prius battery is something I hope to never have to by. Those are some pricey batteries. Hope you don't have to buy any more any time soon.

    1. The first three expenses (tax bill, charity, family vacation) are likely to recur every summer, and we can plan for them. K-daughter's tuition bills will be with us for two more years. The rest of the bills? Somewhat of a surprise, but unlikely to be ongoing. It was just, um, exciting to get all these surprises one after another.

      (Well, if I still have this Prius in 2023, I'll probably have to buy another battery then!) -MM

  2. Hi! My name is Maddie and I am writing an article for my school paper about how much money parents spend on their kids a year, do you think I could maybe interview you for about five minutes? If so, could you send me an email at

    1. Will do, Maddie! As you'll get to see in a future post, raising children can cost very different amounts . . . even in the same household! -- MM