Finances

Baby Sh*t

You don’t need half of it. And a third of it you can buy used.

If having a kid has taught me anything, it’s that consumerism is horrible and manipulative in ways I didn’t care to face until now.

Buy Buy Baby exists only to over charge moms who believe they need these things for their new babies. I mean, it’s called BUY BUY BABY. And it totally makes sense that we’re duped into buying tons of pointless, borderline useless items at inflated prices.

Having things for your baby is the sum total of pressure: social, psychological (one day I’ll talk about what happens to a person whose hormones are totally out of whack and is sleep deprived), maternal, financial, educational. You name it, every way in which you can feel inadequate is perfectly exploited when it comes to buying things for your baby.

And no matter how many times another mom who just had a baby tells you “You Do NOT Need These Things”, you will still buy and ask for so much pointless shit.

Or shit that will last MAYBE three months. Baby swings, Baby jumpers, Baby walkers, Baby activity mats, Baby chairs. Do you know A Baby? You know how they, like, gain weight and inches and learn how to move? Yeah, well those things render most baby things UNUSABLE after a very short period of time.

Not to mention the fact that they outgrow clothes sometimes in One Week. Seriously, my kid wore 3-6 month sized clothes for maybe eight days.

Maybe.

I had bags and bags of clothes that were worn a handful of times. And yes, some of those items were lovingly sent to a friend for her new baby. A lot of them were dropped off at Goodwill. And still more of them are sitting in a closet waiting to be sorted through and hypothetically being brought to a consignment shop for trade so I can get other gently used items. (HAHAHA, who am I kidding that I will actually do this?)

Lets talk about baby clothes for a minute. Look, I realize that there is a huge problem with the clothing industry. I should definitely shop more consciously and locally and recognize how much cheap, overseas labor is making it possible to buy a shirt for $3.80 that I’ll only wear once to a bar because I’m still sporting maternity clothes held up by belts and other layers and can’t be seen in that shit when I go into the city to a real place with actual people.

However.

When you are buying a whole new wardrobe every season, every year, and you’re on a budget (and lets not forget that my kid doesn’t even know what he’s wearing yet), you are not willing to pay $10 or more for an item.

Fine, *I* am not OK with spending that much.

Instead, I wait for places like Carter’s or Kohl’s to have coupons and then will buy en masse to replace all of the things that don’t fit.

I do this mostly because these stupid coupons force you to spend X amount of money. And everything is priced in such a way to make it impossible to hit that number on the nose, so you’ll inevitably overspend.

I kid you not, yesterday I went to Carter’s with a 25% off $40 coupon all ready to purchase five pairs of pajamas that are usually $8 (after an inexplicable 50% off sale that basically never ends) and they were NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.

An item that has been at that dumb store every other time I’ve been in there is suddenly gone. Instead, they had $20 pajamas that were 50% off, meaning now I’d only be able to buy four.

FUCK YOU, CARTERS.

Also, those assholes were trying to sell me six pairs of socks for $14.

In a fit of rage, I went to Walmart immediately afterwards and spent $10 on twelve pairs of socks.

And yeah, I felt like a jerk buying things at Walmart because I know their low prices come at the expense of a lot of hardworking people. But I know for certain they weren’t paying that Carter’s salesgirl more than minimum wage either.

Medela is one of the #1 brands selling breast pumps. They run about $200-$300 a pop. In theory, they should last at least a year.

The measurement markings on a few of my bottles have almost completely rubbed off and one of the collars to the nipples broke. You can’t buy individual bottles. Also, if you buy new nipples, they don’t come with collars.

You get one set of tubing, which after awhile, gets gross. Medela does not provide a cleaning kit, nor do they sell their tubing at stores. I had to buy mine on Amazon.

When I went to email them to see if I could get new bottles to replace the ones with faded measurements, I was armed and ready with photos. But there’s no direct email address. Instead, you have to send a message through their website, which not only doesn’t allow attachments, but also has a character limit. They replied saying I needed to call customer service and if it was deemed worthy of replacement, would have to send in the used ones (and also provide proof of purchase, which, like, isn’t having the product proof??)

Maybe this doesn’t sound like a totally unreasonable request. But I’d like to tell a company that makes breast pumps, MOMS OF NEW BABIES DON’T EXACTLY HAVE TIME ON THEIR HANDS TO FUCKING PACKAGE UP THEIR DAMAGED PRODUCTS (WHICH THEY STILL ACTUALLY NEED TO USE EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE SOMEWHAT DYSFUNCTIONAL) AND MAIL THEM OUT.

So Medela can also FUCK OFF.

Now, on to diapers.

This is the one thing I decided not to bargain on. Don’t ask me why, but after finding Pampers superior to all other diapers while nannying, I chose to use them for my kid. They are basically the most expensive ones (alongside Huggies.)

And mostly, they live up to their cost.

However. I decided to try their “cruiser” variety after the baby started to crawl. I figured it might stay on a little better, blah, blah, blah. I bought a small pack and liked them.

I need to now interject with Target’s coupon. $10 off $50 on ANY COMBINATION of diapers and wipes.

A box of diapers costs $24.99.

WELL PLAYED, TARGET.

So when I bought two boxes and a small package of wipes (for $1.79), the coupon came up invalid. Thankfully the cashiers (because this happened on two different occasions), still let me have the discount. But you KNOW the intention is for someone to go way beyond $50.

Anyway, I had this annoying coupon and decided to buy a box of the cruisers. Cool, right?

No.

You get 16 less diapers for the same price of Cruisers as their Baby Dry line.

SIXTEEN.

Even though I’ve made the (probably dumb) choice of going with Pampers, they were not going to railroad me into buying them just because they fit a little bit more securely on my baby’s ass.

FUCK NO, Pampers.

So yeah.

Baby products are evil and I probably should just stick my kid in the lowest priced diapers, wrapped in a sack and give him Kleenex boxes (the non-brand name ones) and toilet paper rolls to play with. Because he would be fine.

And so should I.

-Carly

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Old Enough for Allowance

Miss Spoken will be a year old this May! We’re a little blown away and very excited to celebrate our birthday with you. As part of this, we wanted to tell you about a change in format.

Starting with this month’s show, we’ll be accepting a suggested donation of $5. All of it will go to our readers. The reasons for this are simple.

  • We value their time, energy, and creativity, and believe it’s worth something tangible.
  • We think you feel that way too.

It’s suggested. You can cheap out and we won’t give you side-eye. Your presence is our present, to use the worst phrase ever, and we understand being broke. But if you can spare one fancy beer and like what we’re doing, this is a great way to show it.

See you on the 27th. There will be cupcakes.

-Rose

I Can(‘t) Do This By Myself

Technically I’m a single mom.

This is not to rag on my partner. It’s just an observation I can’t help but make when all of the advice online and in books assumes you are co-habitating. They all suggest he give me nightly foot rubs and that we should plan a “babymoon”, as if there is an extra pile of cash lying around to take a vacation before a newborn arrives.

I’m not joking when I say, if something falls on the ground and does not absolutely have to be picked up, I’m not bending over.

I would love for someone to help me put on socks and shoes and pants.

I’d love to stop driving (though again, big ups to my guy for taking the wheel every time we’re together.) (Oh and a HUGE thank you to you parents for buying me a car at a time when it has basically become a necessity.)

I’m done with cleaning. I’d love to bathe less. I’m not into having to go outside and into the basement to do laundry.

I’m REALLY over stairs. And walking. And sometimes even sitting.

I’d love to have Peapod.

All this to say, I know it’ll be over soon. Very soon.

And on top of this, I’m two weeks away from moving back in with my parents, two able bodied, non-working people ready to lend a hand in any way they can.

HOW DOES ANYONE DO THIS WITHOUT HELP?

I know people do, everyday. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole for even posing the question, but I am truly besides myself trying to figure out how you could do this by yourself.

I feel even luckier than women who are married, whose husbands have to go back to work. At least I won’t be totally alone. And moms who already have a kid with another on the way? I CAN’T WRAP MY BRAIN AROUND THAT.

This is probably the most helpless I’ve ever felt as an adult. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, partly out of being so independent for many years, but also not wanting to come across like I’m taking advantage of my “condition”. And yes, its probably painfully obvious that I don’t exactly have the means to live on my own with a new baby, financially speaking.

I am overwhelmed by everyone’s support and generosity. I’m flabbergasted by the amount of things filling my parents house and for my mom friends who’ve given me all sorts of gently used hand me downs.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am that I’m not doing this alone.

-Carly

P.S. I promise to write you thank you notes once this carpal tunnel thing is figured out.

Males and Females 24-40

Focus groups are weird and interesting. I used to do a lot of them when I was younger, and I still sign up for them sometimes. I’m a good little consumer. Even though I don’t buy that much stuff because I’m in a bunch of debt, I still want to buy all the stuff and can easily go on about why I like or don’t like something. I can write paragraphs about breakfast sandwiches and beauty balm, or (insert thing that might taste good or make me look pretty), and have no problem verbalizing that.

But yeah. The basic idea is, you sit in a room with people of a certain demographic mix. Sometimes it’s people statistically like you in pretty much every way, which is slightly odd. Sometimes it’s people in your general age range, but a mix of skin colors. Sometimes there’s a diversity of economic or geographic backgrounds. You talk about your opinions on a product or experience, then they give you a check at the end.

What you might not know is that there’s always one person that is not going to shut the fuck up. They don’t get their opinions heard often in real life, and now they have a captive audience. They are stoked. This is their big chance.

Without further ado, I present A Montage of Product Opinions. I recommend playing music while you read these, maybe this or this.

  • Topic: Fast food breakfast, something near and dear to my heart. A middle-aged woman went on at length about how “fresh” was a very, very important quality to her. Moderator: “You’ve mentioned that word a few times. What does ‘fresh’ mean to you?” She smiled a Cheshire Cat mile, something worthy of winning the lottery, getting laid, and being awarded a Pulitzer in the same day. “That,” she purred, “is what we need to define.” No. No. We don’t. No. I’m sure she’s gluten-free now, despite testing negative for Celiac twice.
  • Topic: Blowout bars. Sitting around with a bunch of white girls between 20 and 30, the moderator visibly irritated that we didn’t prefer an awful late 60s throwback interior to something more clean and simple. She kept coming back to the brown-olive-yellow toned monstrosity, rolling her eyes and eventually letting out an exasperated hiss. Shitty faux-retro design doesn’t make 23-year-olds think of tousled waves, and trying to push your boss’ opinion is obvious and awkward.
  • Topic: Something about hair color. Females, age 20-30. A white woman with children from the suburbs with a bad blonde dye job said she went to the Mexican salon by her house because it was cheap, even though she was pretty sure they didn’t like her and they didn’t do that great a job. Record scratch.
  • Topic: Vodka. We didn’t get to drink it. Mix of males and females, maybe 21-35. They showed us some ads that looked American Apparel-esque, some hot skinny people sitting around a long table in what looked like children’s animal masks, about to play some old-school party game or maybe go kill a person, something vaguely alternative involving clear mid-priced liquor. Whatever. One bro-y guy started to voice his reaction, but was interrupted by a girl who was dead set on letting you know that “I HATE HIPSTERS. WHY DO THEY HAVE TO RUIN EVERYTHING? HIPSTERS RUIN EVERYTHING.” She would come back to this theme throughout our 75 minutes together. Afterwards in the elevator, bro-y guy she interrupted made a crack about how she should shut up, with a thinly veiled undercurrent of “because she’s fat and unattractive”, and in that moment I hated them both.
  • Topic: Microwavable meals. This group was uneventful. I was the asshole. In the phone interview, I totally said I ate Lean Cuisine 3-5 times a week. I buy Lean Cuisine every two years then remember how sad and awful they are. But I’ll totally spring for a Banquet chicken pot pie, aka .97 of pure, sodium joy. And seriously, who eats frozen meals that often? Everyone in the room looked relatively unbloated and scurvy-free, so I can only assume they were lying as well.

Lessons learned: People, especially women, don’t get heard a lot in their day to day lives. People are the worst. Some company in the mid-2000s really wanted to make this happen.

-Rose

I’m On Public Aid

In case you were wondering how someone that makes $300 a week can pay her rent, eat and have a baby, it’s because I’m receiving public aid.

Yep, that includes WIC, food stamps and Medicaid.

And HELL YES, for all of that.

I am not embarrassed. I am not ashamed. I know that even if I were making double that and couldn’t qualify for it, I’d be much worse off.

How, you ask? As many of you probably experience, there are a lot of co-pays and deductibles associated with regular insurance. Maybe some of you have a lot of available credit or a sizable savings account. Or perhaps a significant other who covers the bills. I don’t. There is no way I could afford out of pocket expenses for anything.

Even if I wasn’t pregnant, I’d still be dealing with finding $500 lying around for a crown I need on my back molar.

Oh and by the way, the health center I’m going to has covered all of my basic dental work including six cavities. For free, people. I should also mention I’m in individual counseling. Again, gratis.

This is how socialized medicine works. And it totally makes sense. Insurance companies, big pharm, hospitals, all they want is your money. They are not properly regulated by the government, who, by the way, don’t give a shit about you either, in case you hadn’t noticed. Fixing your healthcare problems is not even a blip on their radar when all they’re focused on are the funds they receive from lobbyists.

We live in a country that places a VALUE on human life. As in, we let people die all of the time because they can’t afford preventative care, prescription medication, or life saving procedures.

Think about that for a minute.

The good thing is: I’m not completely reliant on this aid. It is supplemental. There is basically no way I could live on the $54 a month they give me in food stamps plus the weird things I’m eligible for on WIC. In other words, I don’t claim to be in a position that many, many people who receive this aid are in.

But it’s helping. A lot. So is paying $3.90 for every prenatal doctor’s appointment and so far, not having to pay a cent for either of my routine ultrasounds.

Certain people complain that some folks are purposely trying to stay on the welfare program. To be honest, I believe that. Who in the hell would want to work 60+ hours a week making minimum wage to be just above the poverty line, struggling everyday, versus getting a little help from the government?

If they really wanted people to be less dependent, they’d force multi-billion dollar companies like Walmart and McDonald’s to pay their employees $15 an hour or figure out the actual livable wage in each city. It’s baffling that a good portion of these employees are on public aid and are also the ones we point fingers at for supposedly abusing the system. The face of poverty isn’t laziness. It’s a whole workforce of underpaid people who are trying to make ends meet.

Call me a socialist. Call me a communist. But I am not comfortable with ONE PERSON MAKING 296 TIMES MORE THAN THE AVERAGE WORKER. One in five kids go hungry in America while some undeserving asshole is making $296 to your one. And I say undeserving because no ONE person is working THAT HARD to justify THAT MUCH more money. He’s an asshole because obviously. He’s probably paying a lower percentage of tax than you and in relation to how much he makes, is donating even less. And He is a He because duh.

You know that saying “it takes a village”? It’s absolutely true. And the government RELIES on that shit. They are looking to churches and community organizations to fill in the gaps where they refuse to as if it’s not their job to look out for their own citizens. Not only have I received public aid, I’ve had the support of friends, family and an employer who are literally giving me things. Even strangers on Facebook exist just to help one another. I am very lucky and very grateful.

So please don’t be mad at me.

I know that I won’t be relying on this forever. Just so long as my kid gets good coverage.

-Carly

 

So Long “606”…For A Bit

The last time I lived outside of Chicago was my brief stint in Evanston back in 2008.

Yes, I’m that person who will tell you I was born at Illinois Masonic, that my dad is a Lane Tech alum and that my cell number has been “312” since 1999. If you really want to know how Chicago I am, I’ll list all of the neighborhoods I’ve lived in.

I know, you don’t.

Anyway, I’ve decided to move in with my parents when my lease is up (November 30th). It is, as of now, the most ideal situation. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a part-time nanny and between now and the birth of this kid, there’s no way I can save enough money to pay my rent for the months I’ll be unable to work.

I will not make promises of getting into the city as much as I can once summer rolls around again, nor do I expect any of you to make similar statements about visiting me in the burbs. I’ve seen it happen before and I don’t think I’ll be some kind of exception to the rule.

However, if you feel like coming 45 northwest of the city (there is a Metra station in the town over and I’ll gladly arrange for you to be picked up), our door is open.

My friend J has been asking what I’d like to do before I leave city confines and aside from all of the craft cocktails I’ve been missing, I suppose I just want to eat my way through these final few months. If you’re into that, hit me up.

As for the future, I assume I’ll try to get back into good ol’ Chicago once this kid is a little older and I’ve been able to put away some money to get the apartment of my dreams. Though I don’t know if the city will be my forever home. I love this place like no other, but having a kid may change the feasibility of it all.

So yeah, I’m gonna be a suburban mom for awhile and I’m pretty OK with it. I’ll just live vicariously through your Facebook posts.

-Carly

The Value of Money (When You Have None)

Two days ago, my dad bought me a used car.

And I’m kinda terrified.

Buying a used car “As Is” feels like a huge gamble and this time, I’m betting with someone else’s money. Driving it into the city, I’m already thinking about all of the possible ways I could mess this up, what with the red light cameras, speeding cameras, parking tickets in all manners of meters, street cleaning and Cubs night games. I panic that someone is going to take the mirror off while going down Ashland, or side swipe it and not leave a note.

I’m also waiting to hear how it checks out with my dad’s mechanic, nervously hoping another few grand doesn’t need to go into it in order for it to last.

I’ve also come to realize how important it is to take care of your things, something I’ve never been good at. Cars require maintenance to retain their value and can last a long time, so long as you stay on top of things.

This is about having money available to pay for things like oil changes and tire rotations or more major fixes. I have no concept of savings and haven’t had any sort of savings account since I was a kid. Without credit, I don’t have the means to take care of anything remotely major.

I recently was told I have to get a crown on one of my teeth. Easily $500 out of pocket, hence the reason I’m searching for other ways to have it done. I honestly have no idea how anyone pays out right for anything, though I’m obviously out of touch when it comes to planning ahead.

I’m not good at buying one amazing thing at $100 versus four not so well made things for $25 a piece. I don’t invest correctly or see the value in purchasing high quality items that will last. My boyfriend is always asking me why I waste money on cheap, uncomfortable shoes. He’s suggested I throw all of the crappy ones away and getting one or two pairs that are functional. It makes sense when he’s saying it to me, but he’s never there when I’m browsing the Payless BOGO sale, or walking up and down the aisles of the shoe section at Target. Plus I can’t imagine not having a shoe collection, even if it’s made up of poorly made plastic sandals.

Ever since I got pregnant, things have become about money, a huge issue in my life I haven’t been ready to come to terms with.

I’ve been buying used things for the baby, which has been awesome, but also makes me a little leery. It’s not that I distrust these women, but when someone walks out of their place to hand me a $50 monitor and there’s no way for me to know if it actually works, I feel unsure.

If shopping at Crossroads is any indication, it can be hit or miss. I’ve definitely walked out with items that had tears or cosmetic flaws that I didn’t thoroughly check for and could not be returned.

I have no problem buying used. But there’s a certain amount of comfort you have to have in hoping the deal is worth it. The majority of the time, you’re not left with a lemon.

I think I’ll feel better when I hear back about the car.

And please don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to own one and know that I’m lucky and pretty underserving of it.

-Carly

The Fall Back

I once told my mom that I was waiting to hit rock bottom.

And in some ways, I think I meant it.

I meant that I had no inclination to change my behavior until something prompted me to do so. I figured that thing would be catastrophic, some jarring event that would cause me to spring into action because I’d have no choice.

I know that motivation is something self created, but more often than not, it takes an external push for me to do things.

While I’m eternally grateful to my parents, I’ve learned that they will be there to bail me out. Luckily, I haven’t needed to be sprung from jail or needed money for them to pay back a drug dealer. Still, they have paid off credit cards, taken care of my college education and have let me move back into their house more often than I’d care to admit.

In fact, it might happen again.

I don’t know if I could have gone through with this pregnancy with my life as it is if I didn’t have them in my life. I don’t know if I’d have the reassurance I need to feel like everything is going to be OK one way or another.

I wonder what that would have been like if my whole life had been the same way.

I think there is a part of me that feels guilty for accepting their help, for depending on it and in some ways, taking it for granted at times.

It’s a safety net that allows me to fuck up without a whole lot of consequences. Lose a job. Lose an apartment. Get broken up with. Get into credit card trouble. Need help moving.

Have a baby.

I’ve relied a little too much on them always being there to the point that I’ve turned into a not so self sufficient adult.

As my therapist likes to remind me, there is no right or wrong way of going about things. But I could be doing a lot better for myself and just haven’t yet found a reason to make the changes I need to.

-Carly