Sunday, August 5, 2007

Financial Headgames and Grandkids

This is a follow-up post to my previous post of July 1st. The grandkids have come and gone and I made the following discoveries about them and about myself:

1. There are only so many library storytimes a 4 year old is willing to do. OTOH, both a 4 year old and a 5 year old are willing to spend 45 minutes running up and down the grand three story marble stairway in the library.

2. The "Baby Room" at the local Museum of Science and Industry is endlessly fascinating and can be visited daily without boredom--thank God for the annual pass I bought last March. It cost $125 to cover myself, my one minor child and all of my grandchildren.

3. The free lunch for children 18 and younger that is served in the city parks on weekdays during the summer is wonderful for my budget. The lunches were surprisingly healthy even with the mystery meat and cheese sandwiches. Vegetables and fruits were included. It turns out none of my grandchildren had eaten kiwis before--they were charmed by the idea of a hairy fruit that tasted like strawberries.

4. Summer concerts with picnics in the park work only if there's a playground nearby.

5. Kids will swim anywhere, in any temperature, for as long as you will let them.

6. The budget can be kissed good-bye.

I wound up spending more than I had budgeted for the grandkids' visit. But I worked very hard to avoid the sense that once I overran my budget, I should just forget about it and spend whatever I wanted. Instead, I struggled to make up for the overruns elsewhere.

For the past two weeks I have had coffee at home in the morning. As a general rule, I do this only two days a week. On the other days, I spend anywhere from $3.50 to $4.65 for morning cofee and pastries. Not these past two weeks, however!

I used public transportation as much as possible. I have an annual transit pass and the youngest grandkids could ride free. My grandkids are from small towns--they think train rides, and especially arial tram rides are special.

The grocery budget and school clothing budgets were trimmed to meet some of the expenses. Walgreens has sugarfree popsicles (the kind that you freeze when you get home) for $1 a box which contains 12 popsicles. All of my grandkids lived on these for their entire vacation. I was the coupon queen the whole time, as well. I use coupons but usually, sporadically. This time, I was fanatical.

The end result was still a budget overrun, but it was not nearly as bad as it would have been had I simply given up until the kids left.

Now that Grandma has her house back, and I can reflect on the financial aspects of grandparenting, I realize that the lesson I have to learn and relearn is that even as my budget is falling apart, I need to make every effort to control as many aspects of it as I can. Giving up, taking out the credit cards, just not worrying about the finances is way too easy. And way too expensive!

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