Your Monies Worth
When I was a kid, my father gave us "the big talk" around age 11. In our family, the big talk was not about sex, it was about reaching the age that we were charged full price for things at restaurants, movies, amusements parks and other places. We had reached full-priced adulthood.
My dad saw us once a week and he would always take us out for dinner. Aside from the regular fast food chains we'd regular, occasionally, we'd go to buffets. On those days, he would give us the coaching lesson, "ok guys, I have to pay full price for you now, so you need to make sure that they lose money on you. You need to eat more than they are charging me for. Eat the meat, eat the shrimp and don't eat the bread or potatoes. Eat the expensive stuff and don't eat the cheap stuff. Make them sorry we walked through the door." What pressure. It was as if we were preparing for a great sporting event. If 'team' were an anagram in my family, we would spell "eat'm".
I grew up with that mentality, get your monies worth. When I was a kid, My mom used to give me the grocery money and let me do the weekly shopping. She'd give me $40 and I'd manage to come home with a cart full of groceries and change. I am a trained bargain hunter, and that affects my approach to everything.
When we were having our first kid and spending money on baby stuff, I thought it was financially illogical to buy all that stuff for just one kid. Have to have a bunch to get my monies worth. I paid $200 for that crib, and four kids wound up sleeping in it, so it works out to $50 a kid. Not so bad. (Maybe I wasn't thinking about the cost per kid after the baby stage. Logic was flawed. Admitted.)
When we were pregnant with #3 and had to trade the car for a mommy mobile, the salesman said to me, "it fits six carseats." Did he really have to say that to me? It sounded like a challenge.
Even now, as a mom, when #1 and #3 buy lunch on pizza day, I ask them what they got aside from the pizza. "You get milk? Apple sauce?" I want to make sure that they got everything they were entitled to. We're talking school lunches here, I should be happy they didn't get everything they was entitled too, but even if it's crappy, they paid for it. Gotta get your monies worth kiddies.
When you have a large family, you have to figure the total cost of things. Taking seven people to the movies can run over $60. A trip to the Baltimore aquarium over $200. We look to conserve money by buying memberships. We buy one per year and then the pressure to get my money's worth comes into play. My husband has to remind me regularly that the membership pays for itself in three visits, but then I hear my father's voice, "make them lose money on you." In my mind, I picture going every week. Not reasonable, but the pressure is there. They have to lose money on me and I am competitive. The gauntlet has been thrown down.
When I joined the gym, I signed three kids up for babysitting. Regardless of how often I go, I still get charged each month. Because of that, I go six days a week. There is no way I am going to lose money on that, even if it means becoming a masochist. I stay the whole two hours that they can be in that baby room. I'm getting my monies worth and they're watching my kids: win-win. And, if my ass shrinks just a little, well, that would be the cherry on top.
As I sort through the baby things for my donation pile, I see many things that have been around since #1. We got 10 years out of that, what a bargain. I'm happy I had three boys who all wear the hand me downs. By the time the third child is wearing the $3 shirt, I feel like I am getting a return on my investment. With the twins, we were lucky that many of my NJ friends gave us boxes of clothes when the girls were babies. When they turned three, I had to start buying clothes. I buy a third more than I would for a single kid and then share the clothes. I do love hand-me-downs. Nothing like getting a return on free stuff. "Free" is my favorite "F" word.
Every birthday and Chanukah my dad sends a check. The more kids we had, the more money he had to send. We got to a point that he was moaning about the amount of money he had to send because we had so many kids. He told me, "Please don't have anymore kids, I'm going broke." Hey dad, suck it up, I'm getting my monies worth.