I’ve always been touchy about discussing money and financial questions. Undoubtedly when it came to things like formula and diapers, the triplets are expensive, but I would say since they are second-born, we actually saved a lot of money this time round. We also no longer indulged in small or big luxuries, except on special occasions. I remember remarking to my friend that we seldom eat out anymore and she replied, what a sad life you have. I felt rather indignant about her reply because I don’t feel like I am missing out. I feel like there is this chasm between people who want to be parents and are willing to make that transition to parenthood, and those that want to be parents but are not willing to let go of their single lives. Let me list some examples of how we embraced our large family and we are all the happier for it:
1. We use hand-me-downs, only buy clothes at super discounts, and I am also learning to sew and will teach my girls to sew.
A lot of the clothes we bought were passed down from Livia. I also accepted hand-me-downs from friends. I actually dislike accepting hand-me-downs from others because rarely are the clothes to my liking but a lot of people insisted on offloading their bag of used clothes on us presuming we need it. So naturally, very few of the hand-me-downs from others made the cut. We only wanted light cotton and short-sleeved or sleeveless clothes and almost nobody got the memo. So we ended up donating many of the hand-me-downs from others to the orphanage. If I had to buy clothes, I waited for sales that was more than 50% discount. If I wanted to make special dresses or tops for the girls, which tend to cost a lot, I would figure out how to sew them from scratch, and usually upcycle then from fabric that are from old clothes that I have kept over the years.
2. We only eat at restaurants once a week and mostly eat cheaply, or cook.
Our diet mainly consists of home-cooked meals, or my husband takes away meals from the foodcourt, and we indulge in restaurant meals about once a week. It used to be that we would eat out about 4-5 times a week. But with so many children that was not feasible, and it was also very expensive. So we made the adjustment early on when we had Livia and we don’t feel shortchanged in any way. We still get to eat food we enjoy, just not as frequently.
3. We don’t travel.
Traveling is a huge expense. Everytime you travel, even if its just a trip to Malaysia or Bangkok, its easily $500 to as much as $2000. The thing is when people travel, they are going to consume. I don’t feel the need to go overseas to consume. In fact I haven’t boarded a plane in three years. My husband used to travel for work, but he isn’t really into traveling as I once used to be. I haven’t even renewed my passport because I don’t think we will traveling anytime soon. I spent my 20s traveling frequently so I certainly don’t miss it that much. I know once the kids are older, we might take a vacation once a year (or not at all). Its really not a big deal. My good friend once said, “traveling with kids is just parenting at a different location”.
4. We engage in activities that cost little.
We bring the kids out all the time, but the activities we do are extremely low cost or free, like visiting waterparks, going swimming, going to the beach, walking around in a mall, visiting indoor playgrounds that are free for children under 1 and going to the library. Once we have to start paying for indoor playgrounds, we will stop going there as often and bring the girls to outdoor playgrounds instead because they are free. The thing is children love the simple things in life – filtering sand through their fingers, wading in the water, running freely across the grass. They don’t need structured or enrichment activities that cost an arm and an leg.
5. We only buy toys once in a blue moon.
Most of the toys the triplets play with were passed down from Livia and a few others we bought from gift vouchers from friends who wanted to buy presents for us after I gave birth. But otherwise, I rarely every buy toys. We actually have no problem going into a toy shop with our kids. There is no, mummy I want this and that. We tell them you can play with the toys at the store but after that you have to put it back, and 100 percent of the time, they always put it back. When Livia was smaller and it was harder to rationalise with her she did throw some mini-tantrums at the toy store because she wanted to play with the toys longer and we wanted to go, but as she got bigger, she understood it was time to leave and the toy is not coming with her. This practice has really worked for us. So when the kids do get new toys, they totally appreciate it. Its not like a situation where they get a new toy and feel bored with it quickly.
If we wanted to introduce the kids to something new to play, I browse Pinterest for home-made toy ideas or activities. Also, many times before I want to get something, I usually ask myself if I can make it at home first. Most of the time though, they are fine playing together and they don’t need any toy.
6. Since this is Singapore, I’ll add a sixth. We don’t send the kids to enrichment classes that are not necessary.
Enrichment classes in Singapore are parent entrapments. If you look at the same classes overseas, you will realise parents pay very little for the same activity. Why is it so expensive in Singapore? Precisely because companies here are taking advantage of the education rat race, so they inflate prices because parents are willing to pay to equip their child with everything out there. I am even a bit grossed out about how swimming lessons have inflated tremendously. I decided the girls can start with structured activities when they are 4 years old and older, and we can identify what personal interests they have. We also hope to make use of group discounts since we have four kids and that can sometimes be a class in itself. We use to bring Livia to babygym and that was just too expensive for the triplets. Its like you realise how silly and extravagant it is once you add more kids to the equation that you previously could not see when you just had the one child.
These are just some cost-savings ideas we have employed. I don’t feel its deprived us in any way. Its actually been quite nice to go back to basics.