These days, when I meet a well-meaning, sweet couple who tell me they aren’t ready to have children yet because they need to save some money first and organise their finances, I snort. Ha. Obviously, like my former self, the poor suckers have heard horror stories about how much money raising a baby requires: diapers, car seats, pushchairs, clothes, formula, bottles, more clothes, endless amounts of outgrown clothes – the list has no end and let’s not get started on school and college fees.
Except, that’s really one of those mistruths I feel obliged to address. In my short but meaningful experience as Baby A’s bewildered mama, I have found that, actually, babies are a great way to save money. Observe 10 ways babies can help in fattening up that bank account:
- You can’t try on clothes in the fitting room thanks to that bulky stroller, and you most certainly can’t buy an item to try at home and then return it if it doesn’t fit, because salespeople in the UAE always seem to have a mini-coronary attack every time you indicate you’d like to return an item that you have just purchased yesterday. Which means, basically, you can no longer shop for clothes. I’ve saved a couple thousand dirhams per month on this point alone. You might say that you’d just replace physical shopping with online shopping and still buy those dresses you’re lusting after. Again, I would snort. When exactly do you think you’ll have time to browse your favourite online stores and do some shopping?
- You will never host adult dinners anymore, so there’s no longer any need to purchase fancy gourmet products for that artisan cheese platter you like to have on hand, or overpriced sausages from jones the grocer to throw on the barbecue. You will not need fancy beverages to serve, or ready-made desserts to bring out at the end with a flourish. Dinner parties are fun to have, but they cost money, time, effort and require orderly peace. Forget it. People will no longer be coming by your home – you might as well sell that dining table. (Mr T and I are seriously considering it, no joke.)
- Time will become the rarest of commodities, which means time to pamper yourself will become practically nonexistent. Those weekly manicures and pedicures, those bi-weekly blow outs – they will become a thing of the past. I have been trying to find time to get a facial for the past four months, whereas once upon a time, I would have forked over the cash for four facials already. Think how much I’ve saved! And dying those roots? Well, let’s just say you can live your life with silver hair for a lot longer than you ever thought possible.
- No more lingering at the grocery store, buying imported items that are beautifully packaged and wondrously expensive. You’re going to have to get in, stick to the list, and make it out, fast, before meltdown o’clock.
- No more cinema outings. For Mr T and I, this was a huge expense – we’d manage at least three movies a week, and we’d do it laden down with calorie-ridden, overpriced snacks. I bet ticket sales in theatres across Abu Dhabi have plummeted thanks to our absence.
- You will still travel, sure, but most of those trips will be back home to visit baby’s grandparents, so no need to factor in accommodation, or food, or any other expense really other than the price of the ticket. (And, if your baby is extra cute, grandparents will actually send you a ticket just to bring the baby over, bonus.)
- When you do travel, You’ll think twice before spending any money in Duty Free or selecting items off that In-Flight Magazine, because do you really want to weigh yourself down with more things to carry, when you have to get yourself, your bag, your baby and your baby’s diaper bag (which only seems to get heavier as the trip progresses) through security and immigration? Exactly.
- If you once had a shoe obsession (ahem), then you know how much of that hard-earned salary ends up manifested in heels. But, have you ever tried pushing a pushchair in stilettos? Not attractive. Suffice to say, you will no longer be purchasing an obscene amount of designer shoes. The amount of money you will be saving will be astounding. Just wait.
- Where once you might have invested in your home, from fancy cushion covers to crystal vases to ornate lamps, you will quickly realise that the amount of bodily fluids a baby can produce demands that you have the cheapest couch material possible. Mr T and I have actually made money in this regards, thanks to Baby A, because I’ve been forced to sell random pieces of furniture to get ahead with baby proofing, and also to provide Her Highness with more space to crawl and explore. And considering how destructive an 8-month-old girl can be, let’s just say I won’t be investing any money in decorating my home anytime soon.
- Simply put, you no longer have the luxury of free time (refer back to the fourth point above). Which means no more time to read, so no more visits to the bookstore. No more time to work on puzzles, so no need to buy those, either. No more time to take that Zumba class; go ahead and cancel that gym membership. Every spare moment you have, you’ll want to spend with that fascinating little individual who has turned your entire world upside down and got you to stop buying shoes.
- So go ahead, have babies. Not only do they help you end up with more spending money, but they’re also cute when doing it, too.
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Hala Khalaf is Arts&Life deputy editor at The National