Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Babysitting Exchange!

Being as budget conscious as we can be leading up to the birth of baby-girl and of course once she is here - I am so excited that I've been able to arrange a babysitting Exchange!

Y'all babysitters are flippin' expensive! I would know, I once was one and I remember just how much money I would rake in! An average night out can run you $50 in babysitting fees, that's more than the cost of the meal we would have gone out for!

We have friends & family that will be more than willing to watch baby girl, but I certainly don't want to wear that welcome out. So, my friend Sonya who has two little ones suggested we set up our own little babysitting exchange between the two of us! 

I haven't found a lot of other moms around here who do this; or if they do, they don't put this name on it. I of course don't mind the "hey can you watch my kiddo tonight and I'll watch yours when you need it" but that can easily become one-sided and one of the parties becomes very used and feels abused by the constant request of "favors".  I personally would much prefer an arrangement that we both stick to and can both use and honor.

From doing my research, I've found two tried and true methods of co-ops and exchanges - the Equal Time Arrangement or Coupon Method. Equal time is exactly as it sounds... more on that later. The Coupon Method is a little more complicated, but would be really effective in a co-op of 3 or more people. When you join the co-op, you get "coupons" for a set amount of time and you buy babysitting with the coupons from another family in the co-op. To arrange the sitter, you post in a group setting, like a mass email or much more up my alley, in a facebook group that you need a sitter for X number of hours for Z number of kids & any other details relevant to the situation. Susie Q is running low on tickets and is available so she says she will take your kiddos.

Sonya and I have agreed to an equal time arrangement. If I have her two for 3 hours, she will in-turn watch my little one for 3 hours another day. (2 kids are more work than 1 baby you say?!? - Never fear, I address that later.)

 Since Sonya and I are friends, we don't need too many rules to start our little exchange out, especially since it will just be the two of us. I'm hopeful though that we will find a network of moms and kiddos after baby-girl comes and we can set up a complete co-op or a few other individual exchanges so that we won't always have to rely on Sonya in the event that she isn't available.

Variables to Consider when setting up your own exchange or co-op:

Equal work - Other babysitting co-ops or exchanges I've found will charge more "time" for babysitting multiple children. So they charge 'per child hour', if they have two kids that you watch for 3 hours, you've just earned 6 hours babysitting from them. While others charge more time against babies in diapers. 
For our arrangement - we figure that her well behaved 2 children are "cost equivalent" to my (hopefully) easy-going single baby who will need diaper changes. 

Picky, picky - In a co-op situation, you can find yourself faced with the difficult situation of needing to say "no" to a family that has a disruptive, misbehaving, or otherwise poor behaving child. This is when the Coupon Method would be perfect! (I hope to use this if I can gather enough parents into a co-op) The  problem family with the disruptive kiddo won't be able to really earn any tickets, therefore can't really ask for services. 
In an exchange situation, I can't forsee this really being an issue simply because you will very-likely know the family and child before entering into the exchange agreement. If their kiddo is a little toot, you know better than agreeing to this!

Familiarity - This is an issue we haven't given much thought to because as far as we can see it won't be an issue for us. However in larger co-ops there may be members that you simply don't know. This can be avoided by setting up the co-op in your mom group at church or child's class at church but that isn't a sure fire answer to knowing without-a-doubt that your child is in safe hands. To this I've found two answers, I think they would work best when used together.  
Background checks! They aren't fun, but important when picking the person you are entrusting your child's life with. I've also seen home checks by the co-op administrator being suggested  before a family can be admitted to the group.  
Socials Who doesn't like a fun yard party for the adults while the children have a playdate?!? Get to know the other families in your co-op by having monthly get-togethers at different houses!

Location, location, location - Sometimes I may be available to have an extra kid or two tag along with me on a Saturday afternoon while I run errands, or deal with things around the house. It's entirely different if keeping that kid means that I have to have a totally free afternoon to go sit at someone elses' house and entertain their child. Worse yet, if I have to make other arrangements for my children during this time. The only solution to this I've come up with is charging extra tickets or "time" against the bank if they require you to keep the child at their home.

We're so excited for this opportunity, even if we won't be using it for a few months... you know until little girl makes her appearance and I have managed to un-attach myself from her enough to leave her with someone else...

Do you participate in a Babysitting Co-op or Exchange?

What are some pros/cons you've run across in a structured setting like this? 

Friday, June 14, 2013

When they Pay, They get a Say - What to Expect when you're Expecting a Wedding

Wedding planning is in full swing although I'm back-pedding from any and all responsibilities until I know what I can and cannot handle with the little one on the way.

Kimmi & and her fiance are frantically searching for a reasonably priced venue that will still allow them to have the ceremony and reception they want. This of course is closely tied to the discussion of money. I had the pleasure of being privy to conversations that I'd have much rather have been sitting alone in the car for because well, let's just say it was uncomfortable. 
(Disclaimer - this post is not directed at my friends, this is an in-general post, things about paying for a wedding that ruffle my fur whether it is them, or someone I barely know)

I am standing on a giant soap box here - and I don't doubt that there will be more than a few that read this post and totally disagree, but it's my opinion and I'm putting it out there!
Who pays for What????

When planning a wedding we're all generally accustomed (or become quickly acquainted with...) the traditional cost breakdowns of a wedding.  Though in recent years those rules have quickly become less of a hard-and-fast type rule and more of a custom from times of yore. 

What many brides do not realize but are rudely awakened to is - when you make the decision to get married you are setting off on the road for a very costly day in the future. This of course does not apply if you're running down to the JP's office (a path I highly recommend to avoid all issues and problems addressed in this post!)

When John & I got married, we paid for the whole shindig ourselves! 
Every. Last. Red. Cent.
We did not go into debt to do so - and while we're on that note - let me just go ahead and express how ridiculous it is to go into debt when you are just starting out. Would you start a race a quarter-mile behind everyone else? That's stupid you say?!? Well so are monthly payments for a day of "bliss" that is just as important if you spent $100 or $10,000. 

I realize that there are families out there more than willing to pay for their children to get married - and more power to them! What goads me is the expectation for family to pay for your nuptials.
When you enter into marriage you are saying that you are leaving your family and beginning your own.
Ephesians 5:31 - 
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 
In our society, this is a decision that you two are making on your own. Your parents didn't decide it for you - so I fail to see how it is their "responsibility" to pay for your decision. 

In the event that a family member is willing and capable of assisting financially in the wedding - what you must realize is that with their money comes their opinions, advice and in certain circumstances - demands. 
Their financial contribution is a gift. When you give a birthday present, you go out and shop for the gift, and what you give is what they get. In budgeting for a wedding, this is particularly more prevalent when you are breaking down the cost by expense. For example, your mother is going to pay for the wedding venue - I find it perfectly reasonable that she get a say in what venue is selected. 

It isn't a fun fact of life, but if there is something that you - yourself cannot afford and there isn't someone lining up to give it to you; then well, I'm sorry. You don't get it. Just because you're getting married does not entitle you to your every whim. Budget, cut costs, make sacrifices somewhere else. A real-world, adult life is about making concessions and prioritizing. If you aren't prepared to do that, then chances are, you shouldn't be getting married!

What it really comes down to is recognizing that while this is your special day - this is also your parents special day, and your fiance's special day and his parents. Everyone has looked forward to this day for a long time and acting like an entitled brat isn't going to particularly sit well with anyone.

If you don't want opinions on whether or not your wedding dress is too low cut, or if a particular feature of your reception is trashy - the best way to nix those comments are to PAY FOR IT YOURSELF! 
I do realize that sometimes parents take it a little far.  Heaven knows I have heard brides in tears because their mother refuses to pay for the wedding she has offered to pay for because she chose green rather than teal for her wedding colors. This is certainly where I say - pull the "it's my day" card. In my opinion, the "Pay & Say" rule really applies to the big picture items in a wedding. 

A Walk down Memory Lane:
John and I paid for our wedding and all associated parties and costs out of necessity, but looking back I am so glad we did!  While it was stressful at times deciding which items were necessities and what we could live without, we also didn't have to worry about the nagging and pulling from every direction that many brides face today.  In many ways we look at our wedding day as a gift to our family and friends. We were able to host an event that brought people together in a celebration of love and commitment. A mini-family reunion of sorts.