thoughts

thoughts about saving money #2 - with kids

Here comes the promised second post about saving money. If you wanna catch up on the first one, you can see here (bolded text is link).

There is things in life as a family that cost a lot of money or that you can potentially spend a lot of cash on...Those cute baby clothes, cool toys ect. (Specially when you like scrolling through all the blogs out there like me). When i was pregnant with Alva, i spent hours looking for all the things i would buy for him and for his room. In the end, mostly thanks to Ohad, I never bought all that stuff i wanted and it didn't take any of my happiness away.

Alva is now 3 years old and currently -  not counting the expenses for his kindergarden - we are spending about  20 $ a month on things for him, and believe me he is perfectly happy. He has fun, quality toys, clothes that he likes to wear (for most part) and we never kept something he needed from him just to save money.

Here is what we did :

--------- 1. We only bought baby stuff we really needed ---------

Of course, there is a whole industry built around newborns, new mothers and fathers, and kids of all ages. This industry makes you feel like you need a lot more for your baby than you actually really do. Here are just 5 random example items that came to my mind that i thought we would absolutely need, because i read it somewhere or saw friends using those items with their small ones. We never bought them and we did fine without them. I will risk the assumption, that you and your baby - like us - don't really need those:

  • Baby bathtub and thermometer
  • Bottle sterilizer
  • Bottle warmer
  • Diaper bag
  • Diaper changing table

Alva was, till age 2 taking his bath in a plastic bucket from the market (cost 5$). We always checked the temperature of the bath with our hands and arms. We sterilized the bottles with boiling water, we put a washable small blanket on our bed to change his diapers and i always carried diapers and a package of wipes in my handbag. Today i calculated that we saved around 350$ just by not buying those 5 "basic" items. I am happy that Ohad kept telling me: "Did you have that when you were a baby?", "Did your mother buy this when she had you?" And i had to agree time and time again, that my mother had nothing of all this.

--------- 2. We don't spend (much) money on kid's clothes ---------

It's so tempting to buy cute kids clothes, it's most mother's (me included) favorite thing, to dress their children nicely.

Well, i gave up on it. Alva is not wearing any cool, hip clothes from local designers made of organic cotton. Instead, we are getting passed on clothes from cousins, friends or from clothes swaps (look on facebook for kids clothes swap groups, if you don't find any in your city, open one, it will catch really fast). I am very rarely turning down clothes we would get for free, even if i don't like the prints or colors. For one, it's helping with the savings plan. Second, Alva couldn't care less about what he is wearing, and third, it's sustainable (yeahie to recycling).

The day i realized that the main reason i wanted my kid to have cool clothes was because i wanted my kid to be cute, i also realized that this is a pretty strange thought, since kids are cute even when wearing terrible clothes. That's when I agreed to the "no money on kid's clothes" thing. And let's look really deep into our mother hearts and be honest: if you/we are secretly worried about the nice pictures that will not look so nice anymore, well, just make them black and white. All clothes look good in black and white. :-)

--------- 3. Buy stuff only when you need it ---------

Don't buy stuff before you really need it. So many things i bought in advance ended up on the bottom of a drawer without me ever using them. I bought all of them thinking i would really really need them at some point or another. Every child is different, has different needs and likes. I realized that something that worked wonders for a friend of mine when her kid was younger doesn't necessarily mean that it would work the same way with Alva. I am now waiting till the need is real and then research what would fit my child best before i actually buy a product.

--------- 4. Research (try out) the products you wanna buy before you buy them ---------

Trying out the products you wanna buy before you actually buy them will prevent you from many disappointments. Maybe you have a mom friend that has exactly this one product that you would like to buy. Maybe you can ask her if you could borrow it for a day and try it out. Maybe you will find out that although it seems nice at first, it doesn't fit your child's or your needs and you will be happy you didn't buy it. In my case this was particularly true for slings. I tried 3 different slings from friends, till i found the one that was right for Alva, Ohad and me. We are still using it. 

--------- 5. Get your kid to be diaper free as soon as possible ---------

That sounds a bit crazy but the earlier your kid will not need diapers anymore, the better. Not only for your kids independence, but also for your finances. Disposable diapers cost tons of money. From all things we bought for Alva in the last 3 years, the biggest amount by far in the list goes to disposable diapers. 

So what about cloth diapers?

We got a set of 12 cloth diapers from my mom when Alva was born and i really like them. But according to my experience, specially if your baby is small and needs a lot of diaper changes, 12 diapers are not enough if you want to use essentially cloth diapers (i would usually ran out of cloth diapers during washing/drying cycles). We combined cloth and disposables. At the end i guess we did use more disposables than we had planned on, also because sometimes cloth diapers tend to leak, which rarely happens with disposables. And quite honestly, using only cloth diapers is quite some work if you don't have a diaper washing service in your city. 

So that's why not using any diapers at all can really help you save some cash.

--------- 6. Do it yourself! (toys, games ect) ---------

There is tons of toys and games you can do yourself instead of buying them. They will be just as educational and maybe your kid will even be able to contribute to their making! Have a look at diy kids toys and games on pinterest, or on one of the amazing kids toys diy blogs like madebyjoel, mermag, mrprintables or just get creative yourself.

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Do you also have some tips on how to save money without feeling you are missing out on something?

I would love to hear about it!

Just today Ohad reminded me that if you manage to save 400 times your monthly expenses, you can be financially independent, meaning you don't need to work anymore and can just take time to be with your family, like Mr. Money Moustache...we are still far from there but on the way...more about it in the next post.

 

 

just saying...#15

...encouraging and allowing creativity teaches us to think out of the box.

Alva is really interested in the creative stuff Ohad and me do. I guess simply because he sees us do things that we like and make us happy. One of those things is taking photographs. After a few days in greece and seeing us busy with our cameras (we opted to take our two old canon compact cameras instead of the DSLR camera), Alva said he wanted to try as well, so we obliged. We first told him how delicate cameras are and Ohad taught him what a photographer would NEVER do (let the camera touch sand, drop the camera, leave it out of sight in some place and walk away, etc.) then we showed him where the on/off button and the shutter is and told him that he needs to look at the screen to see what's in the frame. We told him that we usually take pictures of things that are interesting to us and that he should take pictures of whatever is interesting to him. From that moment, he didn't wanna give the camera away anymore, he was very careful to respect the instructions of what a photographer would NEVER do and was extremely proud and happy when he saw the pictures that he took all by himself. I love them. For me, they are the funniest, coolest shots from our holidays. Here is a small selection (omitting the 50 shots of the house door, bathroom door, chairs and beds / the 20 shots of me talking, yawning, and rubbing my nose /the 28 pictures of Ohads feet and hand in the sand)...

Abba swimming...

The baby in ima's belly and abba

Camera the other way around

thoughts about saving money #1

"Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible. If we feel that something is missing or not quite right, then we probably need to buy a product (a car, new clothes, organic food) or a service (housekeeping, relationship therapy, yoga classes). Every television commercial is another little legend about how consuming some product or service will make life better. Romanticism, which encourages variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism. Their marriage has given birth to the infinite 'market of experiences', on which the modern tourism industry is founded. The tourism industry does not sell flight tickets and hotel bedrooms. It sells experiences. Paris is not a city, nor India a country - they are both experiences, the consumption of which is supposed to widen our horizons, fulfill our human potential and make us happier. (...) Like the elite of ancient Egypt, most people in most cultures dedicate their lives to building pyramids. Only the names, shapes and sizes of these pyramids change from one culture to the other. They may take the form, for example, of a suburban cottage with swimming pool and an evergreen lawn, or a gleaming penthouse with an enviable view. Few question the myths that cause us to desire the pyramid in the first place. (...)" Yuval Noah Harari - Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind 

I have never been a saver. I used to live according to the motto: "i have some money on my account, let's buy stuff." I had a credit card some years ago but it got me into so much debts that i had to cut it into pieces and throw it into a fire to "save myself". There was always something i wanted or felt i needed, and usually I finished the month eating pasta because the fridge was empty and so was my bank account.

Then i met Ohad, who is really good at saving and suddenly, i felt a bit stupid and irresponsible for my lifestyle. So i tried to spend less, to not be as impulsive about my shopping and to start saving.

Some time ago, we read an article about mister money moustache and i decided that this is my new challenge to take. Our first step as "moustachians" was to create a spreadsheet, monitoring all (yes really ALL) our expenses, one column for Ohad and one for me. We had no clue about how much money we are using and we were really surprised. Turns out, we were spending a lot more than we thought and  a lot on unnecessary stuff. I became aware of how much money I could save per month just by skipping the extra coffee to go on the way to work (even though I just had coffee at home and would have coffee at work in a bit). I started working on my shopping decisions as follows:

These questions every time i was about to pull out my purse made me better at saving. Another thing i started doing is, to convert the price of things into "time currency". In example let's say you make 10$ an hour, so this really nice pair of pants for 70$ in reality cost 7 hours of your time, almost 1 day of work. Is it really worth it? During the next 7 work hours, think that you are working to pay off those pants. See if you still want them after that.

It's been almost a year now that I am a moustachian. Every once in a while i am still using the "questions before you pull the purse" or the "time currency" to help my decision, but most of the time i just don't feel the urge for buying things anymore. It's a crazy thing that happened to me. I (and all the people around me knowing me well) never ever ever would have thought this possible. The awareness changed my relationship to shopping completely. I became kind of immune to consumerism.

Now you are asking yourself: but what is all that effort good for? Just to have more money in the bank that you are not using...

Well, bottom line it could be called "time optimization". We all work hard to make the money to buy all those things that we think we need. But the time we spend at work is the time we don't spend with our families. If we can live with less, we can also work less and spend more time doing all the other stuff like being with our kids and loved ones, reading, biking, being in the nature, traveling cheap...The plan i am working for is early retirement.

In the next weeks i will share a few tips about how we managed to save significant amounts of money. In the meanwhile, i can warmly recommend you to have a look at mister money moustache's blog. Here is a post that i really liked (bolded texts are links). 

(thanks to Renato for sharing with me the very inspiring video above)

 

 

just saying...#13

...the funniest game to play with Alva: HIDE AND SEEK.

It goes like this:

Alva, Ohad and me are sitting in Alva's room upstairs. We agree that Alva would be the one hiding and we would go and look for him.

1...2...3...

Alva is tromping down the stairs shouting the numbers with us...4...5...6...

then we hear him run and shout...7...8...IMA, ABBA ANI BA DOUCHE (mom, dad i am in the shower)

we keep on counting (caus it's forbidden to stop before ten)...9...10...ON ARRIVE...ANACHNU BAIM (we are coming)

a little person in the shower shouts: PO, PO, PO...ANI PO (here, here, here i am here)

so we enter the bathroom and look everywhere, under the sink, in the bath tub, behind the towels

and then the little voice shouts: LO, LO IMA, ABBA, ANI PO... (no, no, no mom, dad, i'm here)

so we give up searching where he is not. It's one of the best things ever to pull back the curtain of the shower and to see him in the corner against the wall, jumping up and down in excitement, because finally finally,

WE FOUND ALVA! COUCOU!!!!

family balance

About 2 month ago, i wrote about the challenge of being a working mom and some ideas about how to reduce the gap between my ideal mother figure and the reality. (You can read about it here )

I have to say, i feel it is going quite good with my try at being the mother i would like to be. My time with Alva is very focussed. When we are together, i try to understand what is going on in his head, what is driving him and i just get into his game and do whatever he is doing.  I am currently reading through "The Montessori Revolution in Education" of E. M. Standing. I wasn't familiar with Montessori before and i tend to be rather skeptical with educational theories, but i have to say that a lot of stuff i am reading makes perfect sense and helps me understand Alva's world better. The bottom line is that children are thinking in a very different way than adults and that they are naturally driven by their will of learning and exploring. So i try to put myself in Alva's shoes, and try to imagine that i am exploring a brand new world i know nothing about.

Try it, don't be afraid to look foolish, it's a refreshing game: jumping over waves, driving your bike through every mud puddle in the park, and walking with your head between your legs (and if you manage to keep your balance, the world upside down is quite fun). Since i am trying to more deeply understand Alva's feelings, and why he might be frustrated or angry, i somehow have more patience to meet those moments and i also have more ideas about how to avoid them. In the last 2 month, we definitely grew closer. I feel he trusts me more and knows me better. I am more familiar with his limits and he is more familiar with mine. Brushing teeth, washing hands and other activities that were always tied with some drama are not so much of a problem anymore, he has less tantrums and we have more fun.

The other thing i noticed: how easy it is to do all those things and how much more patience i have, when Ohad and me are in sync and when we both are in a good mood. I also noticed how much harder it is to do so, when there is some tension between us. So here is my most important insight about family balance (nothing new but it took me a while to really assimilate it). Kids are picking up on our moods. And they are super sensitive to any kind of family tension. When parents are happy, they are more patient parents, more open parents, more receiving and  more giving parents. Good energy is flowing and filling the house and everything feels nice and right. I really realized, that sharing more alone time with my partner and working to find ways to solve and overcome disagreements quickly and restore my couple's sync is as important as spending quality time with my kid. A big yeah yeah to vacations without kids, nights out, and friday mornings at the beach while Alva is at kindergarden. Although it is time apart, it exponentially influences our parents-kids relationship in a positive way. It makes all of us more happy and serene. In our little nest, it's a circle. All of us being happy makes our family balanced and having a balanced family is the key to a happy child and happy parents.  Yeap, everything is connected. But that's nothing new...

How are you managing family balance at home?

just saying...#12

...ATHENS IS THE NEW BERLIN!

The last time i fell in love with a city was a long time ago in Berlin. I remember that day as if it was yesterday. I felt that the energy of the city is sticking to my body. I was walking through the streets and everything i saw was inspiring. The city and me were in sync. I stayed and had some crazy few years of shared history with Berlin. Every time i go back, the feeling comes back as well, although it never hits me with the same intensity like the very first time.

On our way to Serifos, Ohad and me visited Athens. It was more of a taste sampling of the city actually, because we just stayed twice overnight, but it was enough for me to fall in love. Athens is rough and intense. It has so many faces, and each one of them could be a city of its own. The touristic athens with the souvenir shops where you can buy greek athletes statuettes and acropolis snowballs, the revolutionary athens with it's squats and cooperative coffees and bars, the party athens near the old gas factory, the upperclass residential athens with the posh little restaurants...and overlooking all this, the ancient, 2400 years old parthenon.

We stayed at the small very friendly Athens Quinta Hostel in the Exarchia neighborhood. We just went off walking in the streets and exploring the cafes and bars around. Exarchia reminded me so much of the Kreuzberg from 10 years ago...The neighborhood got famous in the news for it's political riots, but we didn't feel any kind of violent wibes, just tons of friendly creative people. Most of the walls in Exarchia are covered with graffiti. The ones in this post are all from along and off Benaki Street, stuff that i could spot while walking from the hostel to the subway. I wish i could have explored more, definitely on my list for next time! The architectural stiles that you can find in Athens just fascinated me. It's architects paradise. Lots of lots of beautiful staircases, elevator entrances, and everything much better preserved than in Tel Aviv.

Athens woke memories of Berlin and Ohad and me even played around with the thought of moving to Athens for a while, but then again, home is Tel Aviv for now...

Athens stole my heart for a few days, made me dream of crazy (unstable but exciting future) and i can not wait to go back.

Here is a short inventory of places that i liked: (all the bolded texts are links)

Place to stay:

Here is a map of Exarchia and the surrounding streets of the hostel:

Places to visit:

Place to eat:

  • Dexameni (outdoor restaurant), Plateia Dexamenis, Kolonaki - Athens

Place for culture and night outs:

  • TechnopolisPireus Street 100, Gazi - Athens (+30 210 3475518)
  • Gazi neighborhood

Greek Music to listen to: Tango with Lions - In a Bar

World of Words

Next week, Ohad and me are flying to Greece for a week. Alone. :-)

My mother is arriving tomorrow and will stay with Alva for the time we are gone. I have a 100% trust in her for handling this. There is only one "but" in this story: my mom does not speak hebrew. It is a very strange thing...think for a second about the fact that your mother and your child would speak different languages and that they could have communication problems...Weird and not that fun.

We are raising Alva with 3 languages. Ohad speaks only hebrew with Alva, I speak french and between us Ohad and me mostly speak english, so that Alva hears english quite a lot as well.

Alva started speaking his first words quite early and like most children speaking hebrew, his first word was abba (dad). His language skills quickly got better and more and more hebrew words were added to his list. "ima" (mom), "dai" (stop it), "lom" (shalom), ect...but no french word, not even one. I heard stories from parents that are raising their children bilingual that are telling me that the kids are choosing one language and although they do understand both, the language of the mother and the language of the father they just answer to both parents in the same language. I was quite scared that this might happen to our family as well. The implications of this would have been be quite sad to me. It would have meant that my whole family would never be able to understand what Alva is saying unless they learn hebrew.

Then, one day, Alva said "ballon" (ball). And then he said "voilà" (there it is) and "douche" (shower). l was so happy! Finally some french!

I have the feeling that the main goal of Alva's brain these days is to learn new words. For about two weeks now, the pace of learning new ones got much faster. I knew that it was essential for my mom to be able to understand at least a part of the words Alva is saying. That's why i spend the last days noting down the ones he uses most. I then converted the words into a small graph. The more often Alva uses the word, the bigger the font. Green word-bubbles are for hebrew words (transliterated so my mom can read them), red word-bubbles are for french words and blue word-bubbles are for the words that can be counted to neither of the languages. I also tried to order them more or less according to topics. 

Currently he is learning about 3-5 new words every day (he integrates them into his vocabulary and then uses them on a regular basis). It starts to be hard to keep track. From all the words he uses (not all are in this graph), about 70% are hebrew, about 25% are french and about 5% can not be attributed to any language, like "oioioi"(when something is broken), "haouhaou"(for the barking of the dog), ect. 

His french vocabulary is more developed than the hebrew one for certain topics. Most of the words related to bathing time are in french because that is one of the things that he almost essentially does with me...on the other hand, most of the verbs and actions are in hebrew because at kindergarden, everything is in hebrew.

The fact that i like best in this little map: it's kind of a representation of my son's world. The most important word is definitely "ani", which means "me" or "i" in hebrew but Alva uses it to mark that something is his or that he wants to do something on his own (by "something" i mean about everything). Then, apart from "abba" and "ima" (mom and dad), Alva's world seems to be made up mostly of "glida" and "uga" (ice cream and cake) followed by "iam", "maim" and "naala" (sea, water and shoes)...If you ask me...quite a perfect world!


Hebrew words: Top 1 word: "Ani"=me,i   Hebrew words by topics: (bathing time): "maim"=water / "cham"=hot / "maka"=wound, scratch or any tiny little blue spot / "kar"=cold   (the body): "puk"=fart / "bulbul"=genitals / "ad" (iad)=hand / "naim" (enaim)=eyes / "tzizi"=breast   (food): "glida"=ice cream / "uga"=cake / "buk"=bottle, mostly for his milk bottle / "nana" (banana)=banana / "tut"=strawberry / "pip"(kapit)=spoon   (animals): "dubi"=bear or teddybear / "chitul" (chatul)=cat / "pilpilon"=elephant / "dagim"=fishes / "sus"=horse /"a.i.e"(ariye)=lion  (environement and objects): "naala"=shoes / "ipur" (sipur)=story or book / "makom"=place / "bait"=house or home / "delet"=door / "tit"(tik)=bag / "oto"=car / "kisse"=chair / "ita"(mita)=bed / "gan"=kindergarden   (nature): "iam"=sea / "chol"=sand / "etz"=tree / "tziz"=plant / "ruach"=wind   (actions, verbs and small words): "ma"=what / "lo"=no or not / "en"=there is no / "dai"=stop it / "ze"=this / "et ze"=this here / "odd"=more / "kchi"=take (female form) / "ken"=yes / "boi"=come (female form) / "bo"=come (male form) / "po"=here / "ma ze"=what is this / "lo roze"=i don't want (male form) / "makara"=what happenend / "nimar" (nigmar)=it's finished / "hine"=here it is / "lo ved" (lo oved)=it doesn't work / "naim"=nice / "kach"=take (male form) / "taim"=tasty / "lo taim"=not tasty / "sham"=there / "toda"=thanks / "mala" (lemala)= up or up there / "boche"=cries (male form) / "chol" (le echol)=to eat

Neutral words by topics: (family and friends): "Ima"=mom / "abba"=dad / "Avi"=grandpa Avi / "Saata"(Safta)=grandma Rita / "Lilu"=Lilu (our dog) / "Guy", "Shira" and "Lia"=Alva's cousins / "Coco"=Aunt Coco / "Hedi" (Heidi)= grandma Heidi / "Aoua" (Alva) / "Iuval", "Bar", "Nela" (Daniela), "Lucie", "Loulou" (Ayala), "Ila", "Nel" (Daniel), "Alice", "Maia"=Alva's friends from kindergarden   (the body): "caca" "pipi"=no need to explain  (animals): "aouaou"=sound of dog barking  (actions, verbs and small words): "oioioi"=word for anything broken, misplaced or bad

French words by topics: (bathing time): "douche"=shower / "froid"=cold / "boul"(bulles)=bubbles / "bobo"=wound, scratch or any tiny little blue spot / "mouillé"=wet  (the body): "bouche"=mouth / "tête"=head / "cou"=neck    (food): "mank" (mangue)=mango / "pain"=bread / "pom" (pomme)=apple    (environement and objects): "oulou" (vélo)=bicycle / "balon"(ballon)=ball / "crème"=cream or sunscreen / "pote" (porte)=door     (actions, verbs and small words): "voilà"=here is / "ici"=here / "tour"(tourne)=turn / "meci" (merci)=thanks

just saying... #11

...look up and you will see things that make you smile...

Tel Aviv is filled with those details that speak books about the character of the city. Temporary, improvised, half finished, inventive, creative...Every time i spot one of these, it makes me happy and inspired and a little bit more in love with this city.

...window blinds that will never close entirely...

...doors that lead to no balcony...

and taps to water the garden straight from the window above....

just saying... #9

...everything is WRONG about this add:

I believe that there is a lot of strength in slowing down. I deeply admire people that are capable of letting loose and reducing the pace of their lives. I believe that only when you stop to rush, you start to see the beauty of life.

Stand still and look up to the sky for a sec, do you see the range of blues and how the tones are fading towards the horizon? Lay down for a few minutes close your eyes and truly listen to the sounds that are surrounding you. Look at the face of the person you love for a moment, see how the eyebrows are curved beautifully, how the smiles left small wrinkles and how the nostrils are slowly moving in the rhythm of the breath. Hold your child for a while and feel the warmth and the amazing and unique mixture of peace and pure energy that lays in it's small body. In these moments you realize that slowing down makes time expand proportionally, instants seem to last forever and their intensity make your heart burst. 

Greatness starts when you STOP...this should be the subtitle of this blog...And my mantra for every day...

A thought for today

I wanna have a special thought today for my mom. Yeap, i know, it's valentines day and not mothers day, but mothers day is everyday and well Alva just gave me a beautiful insight today.

He discovered his belly button. It amused him greatly that he has a little hole in his belly just big enough to stick his finger in. And suddenly the thought overwhelmed me that this is the mark of our connexion, the connexion between our bodies. Think about it just for a second. Look at your belly button and imagine that this is the physical mark of the connexion between your body and the body of your mother.

I find it a very strange but beautiful thing that i just never happened to focus my thoughts on.