• with love: Joanne Schwindt {Photography}

Back To School: Life on a budget (The Unpolished Series)


After I had my third child I did not return to work.

It's been a huge learning curve for my husband and I on every level.

I have always had income, since I was 13 years old actually. It's been almost 2 years since I have been off of work outside of my home. I work as a photographer too and this nurtures my creative side and helps with self-preservation. My everyday work is with my children, caring for them and making sure all meals are prepared, lunches ready-to-go and car packed with voyages and activities, plus. I am a full-time Mom/Camp Counsellor who does the cleaning, cooking, bathing, snuggling and all of the above. I have realized, as most stay-at-home mom's can agree, that the work that I do is invisible. There is no ego-boosting happening over here! I am okay with this, but geesh it's not always easy. My Leonard Cohen and Otis Redding records help me unwind amidst the chaos.

First off, I am absolutely grateful that I have a husband who gets it; life as a stay-at-home Mom. He always has my back and we make an incredible team. This, hands-down has been my most challenging job yet, simply because my children are my hearts, so if they are unhappy, well, then so am I. I can't just close my office door and forget. Some times I wish I had an extra stash of energy and/or pick-me-ups especially when that witching-hour brews, but instead, whiny kids and a headache lingers (but that's when Leonard and Otis come in full-effect). I try really hard to keep things in check because I know these years with my young children are moving incredibly fast. I think about when I was growing up and how much my parents worked. My grandmother took care of us and I have beautiful memories of her. So, I think about her, her strength, and I hope I am creating this same beauty in my children's lives that she helped to create in mine, except I probably get way more upset than my grandmother did. Mind you, she did get to send us home at 5p.m. once my parents arrived from work, so there was a check-out time so to speak, which isn't the case for most of us Mama's at home! My grandmother's grace does empower my days and I do feel her with me often. I am sure most of you can agree that grandparents are the sweetest beings on this planet.

As different places on our planet take in the autumn colours, like our Canada, we chug into fall, and getting ready for our back to school on a budget looked like this:

WE TRY TO PUT EVERYTHING IN A GOOGLE SPREAD SHEET SO WE CAN SEE OUR SPENDING MONTH TO MONTH. It's not always easy, as some nights the kids are sick, or someone is up, or I fall asleep or my husband falls asleep, but we try.

My CHECKLIST:

CLOTHING DRAWERS: Check clothes that still fit.

Donate ones that don't.

Do a count of what's really needed.

I try to save on clothing and not over-spend here. When we buy it's usually from JOE FRESH.

BACK-PACKS/LUNCH BAGS: I found great deals at Toys-R-Us for $12.99 per bag.

I find, each year, back-packs go through a lot so not spending for the label but on the things my children actually like, if it's affordable, is what I do.

I also look for eco-friendly items and/or we try to re-use or donate as much as possible.

SHOES/OUTER WEAR: See-Kai-Run are our favourite runners. This company has thought about everything, and good-quality shoes is truly important for growing feet.

I spend money on good shoes and good outer wear. I buy my children's shoes from solekidsshoecompany For outwear Hatley, GAP, MEC, SOREL. I think being warm, dry and having good shoes to walk in is the most important, so where I save a little in other places, I'll spend a bit more here.

HAIR: I cut my children's hair myself because it's so much easier. They complain a bit, but I put on a movie and try to go as quickly as I can.

If you don't feel comforable with cutting your child(ren)'s hair or it's just way to much hassle (which I totally get) head to Frankie Cuttz, my brother who is amazing with kids at DISTINGUISHED GENTS tell him his big sis recommended him.

LUNCHES/MEALS: I ask my kids what they like because they know best. I bought a book BEATING THE LUNCH BOX BLUES by: J.M.HIRSCH to inspire my children and I. We looked through it together. The book helped me with getting more ideas of how to keep my kids and I interested in lunchtime meals that are healthy. Truly, whatever is easy, edible and good. This book has helped. My husband and I set up a list of items for the week according to a menu I prepare on Sunday's so when we go grocery shopping on Monday I don't over spend. It helps immensely.

MENU for NOT OVERSPENDING: Is all about Dinner. Breakfast we've got on an impromptu beat (waffles, eggs, yogurt, sausages, french toast, fruit, more eggs, egg sandwiches, did I mention we love eggs!) By having a dinner menu it eases my mind and helps me not stress out about what to make for supper when the clock hits 4p.m. The kids help with the menu too, so if they complain, well, they helped us create it!

For my weekly dinner menu, we usually have:

  • one or two croc-pot meals planned, usually a whole chicken with vegetables, which I then use the broth and left overs for spaghetti sauce and/or soup.

  • As well, I have one frozen dish, usually a GF battered fish and fries.

  • Meatloaf is another favourite with mashed or oven-baked sweet potatoes.

  • I also use left-overs as much as I can, creatively and sometimes in disguise.

  • Sides consist of veggies, fruit, yogurt, cheese, salads, etc.

OUTINGS and VACATION TIME: We plan our year around this time, Fall, as well as birthdays and extra curriculars. We see what we can afford and what is actually doable. We've come to realize that our children mostly need time with us, off of the clock and that's totally free. They also need things that stimulate their growth and challenge them. As parents we can only do so much and as children they will only listen to us up until a certain point. We also respect that we all need space. We ask them what they are interested in and we also see what they need and we go from there and what is affordable.

THIS YEAR: As a family of 5 the YMCA has an incredible program that caters to families, with a monthly pass of $139 per month. The children can register for all of their programming, plus we can also work out and/or register for their programs too.

So this is us on a budget.

  • And I ride my bike as much as possible with kiddos in tow. Walk, scooter and run too.

  • Love hand-me-downs.

  • Have no issue with and would rather "experiences" or equipment for sporting needs for birthday's, Christmas' or any other type of gifting occasion. I feel while our planet is changing so much anything I can do to help it makes me feel better for my children's future. Things that can be recycled or lived is key for us.

My husband and I also try to make gifts:

I make cloth dolls with changeable clothes.

He makes cutting boards.

I make photo collages.

He makes wooden frames for my photos.

I make baked goods.

He taste-tests them.

I make knitted snoods.

He wears them....and

He makes re-clammed wooden shelves and so much more that's all so beautiful...more about this, what we make and more in November.

For now....cheers to saving and spending.

Love: Jo xoxo

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©JOANNE SCHWINDT PHOTOGRAPHY   All material is strictly copyrighted

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