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Taming the Shit Cannon: Reflections from a New Father

As mentioned in my last post we’ve had (what is most certainly) a life changing event happen here Under The Money Tree. While I promise that this site won’t turn exclusively into an online homage to reusable nappies I can’t let an event like this pass without posting a few observations of the things we’ve learned so far.

1. Priorities Change

Whilst I knew having a sprog would change things, I wasn’t fully prepared for how much my priorities would shift in such a short space of time.

Suddenly the prospect of ‘suffering’ some additional time in the office suddenly doesn’t seem so bad when the future benefit will be for the little man. Of course that’s a doubled edged sword right there because I simultaneously want to spend as much time as is humanly possible with him.

It’s been a month now and already he’s changed so much so the prospect of missing out in the future isn’t very appealing.  Now the paternity leave is over I’m already spending more time with Master Excel than Master Money Tree.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve immediately become a whole lot less selfish. I’m suddenly willing to sacrifice anything for the little man. Exactly how much impact there is to both my finances and work/time remains to be seen. After all there is nothing worse than a spoilt child.

2. Sleep is over rated

Last night my little man woke me up at 1am, 3am and finally at 5.20am. I managed to ignore the 1am call, chipped in with a nappy at 3am and at 5.20 it wasn’t far off my alarm going off (5.50am) so I didn’t bother going back to sleep.

After 5 weeks of the above ‘routine’ I’ve not found it too bad so far. Sure I’m knackered most of the time, but then I always was anyway before his arrival.

3. Spending Habits are unchanged

Of course it will no doubt take many years before the true financial consequences of our new arrival is. Having a child can change your spending habits in a major way, that is clear to me after only being 5 weeks into the journey. I’m hopeful that like Mr & Mrs MMM we’ll be able to look back and report UTMT junior to be a $140 baby or close.

Thankfully we’ve benefitted hugely from generous family and friends that have given or lent us all manner of things including a cot, car seat, moses basket, baby monitor, baby grows galore, teddies, steralisers, breast pumps and a whole host of other gadgets and gizmos that would easily cost a sizeable four figure number to buy new if we were that way inclined.

We’ve simultaneously watched some friends from our NCT classes drop some big money on a whole host of guff.

Some of the easy stuff we didn’t do:

  • Buy new when friends and family kindly offered to lend/give us their bits
  • Spend hundreds redecorating a nursery room that hasn’t been used yet!
  • Spend hundreds on baby specific furniture (see below)
  • Buy any baby grows when all the advice said we’d be given more than we needed (which turned out to be correct)

4. Beware the Marketing Men

Much like Apple managed to create a new market for tablet computers, marketing departments the world over have seemingly managed to ‘create’ new products that are supposedly required the moment you add a baby to the family.

Some friends who were expecting around the same time invited us over to view their nursery a few weeks back. Amongst other things they took great delight in proudly showing us their spanking new ‘changing unit’ which I later found out cost in excess of £500! This is some truly great marketing by the baby furniture industry as in reality all this thing is is a chest of drawers with a 1″ dowel rim around the top.

We resisted the urge to spunk 500 large for the sake of it and instead began by using an old TV unit (which was itself converted from an old pine storage unit a few years back) as a ‘changing table’. However after a couple of days experience we quickly decided the floor was the most practical/safest place to deal with the consequences of an all milk diet.

If you’re easily tempted by the urge to splurge then having a baby opens up a whole new world of ways to abuse your credit card. Thankfully we’ve managed to avoid most of this so far.

5. Investing Habits Remain

Of course brewing on my conscious is what/how/when to invest for the future of UTMT jnr. Naturally one of my first stops will be Monevators take on things. Naturally it’s a no brainer to get the youngster exposed to some compounding interest however closely followed behind is the need for me to keep control of the investments to minimise the risk of them being squandered.

Also I need to try to devise a way to educate him in the world of saving, financial wisdom and frugality. I need to ensure that he doesn’t see any investment fund that is accumulated on his behalf as an entitlement. Ideally there would some way for him to ‘earn’ it in the future rather than just being given it.If you have any ideas how to implement some sort of ‘incentivized’ investment program for kids I’d love to hear form you.

For now the UTMT household keeps investing and saving as if nothing has happened.

6. Time is Short

I was time poor before having a child, or so I thought. Since his arrival my time has become even more scarce.

Children demand (and make you want to give them) lots of attention. Previously after getting home from work I’d do all sorts of jobs (some garden work maybe, writing, photography, DIY projects) before thinking about dinner. Now its a mad scramble to spend as much time with him as possible and everything else has to some extent taken the back seat.

The effect of all of this is that I’ve become a hell of a lot more efficient at life’s admin. Now the minute I get home my cycling clothes/kit and breakfast are all sorted and put in order within the first 3 minutes of walking through the door. Writing is being done more on the train, DIY is either on the back burner or outsourced.

7. The World Keeps Spinning

I’ve seen some new parents disappear off the face of this earth as soon as the bun is out of the oven. It seems when some people have kids they can never leave the house again for fear of breaking ‘the routine’.

We’ve been making a conscious effort to keep things normal and live as close to a normal life as is possible with a newborn. We’ve been out for meals, we’ve done the gardening, hell we’ve even stayed at a friends for the weekend.

Life goes on Under The Money Tree….we just have a new this little dude hanging around with us now…


Right, I promise that is the last of the baby pictures for a while now!

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Dividend Drive July 3, 2015, 12:09 pm

    Looks like you’re really enjoying new fatherhood and really getting to grips with a how to adjust your life appropriately! Good luck with it!

    Also, with regards baby stuff. Keep a good look at https://www.freecycle.org/ in the area around you. I use it often and it is regularly filled with various bits of baby-related paraphernalia. Well worth a weekly check to keep the costs to a minimum! Maybe every bit of cash you save in this way could be pushed into a Junior ISA for Master UTMT?

    • Under The Money Tree July 7, 2015, 10:41 am

      Dividend Drive,
      Thanks, we’re already big fans of freecycle. Baby items are perfect for buying/acquiring secondhand as they tend to have little or no use before becoming obsolete.

  • Minikins July 3, 2015, 4:57 pm

    I just love that little expression on his face, he is adorable! And those knees!
    You are probably so fed up with everyone’s own parenting take and advice by now, and it’s so often contradictory. Unless you can see their children and they seem half decent and healthy, advice is probably best committed to a vacant space somewhere!
    For me the first year is the best year and the most important. You always come back to that foundation during the challenges of parenting. They have such a great sense of humour then and are at their most perceptive. Enjoy your time together and sod everything else.

    • Under The Money Tree July 7, 2015, 10:43 am

      Thanks…I’m not sure where he gets his knees from but everyone says he looks like me 😉

      Yes, we’ve already learnt to ignore most of the advice we get given because as you say everyone has an opinion and seems to claim to know best. Generally trusting our instincts seems to be working so far so we’ll stick to that and take everything else with a pinch of salt.

  • UK Value Investor July 3, 2015, 6:21 pm

    First of all, excellent title for this post. That’s not a phrase I’d heard before but I have now added it to my lexicon.

    As for buying baby stuff on the cheap, I think our approach was: Dining table for changing, relatives for car seats, cots, toys, and boot fairs for anything expensive.

    Our son’s speciality was the production of vast quantities of vomit. He had about two dozen bibs on a daily rotating cycle. The happiest day of my life was the day he stopped spewing.

    I’m sure your son will have many interesting habits to share with you too. In fact, looking at his grin, he seems to be saying “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

  • Monevator July 4, 2015, 11:12 am

    Congratulations again. He looks a wise little chap.

    On my current trajectory it seems I will be going to my grave being constantly amazed and yet never personally to experience the following:

    “Suddenly the prospect of ‘suffering’ some additional time in the office suddenly doesn’t seem so bad when the future benefit will be for the little man. Of course that’s a doubled edged sword right there because I simultaneously want to spend as much time as is humanly possible with him.”

    Don’t worry about the tiny violins — I’ve had my chances, and my unwillingness to make the required sacrifices is exactly why I have no personal experience of it. (Well, that and a lack of desire to experience the highs, too).

    Yet I’ve so consistently seen conversions of the sort you describe over the years, that it’s clear something big happens, it would likely happen to me too, and that I’ll have to admit I’ll miss out on it.

    Curious stuff, instincts, but perhaps not so surprising given that we’re descended from countless generations who felt the same way. (Whereas I’m an evolutionary dead end. 😉 )

    • Under The Money Tree July 7, 2015, 11:40 am


      He certainly is wise – he’s already got his parents wrapped around his (very) little fingers.

      Yes there is definitely some strange instinctive changes that happen when this sort of thing happens.SO many of the things he does and we (the parents) do are pure instinct that has somehow been hard wired in us somehow. It’s quite remarkable when you stop to think of it sometimes.

      An ‘evolutionary dead end’ sounds terribly deserving of small violins to me. That said a friend of mine recently congratulated me on ‘polluting the gene pool further’ so there is always a way to shine these things with negative light 🙂

      • Monevator July 10, 2015, 11:09 pm

        Hah, always good to have a couple of straight talking friends in the mix. You may need his shoulder down the pub when the lad turns 16 and is tearing up the town! 😉

  • Martin @ Getting Fired July 5, 2015, 10:07 am

    We had a little girl 2 weeks ago and it’s amazing how your priorities change instantly. My wife and I have had a “big” discussion over dinner last night and we came to the agreement that I’m good to continue working as hard as before to ensure we both can spend as much time bringing up our little one from as early as possible.

    Dreading going back to work tomorrow as Little GF is in that 10-14 day growth spurt and feeding every 2 1/2 to 3 hours. LOL at the ‘routine’. We’ve been hearing that from friends and while having a little one will change everything, we’re trying to keep some normality in our lives.

    • Under The Money Tree July 7, 2015, 11:48 am

      Congratulations! Going back to work is/was very tough. When he gives me that gummy smile every morning it’s heart breaking to have to leave the house and not see him again for >12 hours or so. I hope it all goes smoothly for you all!

  • MyRichFuture July 6, 2015, 8:15 pm

    Our baby “changing unit” for the last three years has been an Ikea chest of drawers – which cost about £30 – with a changing mat on top. Been a great purchase.

    Nice pic of the wee one BTW.

    • Under The Money Tree July 7, 2015, 11:50 am

      It sounds like you’ve got the right approach. I’m still amazed that people get caught by the marketing machines of some of these baby companies!

    • Getting Fired July 9, 2015, 9:53 am

      We’ve done exactly the same thing. Added a bit of double sided tape to the bottom to ensure it doesn’t move. Works a treat.

  • Mike July 9, 2015, 7:25 am

    Congratulations and I echo the comments above especially the vomiting! It definitely helps to give you a longer term perspective. At a risk of sounding preachy, all of our friends who read Gina Ford had children who slept through the night from around two months old and all the friends who got woken up regularly had not read it. Not much of a sample admittedly but you have to remember to look after the parents too…

    • Under The Money Tree July 9, 2015, 11:08 am

      Hi Mike,
      Gina Ford seems to be a name that brings equal measures of admiration/hate. Strangely our little guy doesn’t vomit ever….which i’m not complaining about!

  • nibbler July 9, 2015, 9:46 am

    Ha! What a winning smile, I can see why he already has you wrapped around his little fingers.

    Our little girl had her second birthday this month. We’ve discovered the best way to handle these events (birthdays, Christmas etc.) is to issue a gift list. This helps to get baby items that are actually useful rather than an avalanche of battery-operated plastic tat. Useful items are usually the next size up of clothes which we seem to be ever short of as babies grow so amazingly quickly. Charity shops can also offer rich pickings on the clothes front.

    Since her birth I decided to tuck away the child support which works out around £82 / month. This has built up pretty quickly and I’m going to open a Junior SIPP with Fidelity next month and put the first £1000 into VLS100. Who knows when she’ll get access to it but there will be decades of compounding to benefit from and by then hopefully she’ll appreciate it fully.

    We hope to instill a good understanding of money and investing using the old fashioned methods like piggy banks and earning pocket money. A friend who knows us pretty well has already given her a first piggy bank. Nothing like starting early!

    • Under The Money Tree July 9, 2015, 1:21 pm

      The prospect of starting the compounding machine early very much appeals. A junior SIPP would be a good way to ensure he still has to make his way in life however I don’t like the regulatory risks involved as the rules can change so much in that period of time! Maybe i’ll follow your lead and start off simple with a piggy bank 🙂

      • nibbler July 10, 2015, 10:30 am

        Yes, I hesitated too because of the regulatory risk and the general fiddling about the government seems to do with pensions. It’s very unlikely they will still be SIPPs or even personal pensions when she comes to draw on it. If only there was a government fiddling risk premium we’d all rich 🙂

    • Mike July 9, 2015, 2:50 pm

      Nibbler and UTMT
      For the child benefit, I went with a Child Trust Fund and VRWL and will soon convert it into a Junior ISA. At least that way, when he’s 18 (if I tell him about it 🙂 he can choose whether to carry on saving for a flat deposit or start his own small business. I like the idea of the latter as an alternative to university although I’m sure things won’t work out exactly what I expect…

  • theFIREstarter August 3, 2015, 8:38 am

    What a great pic, he looks like a right little cheeky chappie! 🙂

    Congratulations to all the UTMT clan, and glad to hear my suspicions that (at least very young) children/babies do not cost as much as people make out are true, as we’re getting to that time of our life as well right now!

    I totally second the “Sure I’m knackered most of the time, but then I always was anyway before his arrival.” statement, although obviously I have no experience of the “other side” so maybe it is a more intense or at least different kind of knackered-ness. I guess I will find out in the next few years… looking forward to it 🙂

    • Under The Money Tree August 3, 2015, 9:21 am

      Thanks. It’s an amazing experience…all consuming and full of surprises!
      All that said I fell asleep on the train the other day (rare for me) and when I woke it took me about 1 minute to work out if I was on my way to work or on my way home…pretty tired!

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