Dear New Mama,

Did you have trouble falling asleep last night because of all the what ifs and if onlys?

Me too.

When you finally did fall asleep, did you get enough?

Me either.

In fact, I’d guess maybe it’s been a few weeks–perhaps months–since you got enough sleep to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. If you’re anything like me, these days you wake up groggy and ready to tackle the coffee maker.

In some ways, that’s to be expected. Most parents are no strangers to waking up at least once a night with an infant in the house. There are diaper changes, nursing sessions, and bad dreams to tend to, after all. Part of what compels you to slump out of bed at 3 a.m. is the knowledge that your baby needs you, and as a parent, you’re kind of a superhero. (Did you know that?)

But what about your bad dreams? The haunting worries and visions that keep you up at night? There’s so much to worry about as a new mama, including your child’s safety, overwhelming schedules, work stress, cellulite, and laugh lines. (Can we all just agree that laugh lines are proof of a happy life and are therefore awesome?!)

For a lot of new moms, money is the root of many overwhelming fears, especially when it comes to three of life’s biggest expenses: housing, transportation, and food.

I can hear the worries already. Will I ever be able to afford a house? How will I keep paying for our house? How will I handle it when my baby starts driving? What kind of insurance should I have? How can I feed my family healthy, nourishing meals when I barely have the time or money? Am I feeding them too much unhealthy food? Will I ever be able to afford a haircut again?

I hear you, Mama. I’m there, too.

I worried about everything after my baby was born. Time management, feeding schedules, background noise from the television, everything. I’d had this image of familial bliss in my head, and it looked like what I had. But it didn’t feel like it. It felt much freer than I felt, much more peaceful. I was supposed to feel in control. On top of things. Capable. Not anxious and insecure.

At the root of many of my fears was money. After some major financial setbacks, I wondered how we’d afford to provide everything our baby needed, let alone keep up with our mortgage and all of our other monthly expenses. When you’re lost in fears like that, logic doesn’t matter. You know it’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up homeless and starving or paralyzed from a horrific car accident, but that doesn’t stop you from imagining those things in vivid detail.

Image Source: sleeppedia.com

Housing

For new parents who are financially stressed, housing can be a major concern. It certainly was for me and my husband. It got us thinking about what we actually needed in a home and what our long-term priorities and goals were. We quickly realized that working ourselves to death and missing our baby’s infant years just so we could afford a certain house wasn’t worth it to us. We wanted more time, not more house. More experiences, not more stuff.

So we started minimizing. We sold and donated everything we no longer wanted or needed using tools like OfferUp. We’ve also considered downsizing our house—and therefore our mortgage payments—as well. In fact, many young families are embracing the tiny house movement, selling their suburban homes in favor of tiny homes, RVs, and even renovated school buses (or “skoolies”).

Of course, selling your home to live in a school bus is a huge decision, and it’s not the right move for everyone. If you want or need to stay where you are, but you’re still worried about money, there are other ways you can save. Eliminate a car payment, if possible. Fix things when they break instead of replacing them. Nix the monthly subscriptions that quickly add up. Consider starting a side hustle from home to bring in the extra income that will help you pay down your debt more quickly.

Transportation

Another major expense most people carry is the expense of owning or leasing a car. Unless you’ve been driving the same ’95 Toyota Camry since high school, chances are a good portion of your monthly budget is allotted to car payments, gas, maintenance such as oil changes and repairs, and insurance. (And let’s face it, even if you don’t have a car payment, you still have to pay for gas, maintenance, and insurance!)

Needless to say, keeping up with the cost of owning a car can be just as stressful as making the rent payment every month. As a parent, you want a safe, modern, reliable car that you can drive, maintain, and insure without fear—and without having to sell more of your possessions every month.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting at a stoplight at an intersection waiting to turn right when a minivan rammed me from behind and pushed me into the car in front of me. By most standards it was a simple fender bender, but the hassle of getting our car fixed added stress to the weeks that followed.

One of the things that eased our stress was having affordable car insurance that covered us and took care of the gritty details we didn’t want to handle. We had to drive a rental for several weeks, but we didn’t have to pay a dime. Of course, finding the right insurance can be stressful in itself, but tools like The Zebra, which offers a comprehensive guide on finding the best and most affordable auto insurance, can help you find the right coverage for your family while also saving your hard-earned cash.

You might still worry about accidents happening at all, because as moms, that’s what we do. But knowing you’re covered in the unlikely event of an accident can ease some of that fear.

Food

If you’re anything like me, you have roughly a thousand healthy recipes saved on Pinterest … which you happily pin while you scarf down ramen and Cheez-Its every night. Your intentions are good, but damn if it isn’t expensive to fill your fridge with fresh, organic foods.

Here’s some good news: It no longer has to be entirely up to you to plan and provide healthy, wholesome meals for your family at an exorbitant cost. As it turns out, lots of us share concerns not only about what we’re feeding ourselves, but what we’re feeding our families.

Simple, easy-to-remember meal plans (Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, etc.) can help you save time and money. For one thing, you won’t have to stand in front of the cabinet for an hour wondering how in the world you’re going to use all those cans of black beans. But if you maintain a consistent meal plan, you can start stocking your fridge based on what you actually cook each week, which means you’re wasting less money on products that, outside of a meal plan, would go unused.

Also, look into local co-ops and delivery programs like Zaycon Fresh, which not only offer great discounts on fresh foods, but sometimes even deliver. (Hellooo, pajamas all day!) Supplemental nutrition programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are also excellent resources for families going through trying times.

Just remember not to beat yourself up on those nights when you do run through the drive-thru. You’re doing your best for your little ones, and sometimes that means keeping it simple so you can maintain your sanity for them.

Financial fears can be incredibly overwhelming. I get it, Mama. I know what it’s like to look down at those tiny fingers that twitch ever so slightly as your baby sleeps. To watch those perfect eyelashes fluttering through a dream. To wonder how you’ll ever be able to provide enough.

I still have my bad days when anxiety overwhelms, but they’re fewer and farther between now. There’s a certain amount of peace that comes when you accept the fact that you can’t control everything, no matter how much you want to. Finding the right tools to save money and manage life has helped, too.

Try to remember that as the next rent payment nears or your pantry is running low again. You love your family and you’re doing the best you can. That’s what your family will remember most.

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