MONEY First-Time Dad

10 Things Millennial Parents Want Their Parents to Buy for Them

Luke Tepper
"Buy me things," Luke said to the world.

At least according to this new (and pretty broke) millennial dad.

For one hour, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., our house runs as efficiently as a Swiss train.

Here’s how it works: Luke, the Mrs., and I return home after a brisk two-hour walk in Prospect Park. As soon as we uncork Luke from his stroller, my wife starts his bath while I heat his bottle. After the bottle warmer beeps (our lives are governed by beeping machines), I place his dinner beside the feeding chair, collect his bear-themed towel, and together Mrs. Tepper and I extract Luke from the bathtub. We dry him off, fasten a new diaper, and I give Luke the bottle. Five ounces later, Luke, now safely ensconced in his swing/chair/bed, softly cries for ten minutes and slips into blissful unconsciousness. My wife and I praise all that’s sacred and pure and holy and collapse onto the couch.

Weekdays are more difficult (there’s only one of us), and sometimes I’ll make the bottle too hot or cold, and occasionally he’ll sob hard more than he cries soft. Still, most days, most of the time, run smoothly. And after he’s sleeping, after the Mrs. and I have put our feet up, we often look at each other and think the same thing: How the hell did our parents do this?

Not how were our parents capable of caring for us when we were infants, but rather how did they do it without 21st century conveniences? How did they put us to sleep without such miracles of engineering as a sound machine that emits an oscillating bird call.

Modern millennial parents, especially city-bound ones, have battled one economic hardship (high student loans, soaring rents, the freaking Great Recession) after another. Child care has never been more expensive, and we both work 50 hours a week in order to pay for our life.

Boomer parents fortunate enough to have the means to help their kids (and grandchildren) often don’t know how to most efficiently allocate their funds. Well, your eternally grateful millennial children will be over the moon if you bequeath us one (or 10) of these items that could make our lives as parents easier.

Hardware:

1. Upscale Stroller (Cost: $730)

It may seem ridiculous for your grandchild to be chauffeured in a jumble of plastic and rubber that costs about the same as a couple of Bruce Springsteen tickets. But this stroller feels like it can withstand a tornado (or at least the next Sandy) and lets you face the toddler toward you or out into the world.

2. A Mechanical Swing ($140)

This electric-powered swing has five speeds and almost saved our lives. Luke does not fall asleep on his own in his crib, but he will in his swing. Eventually we’ll have to move him to more stationary ground, but that day is not soon.

3. Portable Dishwasher ($219)

We live in Brooklyn, our apartment costs $2,000 a month, and we don’t have a dishwasher. While dishwashing is a personal source of pride, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the onslaught of bottles and baby milk containers teeming inside our sink every night when I return from work.

4. Video Monitor ($102)

Since we live in a two-bedroom apartment with not terribly thick walls, you may wonder why we need a video monitor. Isn’t this a perfect distillation of helicopter parenting? That’s a reasonable question. But I would point out that we are first-time parents. And so were you. Are you telling me that you never woke up at 4 a.m. worried that kidnappers stole your son or that he somehow fell out of whatever he was sleeping in? At the very least the video monitor gives us a sense of control in a universe of chaos.

5. Portable Crib ($100)

If you want us to visit, then Junior needs a place to sleep.

Services:

6. HBO Go (Free with HBO subscription)

New parents, obviously, can’t go to the movies without hiring someone to watch the little one. Since all of our funds as new parents go toward buying stuff for Luke, there isn’t a lot left over for sitters and movie tickets. So, grandparents, pass along your HBO Go account to your heirs to ease their boredom.

7. More Leg Room (Depends on flight)

Last month Mrs. Tepper and I visited her family in Florida. Flying with a baby is terrifying, but was made better by the fact that my father-in-law purchased an Even More Space seat for our JetBlue flight home. It cost $50 per person, but we were able to board quickly, stretch out our legs, and cut through the security line.

8. Takeout (Depends on meal)

Cooking is time consuming, especially after the enervating experience of putting your baby down for the night. Want to make sure your kid’s family is eating well? Let them mooch dinner off your Seamless account.

9. Baby Yoga (Depends on class)

It is surprisingly difficult to exercise when you’re charged with safeguarding an infant. That quick jog of a couples of miles or bike ride through the park is now close to impossible. One easy solution, though, is baby yoga. There’s a yoga studio around the block from our apartment that offers an hour-long “Baby and Me” yoga class for $11 (or about $10 cheaper than a sitter). (But your parental judgement is free.)

10. Everything else (Depends on your net worth)

Or, well, whatever you can afford. Your child, and her child, really appreciate it.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:

MONEY First-Time Dad

The One Thing Prince George Won’t Get for His Birthday

Britain's Prince George is seen ahead of his first birthday
At just 1 year old, Britain's Prince George is still too young to know just how different he is from other tykes. John Stillwell—Reuters

Despite limitless funds, castles, and loving parents, Prince George will never own this one thing.

Today Prince George, the first son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, turns 1 year old. By all accounts his first birthday party will be tasteful and reserved for a select group of friends and family. The pomp quotient will be at a minimum.

Of course, when your great grandmother is the Queen of England, your dad is a prince, and you are third in line to become the king, the term “friends and family” takes on new meaning. Likewise, a small get-together at the house is something else altogether when that house is a 20-room apartment.

My son, whom I write about in this space most Mondays, is not the third in line to become the King of England, and isn’t currently the prince of anything. (Don’t tell his mother.) While Luke is only narrowing in on the second half of his first year, it is difficult not to feel a touch of parental inadequacy when you compare yourself to royalty.

For instance, we don’t have $41 million to bestow upon Luke. Nor can the Family Tepper abscond from muggy New York City to New Zealand and Australia for a summer vacation—although we did trek down to St. Petersburg, Fla. Luke will never be named the “World’s Most Eligible Infant,” despite his killer combination of Byronic looks and joie de vivre (at least in this journalist’s unbiased opinion). And that’s because he’s the child of relatively ordinary parents.

Yes, there is a whole stratum of experiences forever beyond Luke’s grasp because he wasn’t born into higher stock.

At the same time, though, there is one thing that we can give Luke that no royals can give their offspring. He will, by and large, live a normal life. And Prince George will not. Which is unfortunate.

With the castles and private jets and rapacious attention of an unrelenting populace comes a responsibility to become a symbol of, well, something. (I’m American and don’t understand the particular psychology of fetishizing kings and queens and princes.) When every move is studied and photographed and judged and written about, I imagine it would be hard to have a childhood.

The other day Luke and I went to the park. We were surrounded by lots of other families, and we took our place in an open spot in the shade. Luke spent the half hour seated upright, pulling up blades of grass and then toppling over. Our dachshund sat nearby, so when Luke was done with the grass he pet our dog for the first time. I took a picture of the scene and sent it to my wife.

That is where the picture stayed (unless, of course, I chose to use it for this column). The only people who will care that Luke has taken his first steps are his family, not the entire English-speaking world.

While we will never be able to give Luke a palace, we can at least give him that.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly.

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What Millennials Want That Their Boomer Parents Hate

Luke Tepper
Luke looks around for the inflation that has yet to come Taylor Tepper

It is nine letters long, (not legal weed), and causes investors' blood to boil.

Inflation. We really want some inflation. Now, if possible.

Macroeconomic forces are not top of my mind all the time. A couple of weekends ago, for instance, my wife and I played poker and drank beer on our friend’s rooftop patio. Our son Luke, clad in his new miniature gondolier outfit, crawled between our legs as one person after another told us how cute he was. That night Luke held onto one of my fingers while I gave him his midnight feeding. Later my wife and I slipped into his room for a few moments to watch him sleep.

I can tell you that at no point during our perfect summer day did the word inflation pop into our heads. We went to sleep thinking just how lucky we were to have such a beautiful son, rather than dwelling on the fact that we face an inflationary climate that is hostile to the economics of our new family.

We aren’t strangers to what economists call “headwinds.” Mrs. Tepper and I graduated from the same really expensive private college in 2008, just as the nation was mired in the worst recession in 80 years. We attended college (and later graduate school) as state governments across the country drastically cut higher education spending, which meant higher costs, which meant that we incurred a combined six-figures student loan marker. And entering the job market in the teeth of negative economic growth means we’ll be playing catch-up for years and years.

Given all that we (and Americans, generally) have endured since 2008, it might seem strange that I would ask for higher inflation. When the prices of goods rise quickly, the Federal Reserve is apt to raise interest rates. Higher interest rates make it more expensive to purchase a house, or borrow for anything. Don’t I want to own a house? What’s wrong with me?

For a little bit of context, let’s back up and look at where inflation has been over the past six years. If you look at the core price index for personal consumption expenditures (or core PCE), inflation is rising at an annual rate of 1.5%. In fact ever since Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy it has barely budged over 2%.

inflation...

Even if you look at a broader inflation metric, like the consumer price index, prices have risen at 2.1% or lower for almost two years.

What does this mean?

For one thing, wage growth has stagnated at around 2% since we left school, and job growth, while picking up lately, has been relatively slow. Weak job creation and small pay increases means that people have less money to spend, which means fewer jobs and the cycle goes round and round.

So more economic growth (spurred on by more borrowing and spending) would help alleviate low wage growth, and help us ramp up our weekly paychecks. But it would also do something else. It would help us pay down our student loan debts.

Super low inflation is bad for people who have debt. Right now Americans owe more than $1.1 trillion in student loan debt. That means people our age are receiving raises that aren’t that high and have to confront a record level of debt before their careers really get going. With so much of our take-home pay earmarked for debt service, no wonder housing isn’t a priority, or affordable, for millennials (or the Teppers).

Of course, this kind of talk scares our parents (and rich people), who own bonds and other assets designed to preserve wealth instead of create it. Having already endured years of low interest rates, they really don’t want their bond portfolio to be hit by an inflation jump.

To which I say, tough. Many boomers entered the job market as the economy was expanding and college was affordable. Their children did not.

Luke has this one toy that he loves. It’s a sort-of picture book for infants consisting of a crinkly material, and he loves nothing more than smashing the thing between his hands and feet. In 17 years, he’ll want a car—and then four years of college.

I realize that the costs of these things will rise—prices always rise. It would just be nice if our salaries rose enough to pay for them.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:

 

MONEY First-Time Dad

What Adam Smith Taught Me About Child Care

Luke Tepper
The mental health of this child's parents depends on their division of labor.

The best parenting book you've haven't read was written by a childless British philosopher who's been dead for 200-odd years.

It’s 1 p.m. on Sunday, and a thick fog of panic begins to set in. Luke has just woken from his mid-morning nap and will need to go back down for a light snooze in three hours. If we miss that window, he’ll become too tired by bedtime and will holler for an extra hour before finally going to sleep for the night; and by the time he does, Mrs. Tepper and I will be hollowed-out shells of our normal selves.

But this afternoon is not an unscheduled pocket of time to be frittered away perambulating around Prospect Park. We have work to do.

Our mission is to retrieve a second-hand high chair (which combines a feeding seat with “a sophisticated pneumatic lift system” according to the ad), stop by the hardware store for air conditioning accessories, and buy groceries for dinner.

That’s just half the battle. Before we even get into our car, we must pack Luke’s diaper bag, collect a few of his favorite teethers and jam his apocalypse-proof $800 stroller into our trunk. This is all while entertaining the tyke so that he doesn’t cry, and detaining our dachshund behind the kitchen gate (which is intended for toddlers, oddly enough). Remember, we are just two normal humans with only four arms.

Here’s the really amazing bit: We got it accomplished. Like, all of it. Luke even passed out right after the clock struck 4 p.m. How? Well, it had a lot to do with Adam Smith.

In his masterpiece The Wealth of Nations, the economist discusses the benefits of division of labor with the example of a pin factory. Instead of each employee making a pin all by himself, each worker does one specific task, and in doing so the factory becomes much more productive.

“One man draws out the wire, another straightens it, a third cuts it, a fourth cuts it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head…”

Smith goes on to say that this system is efficient even for smaller factories with only 10 employees.

“Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of 48,000 pins, might be considered as making 4,800 pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently…they certainly could not each of them have made 20, perhaps not one pin in a day…”

Now, raising a child is not like making a pin. (For one thing, you don’t have to change a pin’s dirty diaper.) But splitting up chores, errands and responsibilities is a major reason why we still resemble functioning adults.

This wasn’t always the case. When Luke was first born, Mrs. Tepper naturally took charge. While I was absolutely terrified that one false start on my part would forever limit his boundless potentiality, Luke’s mother stepped up to the plate. She could pack his travel back while holding him in one arm faster than I could unfold his stroller.

She put him down for his nap, picked him up when he awoke and fed him. Even with the bottle, she was simply better at it than me. She was the superstar, and I was the benchwarmer.

Now, five months on, we’re more of a team. I developed my own rhythm with Luke, and now Mrs. Tepper isn’t the only one who can feed, bathe and clothe him.

Before we left that Sunday morning, Mrs. Tepper and I passed Luke between each other like a basketball. She pirouetted, diaper bag in hand, and I slid Luke gracefully into his stroller with three toys dropped onto his lap. It was an efficient, domestic dance that set the tone for a stress-free afternoon of chores.

Thank you, Adam Smith.

__________

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly.

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MONEY First-Time Dad

Why a Maid is a Better Investment than a Divorce Lawyer

Luke Tepper
It takes a lot of work to keep these sheets clean—but now, it's not our work.

Hiring help can make sense for new parents—even poor-ish ones. The next installment in a series of dispatches on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

On a normal Saturday, my son Luke wakes up around 6 a.m.—which means I wake up at 6 a.m. Mrs. Tepper, half-asleep, is still recovering from our son’s late-night feeding four hours earlier. So 6 a.m. is my time.

The next hour is filled with jungle-themed activity mats, frozen teethers and a $23 French rubber giraffe named Sophie that is seemingly standard-issue in my neighborhood despite its outrageous price tag.

By 9 a.m., Luke is back asleep and my wife and I make breakfast, do the laundry, and walk the dog. If we’re lucky we’ll have the bed made, the dishes done, and Luke’s things assembled in some kind of order by the time he wakes up at 10 a.m. (Of course his cadre of stuffed animals will be strewn across the floor by 10:15 a.m.) Around 11 a.m. we dress him, assemble his diaper bag and set off on errands. (Grab the dry cleaning, pick up dog food, stop by the farmer’s market.) By 1 p.m., we’ve returned to our disheveled apartment, and Luke goes down for another nap. By 2 p.m. we can’t remember our names.

We used to love Saturdays.

After almost five months of little sleep and spending almost every waking hour —and these seem to be growing exponentially—on our kid or our household tasks, we’ve come to the conclusion that certain unintended expenses needed to be incurred if we want to save our sanity and stay on speaking terms.

In short, we decided that we needed a maid.

There’s an economic argument in favor of paying someone else to do mundane chores. With only so many hours in a day, every second you’re rinsing dishes or walking dirty clothes to the laundromat is a second you could have used to further your career, to spend more quality time with your kid, or to actually have an adult conversation with your spouse.

As Catherine Rampell wrote in The New York Times last year:

Hiring people to work essentially as servants smacks of classism or insufficient self-reliance. Scrubbing your own toilet or doing your own laundry supposedly builds character, or something to that effect. And while it’s certainly good to have these skills in a pinch, it’s probably not a wise financial decision to use them all the time if you could instead be engaging in other activities that improve your—and your family’s—well-being.

Still, I didn’t like the idea of hiring someone to clean our apartment. While the Mrs. and I make about double the U.S. median household income, we live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. We also already budgeted $400 a week for child care so Mrs. Tepper (who makes more than I do) can return to work.

Money wasn’t the only reason. I enjoy washing the dishes. The soft rhythm of a basic task is almost meditative, especially after a long day. I enjoy cooking dinner. I may be a tad sentimental, but feeding my family healthful meals is a source of pride.

I could intellectualize the rationale for hired help, but some part of me had a hard time accepting that we were that type of family. Maids seem like a lifestyle choice for richer people.

But this hang-up was just something I had to get over for my family’s sake.

So we hired a maid. She was recommended by a friend and stops by for four hours every two weeks at a cost of $120 a month. That’s $15 an hour—which is a lot cheaper than a $500 an hour divorce lawyer.

Since Mrs. Tepper and I don’t go to the movies anymore—which costs north of $12 a ticket in New York—and eat out less frequently these days, we found room for the additional expense (wistfully) in our entertainment budget.

Of course we’re still sleep-deprived most of the time, and we can’t afford a personal chef or a dog walker or wash-and-fold laundry service. But thanks to a relatively small investment, when Luke rolls over these days, it’s onto a recently mopped floor that we didn’t have to mop ourselves.

And I must say, coming home to a spotless apartment and a happy wife sure beats returning to a spotless apartment and an unhappy wife.

___________

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. This column appears weekly.

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Why You Should Get Up From Your Desk and Go Home

Luke Tepper
Luke is magically sleeping, while his father is fighting to stay still

We work way too much and see our families way too little. The latest on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

A couple of days ago I was on an airplane with my son. It may be a cliché, but there are truly few combinations as destabilizing as infants and planes. While other passengers may bristle at an infant’s shrieking hysterics, that annoyance pales in comparison to the sheer terror borne by the parents of the hysterically shrieking child.

(We know that you—passengers without children—are judging us. But more importantly, our kid is upset. So back off.) Anyway, Luke had a rough go of it on his first flight, so I was on DEFCON 1 for the return trip.

But he did great. Very little muss, almost no fuss. His calm allowed me to reflect on things other than what I’d do if Luke vomited on the lovely couple to my left, and I realized something: This vacation was the first time I had hung out with my son before 7 p.m. on a weekday for as long as I could remember.

Which sucks.

I love my job, but I rarely leave the office before 6:30 p.m. My commute is a little under an hour, and I usually stop by the grocery store to pick up dinner, so I’m lucky to get home before Luke’s asleep.

Of course, I’m not alone. Americans, by and large, work too long, take too few days off, and have problems enjoying their vacation time.

For instance, about one in nine U.S. workers puts in more than 50 hours a week, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Less than 1% of Dutch employees toil that hard. In fact, citizens in only three out of 36 countries devote less time to leisure activities like sleeping and eating than Americans do.

Not surprisingly, America ranks eighth from last on the OECD’s Better Life Index.

When it comes to time off for good behavior, Americans get 14 vacation days a year on average, per Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation Study, or less than half as many as workers in France, Denmark, and Spain enjoy. But that’s not the really depressing part. The really depressing part is that while Americans receive more than two weeks of vacation, we take only 10 days.

One reason is that workers want to save vacation days for later, or convert them to cash. But 35% (the plurality) report having to cancel or postpone getaways because of work.

And once we’re actually on vacation, it’s hard to shut our minds off. Much to my embarrassment, I found myself checking emails and social media my first few days at the beach. I had to tell myself to close the browser and shut the laptop and go spend time with my loving family. It’s as if we’re paid victims of Stockholm syndrome.

I don’t want to sound cranky or ungrateful. I derive a fair amount of pride from my work, and more than eight in 10 U.S. workers say they are satisfied with their jobs. The cool thing about what I do is that I get to see a finished product after I’m done, which is affirming.

But I feel almost guilty if I’m the first to leave the office, as if I have it in my mind that I really didn’t work hard enough or suffer long enough that day. While this is an especially busy time for us here (with the launch of Money.com), I know that many of my friends feel the same pressure to stay well past closing time.

So I’m here to tell you, workers of America, that it is okay to go home when you should, and that there is nothing inherently better about working 50 hours a week than 40. Don’t feel less of a success if your friends put in more hours at the office than you do.

By repeating that mantra to myself long enough, I just might get home in time to put my kid to sleep.

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Baby Clothes Are Cheaper Than Therapy

Luke Tepper

Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about buying rain galoshes, sunglasses, and countless cute onesies for your kid. The latest on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

The most common emotional state for new parents (or at least for me) is anxiety. I spent the first three weeks of my son Luke’s life worried that I might, you know, inadvertently kill him. (Everyone’s fine.)

Part of this anxiety stems from the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing, despite the small library of newborn literature on the nightstand. (We must have personally subsidized Dr. Karp’s kitchen renovation.)

But you are also tired. Bone tired. Mrs. Tepper wakes up with Luke every night, usually around 2 a.m., and stays up for the better part of an hour. When he rises again a couple of hours later, I bring him to our bed. Luke laughs and smiles and demands to be picked up and tossed around while Mrs. Tepper and I linger in a netherworld between consciousness and nothingness.

Add unending, gut-busting love for the tyke, and it’s no wonder new parents experience ethereal joy between bouts of tears.

Thanks to this unstable emotional cocktail, we need therapy. But since therapy is expensive, and so are babysitters, we need another solution. That’s where baby clothes come in.

On the one hand, baby clothes are cheap. On Wal-Mart’s website I can buy a four pack of Gerber Onesies for $7. This particularly is available for four age cohorts, from newborn to 12 months, which means I could get a year’s worth of clothes for $112.

Expecting parents are also advised by their experienced peers to push baby clothes to the back burner. “Don’t buy too many clothes,” we were told. “He’ll outgrow them.” Plus, the one thing that everyone buys you is a onesie from whatever corner of the country they call home.

Nevertheless, parents spend a lot of money dressing up their kids.

Families with incomes above $105,000 end up spending a little less than $20,000 on clothes for their children through age 17, according to the Department of Agriculture’s “The Cost of Raising a Child” report. That’s about $1,100 per child per year from newborn to two, or three times what I’ll spend on my clothes.

We certainly have done our fair share of shopping. Luke has four bathing suits (I have one), rain galoshes (even though he can’t walk), and sunglasses. He has a sweater that would’ve made Cliff Huxtable proud and a pair of overalls (which fit in as nicely in Brooklyn as they would out on the range.)

As a result, Luke’s wardrobe is vastly more extensive (and trendy) than mine, and in all likelihood he’ll never really need those (Gulp!) $50 baby Uggs.

Before you judge, or claim that you’ll never buy fashionable baby outfits that your child will quickly outgrow, understand that the Uggs and the sunglasses and the sweaters and the galoshes aren’t for Luke. They’re for us.

Remember, we’re hanging on by a thread. We’re exhausted, overworked, and underpaid. We ceaselessly cook and clean and walk three blocks for the laundry. Plus, we have to confront the inhumanity of alternate-side parking.

There is one thing, one small pleasure, which helps us soldier on and keeps us sane. And that’s buying over-priced handcrafted baby garb, dressing our son up, and taking pictures.

Not only is it cheaper than therapy, but the pictures (to future Luke’s horror) will live on.

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Why I’ll Send My Infant Son to College Before I Buy a House

061416_FF_Luke_1
Luke Tepper Taylor Tepper

With housing so expensive, I figure my young family will be renting for foreseeable future. The latest on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

Mrs. Tepper and I are 28 years old, and our son is four months. Over the past year, Luke has acquired an $800 stroller, a $250 crib, and a $50 humidifier. (Before you make fun, understand that he constantly bore a stuffy morning nose, and what kind of monster wouldn’t spend a measly $50 to help his only son sleep soundly?!)

We’ve begun funding Luke’s New York 529 college savings account in order to spot his entire higher education bill (provided he goes to a state school), and we, of course, will pay his medical expenses for the next 26 years.

But there is one thing that we will not buy him—a house. In all likelihood (which means unless we win the lottery, or someone gives us a hundred thousand dollars), we will put our son through college before we buy our family a home.

Which, when you think about it, is strange. Last year we earned almost $110,000 and that will (hopefully) increase rapidly as we enter our career primes. We hardly travel (much to our chagrin) and have a reasonable $300 monthly car payment. Mrs. Tepper really only shops for (baby) clothes on sale, online, or both, and my main indulgence is a bimonthly $45 bottle of Templeton rye whiskey.

Why then will we be renters, at least until we’re in our fifties?

Reason #1: It’s (Really) Hard to Save

We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with cheap wood cabinets and a kind of white plaster countertop that stains as easily as a peach bruises. In the afternoon it often takes five minutes for the water to go from warm to hot. We don’t have a washing machine—neither does our building, which was built during the Hoover administration—and I do our dishes by hand because we don’t have a dishwasher.

Next year our rent will be $2,020 (and that doesn’t include gas, electricity, cable, Internet, or whiskey).

Eventually we’ll decamp for the ‘burbs for the sake of space and sanity, but with that move comes higher mass transit costs (an $1,800 yearly increase) and more house to heat and furnish and maintain.

The Dave Ramsey in me says I should find more ways to cut spending: no more occasional brunches or flights to Florida. (Luke can meet his grandparents on Skype!) But those hypothetical savings are peanuts in the grand scheme of things, and the me that wants to stay married shuts Dave Ramsey up.

Read: Half of Millennials Will Ask Mom and Dad to Help Them Buy a Home

Reason #2: Student Loans

In order to gain our cushy, 50-hour-a-week jobs, both Mrs. Tepper and I attended (public) graduate school. That came on top of studying at New York University for four years and (seemingly) $550,000,000.

So we have loans. Lots of them. (I alone owe almost $60,000.) Obviously we are not the only ones tied up in the web of student loan bills. People like me now owe almost $1.1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, or about twice as much as in 2008, when my wife and I graduated college.

I’m now paying $350 a month—and that’s mostly interest.

Reason #3: Houses Are Expensive

In New York City, the median home price is $369,000, and that comes with a median down payment of $74,000, per a recent Redfin report. In Nassau County, which is out on Long Island, you need to put $88,000 down.

Needless to say, we don’t have that kind of money, nor will we anytime soon.

And that–expensive rent, student loans, and homes—doesn’t even take into account the $1,500 a month gorilla in the room (child care) or, you know, Christmas presents.

Look, there are worse things than not buying a house (like not having a job or being a Dallas Cowboys fan.) We have a happy, healthy family, with sunny days ahead, and maybe we’ll find a way to save a buck or two over the years.

But not that long ago, it took only one middle class job in the family to afford a home. Now, according to the Redfin report and my life, two doesn’t cut it. When the prospect of owning the roof over your family’s head is so far gone, is it really that crazy to buy a $50 humidifier for your son?

MORE: Why Does My One Baby Need Two of Everything?

MORE: How Can Child Care Cost as Much as Rent?

 

MONEY First-Time Dad

For Father’s Day, this Millennial Dad Wants Absolutely, Positively…Nothing

Luke Tepper

After four months of dad duty, this first-time father thinks fatherhood is its own reward.

This Sunday will be my first Father’s Day. And believe me (wife and world) when I say that this year, and every year after, I don’t want anything.

This isn’t a flippant decision, and I’m as much of a hedonistic materialist as any other red-blooded American. Books and ties and whisky are as important to me as they are to anyone else. I love sweaters and tickets to basketball games and urbane picture frames.

(One thing I would never, ever want is cash, like one father in Kit Yarrow’s piece.)

I realize that I’m a new father and don’t really have a lot of legitimacy among those who’ve been parenting for decades. (Although all of the hard work is front-loaded.) Maybe a nice chunk of new-fangled technology makes the veteran dad’s day a bit easier. Do I really want to eschew the thrill of opening something wrapped?

In a word—yes.

Why? Well, a little over four months ago I was in a hospital room at two o’clock in the morning. My responsibilities at that time included making sure the lights stayed dimmed and repeatedly counting to 10.

My wife was also in the room on that day. Her responsibilities were a little different. She spent the better part of five hours actively pushing our son out into the world.

Subsequently, she’s been his sole source of food, enticed him (every night) to sleep, and administered medicine when he was sick. She hasn’t had a full night of rest since he was born (and it’s not like pregnant women sleep that well anyway) and has watched over him for his entire life.

Of course I’ve helped. I’ve fed him occasionally and risen pre-dawn every so often. I’ve held him as he wailed in the doctor’s office after getting his shots. I change diapers.

But I’m a supporting character (the Tonto to her Lone Ranger) in the story of how he’s made it this far.

Which brings me back to Father’s Day.

Receiving a present from my wife (or my son when he’s older) will just feel rather silly. Almost like Randy Brown (Who? Exactly!) earning a championship ring for being on the same team as Michael Jordan.

The existence of Father’s Day is not written on the heart of man by the hand of god. It became a national holiday about 50 years after Mother’s Day, and President Obama’s birthday predates it. So, it’s not like I’m breaking Tevye-like tradition here.

This Sunday I will think about my kid and my new family, and relish my luck and good fortune. That is my present.

MONEY First-Time Dad

Daddy No Bucks: Why Does My One Baby Need Two of Everything?

Luke Tepper
Do not be deceived by the adorableness. This child is one very demanding consumer.

Little did this new dad know that one bouncy seat wouldn't be enough. The next installment in a series of dispatches on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

One day about a month ago, I found myself in the middle of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in the pouring rain desperately clutching a BabyBjorn Babysitter Balance black pinstripe chair. (That’s a seat for newborns—which retails for about $150—in case you’re among the well-rested childless.)

My umbrella’s metal rod smacked me in the face before blowing off into the wind like so many other lost New York City umbrellas. I muddled on soaked for the next 20 minutes until I reached my apartment. My wife took one look at me, then down at the trash bag-protected chair, and in a pained voice said, “I hope it isn’t ruined.” I could see my place.

The rub is that the BabyBjorn was our second infant chair. Our son—only three months old at the time—hadn’t outgrown his first one, he just didn’t like it. Or at least my wife didn’t. The same goes for his sound machine and bathtub. I knew that we’d need a lot of baby stuff, but I had no idea that we’d need that stuff in duplicate.

I had gone to purchase the chair from a perfectly sweet couple that lives in a tiny brownstone apartment—I immediately resented them and imagined my family in their home—because in the recent past our son began a non-violent protest against his chair (a Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Deluxe Bouncer, $65.)

The problem with the Snugabunny was beyond me. Cloth birds hang from a plastic branch attached to its base, soft fabrics cushion its seat and the thing vibrates, bounces and chirps. It was also the first bit of his furniture I assembled, so there was that.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Tepper said the chair was no longer worthy of our son’s time. And to be fair, she is with him all day (I’m only there mornings, nights and weekends), so she would know.

Some poor soul bought us the Snugabunny for our baby shower, so at least we hadn’t laid out any cash on the thing.

The brownstone family sold us the BabyBjorn for $70 because we are part of the same neighborhood parents’ listserv. Get on a listserv! It pays to belong to a community of concerned parents who will read a product’s specs and reviews as closely as your wife.

It also helps if all the parents in your group have a lot more money than you do.

This is not the only time we’ve doubled up on items:

His original sound machine, the Sweet Slumber by Graco ($45), came with a glow nightlight and 12 sounds, such as nature sounds and white noise. At some point that became insufficient, so we added the Dohm-DS by Marpac ($60.) This one is for adults. He now uses both and his room sounds like an airplane tarmac.

We’ve gone from the Puj Tub ($45) to the 4mom’s Infant Tub ($50), which actually measures water temperature, and traded in the Harper Elephant Mobile from Pottery Barn ($59) for something French called the Mobile nuit insolite Djeco. This mobile sells for 20 euros, (I’m not actually sure how my wife paid for it) and also glows in the dark. Glowing in the dark is big.

I’ve found it’s best to think of the first round of baby purchases, and the hundreds of dollars spent on these finely crafted stand-ins, as a necessary cost of business: Everything involved in caring for your child is so new and you don’t know what chair your kid will like until he sits in it.

At least you can always hock the barely used stuff on your neighborhood listserv.

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