In the PracticalDad household, my spouse brings home the paycheck and I’m responsible for the household, money and kids. Our joke is that she plays offense and I play defense. And part of playing defense is to be aware of the larger environment and anticipate what’s both on and over the horizon. While some fathers might consider themselves to be wolves and lions guarding the pack and pride, I’ve come to think of myself as a prairie dog, jutting his head out of the hole and sniffing for everything that I’m worth.
What are some of the near-term things to watch for?
- Seasonal clothing. When do the snowboots go on sale and does it make sense to buy them immediately when the kids are growing like weeds? If I wait too long, will the inventory be sold out? When do the school outfits and bathing suits come into stock and when do they go on post-season sale?
- Food. Grocery stores usually run canned good sales in the Winter. And holiday foods are usually sold out or seriously depleted by the time that the particular holiday arrives.
- School. When they reach high-school, the courses available widen and there has to be thought into what the kid takes. Does the course work for that child and does it meet their need? Not all kids are created equal in terms of talent and interest.
What are some of the long-term things to consider?
- College. I have kids at different ages and they constitute the spectrum of time for planning purposes. How do I save for college and how do I shift that money around as they age? What do I have to do now to avoid a major problem later?
- Driving. How do I start preparing the kids to drive the car? Are they sufficiently mature to even handle a vehicle when they reach driving age? What do we do for vehicles, buy another or just learn to share?
- Retirement. Believe me, this is the overarching concern into which everything else factors. If I do this now, what is the effect on retirement savings?
That means that I spend a great deal of time paying attention to the news and talking with other parents. It also means that things that I might enjoy are put aside until later and that is itself part of being a father and parent. Teaching the kids that gratification sometimes has to wait.
So I have a mental list of books that I wish to read and movies to watch when – and assuming – there is more time.
And that list is very, very long.