Stop Letting Hot Cars And Pit Bulls Kill Our Kids

I’ve been finding myself taking mini-breaks from personal finance related posts lately, but being that it’s summer, we’re all entitled to breaks in some sort.

Even so, the topic of today’s post isn’t money related, but it’s not lighthearted, and I’m sure some will agree with me while I would expect that others may not.  Whatever side of the fence you fall in, we’re all entitled to our opinion.  Since this is my blog, here’s mine in plain and simple terms:

I’m sick of reading stories about hot cars and pit bulls killing children.  It needs to stop.  Right now.

HOT CARS

As it’s around the hottest time of the year here in the good old Midwest USA, it’s unfortunately also peak time where I read stories about kids getting left in cars, only to be found dead by their parent or someone.

I’m a parent to two young children, and I can imagine that the grief of losing a child must be incredible, something which I could never imagine.  When I hear of a parent losing their child, I have a tremendous amount of sympathy, empathy, and sadness.  But, I’m not going to lie.  When I read that their child died because they were left in a car, I also add anger to that list.

Most times, you hear about some disruption in routine happening that precedes the child getting left in the car.  Mom couldn’t take the kid to day care, so she asked Dad to drop him off at day care.  Dad agreed, but once in the car, normal routine took over, and Dad drives right to work. Something like that happens more often than not.  Whatever the case is, it still makes me mad.

I’ll be honest.  I’m not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination.  Whether it’s snapping at one of my kids for doing something wrong, or not reading enough to them, or missing out on an opportunity for some playtime, there’s moments in every day that I wish, as a parent, I could do over.  I know I could do better than that.  But, never once in my five years of being a parent have I once forgotten that I have a child in the backseat of my car!

I don’t care what the excuse is, there isn’t one.  Not when it comes to forgetting that your kid is in the car.  No parent would ever stick their kid in an oven, so don’t leave them in one.

PIT BULLS

mb-2014-06pitbullMaybe I’ll catch some flak for this one, but in all honesty, I don’t care.  I’m sick of reading stories about kids getting killed or maimed because of a pit bull, the family pet, that turns on the kid.  It happens far too often and it needs to stop.

Look, I like dogs.  I don’t have one, but I like dogs a lot.  But, when there’s a pattern that stands out of one particular breed being more aggressive and more likely to snap, I just don’t see how that mixes.

People will make arguments about why my stand is wrong.

People will argue that it’s the way the owners raise the dogs that makes them aggressive.  People will argue that other breeds of dogs sometimes attack as well.  People will argue that their dog isn’t like that.  People will argue all sorts of things, and to every one of them I’ll say: It doesn’t matter to me.

Pit bulls are the most likely of dog breeds to attack.  Even if they’ve never attacked before, why would you want to subject your young, often defenseless children, to those odds? I mean, let’s be honest, if pit bulls weren’t the most violent and aggressive by nature, would the people who train dogs to fight pick a different breed? They don’t.  They pick pit bulls. Without question, they pick pit bulls.

Doesn’t that tell you something?

Other dog breeds may have instances of attack.  I’m not saying that we need to get rid of all dogs.  That’s crazy.  But, when pit bulls attack more often and their attacks are more vicious, I just don’t get why some parents effectively choose to play Russian Roulette with their kids lives.

People who want to talk themselves into believing otherwise are more than welcome to do so, but let’s be clear, we don’t and won’t ever have a pit bull in our house.  Especially around young kids.  And, honestly, if a situation arose where my children wanted to play at a friend’s house where a pit bull lived, I would likely say no.  We’re not restrictive parents like that.  We let our kids have play dates.  We take them to parks, we let them play around the subdivision.  But on certain things, I’ll draw the line.

Pit bulls, they’re definitely past the lines.

In both cases, with hot cars and pit bulls, I think the horror stories that come out again and again can be avoided.  And they should be.

What do you think, readers?

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When You Don’t Get The Answer You Were Looking For

My wife asked me a question the other day that I really didn’t even have to think about before answering.  She asked if I’ve noticed a measurable decrease in our spending each month as a result of our daughter no longer being on baby formula.

Our daughter is eighteen months old, so she’s been off of formula for quite a while.  She now eats ‘people food’ and drinks milk.  She was on a more expensive formula than the standard formula, though not the ultra-expensive stuff.  Luckily for us, the type that she required did have a version available in Target’s Up & Up brand.

But, the answer to my wife’s question was a very quick “No”.

Mrs. Beagle became a little annoyed and even asked again, probably thinking that maybe I had misunderstood the question.  I hadn’t.  The answer was still no.

She didn’t understand and you could tell that it bothered her as she had obviously expected the answer to be no.

The conversation led me to think about how we often make assumptions and how assumptions which prove to be incorrect can be problematic.  So, why do we make incorrect assumptions.

Well, I think in may cases, we don’t take into account all the facts.  When my wife asked about the formula, she took into consideration only one aspect, which was the cost of the formula.  She assumed that since we were no longer buying formula, those costs were gone.  Which, in and of itself, is true.

However, there are other costs that factor in.  Our daughter replaced formula with milk.  While milk is vastly less expensive than formula, there is still a cost there.  Our daughter also eats regular food, which means we have to buy slightly more of that, meaning an overall increase in our grocery bills.  As she (and Little Boy Beagle) continue to grow, they will consume more food which will cost money.

Finally, there’s the indirect costs.  Think about how the cost of food rises, which eats away some of those savings.  Just from the food perspective, you can see how while formula costs might go down, other related costs to meet their nutritional needs will go up, offsetting all or part of the ‘savings’ from the elimination of formula.  They need bigger clothes which can cost more money.

One of the basic facts of being a parent is I’m learning that costs do not really seem to decrease in any fashion whatsoever.  I guess after they move out and start earning their own keep the costs will go down, but until then, as they get bigger, so will the cost of raising them.

Here are a few tips on how to handle things when the answer you get doesn’t match the assumption you had made when you asked the question:

  • Understand the butterfly effect – Looking at something from a cost perspective will often not tell you the complete picture, as my wife learned with her question about baby formula.  Changing one thing, the purchase of formula, also created changes in other areas which all had a ripple effect on how and where we spend money.  Bottom line, too look at just the formula costs was overly simplistic.
  • Don’t spend what you don’t have – It occurred to me that this could have led to dangerous outcomes had the assumptions not been about something so simple as baby formula and had it not been by someone as financially responsible as my wife.  I’m sure others out there have made assumptions on much costlier items, and made follow-up actions that proved dramatically incorrect.  Think about those people a few years ago who assumed that they could afford the monthly mortgage payment that their lenders told them they could afford.  By simply trusting the assumption, many people found themselves in dire straits and ended up losing their home, their credit, and probably a good deal of money along the way.
  • Make it a learning opportunity – I think my wife was disappointed that we weren’t spending less as a result of not buying baby formula, but I know that once we talked about it, she thought about things differently.  If you find that an assumption you’re making isn’t correct, take it as an opportunity to understand what went wrong into the assumption you had, and how to best apply it moving forward.  I’m pretty sure now Mrs. Beagle will be thinking more broadly about things like offsetting costs that, through not fault of her own, she hadn’t thought of in the first place.

Readers, when have you recently made an assumption that turned out to be incorrect?  How did it affect you and more importantly, what did you take away that will lead you to making more accurate assumptions in the future?

 

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How Our Second Car Seat Will Pay For Itself

A few weeks ago, Target had their ‘Baby Sale’ where baby related items were on sale.  We had been looking into a second car seat and found one that we really liked and had pretty good ratings.

Our primary car seat is in my wife’s car along with a base for the baby carrier.  The car seat holds our 2-year old son, and the baby goes in the carrier.

Until recently, there wasn’t really a need for a car seat in my car, as my wife took the kids places most of the time and the kids were together.  On top of that, most places we went involved a stroller.  The single stroller we have barely fits in my car, and the double stroller does not fit at all.

Lately, though, we’re finding that our behaviors are a bit different.  We’re splitting up the kids more often, or we’re going places where we can get by without a stroller.  In this case, we figured that more trips in my car would be achievable.  My wife drives a Buick SUV and I drive a Pontiac sedan, so the big difference here:

Better mileage in the Pontiac.

My car averages around 25 MPG and my wife’s car averages around 16 MPG.

If gas averages $3.50, this means that the cost per mile in gas is as follows:

Pontiac: $0.14
Buick: $0.21875

This means that on a 50 mile round trip, we’re saving $3.9375 in gas.  That’s a pretty huge difference.

The all-in price of the car seat was $105.72.

This means that it would take 1,342 miles switched to my car before the car seat completely pays for itself.

With our driving habits, this is certainly something I think we’ll cross without much effort.  Trips to my in-laws are around 45 miles round trip and since we see them once or twice a month, that will add up pretty quickly.  We recently had a couple of birthday parties, each around 50 miles round trip.  Neither of these required a stroller, so it was off in my car.  Even trips to my parents house, who live much closer (about 15 miles around trip) still save a small amount, and will add up.

Eventually we’ll have to get a second seat for my wife’s car when the baby can no longer fit into the carrier.  At that point we would have to decide whether to look into a second seat for my car as well (we certainly could move seats back and forth but this isn’t practical).  We’ll probably see how our habits play out and whether it makes sense.

You always hear about things that pay for themselves.  In the case of this car seat, I believe it will completely pay for itself before it’s all said and done.

Have you ever had an item that has proven to pay for itself over time?

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Bronchitis And A Double Ear Infection

Those were the words around our house a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t me that was suck, and luckily those afflictions weren’t all for one person.  They were split between two people, but unfortunately they were our kids.

Both kids got sick around the same time.  What first appeared to be the standard cold that kids pick up after play dates grew into more persistent symptoms.  Neither was sleeping good, be it for nighttime sleep or for naps, and the congestion wasn’t going away.  After the fourth day, my wife decided to take the kids to the doctor.

Little Boy Beagle had bronchitis (with a touch of pneumonia) in one lung, and Baby Girl Beagle had a double ear infection.

We go to a great pediatrician and they set them both on the recovery rather quickly.  Within days, both kids were feeling better, and I’d say that the worse has passed (with the exception being that I fear that my daughter could be prone to ear infections…just like I was as a kid).

So, now that everything has passed, I thought I’d take a look at what these illnesses cost us.

Baby Girl Beagle’s Double Ear Infection

Hers was a quick fix.  She was put on an oral antibiotic, which she received twice a day for a week or so.  When my wife took Little Boy Beagle in for his follow-up visit (see below), they checked her at no charge to ensure that the infection had cleared.  We knew it had as she started sleeping better again.

  • Co-pay for doctor visit: $20
  • Prescription co-pay for antibiotic: $4

Total Cost: $24

Little Boy Beagle’s Bronchitis

He was diagnosed at the doctor office, but they wanted bloodwork and a chest x-ray to confirm the diagnosis and understand the severity.  They sent us a couple doors down to a radiologist office, who took the x-ray and confirmed the bronchitis.  He was put on a stronger antibiotic.  Because his illness was more severe, they wanted him in for a follow-up visit.  When he came in, they felt it hadn’t cleared, so they put him on breathing treatments with a nebulizer to send medicine directly into the lungs.  A second follow-up was required to verify that the treatments worked, and at that point he was given the all clear.

  • Co-pay for Doctor Visit: $20
  • Bloodwork: $10.93
  • Chest X-Ray Technican: $12.86
  • Chest X-Ray Reading: $25.49
  • Prescription co-pay for antibiotic: $10
  • Co-pay for first follow-up visit: $20
  • Charge for in-office breathing treatment: $22.91
  • Charge for rental of nebulizer: $0
  • Co-pay for second follow-up visit: $20

Total Cost: $142.19

We use a Flexible Spending account and put money aside expecting that we will have a certain cost throughout the year for illnesses, so all of the charges were put on the FSA card and we still have plenty of medical spending money available for our routine needs throughout the year.

It was awful seeing both kids sick, something no parent ever wants to see, but having good insurance and having the Flexible Spending account ready to go made the cost a secondary concern.

And, it was well worth any cost to see them both back to their old selves!

Do you track the out-of-pocket costs of illnesses?  Did you or your kids get sick over the winter months?

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