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Ask Dave

The Trial and Error of Adoption

Chris wants to know how to budget for some big-ticket items that comes with adoption.

QUESTION: Chris in Texas and his wife are adopting three children. They make a good salary and have money in savings and no debt. Chris wants to know how to budget for the large items they need. Dave says it will be a trial-and-error process, and they need to focus on providing a stable home first.

Dave's ANSWER: You say you have about $30,000 to $40,000 in savings in addition to your emergency fund, so write a check and buy some furniture. Buy for less than what you have and end up with some money left after you go shopping.

You will budget for this stuff like you budgeted in the rest of your life when you first started, which is probably a while back because you've obviously been in control a long time with your money. You guys have done a great job. What you do is some trial and error.

Set an amount that is maybe a little high for certain categories, and then the next time it comes around, if it was high, adjust it down a little bit. For instance, Christmas will be a dramatic event for you and the kids. You've got tons of money and you make tons of money and you're in great shape. If you overspend a little bit on this Christmas, it's not going to be the end of the world.

But that doesn't necessarily mean you’re going to do that every year. That will give you a gauge, so if you drop a couple grand on Christmas, that would be about double the national average, and then next year you come back into something that's more normal to you.

For something like clothing, maybe you step out there and pick a number, but pick it a little bit high because you've got some ground to make up there too. For a few months, you'll probably be up there a little higher, and then you'll start to see what kids' clothing costs and how to buy it and what you can do. But the good news is you can afford it.

I'll tell you that even after we could afford it, our kids did a lot of stuff at the consignment shop because they outgrow it in 20 minutes. You bring home that cute $50 item and they wear it once. They grow like little weeds. There is nothing wrong with good, high-class, quality consignment stuff. You’ll learn how to do stuff like that just like you've learned about other stuff the rest of your life.

The trick here is that, a year from now, don't do any spending to try and make their life good. Don’t let emotional drama spending continue. They've got you guys and their life is good. It's not about what you spend on them. They are now in a safe, good place. What their future looks like is completely dependent on that fact and on God. It's not dependent on the label on the kid’s shirt.

Don't get into the whole deal about them having a hard life and they need nice stuff. No they don't. They need reasonable stuff with reasonable parents that love them. You are conservative people anyway and unless you just live in drama mode because of the bizarre circumstance of this story, but I don't think you will.

Start out in drama mode a little bit, because there’s a lot of drama here. Medicate it a little bit going in, but then start tightening it down as time goes along. With trial and error, you’ll adjust and you’ll be just fine. But it’s all right if you spoil them a little bit this Christmas. It’s not going to be the end of the world.

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