Car ownership: Lifestyle is downward sticky

I had broached the topic four years ago when I was doing insurance planning. Today I wanted to share a personal example of seeing it in action.

5 years ago my wife felt a two wheeler is a complete solution to all her transportation needs. I believed a rental taxi is all I need. Esp. since I used a company provided cab for office commute, making the cost of insurance, servicing, depreciation & cost of capital alone would exceed the cost of a rental every weekend. In sort we were very happy with our transportation choice.

4 years ago after my marriage we immediately bought a car. That time it was more of a utility asset (rather than a luxury purchase). We bought one of the most affordable models and our selection criteria were width & acceleration. A light weight Suzuki Alto k-10 with a 1000cc 55bhp was ideal for zipping through the crowded lanes of Bangalore. However after driving 45,000km it became more of a member of a family rather than a means of transport.

Two years ago, when my daughter was born, we bought a second car. Since I worked in a distant part of the town; I needed a second set of wheels for my wife. My purpose was simple; working women with kids needed a dedicated car to manage both work and home. We settled for a sedan because my wife (now used to the comfort of a personal car) wanted larger leg room. Buying a nano/reva was unthinkable even though it might be more practical.

Currently she is planning to take a temporary break in employment to be a full time homemaker. Since I live in a posh locality with a playschool, hospital, shopping mall & all amenities in the walking distance, I suggested that we should be selling off the redundant car. This would also make economic sense because cars (even when they are not being used) depreciate rapidly and the insurance/servicing bills are considerable. So selling it off would align our expenses to the diminished earning capacity.

She was able to comprehend the rationale for the same and agreed that the car will be driven for hardly once a fortnight, but the very thought was appalling to her. Her car had become a symbol of independence, prestige and comfort at her disposal. Although I fully support my wife in her transition to be a full time home-maker, all I can think right now is: Our family’s financial goals remain the same, we don’t want to scale back on our lifestyle, the child has increased our obligations manifolds and yet our earning capacity has halved. Is the transition going to as smooth as we had anticipated?

Parent’s dilemma: restraining

All kids have natural curiosity and often harm themselves in their quest to explore their surroundings. It is not uncommon for kids to drink/bathe from the toilet bowl (after-all it is the only readily accessible source of water). They often crawl under the furniture esp beds & tables and injure themselves when they try to stand up. They unknowingly crawl up the staircase and endanger themselves.

2 weeks ago my kid injured herself by rolling off the bed. My first natural response was to tie chunni (long smooth cloth) at one end of her leg and the other end to a furniture. Ofcourse it was pointed out that I am a horrible parent who is trying to put shackles & leash on the newborn kid. However if I look around:

1. Car seats are nothing but restrains

2. most strollers/prams has belts to tie the kid up (and the belt is made of a much harsh material & confines the movement completely)

3. Cribs with high edges are nothing more than confinement cells for the newborn. the sight of kids holding its vertical bars and peeping outside from the rails gives me that jail feeling.

4. it is not uncommon for people to secure the play-area by a railing.

Before I digress the question is not is it humane to confine the movement of the kid, but how do I do it in a socially acceptable manner? How do I ensure that I prevent my kid from injuring herself, while not being repeatedly reminded of the difference between a pet/slave and one’s own kid.

PS: I have already baby-proofed my apartment & the kid is never left unsupervised, but often this is not enough

Glass Feeding Bottle

These days there are 3 different make of infant feeding bottle available in the market:

1. Standard Polycarbonate bottle (INR 50-100/- per bottle)

2. BPA free plastic bottle (200-400/- per bottle)

3. Glass bottle (240 – 400/- per bottle)

Like most first time parent, I was not aware of what BPA is (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A) and the triangle at the base of the plastic container with a number code (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resin_identification_code#Table_of_resin_codes.5B1.5D) was always greek & latin for me. However after going through several websites & forums I have realized that standard feeding bottle often contain Bisphenol A (BPA) which is added to make them transparent. Although BPA free bottles are available, but I secretly suspect here some other toxic chemical would be used. Hence I am going back to the age old glass bottles.

My wife was initially skeptical of using a glass bottle. Her concerns that a thick glass might crack when boiled, the bottle might shatter while the kid is playing with it & the glass might be too cumbersome for travelling. However after buying, I realized a FARLIN bottle, I realized that these concerns are unwarranted. It is made of thick enough glass to not shatter into fine pieces. Also as long as you immerse it in cold water and then heat that water, the bottle can withstand the changes in temperature. Also some expensive varieties have the volume measurement markings etched (instead of printed) this way it does not get washed away.

Simply put glass is inert & does not react or leach into the milk. Hence one should use it.

Babycenter

In the past 1 year, my journey from an expecting parent to a proud father has been filled with anxiety. Each and every symptom, which might be as little as a sneeze, had to be exhaustively researched online, in books or even through a doctor’s consultation.
Through my research I found that babycenter.com has been one of the most trusted resource & research partner for me. Please use it also if you are a parent (or in the journey of becoming one). They have a weekly news-letter which even educates & illustrates the child’s progress & growth. This way the first time parent is prepared both physically & psychologically for the changes they are going to witness.

Education and Maturity

When do you think a kid stops being a kid?
As per our IITs, IIMs and IISC NEVER!

I was looking at the Gate 2014 form which is required by IITs and IISC for M-Tech education. The second field in their application form was “Name of Guardian/Parent”.
The world (industry, higher education institutions & society) still continue to treat undergraduate degree holders as teenagers.
Even after 12+4 years of formal education & average batch experience of 3-4 years the faculty of my MBA school(including the Dean) would frequently address the batch as Baccho! (kids).

Is it the fault of the parents & teachers for treating the students as kids and making them live a sheltered life in a cocoon? Or is it the fault of the kids of being so immature & care-free? Or I am being a hyper-sensitive parent?

Diaper choices

I usually bought diapers from the nearby store which offered very limited collection. So I used to check for the baby’s weight and I got 3 choices (Huggies, Pampers and poko-pants). I then used to check for the price per diaper and picked one that fitted by budget. On a friend’s recommendation, I went to D-Mart (www.dmartindia.com/‎) just to discover that there are more than 30 different diaper makes in the store. Even the popular brands like huggies & pampers have 3-4 different variants. Not to mention the different pack sizes & combo offers. There was so much choice that a simple 10 second job of picking the diaper took me good 20 minutes. End of it I was wondering when did all this choice and time for selection stopped being productive?

What was more troubling that unlike cars/tvs or white goods there was no chart as to what features does each diaper has, under what condition which option is better. International brands does not even give a comparison between its variants nor they keep the price points so far apart that the consumers know that this is economy, this is popular and this is premium product.

For those non-parents who are still wondering what this musing is all about: A diaper is a considerable expense that will inflate your weekly grocery bill like crazy (since you need 4-6 of them daily). Also you need one that does not leak or spill (for obvious reasons) and one that can stay dry for long durations esp. overnights. After all you would not like your kid to be surrounded by shit and feel discomfortable.

Dentist and Ice-Cream Parlor

As a child, I actually used to wait for my 6monthly visit to the dentist. Reason: A trip to the ice-cream parlor immediately afterwards was the deal I had made with my parents. Even my dentist used to recommend it, because it was cold which soothes the swollen gums after the treatment and also is loaded with calories so it’s the best substitute for the liquid diet that is recommended after any dental procedure.

20 years ago there were not many ice-cream corporate chains, but still the owners were wise enough to know that it makes sense to open a store right next to the dental clinic. However in Bangalore that’s not the case anymore, I even don’t see any billboard/pamphlet directing me in the right direction. I wonder why? Is it a connection that is unique for me and does not work for the masses or the big marketing analytics team have overlooked the aspect.

I always believe that parents secretly feel guilty for forcing their kids to visit a doctor/dentist. Hence after the visit they are ready to reward the kids with anything!!