Cathy from Chief Family Officer wrote a simple meditation guest post on Get Rich Slowly about the cost of having kids and how having children affects your financial plans. There was a huge response, and so many different opinions. I found myself reading along fascinated by all the different points of view from a post I thought was simple and straightforward.
Kids are an amazing blessing in many people’s lives, but they do affect how we spend our money. Just look at my last post regarding our mini-windfall. We spent nearly a 1/3 on the kids!
In my case, I have 4 children (aged 11,7,5, and 3), and we have had children our entire “adult” lives becoming parents at the ages of 21 and 20. Needless to say our financial path has been slightly different than most of our contemporaries.
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In the 12 years since I first became pregnant, and the years before that, I have never had a traditional job, and thus we have always been a single income family. This started as a choice, and eventually became a necessity as my husband’s schedule did not permit him sharing childcare duties (he worked and went to school full-time).
We never considered the financial consequences of anything at that point, including having our children. I believe most people don’t, and if you do, then chances are likely you underestimated!
As we started making more money, we started saving to buy a house. The hubby’s work is in a high priced area. Rent and a mortgage were similar and we had a strong desire to be homeowners. We saved up and bought out first home while I was due with #2. (we had her a month after we moved into the house)
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We chose to have our 2nd and 3rd children when we did, and our fourth was a welcome surprise. Having 3 children so close together (the first is 4 years older than the next child, the other 3 are just about 2 year apart) has its’ advantages, but the main drawback for us was how little attention we paid to anything but the kids (a good thing of course.) Bills were paid late at times, bank accounts were overdrawn, credit filled in the gaps, and often the payments made to our credit cards was the minimum payment. At times things were disorganized, and unexpected expenses were lethal to our budget.
For instance, I made the huge mistake of buying a station wagon 2 months before we found out we were pregnant with #3. I was determined not to be a minivan mom. (go ahead, laugh)
minivan Selling the car at that point would have been a mistake financially, so we decided to keep it, and trade in our older sedan for the dreaded van. Which we leased. <bangs head on wall> I know, stupid mistake. Since then we have paid off the wagon (early), and purchased a newer model van which will be paid off approx. a year early. Also, minivans rock.
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That is just one example of how our choices happened quickly and without much thought. When you are nursing, changing a diaper and on the phone with a loan officer or credit card company chances are likely you are just trying to keep your shirt clean, and the kids from screaming so you can hear the person on the other end.
Sometimes I feel our financial picture is not where it “should” be. I have been looking at it differently lately. Essentially we have financed my staying at home with the kids, and we should have it paid off within the next 2 years. Not too shabby.
We also get a kick out of knowing that our “baby” years are over, and that we’ll be empty nesters 15-20 years before many of our contemporaries. It isn’t an easy road, but I’ll be honest and admit I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, and the kids bought me a good 15 years to figure it out. 😉 The only thing I ever knew I wanted to do with my life, was be a mom, so now I can check that one off my list (a few times!).
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As my hubby often points out one of the reasons he is so successful, and we work so hard is because of the kids. They make for great motivation. (smart man, that guy)
Just to be clear, the kids are worth every cent, and every sleepless night (and labor pain) many times over, but man they are sure expensive in ways you wouldn’t even imagine before you have them.
PS. Kudos to Cathy for responding to commenters on GRS, and her post.