August 8, 2008

Reader Question: The Financial Worries of Parenthood

You guys are so good at the advice questions. Turn your brilliant minds to this issue. Kristen writes:

My husband and I are both 27. We have been married for a little over 3 years (dated for 5 years before that). We both are at a place in our lives where we desperately want children (our plan is to start trying in September). We both have decent jobs, but neither of us by any means makes a fortune (although my husband is currently looking for a new job in order to try and make more money). I have always wanted to be a stay at home mom. But I also love my job, love helping the people and kids I get to help in doing my job, so right now I am hoping to find a part time job that will let me work evening hours (that is doable with my job). But I would also be completely content to stay home.

So, by now you're thinking, "SO! WHAT DO YOU NEED OUR HELP WITH!?!? Get to the point already!"

Well, I am FREAKING OUT about the money!!! Currently we are in a very good place. We save a decent amount every month, we like our house the way it is (will obviously need a bigger house when we have more than one kid, but this will do for now), we don't really want for anything currently. We enjoy each other and our friends but we are by no means extravagant. If we weren't about to start having kids we wouldn't have to worry much about finances at all. But adding a kid, and taking away part of a salary makes me panic!

So, am I alone? Am I the only one to freak out like this!?! (I sure am hoping your readers tell me no!!). And if I'm not alone, what did people do about it? How do you get past the money worries and just bite the bullet and have kids? How did it end up working out once you had kids? Is money a constant, constant stress? (That's my biggest fear, I want to enjoy our children without having to stress all the time about money.) I don't need a ton of money for expensive vacations, or designer kids clothes. Just enough to meet our needs, save for our future and theirs, and have fun every now and then at a place that isn't our house (amusement parks, etc).

So, can you help me? Can you ease my fears?? (or at least give your readers a chance to ease my fears???)

Thanks for listening!

Freaking out about money is both good and bad. It's bad because it's uncomfortable to lie awake at night fretting about it, and because sometimes it prevents people from having children they could have afforded if they hadn't gotten freaked out by that silly article that says it costs $300,000 to raise a child to age 18 (news from the front: it doesn't). It's good because the very fact of freaking out can help you keep expenditures reasonable: if you freak out a little over every $5, you're likely to find you don't have to.

With or without kids, financial decisions have to be made constantly. You can buy the $40,000 car or the $20,000 car or the $12,000 car, or you can buy the $4,000 used car, or you can repair your junker again. You can buy the $2,000 camera or the $1,000 camera or the $200 camera, or you can have your dad's old camera when he buys a new one. You can buy the $4 organic avocado or the $1 non-organic one or you can buy no avocado at all. You make the decision that's right for your personal combination of "What we can afford at our income level?" plus "How important is this item to us?"

It is the same when you have children. You can buy the $800 crib or the $200 crib or the $100 crib, or you can get a crib free (handmedown or Freecycle). You can buy the $30 diapers or the $20 diapers or the $10 diapers---and if you use cloth, you can use the $30 ones or the $15 ones or the $3 ones. You can buy the $30 formula or the $20 formula or the $13 formula, or you can see if you can breastfeed. You can buy baby clothes full-price or on sale or at consignment shops or on end-of-season clearance for the year ahead, or you can use your sister's kids' handmedowns.

These are the decisions that add up as you pay the expenses associated with child-rearing. Each decision is made the same way as the other financial decisions you make: "What can we afford at our income level?" plus "How important is this item to us?" Some things you might not have a choice about (perhaps your child will have a digestion issue that will require the use of the $30 formula; perhaps you will try to get a free crib but none will be available), but your general decision-making will still add up in the long run.

Something I find comforting, too, is remembering that I can change my working situation. Right now I sometimes freak a little about money---but the thing is, even if I want to stay at home for now, my youngest (assuming he IS my youngest) will be in school in 5 years, and then I can get a mother's-hours job. If we're strapped before then, I could get an evenings/weekends job. And if, for example, we had to go into Emergency Mode (like, I had to work full-time, so I had to do overnights because we can't pay for three kids in daycare) for a few years, it would be at most 5 years before the kids were in school and we could have a normal life again. I can handle most stuff for just 5 years.

One of the things I think gets people in trouble is that they set up their financial situation without children in the picture: they buy a house on two incomes, and they buy their cars on two incomes, and they buy furniture they can pay off easily with two incomes. And then the kids are born, and they don't have two incomes anymore (either they have one income, or they have two incomes minus childcare expenses) and yet the mortgage payment, the car payments, and the credit payments remain the same. Plus, now they have child-related expenses such as clothes, formula, diapers, and equipment. This is the kind of thing that sends people into a permanent financial crisis. When Paul and I bought our house and our cars, we were already on one income, and I think that's saved us a lot of financial pain. We didn't do it that way on purpose, so I feel lucky about that.

What do the rest of you think? How do you deal with money worries? Have those worries increased since having children? Did you have to overcome financial worrying in order to have children, and if so, how did you do it?


Sarah said...

I think you put it very well. There are a lot of choices we make financially and the expense of children are just another factor. Kids manage to get raised on all sorts of different incomes by loving, attentive parents.

Pickles and Dimes said...

Thanks for posting this. This is a HUGE issue for us, and probably the main reason we are in the "no" camp about having kids. Obviously, once I got divorced, I had no thoughts about marriage again and kids whatsoever at that point, and then I met Jason. We were both in the same place financially, both had cars, etc., and when we combined our rent payments, we had the exact amount needed for a nice modest house.

Neither of us makes a ton of money, but we are comfortable. We save for the future and can buy whatever we want (within reason). HOWEVER, if we had kids, we'd be up shit creek. We have absolutely NO family nearby who could watch the kids, and we could NEVER do without both incomes. Daycare costs would eat us alive, and both of us would have to find different jobs that had more flexible schedules, as we both work later than most daycares are open.

It's a fine line between wanting to have a kid (because we LOVE kids), but knowing your limitations. I don't want to have a child, but then feel guilty that I'm only able to spend 2 hours a weeknight with them before its their bedtime, or have Jason & I work opposite shifts and never really see each other as we hand the kid off like two ships passing in the night.

Obviously, if I found out tomorrow I was pregnant, we'd be THRILLED and we would find a way to make everything work, but for right now, we like our lives and we both know the reality is that it would be very difficult financially to have a child right now.

I look forward to hearing everyone else's thoughts.

Erin said...

Swistle is very wise.

In my experience, when pregnant with both my boys I freaked about money. The childcare costs scared the dickens out of me (we both work outside the home fulltime). I found an in-home daycare provider when my second was born. It took a lot of work to find her (on Craigslist). I called and interviewed TONS of people. But ultimately I think you can piece it together nicely. The key for us is that my husband and I "play nice" when it comes to money. We make a good team, so we have been able to figure things out, make touch decisions and changes, without too much maritial (marital?) discord.

That thing about the $300,000 per child pisses me off. It's not like you bring your baby home and there's a $300k bill on your pillow! It's little by little (and a few big bills thrown in here and there) but nothing by itself is too unmanageable.

Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

We are incredibly blessed and didn't have to worry about it. However, I'm commenting to tell you about my OB/GYN, whose husband is also a doctor. They had a son, and two years later twins. When the twins hit about 18 months, she decided to quit and stay home.

All those years of med school and a busy, thriving, growing practice. She quit! She said they had always considered the possibility that she would want to be home for a while with children, so they planned for it, saving extra money and living mostly on his income. So when she made the decision, they were ready and not overextended with a double income lifestyle.

I have other friends who struggle on their husband's income alone, and think it's totally worth it!

Lippy said...

When my husband and I married, he was back in school getting another degree. We planned to wait at least a year before kids because he needed to student teach and wouldn't be able to work. Then surprise I was pregnant a month later. It was very stressful living on one (teacher) income, with a newborn. Luckily it was a first grandchild and I think Owen was 2 before we had to buy any clothes. We finally started getting two paychecks when the baby was 5 months but we were really in a hole for awhile. But we made it work.

Like you said, there are a lot of choices. Also, babies take a bit to be born so, Kirsten and her husband can start living on one income now. Her income can be put away as a cushion for later. That will give them a good trial to see how it will work for them. Which will help reduce the worry.

Elizabeth said...

We got used to living on my husband's salary alone while I was in graduate school, and, since we knew that after a few years of working I would likely be staying home with children, once I graduated we decided to continue with that lifestyle. While I worked, I put the maximum allowed into my retirement savings, paid more than the monthly minimum on my student loans, and put the rest into our down payment fund. So we didn't miss my salary once I left my job. We aren't saving as much as we used to, but we do put away some each month (in addition to the automatic 401(k) deduction). We live in a very expensive part of the country, though, so we can't really afford to buy a house. We've got the down payment, but the monthly payments are just too much to stomach without my salary. Anyhow, I didn't freak out about money too much when I was pregnant because we had a plan. I am the kind of person who is very comforted by the presence of a plan. My husband did worry a bit, which was understandable: he was suddenly going to be the sole breadwinner for a family of three. He has definitely adjusted now.

Aside from our savings, at this age having a baby doesn't actually cost us that much. I was able to breastfeed, so we didn't have the expense of formula. You don't need a lot of the stuff the lists at Babies R Us include: we used mostly slings at first (cheaper than a stroller), and then bought a Maclaren used on Craigslist when she was bigger. Cosleeping worked for us, and the Arm's Reach was cheaper than a crib. Instead of a changing table, we bought a low dresser at Ikea and put a changing pad on top of it (not that the dresser was that much cheaper than a changing table, but at least it's one piece of furniture that will last her...I mean, aside from the fact that it's crappy Ikea furniture).

ya ya's mom said...

Swistle is right, it's about the financial choices you make. Something that has really worked for us is dave ramsey's way of budgeting. It's not always easy, but it works. Good luck, and if you wait to have kids until you can "afford it", you'll never have kids! :)

Hillary said...

I am 27, too, and had my first child in January. Like Kristen, I fretted and worried and obsessed over finances. My mom kept saying to me, "There's no right time," but I was convinced if we just saved long enough or whatever there would be a time when I felt right. Then, I was talking with one of my older coworkers -- he and his wife are in their 50s -- about kids. He said they'd always wanted them, but kept saying, "Not now. When we get a house, a better job, move to a new place, save more, etc." And then, one day, it was just too late. They'd waited too long. I decided I didn't want that to happen to me and my husband.

Not that the worrying stopped. But here's the other thing my mom always said: The money just works itself out. And really, that's true. I worked and reworked the math on paper while I was pregnant and didn't see how we'd afford childcare, but we do. And we're still saving, too.

Swistle's right about the constant choices and the trouble people get into when they make financial decisions on two incomes. I work full-time and need to do that. But I also WANTED to work. Ultimately, I think you have to decide what you want, plan for that but don't get so caught up in the planning that you forget to live.

Alexa said...

I'm 5 months pregnant now and constantly worrying about money. I'd rather stay home with the baby, but in our situation we both need to work. Our mortgage isn't much and we drive cheap cars, but we have years of school loans to pay off. Everything is budgeted and planned for. From a few maternity clothes, to our groceries to hopefully being able to afford a new furnace next year. That is one way that I control my neuroses. I've already done a lot of research on day care costs in the area and other possible expenses and I've budgeted them. I know things will be REALLY tight, but we will be able to afford it.

Money is one thing I always worry about it. I freaked about it even when we were just trying to have kids. But as my husband said, "the time will never be perfect and we're a lot better off then most."

Kristen said...

(I'm the Kristen who originally submitted the response). Keep the comments coming! Hillary, I can particularly relate to you and I am glad to know that it somehow worked out. (My mom says the same thing!) My husband (who ironically usually worries about money more than me!) keeps saying, "It will work out." I am sure it will. But I still worry....Thanks to everyone for your feedback!

Mindy Richmond said...

Kristen, you are not the only one to freak out about this!! When I got pregnant I freaked out too (ironically, after 7 years of trying to conceive), but it all worked out in the end. For me, I just had to decide that we would do the best we could and God would help us out with the rest (and he did!) I think you freak out at first because it's such an unknown, but thankfully you get nine months to get ready for the change, and then even after that you learn as you go. You learn to "fenagle".

Having kids does not have to be as huge of a financial impact as the articles make it out to be. Like Swistle says, it's all about the decisions you make. You don't need to buy the pricey stuff, you find ways to get deals on the stuff you need, and for Pete's sake you don't need all that stuff Babies R Us suggests for your gift registry.

It sounds like you are both mature and responsible and willing to do what it takes to make it work. I say go for it! Jump right in with both feet!

Jill said...

I think everyone has this fear. I'm pregnant with our first, but we did do a lot of financial planning prior to getting pregnant. We recently bought our first house, but did it based solely on my husband's salary. We both had cars that were 10ish years old and paid off, and when mine needed a new transmission (again) we sold it instead of draining money on it and have been living with one car since March. We plan to buy a new car before the baby comes, but are looking into used cars, or year-old models, and small sedans rather than bigger cross-overs. My husband decided to stay in the navy even though he just got an MBA because we figure that in the long run the benefits will really pay off. Plus, in the meantime we can shop on the cheap at the commissary.
We've basically been living on one paycheck for a few months and solely using my paychecks to pay down student loans and squirrel away some savings. I think both of us are definitely apprehensive about living on actually *getting* only one paycheck per month when we get to that point, and I'm sure the first couple of years will be tough before he can get promoted again. But I also assume that at least the first few months I'll be in no shape to go out shopping with an infant, so hopefully that will cut down on some expenses.

Sarah said...

Wow, Swistle, that post was darn near perfect in addressing how it is to raise kids in regards to finances.

I have almost the exact same history as Kristen (27, married 5 years, together 5 years before that, DINKs, etc.) except that I now have a wonderful 10-month old son. I was just finishing up my MBA and working at my dream job when I found out I was pregnant. My entire pregnancy I planned how I was going to go back to work (I didn't want to be a SAHM) and fretted about daycare, finances, becoming a mom and dealing with the guilt.

As it turns out, all that worry was for naught; I am now at home answering to the most demanding boss I've ever had and I love it. I am also starting a business to help support the lifestyle we have chosen for our family (I never thought I would be an entrepreneur).

I guess my best advice would be to live beneath your means and have some savings in the bank to have a cushion in the case that you change your plans from what you think you want now.

el-e-e said...

For us, having kids was WAY more important than worrying about money, so we did it, even though we knew we might end up constantly thinking about money. And we do. We have 2 kids, we both work full-time, and we both make in the general middle class range of incomes. Live in suburb of a big city. I wanted to stay home but we just couldn't make it work -- we'd be sacrificing the little bit of saving we were doing, and sacrificing a way of life that we like (not extravagant mind you, but cable TV, eating out a couple times a week, etc.) We feel extremely blessed overall and of course don't regret having 2 kids at all, despite the cost. One thing I worry a little about is college educations, but then I have a friend who has explicitly told her kids she can't afford to pay for their college, and they'll have to figure that out. I think she's like most of us, esp. as the cost of college keeps going up.

I like Swistle's point that nothing has to be permanent. You could work part-time if you need more money, or work for a year and really save, then take a year off to be with baby... it's flexible. Don't freak out! DO plan a bit, save a bit, and relax. :)

Ms. Flusterate said...

I guess I was just young and stupid. I got pregnant in college and my husband was already working in a decent paying job. I finished my degree and stayed home and had 2 more kids. I tend to live by the "it will all work out somehow" school even though I have a finance degree (eek!).

I have one going to college in TWO WEEKS (ACK!) and never saved specifically for this but the interesting thing is that my part-time salary is exactly what she needs for school. Eeerie. I took the part-time mom's hours job only for busy work and now it's a necessity but I'm good with that.

It's hard to hear "Don't worry" but really does have a way of working out.

houndrat said...

I freak out about this all the time, especially given the fact that our house here in San Diego has decreased to about half a percent of its original value.

And we totally didn't worry much about money pre-kids. But I think you just tend to worry more about EVERYTHING once you start popping out the babies. Goes with the parenting territory.

Misty said...

That's it! You are so so smart!

Setting up your life on two incomes makes the two incomes necessary. Um, Duh.

Wish someone had said that to me 3 years ago. Would have saved me a ton of continued heartache. Although, now I feel damn stupid.

The Lowe said...

It's never good to be overstressed but it is good to be realistic. I was shocked to find how expensive good child care was when looking with my son. SHOCKED! Do your research, find what you're comfortable with and know it's not going to be forever. If staying at home is important to you, you'll be able to live with the few sacrifices you have to make. The same applies to going back to work you'll need to be comfortable knowing your child/children are being taken care of well and live without a few luxuries for a while.

Kristin.... said...

I think sometimes you learn as you go. You talk about money before you have kids, but until you actually HAVE kids, you don't really know what you're getting yourself into. We have 4 kids, relatively spaced out (7, 3 & 18 month twins), but the money issues change over time. I worked full time when we only had 1 child, but most of my paycheck went to cover daycare costs. I've been at home since #2 was born. We own 2 homes that we pay mortgages on, and the oil prices this year killed us. So, we got smart. We stopped spending, refinanced a mortgage to save on our monthly spending. I think you need to be willing to be flexible, because if you can't, you can get overwhelmed.

Michelle said...

Swistle, I think you got it exactly right.

And we planned our lives with two incomes. And foolishly had no idea how much child care was. And now may be financially unable (without huge lifestyle changes) to have another child until this one is in kindergarten. Three years from now. Which will make me 35.

Shame on me.

Elizabeth said...

I wrote some huge long thing and Blogger ate it, but the gist of it was 1. Swistle, you are awesome 2. Everyone has reasons why having kids make them nervous. If you have a lot of money, you list other reasons. But if you want to have kids, you'll find a way to make it work. I was really nervous about the money thing. And we've worked it out.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I'm not a parent yet, so this post has been also helpful for people like me I'm sure.

I know 100% that I want children, possibly a whole gaggle of 'em, and I've just decided that finances won't be an issue. I look at it this way:

1. Do I have enough selfless love in my heart to make them feel appreciated and important?

2. Can I provide the basic needs of life (for them and for myself/my future hubby), which are:

- Food
- Clothing
- Good Hygiene (through hygienic products as well as a clean, safe home environment)
- Safety

If you can handle that, you're good to go! Children will change EVERYTHING about your life, but I'm certain that us new parents (when the time comes) will be able to adapt and make it work. Families have been doing just that for thousands upon thousands of years, afterall! :-)

Eleanor Q. said...

We had Fussbot while I was working and DMS was in school. Now he works and I stay home. While pregnant I worried endlessly about the drs bills for all the pregnancy apts, I worried about the hospital bills and the possibility of missed paychecks on maternity leave but not how mucht the kid would "cost" later. I reasoned that as we get older, our expenses will continue to rise and that we have made things work on one salary and we are smart and scrappy enough that we can continue to make do. Sure I wish there were things that we could do this year (buy a condo, go on vacation, etc.) but I know that they are not lost to us forever and we will continue to save so we can afford and enjoy them responsibly (and with our kids!) in the future. Take the plunge, its worth it.

Not Your Aunt Bea said...

Everyone worries about money as you can see. It's a good thing to worry about because then you always consider it in any decision you make. I agree with all that has been written.

My advice- talk, talk, talk to people who are in the same boat to get ideas, a realistic view of what having kids is and isn't like, and then come up with a plan that works for you. Remember anything you decide isn't permanent- you can always change the plan as you adjust to having a baby. And be honest about how you want to raise your kids- what do you *have* to have for them that would affect your finances? Everyone is different in regards to that answer, but knowing what you expect will help you plan for the future.

Farrell said...

Swistle: Well said.
I kind of feel like nobody feels like they will ever have enough $$ to "afford" children, and yet somehow it works out.
As a single mother, money is always on my mind. But as a single mother, I am lucky that my ex has a very well-paying job and pays his bills on time.
When we decided to have kids, I already knew I didn't want to be a SAHM (later I had no choice but whatever) and with his very well-paying job, $ wasn't too much of an issue.
Then...well then it's a long story, but I'm the type of person that even if I could afford a brand-new crib, I'd probably look for a used one. Sophie has a lot of toys but almost nothing I've bought her has been brand-new (except santa gifts).

Melanie said...

I quit my job to stay at home with my kids. In the very beginning we knew it would be tight, but we persevered and now 2 years later I am still at home and we have added another child to the brood. One of the best pieces of advice I was given, was to live off just one income and "practice" living off one income before we had kids. That is what we did, I put my income directly to savings and paid off some debt. But, more importantly my hubby and I discuss money and make sure we are always on the same page so we don't have any hard feelings or blow ups over money issues.

MaryB said...

In some ways, getting pregnant "by accident" was the best thing that ever happened to me. Once you are pregnant, you JUST ARE. You figure it out; you make it work one way or another.

I think I am the friend el-e-e refers to in her comment re: the college tuition.I would love to expand on that, but would have to hijack your comments. For now, I'll just say that I think many, many people in this country go into parenting thinking that they have to be able to afford designer clothes, private school, cars on 16th birtdays, and gymastics lessons with Bella Karole(sp?)for each child in order to be a good parent. It is often these same people who often substitute these material items/experiences for actual PARENTING! You can not BUY parenting!!!!! The love is free.

I have touched on this money subject in the past, but might try to work out another post soon. Seriously, if I can get knocked up at 20, still in college and be where I am today (thanks to the hubs, good planning, and a little luck) ANYBODY can do this. As Swistle says, it is ALL ABOUT CHOICES AND PRIORITIES!

This might be one of the most interesting posts ever, and the comments even more so. I can't wait to keep reading each and every one.

d e v a n said...

Not to simplify it overmuch, but I honestly think that if you want to have kids you can pretty much always make it work.
You have to sacrifice some things and decide where your priorities are, but most of the time, things turn out just fine. q

Omaha Mama said...

Swistle - you put it perfectly. I didn't know I'd want to stay home until my child was already here. So the house payment, the car payments, the debt, it was too much to do on just my Hubs' salary. I had no choice by to be a working mom. It has worked out just fine, but I wish I would've known to even think about it in that context.

Astarte said...

I think there's no point in borrowing trouble. We got pregnant by accident, both times, and yes, there have been a lot of sleepless nights about at-the-moment financial problems, but I never, ever allow myself to worry about what may be down the road. There's more than enough stuff to worry about in the here and now, and there's no point in worrying about something that may never happen. No matter how much you plan, something always comes up, but I have found over the past few years that usually when that happens, a solution presents itself at about the same time that will help us get back to an even keel. If everyone waited until they were sure they had enough money for kids, no one would have any. And if they did have kids, because they were sure they were set, fate would certainly smack them a good one by dropping a tree on their house.

Susiewearsthepants said...

It's so funny you posted about money. I just posted a blog about how I handled school shopping as a single parent (which I realize is a completely different issue). Neither one of my children were planned pregnancies. I didn't really worry about money to much at the time. I think I was too young and stupid to worry about money. I just figured everything would work out.

Lindsay said...

Great topic Kristen and Swistle. My kids aren't scheduled to arrive until like 2013 but they all have names already! heheh. My/my husband's thoughts:

1. With respect to parents feeling guilty about the kid being in childcare asap: my husband says he really doesn't remember his mom being home with him. She stayed home with him until he was like 4and a half for pete's sake! When I get crazed about the fact that my kids will be in daycare asap I try to remind myself that as long as I provide a proper caregiver and do give the child my love on weekends/evenings this is adequate and appropriate. Kids grow up to be rational adults and will appreciate that the parents did what they thought was best in their sitch.
2. One thing that does make me sad is that my husband and I want to move to the us eventually (in canada right now, he is usa boy)and I feel that we can come up with the savings for me to stay home for one year per child. Moreso as a treat to me than the child perhaps. However I understand jobs are protected for only minimal months when a woman goes on mat leave in the US? I really hope I have the courage to do two things if I end up in the states: 1) bring this up with who ever is my state representative. I wouldn't expect to see change in my generation but maybe my kids? Politics is such a male dominated arena I am sure this is the opposite of a priority but I do believe that providing an economy/market where people are unable to enjoy the fruits of their labor (both financial and otherwise) is not congruent with the "pursuit of happiness" bit. 2) Since that is the case I hope I have the balls to act like a man and say "boss, I am popping a kid out, and I am taking a yr off. I am a kickass employee who adds value to this joint so please grant me this leave of absence and guarantee my position will be here with my name on it in 12 months." He or she should be smart enough to recognize they can have me back in a year or a compete with me in a year. Women deserve better, and the squeaky wheel gets thes grease.

desperate housewife said...

Having a baby wasn't a huge adjustment for us because we pretty much started trying to get pregnant as soon as we knew I was on Jim's insurance plan. Our reasoning, beyond wanting kids, obviously, was that we didn't want to get used to two incomes, get used to going out a lot and having much expendable income, only to give it up for kids. We thought we might as well just do without right away, and then we wouldn't resent it/fret over it too much. I got pregnant six months after we were married, and I worked as a nanny three days a week until I went on bedrest. That income was mostly spent on medical bills for the pregnancy and buying the few baby items we didn't get at the shower and from relatives. I don't remember missing it much when it was gone- but it wasn't much to begin with, of course. I'm sure suddenly being without, say, a doctor's salary would be quite a jolt. But I still think you could do it, if you wanted to badly enough.
I really think a lot of Americans, myself included, have a VERY messed up idea of the difference between wants and needs. Almost anyone can provide a child with what it needs, as long as there is love. And we don't really NEED to go out to eat and have cable and order pizza and buy clothes at the mall, either. Not that I would want to do without those things, but I do know people who have made that choice, and they don't seem miserable to me.

Melissa H said...

I'm totally a money worrier too (we have one child and I hubby and I still both work full time). Anyway, my one piece of advice (if you live in the USA) is insurance. Make sure your hubby (if you quit) has a job with good insurance. The trips to the ER and, heck, the birth itself could have done a lot of financial damage if we didn't have awesome dual coverage. Also, even if you are planning to quit, try to stay on at your job through pregnancy to take advantage of any insurance and your sick leave or maternity leave. Then at least you will start in a better spot when you quit.

And Swistle's totally right, it's not THAT expensive if you shop wisely and are able to breastfeed and have a baby shower etc etc. TONS of secondhand baby stuff around.

MaryB said...

Im back - Ive been following the comments, and I feel compelled to comment to the comments:

I noticed many commenters worrying about not wanting to put baby into daycare asap...I can understand that. Really. I had a baby in daycare ASAP so that I could finish college, and it made me said to say goodbye to him each day. However, we still bonded. We have a great reltionship. Somehow or another I never fretted about missing milestones.

Work those first years to save enough money to be home LATER!!(If you CAN, I realize this is not a possibility for all) Like when they are in junior high and high school! THAT is when life hits an unbelievable pace and when you really need to be there for your kids. That's when they are likely to fall through the cracks and get into trouble when you are not around. Be the "hang out" house. Know whats goign on with them. Know their friends. I think we all have it bassackwards about going back to work when they start school! Work now if you want/need. Save to be home later!

And, now, you can all start flinging the poo in my direction, but Ill stick by my thoughts.

Annika said...

I am probably the worst person ever to answer this given my crappy financial situation, but what the heck.

When we discussed whether the time was right to start having children, my husband was hesitant because he did not feel that our finances were good enough (though they were way better than they are now). My response was, "If we wait until they are 'good enough' we will never have children." And I really believe that - no time is the right time until you just do it. Of COURSE you can (and should) plan and save, but only to a point.

Kate said...

If you're considering going down to one income, I highly recommend saving or paying down debt with one of your incomes (and live off only one income) for as long as possible. Doing this for the past year has been the best financial decision we've ever made. We've taken a nice chunk out of our obligations (car/student loans/house) and it's taught us a lot about what you can/can't live on.

If you're really worried about whether you can make it work on your income, and saving one whole income isn't a possibility, try figuring out your budget with daycare costs factored in, and try living on that for a while. You'll probably be surprised that if you want to do it, you'll find a way.

maryb - it's perfect that you brought up the whole work now/stay home later thing because I have been fretting over that exact thing for most of this year. I'm leaving my current job at the end of August and am faced with the choice of staying home with our son and basically ceasing to save much money at all until I do go back to work, or working full time now and putting him in daycare (and continuing to apply what's left of my salary toward getting ahead on our mortgage instead of spending any of it).

Call me naive, or if you're feeling more kind, call me sleep deprived, but I truly hadn't considered that he might benefit from me being home later in his life. I always figured no matter what when he went to school I'd go back to work and that would be that. It seriously never occurred to me that his older years might be the ones I (or my husband) want to be home for.

So no poo-flinging here. Thanks for the fresh point of view!

Laura said...

I 100% agree with the advice to try to live off of one salary now, pay down debt, and have a financial buffer. But with that said... my husband and I didn't. I'm 27 and my son is 16 months old. I quit my job as a teacher to stay at home with him, sacrificed dinners out, new clothes, and many other "things" that I honestly do not miss. If you want to stay at home, I think you and your husband can make it work. It's not easy for most people, but parenting never is! My advice is to go for it! Good luck!

Erica said...

When Gerald and I were talking about starting a family, we were both really worried about not having enough money. Someone told me to stop worrying and just do it. That if we waited until we felt financially secure, it'd be forever.

Somehow, it just works. You do what you have to do to make it work.

Stella and Thomas said...

I think everyone worries about money when they are thinking about starting a family. When I would look at our finances, I thought we would be broke once we had a child. What I forgot to figure in was that some of our expenses would 'shift'. My husband and I would go out to eat and easily spend $50 or more. Sometimes we would do that three times a week. I bought whatever clothes I wanted, and hardly ever looked at the price.

I was so happy to find out we were pregnant and then we found out it was with twins. I was freaking out! However, it works out. We do not spend the money we used to on ourselves...and we do not want to. So in the end, we didn't feel the pinch too much.

My mom used to tell me that "it will all work out" and it would make me want to scream. Now I tell that to my friends starting their family.

Banana said...

Such a good post! I don't have children yet so this may change, but you nailed exactly how I feel about it. There are things that are expensive about children that you may not be able to avoid, but just like I don't need a fancy phone and the fastest car, I probably don't need the most expensive crib and baby carrier. Life is all about priorities and creating room for what is most important to you and your family. I have found that for every increased cost my lifestyle has incurred (buying our first home for example) we are able to comfortably make it work by sticking to a budget while leaving room for the "fun stuff" so we don't feel deprived. I can't see how having a kid would be any different.... but maybe I should check in again in a few years!

beach mama said...

Hubby and I also bought our first house planning on one income and we weren't even pregnant yet. And it was the best thing we ever did. Plus we both owned our cars out right (old ones a '94 Toyota pick up and '98 Jetta) and we are just now after 5 years of marrage and have a 4 year old son and a second on the way are buying a brand new Sienna (MY FIRST NEW CAR EVER!) next week.

Oh and I have been a stay at home mom since a month before my son was born over 4 years ago. And Hubby is a police officer and does not make that much at all.

If you wait until you can afford a kid, you will never have one. If your heart wants one (or more) you just have to do it and work it out as you go along. I LOVE consignment shops!! :)

Ellen said...

I'm 24 and have a 7-month-old. My husband and I have been married for 3 years and though money and timing was definitely a consideration for us, we just really felt that it would work out. I've known several people who have raised children on less than we have and I'm strongly convinced that love and ingenuity go a very long way.

I worked for a few years before Kirstin was born and we needed the income. My husband's job situation changed and we're more set to go, but there is one very tight year ahead before he hits a better payscale. But... I am not worried. I trust God's care and again, kids need time and love. And they don't eat a lot for a while. :-)

And if I don't buy a single new item of clothing for a year, I will still be thankful beyond all measure that we have our baby.

Kristen said...

Thank you everyone for your wise words! I do feel more confident about moving forward now! And on another note, my husband just got a new job...making more money! Hopefully I will be writing with questions for Swistle's Baby Names blog sooner rather than later! Thanks again! ~Kristen

Fiona Picklebottom said...

I keep coming back to this post, but haven't yet had the time to type a comment. The $300,000 thing may or may not be true, but it's spread over a LOT of time, so it doesn't hurt too much. Plus, I think each subsequent child is cheaper, since you can re-use the major baby purchases, like the crib, high chair, strollers, etc., and there are hand-me-down clothes.

I just went through all my kids' clothes to figure out what I need to buy for the fall and winter seasons this year and all I have to buy for the three younger kids is a couple pairs of shoes and boots and socks and underwear. And only one of those three needs socks. Oh, and about three pairs of jeans. I only have to buy other stuff for the oldest, and she is at an age where she isn't growing much, so most of last year's stuff still fits. AND I had five HUGE bags of clothes to donate on top of what I kept as hand-me-downs. It helps that they're all the same sex, of course.

As for finances, well, my husband was self-employed and I worked for him after we got married, which equals ZERO money AT ALL. And I already had a 4-year-old, whose father pays a pittance in child support (seriously, I just wanted OUT of that marriage, so I asked for next to nothing). Luckily, shortly after I got pregnant, my husband was offered a really good position and I've been a SAHM since then, and we added two more kids for a total of four. It wasn't without it's hardships. We lived in a one-bedroom townhouse with a basement that we converted into a second bedroom until our third child was 2-months-old, so we were crammed into way too little space. We managed, and now we have a large-enough house on over an acre in a fantastic school district and we aren't hurting financially. It could be better in that we need more life insurance and my husband needs a new car, but we do what we can while keeping out of debt and it's working out. The kids are happy and healthy and yes if we didn't have them my husband would have a new car and we might have more life insurance (though it wouldn't be as important without kids), but that's not a trade we would want to make.

Moral of the story: It works out. Somehow. And the sacrifices are worth it.

Susanica said...

Hmmm...looking at things from a slightly different perspective, my dad always said that each of us (all 7)were his "insurance policy" for his old age. In other words the investment in us was really an investment is his future. Fortuntely he also bought reallife insurance, but I always liked his pardigm shifing.

In our case we have some options problems because we can't be legally married. Our 14 month old can be on my health insurance since he's my legal son, but my wife cannot. I hope that the federal government (where I work) will change that policy soon regardless of whether marriage becomes legal or not. It would be good if our legal domestic partnership were enough to allow for the benefit.

So anyway, unless we want to pay a TON of money for Su's insurance and be down to one income she sort of has to work whether she want to or not. We also found that working with a certified financial planner, although that cost money, has actually helped us be very strategic about all of our costs. It helped us envision what our dream future would be like financially and I highly recommend it. -Monica

Jen said...

You guys did it really smart, Swistle - buying and living below your means. I think that people living above their means is one of the biggest reasons there are so many people with financial problems. You have to plan for the future: what if I lose my job, what if we have a baby (and the 'baby' is actually twins or triplets), etc.

If you do have 2 incomes and don't need all the money to live on, put a big chunk of it into savings (and/or retirement) while you can. Then once you quit your job, you won't miss the income, and you will have a lot of money saved up.

Oh, I miss financial planning. Can you tell? =)