Updated on 11.07.10

Reader Mailbag: Birthday

Trent Hamm

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Personal loans or credit cards
2. Maximizing savings return
3. Conflicted about parenthood
4. Education or savings
5. Motivating a twentysomething
6. Piano tools
7. Mobile home mortgage problem
8. Netflix and Hulu?
9. DIY oil changes
10. Student loans or down payment?

This past weekend, we celebrated our son’s fifth birthday by having a party with several of his friends. His grandparents and aunt also visited and he received quite a few presents.

I asked him when he woke up this morning what his favorite birthday memory was and he said that it was playing games and having dinner with just the five of us, after the friends and extended family had left.

Funny thing, it was my best memory, too.

Q1: Personal loans or credit cards
I have 2 fairly high interest rate credit cards due to needing emergency car repairs, one through Bridgestone and the other through Goodyear. The Goodyear card has about $1,200 on it, with deferred interest until February 2011. When the promotion expires, the APR will be 24.99%. The Bridgestone card has approximately $560 on it, and currently has an APR of 22.8%.

I am making the monthly payments, paying slightly over the minimum amount required, but I doubt I’ll be able to get the Goodyear card paid off before the promotion ends. Would it make sense to look into taking out a personal loan of $2,000, paying the cards off, and then repaying the loan over 2 or 3 years? And do you have any idea what kind of terms I’d be looking at for the personal loan?
– Daniel

It doesn’t hurt to seek out any method you can to reduce the interest rates on those cards. However, without some sort of collateral, you’re likely not going to be able to reduce the rates by much.

I would suggest looking at two options. First, are there any balance transfer offers available on other cards that give you a period of 0% interest? Second, are there any personal loan offers available at your local credit union? Both of these likely rely on having good credit. The second option may require you to have some form of collateral for the loan.

I would recommend avoiding borrowing money from family (loans between family members have a tendency to turn nasty).

Q2: Maximizing savings return
In addition to my general savings account, I have two other savings accounts in my ING account – an emergency fund and a fund to buy a home with in the future. I’m wondering if my ING account earning 1.1% interest is actually the best place to keep these accounts. The emergency fund is fully funded, so I won’t need to add money from it anytime in the future (and hopefully won’t need to withdraw any time soon, but you never know). I have no plans to be withdrawing from my condo fund in the near future, but will be adding money every month, so I’d like it to be simple to add additional money to. I’m trying to minimize if possible the number of different accounts I have, so I don’t think I’m interested in opening another savings account with a different bank to just get an additional fraction of a percentage point interest. Do you have any suggestions for other places to keep my money to maximize the return on it? If it matters, the emergency fund has $10,000 and the condo fund has about $8,000.

– Andrea

You can absolutely seek out banks that offer a better interest rate. One place to shop around for such rates is Bankrate.

There are two catches to such shopping around, though. First, if you’re with a bank that has good customer service (and ING Direct certainly does), you’re likely to meet a bank that has awful customer service in this process and the interaction can be really difficult. Many banks have long waiting periods, substandard online banking, extremely poor customer service help, and other drawbacks.

The second drawback is that many banks offer “teaser” rates that only work for a short while or have other stipulations attached to achieving them, such as a balance or a transaction requirement. Beyond that, many banks often shuffle their rates, adjusting them up and down all the time in an effort to get new customer attention.

I generally find that unless I’m blowing my previous rates out of the water by at least a percentage point (i.e. 2% instead of 1%), it’s not worth the effort and attention I have to put into rate hopping.

Q3: Conflicted about parenthood
I’ve recently turned 31. I have a stable job that I enjoy and, after moving around for a while, I have finally found a part of the country that I love. I’ve had a few serious relationships in the past and while they have all ended well…well, they have all ended. As I find myself on the market again (so to speak) what limits me time and again is that I don’t want kids. I actually enjoy spending time around kids but every time I think about having them the rational part of my brain turns into overdrive and rehashes a litany of reasons not to. I suppose I just don’t have the paternal instinct that some are born with. For a long time this was fine enough but once again I have met a wonderful woman who is compatible with me in so many ways that matter, but who wants to start a family.

I gather from reading old entries that you’ve long known you wanted to be a parent and I was hoping you could share you experiences with that decision and the positives of parenting. So much of what we seem to read about are the negatives.
– David

People hear about the negatives often because they’re easier to rant about, frankly. It’s a lot harder to talk about the positives of parenting in a way that makes sense to people who are not parents without coming off like a loon.

I like to describe it this way. The negatives of parenting usually appear big – your child has a huge public meltdown or there are discipline issues or something like that. The positives are much smaller – it’s those many, many interactions throughout a day where you see a child learning something new or growing in some fashion or simply exhibiting a positive behavior or expressing something.

Those positives are usually tiny and often hard to explain, but they add up quickly because a day in which you’re paying attention to your child is loaded with them.

A big part of the reason I wanted to be a parent is because when I look back on many of the good memories of my life, a lot of them are just simple moments I spent with my own parents, where I felt genuinely safe and happy and, often, I felt like I could do anything. As I reached adulthood, I simply wanted to be on the other end of those moments.

Q4: Education or savings
I am single, and am thirty years old. My money management up to now hasn’t been great and I have few savings.

I have never been to university and would now like to rectify my lack of education. I have been looking at qualifications in Business Administration with each of the 2 levels being broadly similar to a year at university. After successful completion of the two levels many UK universities accept students directly on to the last year of a 3 year degree.

These qualifications can be studied part time by distance learning so would fit in with my work schedule. At present I work in an office job and earn around 18000 euros a year after tax. To do both levels will cost around 4000 euro which I will be able to pay as I study. If I decide not to continue studying both level 1 and 2 are stand alone qualifications that are valued by employers in their own right. The final year at university will probably cost around 3000 if I choose distance learning.

If I decide to go ahead and study it is unlikely that I will be able to save any money for the three to four years that it will take to finish everything. My question is – Would it be better to save the money first and wait a while before beginning to study, or to pay as I go and worry about savings later?
– Douglas

For me, the key to this whole decision comes down to the fact that you’re single and unencumbered with the requirements of a life partner or children. Because of that, I think you should go for the education sooner rather than later.

Why’s that? The best time in your life to get an education is when you’re single and you’re also seeing why that education is valuable. You’re not tied down with domestic responsibilities, but you also have a good grip on the importance of nailing that education. People younger than you often fall into not knowing how valuable the education is, while others are encumbered with a spouse or a child that makes such choices that much harder.

Now is your time to chase it. Go for it, before other life commitments tie you down.

Q5: Motivating a twentysomething
I have a 26 year-old nephew who has his AA degree, has kind of been drifting for the last 6 years or so, living at home with his mom and stepdad, no job other than helping out with family work/home remodeling, etc. He just can’t seem to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and living at home is not helping him–no reason to move on. He has recently thought about joining the military but is not sure it is for him. I’ve tried to steer him toward job counseling, possibly finishing school to get his bachelor’s degree, but am not sure what else I can do to help. Do you have any advice or resources that you recommend? I want to help him, but not enable him to stay with the status quo.

– Amy

At this point, after six years of trying to lead a horse to water, you can’t help. He has to help himself. The only help you can provide is to push him out the door.

My suggestion would be to set a very clear deadline where you expect him to be independent – and stick to it. Make it clear that he needs to move on to some degree of independence within, say, a year, and set a firm date for it. He’ll have to have a job and an apartment by then or he’s going to be homeless.

If the idea of that kind of ultimatum scares you and makes you not want to do it, then congratulations – you’ve got yourself a houseguest for the rest of your life!

Q6: Piano tools
What resources and methods are you using to learn the piano.

– Scott

Since February, I’ve been taking weekly private lessons with a local piano teacher with very reasonable rates. I’ve been practicing at home with a used keyboard, though I’ve been on the lookout for a good electronic piano for a while now.

Most of my material was either given to me by my teacher or gifted by friends or Simple Dollar readers. The primary book for instruction I’ve used to this point has been Alfred’s Self-Teaching Adult Piano Course.

I’ve also been downloading easy arrangements of songs from sites like EasyByte, which have been very helpful at my beginner level in teaching me how to read music while playing.

Q7: Mobile home mortgage problem
In March 2001, I moved into a 1979 single-wide mobile home, which was owned by my brother. It had been remodeled inside and out so you could not tell it was that old. He sold it to me for $23,000 which I’ve been paying on since then. Currently, I still owe approximately $11,000…and still 5 years on the mortgage.

Something I have found out in the last year or so is that he remodeled the inside and outside but NOT what was inside the walls or under the floor. The wiring is going bad, the furnace hasn’t worked in a year (I’m in Ohio) and the floor is starting to give way from an under the floor water leak. I have no money to fix this since I’m trying to finish repaying my credit card debt. I also don’t want to sink any more money into the place. It’s not worth it.

My question is – how do I get out of this mortgage? Is foreclosure the only way? People have told me to sell it, but there is no way I can get $11,000 out of it and I also don’t want to have the responsibility of selling it to someone when it most likely could go up in flames at any moment. I’m afraid to really live there any longer, so I’m in the process of packing to move into an apt.
– Dee

If you want completely out of the mortgage quickly, foreclosure is your only option, but it will wreck your credit for several years.

I’m going to guess that you didn’t have the trailer inspected before you purchased it. Did you have any sort of written statement regarding the condition of the trailer before you purchased it? Without this kind of evidence, it would be hard to get any sort of legal action against your brother and you may be outside of the statutes of limitation in your state anyway.

My back-of-the-envelope math tells me that you’re making monthly payments somewhere on the order of $300 a month for the mortgage, and it sounds like that continuing to make those payments to preserve your credit would be extremely financially difficult for you. The honest thing to do is to just finish off the payments. However, my suggestion would be that if you’re considering walking away from the trailer, sign an apartment lease before you do so that you can get your credit checked and get into the apartment before your credit is destroyed.

Q8: Netflix and Hulu?
I read the response to the person agonizing over dropping cable for Netflix on your Nov 4 post. My suggestion – add Hulu.com (free) to the entertainment mix, and you get the best of both worlds. Next-day satisfaction for popular shows with Hulu, and the deep variety and reliability of Netflix. If they can’t stand the small screen format, Hulu Plus ($9.99/month) can stream to Xbox Live or a web-ready Blu-Ray player. And Netflix streams to both for free as well, if you already have a membership.

– Andrew

There are several options for people considering abandoning cable or satellite for Netflix.

Hulu is certainly one option, as it offers current episodes of a lot of different popular television series. Beyond that, the websites of many television networks also offer the capacity to watch episodes of current series on demand shortly after airing, though they usually don’t have full archives of the series up for viewing.

As for sports programming, many sports leagues and conferences are beginning to offer streaming video online as well. For the 2010 season, I used MLB TV to follow my beloved Cubs for a pretty cheap price. Check the website of your favorite sports league or conference to see what they offer.

Q9: DIY oil changes
Would you recommend learning how to do oil changes yourself? I’ve been told by someone that does this, that it doesn’t really save money. Are there any other basic maintenance procedures that you would recommend learning to do on your own instead of taking the car to a mechanic? I know how to top up the fluids and pump my gas, that’s about it!

– Christine

It is cheaper to do your own oil changes (all you have to do is buy the oil) and it’s very easy, but there’s a time commitment involved in doing it. It will take you half an hour or so, plus you’ll have to wait in the middle for your oil to fully drain.

It’s really easy to do and the full instructions you need are in your car’s manual, which is likely in your glove box. You can also watch a YouTube video if you’re more of a visual learner.

Most oil change shops will dispose of old oil for you at no cost, so the only equipment you need is a pan to collect the dirty oil in, the right type of oil for your car (found in the manual), a few rags, and a funnel.

Q10: Student loans or down payment?
My wife and I accumulated quite a student loan debt load in each earning a bachelor’s degree plus a master’s for myself– about $140,000 or so. While this is quite alot, this is our only debt, and our monthly payments are within our means and we pay extra where we can– we’re at about $110,000 left 3 years out of school. However, my main question involves the approximately $15,000 we currently have in savings as an emergency-fund/beginning-of-down-payment. We add about $200-300 to this pot every month while still paying at least a little extra towards the student loans. We have a 2-year old daughter, and we have long wanted a house and would like to buy within the next 1-3 years, if we can. What would you suggest we do with windfalls or any other extra money we get? So far, for example, if we’ve come upon, say, a $1,000 windfall, we’d put about $500-600 to our debts, then throw a few hundred to our savings as well. A loose goal would be to continue paying as much as we reasonably can towards the loans, while continuing to pad our savings until we get to something like $25,000– at which point we could use $15-20k as down payment on a reasonable mortgage for us (about $200,000 would give us monthly payments in the range of what we currently pay on rent). This would still leave us surplus in our budget to then hopefully kick our debt repayment into high gear. Thoughts?

– Nick

First of all, good work on getting your finances going in the right direction. You’re certainly making positive moves here.

However, your desire to get into a house sooner rather than later will cost you a lot more over the long haul than waiting until all of your finances are in order.

The big issue is that if you don’t have a 20% down payment, you’re either going to be taking out a higher interest loan to make up your shortfall on the down payment or you’re going to have to take out mortgage insurance – the lender will require it.

My suggestion would be that if your only debt is student loans that you’ve consolidated and locked in at a low rate (and if you haven’t done that, do it – now), I would move to minimum payments on those debts and instead sock away for that down payment. Put any and all windfalls into your down payment savings and shoot for getting to that 20% mark as soon as possible. This will have a huge impact on your total debt, interest rate, and monthly payments when you take out a mortgage.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag. However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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  1. Kathy says:

    When you do your own oil changes, you also have to buy an oil filter.

  2. Kathryn Fenner says:

    Netflix and Hulu–

    CastTv.com has a lot of shows not on Hulu (I watched this season of Mad Men, free, the day after each episode aired) and some partially free series (a handful of eps you have to pay for).

  3. LB says:

    Q2- One thing I’ve considered with my emergency fund is dividing it into quarters, putting 1/2 into CDs and keeping 1/2 in a savings account. You could get two CDs with higher interest than your savings account and arrange it so that every 6 months, one of the CDs will mature. For $10,000, that means that you will have about $5000 in your savings account, $2500 in a CD which matures every December and $2500 in a CD which matures every June. It really depends upon what type of emergencies you need to be prepared for. My experience has been that my husband and I have about $1500 of irregular expenses per quarter (car repairs, dental expenses, new glasses and contacts, plane tickets to visit ill relatives, etc). We haven’t divided our emergency fund up yet, but I think that we will soon.

  4. MattJ says:

    Trent: Your reply to #5 ignores the fact that the kid isn’t living with her, he’s living with his parents. She’s his aunt, and therefore cannot follow any of the advice you give.

    Hopefully someone here in the comments can help her.

  5. MattJ says:

    Q8: Hulu is a good choice (free Hulu, even) for anyone with a computer they can hook up to a TV. Hulu looks just fine on my 42″ box.

    My TV solution is an antenna for capturing about 20 channels of HD television broadcast for free over the public airwaves, plus the net (youtube, hulu, plus various networks also show their content online for free) Because I have a TV tuner card, my computer functions as a DVR as well.

    If you already have a computer, all you need is a broadband connection, TV out to stream hulu/youtube/whatever to from the net to your television. If you also want your computer to be a DVR for over-the-air programming, you’ll need to buy a digital antenna for $20 and a video capture card for your computer (you can get one for about $50).

    Cost to me after the initial hardware is the $25/month I pay for broadband internet access, which I would be paying in any case.

  6. Courtney says:

    How is your Nanowrimo novel going?

  7. Paul says:

    Hey Trent, I just wanted to add something that your readers may or may not know regarding the netflix/cable section of this post.

    I had done this, that is switched to netflix through my xbox 360, about 4 months ago and was seriously considering going back to cable. Why? I am seriously addicted to soccer games and wasn’t able to get any with the netflix/hulu/antenna combo that we’ve been using.

    All that changed on November 1st when xbox live added ESPN3 to their service. You can select any sport/league/team and view archived games and upcoming ones as well!

    Anyway, I just wanted to point that out to anyone who is considering switching from cable to netflix. Also, FWIW, if you’re thinking of doing this, try it! You can always switch back if it’s not for you.


  8. Sarah says:

    I laughed so hard when you said it’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have kids about why it’s great to have kids without sounding like a loon! We have four kids all close in age who are now (finally!) at the stage that we can have fun together as a “family” and I think this is the best reason to have kids. As an adult when I get together with my family, we have so much fun and I can’t imagine what my parents would be doing if they hadn’t had us. Family is a sense of belonging that you can’t get anywhere else.

  9. Hannah says:

    Q10 has a major red flag. Nick is looking at mortgages which will have a payment equivalent to what he is paying in rent, and he is talking about draining his emergency fund to only 5-10k to make the down payment. If he buys a house at soon as he has enough for a 20% down payment, he will be leaving himself extremely vulnerable to falling behind on ALL his bills. Homeownership will lead to a LOT of costs that renting didn’t, and if he takes out a mortgage he can barely afford, and drains his emergency fund to do so, he won’t have anything to fall back on. I would think about waiting or taking out a smaller mortgage so that every dollar of your income isn’t already earmarked for bills the second it comes in.

  10. Luke says:

    Re: #9

    As Kathy stated, you should change the oil filter when you change the oil. There are a small number of tools you may want, but they will all be one-time purchases (socket for oil plug and filter wrench come to mind) It’s not incredibly difficult, and you should be able to find some video on youtube to show you the basics.

    The filters have a size indication on them so you know which one fits your car. If the manual does not state the size, the person at the store where you buy the oil should be able to look it up for you quickly in a book or on a computer.

    Happy oil-changing! :)

  11. Kevin says:

    Several comments:

    #5: As others have noted, the writer is the kid’s aunt. The kid lives with his mother and step-father. So Trent’s entire advice is useless.

    Oil changing: You have to change the filter at the same time you change the oil. But yes, you can save a little bit of money.

    Kids: They say having kids completely changes your life. So if you’re unhappy with your life and want a change, maybe having kids is for you. Personally, I’m extremely happy with my life the way it is, so why would I suddenly want to “completely change” it, and risk mucking it up with one or more noisy, smelly, expensive, messy, self-centered ungrateful brats?

  12. Johanna says:

    Re Q4: Douglas doesn’t say that he wants a spouse and children. And I don’t really see how a spouse (with no children) would be a financial “encumberment” – at least, not if that spouse has a job.

  13. Kara says:

    Re: the oil change. I disagree that it’s cheaper to do your own.

    Every day in the mail I get coupons for $15 or $18 oil changes. As long as you don’t let the places talk you into upcharges and additional work, using the coupon is a much better deal. The cost of the oil filter and oil for your self-service change is going to run you $15-$20 anyway (depending on where you live and how much oil you need – usually around 5qts). Plus some cities/towns/counties charge a fee to dispose of car oil … so you have to factor that into the cost of self-service.

    For me, even if I pay $25 for an oil change, I’m saving myself a minimum of 3 hours of time (the change itself, the cleaning up from the change, and the driving the oil across town to the one recycle center that will accept it and paying the $5 disposal fee).

  14. Kara says:


    If your children are “noisy, smelly, expensive, messy, self-centered ungrateful brats” then that says more about your ability to raise them properly than about children in general. :) Just sayin’.

  15. Gretchen says:

    Anyone who is “conflicted” about children shouldn’t have them.

  16. Kevin says:


    If it’s taking you 3 hours to change your oil, you’re doing it wrong. You know you don’t have to completely remove the engine to change the oil, right? You can leave the engine in the car. There’s a drain plug underneath that makes the job a lot faster. You should be able to do the whole job in about 30 minutes, including cleanup.

    “Cleanup” consists of pouring the used oil from the drip pan into containers to take back to the disposal center, then washing your hands.

    Around here (Ontario, Canada), any place that sells oil is legally required to accept used oil at no charge.

  17. Adam P says:

    *baffled at your reply to #5* How can an aunt kick a kid out of the house he lives in with his parents? Did you even read the question?

    I agree there’s not much she can do to motivate him at this point; he just sounds like a lazy loser. I’d try shaming the guy “Still living at home with no job? You must get all the chicks!” (half kidding here) The military might be a good idea to give him some discipline and self-esteem.

    The aunt seems a little too involved in the problems of her nephew tho, unless the parents are asking for her advice or for money she’s not really in a position to say much. I think my mom would be peeved if my aunt started worrying to others about one of my siblings job/lifestyle.

  18. Johanna says:

    Re Q1: Daniel doesn’t mention wanting to borrow money from family, so I don’t know why Trent felt the need to tell him not to. And if a loan between family members turns nasty, it’s usually because the family members aren’t communicating their expectations to each other, not because there’s anything inherently bad about borrowing from family.

    Since the balances on Daniel’s cards are both fairly low, I’d think it would be more productive for him to focus on ways to free up a few extra dollars per month to pay them off than to look for ways to draw the debt out further. Then, once the cards are paid off, keep putting that extra money into savings, so that when you’re hit with emergency car repairs again in the future (and you will be), you won’t have to go into debt again to pay for them.

  19. Kerry D. says:

    To David, on the benefits of having kids: you don’t hear much positive about the joys of raising teens… We think about having babies, but maybe don’t think way beyond… In my family, I’ve found that older children and teens are such interesting people, as they develop their skils and interests. I find a lot to enjoy about my teens… We can do things together; they are a REAL help getting things done; and getting to know them as “big people” has been a blast. Discovering their unique talents, sense of humor, dreams… it’s a lot of mentoring now, and enjoying their overall good manners, kindness, thoughtfulness, etc. (Teaching them manners when they’re young is of course a necessity.) There are still frustrating moments, but they’re people I really enjoy knowing and spending time with. (They’re age: 14 son, 16 daughter and 19 son.)

  20. SwingCheese says:

    Re Q3: Although I wanted a child, I, too, was overwhelmed by what I saw as “negatives” (i.e., the expense, the meltdowns, etc.). But what I discovered (here comes the looniness) is that my love for my son trumps the negatives. True, we don’t have money for going out as frequently – but we have responsibilities that preclude going out all the time anyway. Now that he’s older, he has become a lot of fun, and we enjoy spending time with him.

    That having been said, if you decide to have a child, be aware that the first few months are difficult, for a million and one reasons. More than once, I got up for a late night feeding and cried while he was eating, wondering how and why I had done this to my previous life. But it is a relatively short time in the overall lifespan of your child, and you get over it. However, if you feel that you won’t get over it and you really don’t want children, then I’d advise you not to have any. There are women out there who also do not want children. I’m personally friends with two of them.

  21. Luke says:

    @Johanna & Q1

    The whole ‘turn to your family for loans as the first step in fixing my finances’ idea comprises the basic plot for many episodes of today’s popular courtroom reality shows on TV!

    I think Trent was wisely cautioning about something that could spell trouble, even if it was not _specifically_ asked for.

    Can a family loan work? Sure. But what if it doesn’t? The aftermath of damaging a family relationship may not be worth the risk.

  22. valleycat1 says:

    Q5 – I’m pretty much on board with comment #17/Adam P – why is this the aunt’s problem? She’s expressed her concern, offered suggestions, been ignored. If anyone other than the nephew is going to step up on this, it should be mom, not the aunt. I suggest he not plan on joining the military unless he’s committed to defending our country.

  23. Tristan says:

    @Kevin (#11):

    There is a huge amount of irony in your statement about kids, when you use the word self-centered to describe children.

    Did you ever stop to think about how self-centered you are that you cannot change your life for the most emotionally rewarding experience there is… all because you don’t want to have more responsibility? Or have a little less cash.

  24. Interested Reader says:

    @Q3- You need to be really sure that you want to have kids, it’s not something you can just change your mind about if you are wrong.

    Obviously you are in a relationship and want it to work out, but I wanted to say there are women out there who also don’t want to have children.

    I’m 30 something and have almost no desire to have children. I have a nephew I’m crazy about and I think kids are great, but aside from occasionally wondering if I would be missing something I have no urge to have kids.

    Sure there may be a possiblity I regret not having kids but I’d rather regret that, than regret having a child.

    I’m lucky though I met a man who has wonderful kids rom a previous marriage and he is fine with me not wanting kids.

  25. Leen says:

    If you don’t want kids, don’t have them! It is a terrible idea. I know lots of men who had kids after they got married because their wife wanted them and it was the thing to do, and most of those men are divorced now. Finding a woman happy to be child-free (not childless) can be hard but it is worth it. We are out there! Just keep looking.

  26. Mister E says:

    I change my own oil every time and the cost savings are minimal. It can even be cheaper to have it done at a Jiffy Lube place if you get a coupon or a special. Cost savings generally aren’t the reason to do oil changes yourself.

    And although I can’t imagine what circumstances would need to exist that an oil change would take 3 hours, a half an hour may be optimistic for a first timer too especially if your filter is in a stupid place.

    Also keep in mind that you will get a bit dirty so if you’re not a person who has work clothes on hand then factor that in.

    And yeah, don’t forget the filter.

  27. Riki says:


    I think making the broad assumption that everybody will find children to be “the most emotionally rewarding experience” of their lives is quite short-sighted. Some people are meant to be parents, and others are not; Nothing wrong with either decision.

    Deciding not to have children does NOT automatically make a person self-centred.

  28. Katie says:

    I think making the broad assumption that everybody will find children to be “the most emotionally rewarding experience” of their lives is quite short-sighted. Some people are meant to be parents, and others are not; Nothing wrong with either decision.

    Plus, doing something because it will provide you with a reward (emotional or otherwise) is by definition self-centered. Nothing wrong with that; it’s your life and you should maximize your happiness as far as you can without hurting others, whether that means having children or not.

  29. Riki says:

    Q3 —

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re examining the question of children so carefully. I don’t have children myself (and don’t plan to), but I think Trent’s advice is excellent. It is a joy to watch a little person learn and grow and laugh before your eyes. It isn’t always easy, but the rewards are there. For a lot of people, it really is the most rewarding thing out there and that makes a lot of sense to me.

    That said (and as I stated in my previous comment), having children isn’t for everybody. I really respect how carefully you are considering this hefty decision. Good luck!

  30. Chris M says:

    Q8: Netflix/Hulu

    For as low at $69, you can get a Roku device. It will give you access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, Pandora, MOG, YouTube, and tons more– all on your TV. The best part is they keep on adding more capabilities.

    Highly recommended– especially for the price (note: Hulu Plus isn’t available yet, but will be some time this fall).

  31. Jeanette says:

    Great comments, #28 Katie.

    The idea of weighing the pros and cons of having children, to me, indicates that you perhaps should not be having them. Having children is not the same as buying a house, relocating, taking a new job, etc. The “pros” and “cons” just don’t shake out that way. Plus you really don’t know how you will do once they are here (maybe better, maybe worse). It’s about risk and who pays if you don’t really “take” to being a parent (something very few people admit but is true; think of all those MIA parents.)

    having children is a total crapshoot. No guarantees on ANYTHING. (That you’ll be a good parent, that you’ll have patience you need, that you won’t do dire damage to them emotionally. That you’ll like them, enjoy them or that they will become people you’ll enjoy and connect with. That they’ll even like you or want to be around you once they grow up. Or even when they are little and are home with you.) That means you need to forget all those dreams about perfect kids. There are none. They are not your second chance, your personal “do over” as so many folks treat them.

    If you cannot truly accept that you lose control of a lot when you have kids (and that’s not a bad thing), including them, don’t even think about having them. And if you can’t imagine how you’d raise a child who is developmentally challenged and/or disabled or less than your definition of “perfect,” don’t have them.

    Too many people, like the writer who asked Trent for comments, ignore their own knowledge of themselves. The world would be better if more people simply accepted that they neither really want kids (for whatever reason) nor will they make good parents. And that is OK. Maybe if everyone didn’t make them feel so bad about their choice, they’d be more honest with themselves.

    What is often overlooked with all the folks who want kids, believe it’s the norm, etc. is how many of you actually would make good parents? Seriously. People don’t even begin to rationally evaluate their own abilities. If kids are lucky, the folks who have them “grow” into being good parents. But that doesn’t happen a lot of the time and the kids are the ones who suffer.

    As for being selfish and self-centered because you don’t want kids? Seriously? Let’s talk about all the selfish and self-centered folks who MUST have children (biological, no less!) because well, they MUST. Wanting a child just because you want the (hoped for) “emotionally rewarding experience”. Pretty selfish, I think. But let’s not label either group. That’s preferable.

    Have kids or do not. Each is a valid choice provided you have thought about it carefully. Parenthood is NOT the place for “good enough” especially given how truly unqualified on the most basic levels (emotionally, financially, etc.) many people are.

    And if you can’t honestly put those children and their needs first, no matter what, for at least 18 years, forget about having them. It’s pretty much all about them and for most people that’s really tough. People just don’t want to admit it.

    Being a parent is the toughest job on the planet, yet many people can become a biological parent with no checks on their ability to raise a child. You have to do more work to qualify for most jobs and lots of other things where licenses are required.

    And if good parenting was a real goal, all levels of education would include constructive courses on how to be a parent, and include information on making the decision. Plus, our society would make parenting a legitimate career option. We talk about the joy of having kids in the society and then make having them so tough that many kids suffer because we provide few, if any resources, for their parents. (Kinda like the govt telling everyone obesity is bad then giving subsidies to cheesemakers and sugar manufacturers!)

    Key here is informed decision. Let’s be honest. Many people who have kids just “have” them–they didn’t have long, rational discussions with partners about it. They just did it. Not good enough.

  32. Jen says:

    Trent, your reply to Q2 doesn’t make any sense either. Andrea is saying that she’s not really interested in rate shopping/open additional accounts, and your advice is that she could rate shop if she wanted to, but it’s not really worth it. Clearly she’s already on the same page as you. I think she’s looking for other types of accounts that are secure, easy to manage, and return a better rate than 1.1% In that case, a CD or bond would be the best option, if she’s okay with having her money locked up for a few months/years.

  33. Ken says:

    @Johanna: I didn’t see Trent say there were financial encumberments to having a wife and children. I do think it is pretty obvious that one would have more uncommitted time for education while single than one would when married, with or without children, which seemed to be Trent’s point.

  34. wren says:

    1. David, if this woman is “the one”, then have a real heart-to-heart and determine whether she’s willing to give up the idea of having children to be with you.
    Chances are, though, if she has her heart set on kids, it’s a deal breaker. You could get lucky, though, and discover she’s not set on the idea. Do agree, though, because there is little worse than being an unwanted child, and this is one area where there usually is not such thing as compromise.

    Just for the record, there are women — and, yes, in their 30s – who do not want children.
    Most of us just don’t advertise it because it seems to make us a “project” for the rabid “you must have children or your life is meaningless, you’ll regret it later, you’re just being selfish and self-centered” people who seem to think our decision to be childfree by choice as a) any of their business, and b) some kind of personal tragedy that they must rectify. (I’m told these are the same people who think it’s acceptable to touch pregnant women’s bellies without permission.) And, I hate to tell you this, but now that you are in your 30s, you are a prime target for this kind of meddling.

    2. Every town I’ve lived in charges an environmental fee for disposing of oil.
    Besides, why should an oil change business provide a no-charge waste disposal service for people who clearly have no intention of being paying customers? Do you think they get rid of it for free? Most don’t. Your local waste management service can tell you how, when and where to dispose of used oil. There’s usually a couple days a month you can take it to a specific site to be disposed of. (For heaven’s sake, do NOT pour it down a storm drain!) Personally, I found the cost savings insignificant when compared to the price with coupon of the local service.

  35. Johanna says:

    @Ken: You’re right. I assumed Trent was talking about financial commitments as opposed to time commitments. The latter makes more sense.

    Still, my first point stands – that Douglas doesn’t say he wants a spouse and children, and Trent’s projecting to assume he does. Unless, of course, there’s more to his letter than we’re seeing.

  36. chacha1 says:

    @ Q3. If you have made it to the age of 31 as a rational working adult, have identified the traits you want in your environment and your relationships, and still don’t want kids, that is YOU. You’re a fully-formed adult and sound pretty self-aware. Enjoying the company of children for an hour or two is a vastly different thing from wanting your entire life to center on them for 18 or more years.

    Many people who think they didn’t want kids are able to adapt once the choice is no longer theirs, but some are not.

    A successful man who doesn’t want kids needs to take very careful precautions or he may end up with one anyway because his partner wants it. Talk to your lady about this NOW.

    You may change your mind. (Especially if the relationship grows deeper.) But you may not. If you don’t, you may spend a few more years single, but that’s preferable to finding yourself bitter, resentful, or broke because of an unwanted child.

  37. NZ Chick says:

    Regarding having kids, another way to share the joy of kids growing and have a positive impact on them is to volunteer at a community organisation like Scouting (girls or boys), Church youth groups, coaching sports teams, being associated with local schools etc. I have found immense pleasure out of seeing young people grow under guidance when I’ve been involved in these activities. It also gives you a chance to practice skills for parenting in a relaxed environment, you know you only have xxx hours with the kids. I have stepkids but currently enjoy my community based volunteering easier because of the short time spent with them. The stepkids are great as well but as they are there 24/7 it is hard to always step back and enjoy and relax.

    Good luck with your decision making, you are always allowed to stick to your decision or change your mind if you feel differently further down the track.

  38. Gretchen says:

    CD rates aren’t really any better, either.

    I just had one roll over yesterday at ING and the interest for up to 2 years (????) was 1%.

  39. jim says:

    Q3, David: What are your reasons for NOT wanting children? If its just excuses or fear about “the future of the world” etc. then thats different than if you really don’t want to be a dad or raise kids period.
    Whatever you chose, I would not get married to a woman who wants kids unless you are really honestly willing and committed to having a family. Don’t get married if you’re not really sure about kids or if you will back out on it. That would not be fair to her.

    Q9, Christine: Oil costs about $4-6 per quart retail and a car can use 4 quarts give or take. So your typical retail cost for the oil would be $16-$24 range give or take. Course you can find oil cheaper or on sale.

    Q10, Nick: We don’t know the interest rate on the loans or your combined income. If the interest rate is low then I wouldn’t be in a rush to pay off student loans. Given the size of your debt though you may have some high interest rate private loans. I’d pay off private loans as a priority.

  40. Elaine Huckabay says:

    Nick (Student loan guy),
    I am basically in the same boat as you with student loans. There are many financial programs out there to help with this situation. Have you considered public service student loan forgiveness? Google it…if you or your wife work for any type of government, school, hospital, nonprofit, etc, you can have all of your student loans forgiven after 10 years (no harm at all to your credit). Also, you can consolidate or re-consolidate your student debt right now at about 1.74%, so as someone else mentioned, I wouldn’t be in a big rush to pay those off.

  41. Jackie says:

    David says he doesn’t want kids. Can’t we believe him instead of questioning that his reasons might “just” be concern over the state of the world. Whatever his reasons are his and are good enough. Having kids isn’t something anyone should be talked into, like others have said, it’s not something you can ever take back. There are plenty of women out there that don’t want kids either.

  42. Johanna says:

    @jim: I’m curious – what reasons for not wanting children would you classify as “just excuses”?

    @Jackie: Seconded.

  43. Victoria says:

    Lots of parents hate parenting. It’s just that admitting you regret having your kids is akin to admitting you’re a puppy-kicking Nazi. Anonymous studies tell a completely different tale.

  44. SwingCheese says:

    Yikes, Jeanette! While I agree with what you’re saying (that people who do not want children should not have children), your comment seems a little harsh to me. I didn’t have a real idea of what parenting was going to entail, nor did my husband and I have a discussion about what we would do if our child was developmentally disabled in some way. It seems like not many would live up to your expectations of what people should do/be/have/know before even attempting getting pregnant. Certainly no one I’ve met – and I’ve met some really great parents.

  45. kristine says:

    Q5- yeah, what’s up with that? More and more I think I read the questions more carefully than the blogger! And I read and write fast and haphazardly. Anyway-the aunt can offer an incentive- such as a lump sum to give him when he gets a job and signs a lease on his own. But I also wonder why she is so entangled in the situation.

    Oil change- I agree- cheaper to use a coupon that do it yourself.

    Parenting-have kids if you want them, NOT if you don’t! I see lots of kids in my classes- many with parents darting here and there and who did not allow parenting to alter their exciting lives much. The kids are being raised by the hired help. It is not a nurturing atmosphere, to put it quite mildly. Often these kids act out at school. Parenting is a lifetime situation, not an 18 year one. Consider it carefully.

  46. jim says:

    If he doesn’t want to have kids then thats fine. But then what is the point of his question here if he’s already decided against it? Seems like he is not decided entirely and he is explicitly asking Trent for positives to parenting. That made me wonder what the nature of his reasons against it are. He doesn’t seem to have really convinced himself.

  47. Steve in W MA says:

    Dude in the single wide–

    Cut through the flooring and fix that leak yourself (I am guessing you are saying it’s a leaky pipe that’s causing the floor to rot and sag) , then replace the flooring with plywood. You aren’t trying to live fancy, are you? If a floor joist is gone then replace that. Not that expensive. Cost: Probably less than $200 even if you have to buy your own pipe wrench, maybe $400 if you have to buy a couple of house jacks to push the floor sections back up.

    As to the electrical: Rewire it yourself. It’s not that hard and probably nobody will know the difference. Yeah, you’re not an electrician but who’s going to know? Buy a DIY home electrical guide. Snaking new wires through should be easy because the old ones are there and you can use the existing wires to pull the new ones through. Start with the really important circuits like those that run the kitchen. For the bedroom you could go all battery–battery fluorescent lanterns and such–if you’re really concerned about the safety of the electrical system.

    In the meantime, put a few smoke detectors in the place, rehearse your exit strategy and have an axe and ladder by your bedroom window so you can exit by force if necessary.

    I don’t see why abandoning the thing is really that cost effective. For probably under $1000 and some of your time on weekends you can have the whole thing fixed. How much wiring can there be in a trailer, anyways?> Not that much I’m guessing.

  48. Steve in W MA says:

    Car mechanic question: brake pad replacement and brake rotor replacement is easy, so is front cv axle replacement. Rotating tires is easy if you have a decent floor jack and 4 jack stands. Depends how into it you are, though. I’m pretty into it when I realize that it turns a $200 repair into an $80 repair for 3 hours of my effort. Fixing a hole in the tread area of a tire is very easy and costs about $1 compared to the $20 that a shop will charge.

    Fixing one thing leads to confidence and knowledge that help in tackling the next thing. I recommend starting by joining an internet car forum for your particular model and model range of car, plus buying the Haynes manual for your car. Read it COVER TO COVER for about a month to get background info and you will have a much better sense of what your car is made of.

    Later on, invest in the Helm manual for your car, which is the manual that the shops use.

  49. Steve in W MA says:

    Trailer guy comment #2:

    You don’t have money to fix the furnace or replace it? How about just putting in a wood stove? Either a new furnace or a working old furnace or a wood stove can be removed and sold so you won’t lose all of your money: you won’t be “sinking money into it”.

    Frankly, if you’re that strapped for cash I don’t see how any living arrangement you can find will cost less that $11,000 paid over 5 years. That is DIRT cheap. I would make the trailer work. Any other choice you take is going to cost you more, not less, so I’m not seeing any logic in your thinking about abandoning it.

  50. Steve in W MA says:

    Ok, #3 on the trailer:

    Housing has higher priority than your c.c. debts. Take a break from paying them off and secure repairs, either done by pros or by yourself, on your trailer. It will be the best investment you can make because it will prevent you needing to buy other housing.

    BTW, what basis do you have for saying that the wiring is going bad and is a fire hazard? Be real sure that that statement has a basis in fact before making rash decisions. Even if your wiring WAS going bad, you could run a grounded circuit from your circuit box into the house on a heavy duty extension cord and run all of your important stuff safely. Kind of “3rd world” but it works.

  51. Rachel says:

    You didn’t answer Q2. The noter asked if a savings account was the best option.

  52. Steve in W MA says:

    Best advice for the 26 year old who can’t decide is to just accept that there IS no perfect solution and decide whether he wants to support himself. He may be stuck on the idea of picking the “right” path. If he wants to support himself, instead of trying to find the “right” path, he should focus on just making a REASONABLE path then follow through. There is no PERFECT choice for life work, but even so it’s best to make SOME choice, even if it’s just a decent choice instead of a fantastic choce. Making a decent choice of one path our of, say, two or three acceptable ones, would be the best way to go here because it is clear that he is indecisive. He just needs to know that he’s not going to find a perfect choice so pick a DECENT or reasonable choice that he can be fairly happy with.

    One thing that will help him is answering the following question: do you want to be able to have an adult relationship with another person (man or woman, depending) and live with them as an adult? If so, start working because you need to pay for the ability to do that with MONEY. And once you get over a certain age, say 30, and have no work history or employment stability it will begin to look VERY weird to potential partner AND TO YOURSELF> Is that what you want to be dealing with in your life? If not, start making a change and building a life for yourself.

  53. Steve in W MA says:

    Waste oil disposal fee:

    1) do not dispose of oil with your town hazardous waste program. It’s too expensive.

    Any Autozone will take your waste oil FOR FREE. Pep Boys probably does, too. So will most service stations and many other outlets that sell motor oil.

    You can also just GIVE the oil to someone who has a waste oil furnace, if it comes to that.

  54. Bill says:

    We have curb side waste oil recycling, it is still cheaper to have it changed than I can buy the oil and filter if you can avoid the up sells.

  55. Nate Poodel says:

    David-Like many posters have commented that there are many women out there who do not wish to have children either. When I met my husband he told me very early in our relationship that he wanted 5 kids! I nearly bailed but not before I made it very clear that babies weren’t on the table for me and never would be. He gave up the hope of having kids and settled for me and 2 dogs. :) Now after 10 years of marriage and at age 40 I’m finally “ready” and we are looking into our options. I think it has more to do with our relationship than anything else.
    My point is…be clear with this woman and let her go if she wishes to find someone who is willing to be a parent with her. You’ll save yourself alot of headaches down the road. On the other hand as you get older you may find yourself thinking that children would be a welcome addition to your life.

  56. almost there says:

    Re oil changes, a crush washer is a good to replace on drain plug also. If you keep car for a long time the washers are way cheaper than a replacement oil pan. Also it is cheaper to change oil yourself if you shop sales for oil and parts. I am suprised at how much it costs nowadays for non sale oil, including store brand. eBay is good source for bulk filter and washers. My grouse is 5W-20 oil is scarce now and it is the type for my Honda engines. I don’t trust the guys at the quickie oil change places like I trust myself to da a good job.

  57. Mark Gavagan says:

    Regarding Q1, how about a P2P lending service such as Prosper? It’s a small loan amount and there may be 80 people who might lend $25 each (borrower only has one monthly payment to Prosper.com). Lenders bid against one another with the lowest rates winning the loan.

  58. Katia says:

    Re: #3 @ David
    I haven’t read all the responses due to lack of time, but wanted to share that I have a brother who said from the beginning that he and his wife did not want children…he was a parole officer and she was a social worker, so they saw the ‘bad side’ of people. But after visits with/from us with our children for a few years (we live across the country from them)they now have two children and are wonderful parents. It’s different when it is your own children, as opposed to someone else’s. The key is consistency in discipline and not giving in to their every whim. (my daughter was a ‘whiner’ at first just like our neighbor girl, but learned that it didn’t help her get anything (unlike the neighbor girl) and now that the girls are almost 17, we have a considerate daugther who appreciates what she gets and has learned to earn money to get things, not a spoiled brat that expects everything the instant she wants it. :-) Good luck!

  59. Marle says:

    At first when I read question 7, I assumed he’d already been living elsewhere since the furnace was broken. But he’s just now finding an apartment, so he had to have done something last winter without a furnace. I think I try to stay if I was him, fix things like others have said. Right now his monthly payment have to be so low that even paying to fix everything has to be cheaper than getting an apartment. Even if he has a terrible interest rate, he’s only gotta be paying ~$200 a month, and since he didn’t mention moving in with family or friends I’m assuming he’s getting an apartment on his own that’s probably going to cost 3 or more times that. He could use the money he’d spend in one month on rent, and buy several nice space heaters, then harrass his brother (who has more remodeling experience than him) to come over and help him with the leak and wiring. With a little bit of effort he can stay in the trailer for less than he’d spend on an apartment over time and he won’t have a foreclosure over his head. In 5 years if the trailer is worse then give it up, but don’t spend all your extra money paying off credit card debt just to have devasted credit anyways.

  60. valleycat1 says:

    RE#3 – David. If you know you don’t want to have children of your own, accept that decision fully & have a vasectomy, rather than expecting your future partners to protect you (& themselves) by using contraceptives. That surgery is usually reversible should you change your mind in the future.

  61. Jane says:

    “And if you can’t honestly put those children and their needs first, no matter what, for at least 18 years, forget about having them. It’s pretty much all about them and for most people that’s really tough. People just don’t want to admit it.”

    Wow, Jeanette. If people really thought this way, I think we would become extinct!

    Seriously, no one can be this perfect, nor as parents should we be expected to be. It is this kind of baloney that makes for very stressed out and overextended parents. Sometimes it is okay to put your own needs first. In fact, sometimes it is imperative to do that. That doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or that you are scarring your child for life. Certainly there are parents who have swung the other way and been too selfish to the detriment of their children. It is all about balance. And you are not doing your children any favors if you are totally selfless all the time and set such unattainable standards for yourself.

    And I agree with the person above who rightfully said that no one is really fully prepared to be a parent and that plenty of good parents have come into it clueless or selfish.

    I subscribe to the flawed parenting model (if such a model even exists!).

  62. Amanda B. says:

    David did say he hasn’t wanted kids, but the whole point of the question was to find out the good side of having kids. Thus, asking him what his perceived negatives are and making counter points is not out of the question. I am a little surprised to find that so many people are all or nothing on children. No, you should not expect perfect kids, but at the same time I don’t think you are required to gladly accept a severely handicapped child in order to consider yourself an adequate perspective parent.
    David, here is what I think (it is worth what you pay for it). Kids are neat. They are funny (mine are four and three months). Mine have expanded my capacity to love so much that I can love any child because I know my children. In fact, I can see everyone as someone’s child and it has raised my ability to show empathy. Children are not little version of you, they are their own little people who kinda look like you and sometimes say stuff you do (especially the profanity). It is amazing to see what they are growing into. They take up time, money and commitment. However, they are not cinder blocks that drag you to the bottom of the ocean; they will fit into your life if you let them. If you love to travel, you can condition your child to love to travel. If you love to go out to eat, you can train (please don’t freak out on the word) your child to behave in restaurants and have a very impressive palate. The people who have kids that don’t fit into their lives (screaming, sticky, self centered brats, I believe it was) are the people who believe that their lives must now revolve around their children. My primary responsibility is to provide my children with adequate nutrition and a safe place to sleep. After that it is my job to teach them to be functioning adults and part of that is how to fit into society. So they have to wait their turn, they can not throw fits in public, they have to have well formed ideas, etc. They are not an all encompassing life change. If you let them, they are little partners in crime and they are awesome.
    One final note, there are no perfect parents. And the people who think they are most qualified often suffer the most from unrealized expectations. If you want to have kids, have kids, feed them, don’t shake them and enjoy the ride.

  63. Interested Reader says:

    @ Amanda – David did say he doesn’t want kids. Not just that he doesn’t want to have kids, but that he doesn’t think he has the paternal instinct.

    He does want to know the good side of having kids and everyone has pointed out good things. But if someone truly doesn’t want to have kids hearing about the good things and even seeing the good things isn’t going to change that.

    I have a nephew who is awesome, I love spending time with him and my brother is a fantstic father. Even with all of that -seeing what a wonderful time my brother is having, watching my nephew grow and learn, doesn’t change the fact that I have no desire to do all of that myself.

    Here’s the other thing to think about – which would you rather live with the regret of not having kids or regretting having children?

    I’d rather live with the small chance I might regret having children, than to have a child and regret that decision.

    I’ve talked to one person who admitted she loves her kids, but motherhood was always a struggle for her and none of it came easy and if she had it to do over she wouldn’t have had children.

  64. Nathan says:

    Q5: Motivating a twentysomething
    I was in a similar situation as the unmotivated twentysomething, except that I got booted when I was 20. I am now 31, and I still am unmotivated. Turns out I suffer from depression, and I am just now getting treatment due to unhelpful advice I got from people who thought I just needed to “get tough and get another job.” Educate yourself on depression, and if it seems likely he is depressed, encourage him to get help. Depression can’t be cured by sheer guts or even the need to eat.

  65. Amanda B. says:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to miscommunicate. I could not possible care less if David has children. I have no dog in that fight, so to speak. I think it is just as wrong to harass a man (or woman) for their decision not to have children and it would be to ask someone “why on earth did you become a parent, you’re awful at it?” I am not trying to convince him to have kids and if I came across that way, I made a mistake.
    I was simply trying to express why I think kids are great (what he asked for, more or less) and that the concept of what makes a good and capable parent has been hijacked by helicopter parents. I don’t think you should dedicate every waking breath to your children. I think showing then that there are other things in the world that require your attention is important, as is forcing them to do stuff for themselves. The idea that you have to sacrifice every thing you have ever loved doing to constantly tend to your kids, in my opinion, is what causes kids to be entitled and self centered. I am eternally grateful to my friends who love kids but have mad the, perfectly reasonable, choice to have none of their own, because these are the people who gladly take my kids to do fun stuff so that I can spend time by myself (or with my husband). I am sure your brother feels the same way about you (loving and grateful). If David doesn’t want kids, don’t have any. There are women out there who are in line with that (or have already had them and don’t want more, if you were interested). I think that point has been made above. But, if your reason for not wanting kids is because you can’t be the type of parent that eat, breathes and sleeps what you child drew today, you should consider that it doesn’t have to be that way. You get to decide what constitutes good parenting and I don’t think that constant input and self sacrifice are required (or even beneficial).
    As for if it is better to regret having children or regret not having children, I have no idea. I, personally, will never do either. I’m sorry that your friend found it so difficult. I can’t help but wonder if she was burdened with living up to the perceptions of what society conceders a “good mom”. For me, having children is like falling in love, it isn’t always perfect (it doesn’t even always work out to a life long relationship), but I hear it is better to have loved and lost…
    but that is just my opinion, once again, worth what you paid for it.

  66. AniVee says:

    Q5 – the military is a great idea, if he’s willing to defend his country, which he may or may not be actively asked to do.

    I just retired from being a civilian with the Dept. of Defense and have seen hundreds of young people for whom joining the volunteer services meant a great career, a great education and training, travel, benefits, and opened their eyes to the rest of the world and what’s out there. How much could this fellow have seen still home with Mom and Dad?

    If he has mental or emotional problems the military will find that out in short order. They can open the doors to another world for him, but he has to get off his duff and walk through them. There will be testing to find out what he is good at and what he likes and has aptitude for.

    I’ve met so many people for whom this was a wonderful exit from rural or urban poverty, a dead-end life, family problems or a speckled past, and they made the step up to the middle class and beyond. The post-military benefits are not as good, unfortunately, as they used to be with the Old GI Bill, but they are still quite good – and where else can you retire after 20 years at age 40 or so?

    His aunt may well be more interested in his improving himself than he is, in which case there isn’t much anybody can do for him, unless or until a true crisis comes along and forces him to see what he is made of.

  67. Kai says:

    #23 Tristan said
    “There is a huge amount of irony in your statement about kids, when you use the word self-centered to describe children.Did you ever stop to think about how self-centered you are that you cannot change your life for the most emotionally rewarding experience there is… all because you don’t want to have more responsibility? Or have a little less cash.”

    Give me ONE non-selfish reason TO have kids, and then we can talk. To raise kids, sure. Adoption is a great thing for a child in need. But I have yet to hear a SINGLE reason in favour of procreation that is not selfish. It’s ridiculous how the parents are so unable to believe that others might have a different and reasonable viewpoint.

  68. Kai says:

    The ONLY reason to have children is because you can’t possibly imagine your life without having children. If it is a deep pull for you, then you should go for it.
    If you have to think about it, you don’t really want them, and you shouldn’t have them. There are more than enough people in the world – more are not needed. There are all kinds of other ways to make a difference in the world – and even other ways to make a difference for the world’s children. I have worked with children for enough years to see dozens of people who should never have become parents, but did because well, that’s what you do. The norm does not help anyone, and neither does parent-shaming with BS about how there is no meaning in life without parenthood.
    I fully believe that for some people, their lives could never be fulfilled without being a parent. What I don’t understand is why those people are so incapable of understanding that others may be fulfilled by different things.

  69. Interested Reader says:

    Amanda, I didn’t mean to direct all of that to you -just the part about David saying he didn’t want to have kids.

    I guess I get a little defensive from my perspective because normally someone says they want kids (or are trying to get pregnant or adopt) there’s never any need to justify that.

    However quite often if someone says “do you have kids” or “when are you planning on having kids” and the answer is “I’m don’t/I’m not” then the questioner wants to know why. So you have justify your decision and “because I don’t ” is becoming more and more an acceptable answer, but usually there’s more questions. and if you are young and a woman lots of “oh, you’ll change your mind”.

  70. Amanda B. says:


    I understand and was not mad a bit. Have you heard about the GINK movement? They talk about it on Grist dot org. You may find some ideas about how to handle that situation (not that you did it poorly) or at least some solidarity. Like I said, I appreciate my childless friends and respect your decision ;)

  71. MARY says:

    #62Amanda-I couldn’t have said it any better!
    and it is alright to change your mind about parenting as you get older. When I was in my teens there was no way I wanted to have kids. It took until my early thirties (and a different husband!) for me to change my mind.

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