Updated on 09.08.14

Ten Big Mistakes #6: Children Have Huge Financial Ramifications

Trent Hamm

I had a child without understanding the financial consequences of it.

When I was in college, one of my closest friends was a young woman whose parents had conceived her at pretty much the last possible moment from a biological standpoint. While she had a great relationship with her parents, I couldn’t help but see that she would be facing end-of-life issues with them at a much earlier point than I would be. Her parents wouldn’t be able to be involved grandparents. They wouldn’t be around to provide support to her during her early stages of adulthood and she’d be faced with helping them through their final years before she even had her own life completely in order.

Sarah and I decided, based on our experience with this friend, to have our children when we were young and to be completely finished with children by age thirty five.

We stuck with this plan, too. Eighteen months after getting married, Sarah was pregnant. Nine months later, we’re holding a baby boy. One that, unfortunately, we were completely unprepared for in a lot of ways.

Understanding the Fincial Consequences of Having A Child

The Mistakes We Made

First of all, our spending was completely out of control at that point. We spent $500 on a crib for the baby. We purchased almost every item you could imagine on the runup to his arrival, including lots of things that we never used. Huge piles of receiving blankets. Bottle warmers. Countless other frivolous things.

The real disaster, though, was our inability to forecast the big increase in weekly expenses. Daycare was a sledgehammer, adding $200 a week to our expenses. Add in diapers, some formula for supplementation, the cost of washing clothes and the cost of buying new clothes every few months or so as he outgrew them, and we found ourselves quickly in the hurt locker.

This situation was made even worse by the fact that we didn’t fully adjust our spending to account for this. Naturally, we ate at home more and we went out less, but even with those savings, we didn’t make up for the financial bomb that having a baby dropped on us.

Why Did this Happen?

We simply didn’t think ahead. At the time of our decision to have a baby, we simply didn’t have the financial maturity to make it work. Rather than seeing the future arrival of our baby as a motivation for getting our financial house in order, we looked at it as merely another excuse to spend money on stuff we really didn’t need.

Children are more than that. Children deserve more than that. They come into the world helpless, reliant on your good judgment and ability to ensure that they’re safe and well cared for. If you’re caught up in other things and unwilling to put forth the effort to make your life stable, you’re not only putting your situation at risk, you’re putting that child’s situation at risk as well.

It was, in the end, my child that pushed me to begin my financial turnaround. I only wish I had made that revelation a year or two earlier.

What Can You Do to Avoid this Trap?

The first – and most obvious – choice is to think seriously about having children – and ask yourself seriously if now is the right time to have them. The choice to have children is not an easy one and shouldn’t be taken lightly, nor is the decision of when to have children. Spend some time seriously thinking about the costs – in terms of money, energy, time, and other factors – and whether or not the costs truly are outweighed by the benefits in your situation.

Second, plan ahead for children – and start that planning now if you think there is any chance of having them in a reasonable future timeframe. The sooner you begin to get your own financial house in order, the easier the arrival of children later in your life will be. Get an emergency fund started. Pay down your debts with a particular focus on maximizing your monthly cash flow (meaning pay off the smallest debts first). Invest your energy in building a sustainable career.

Third, use realistic, low-cost solutions for your child. Buy their clothes from consignment shops and Goodwill stores (that’s where we shop now for our children’s clothes for our four year old, two year old, and baby). Use cloth diapers. Buy a reasonable crib for the baby to sleep in. If at all possible, breastfeed and pump instead of relying on formula.

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  1. Angie says:

    I feel like there’s a paragraph missing at the end.

    Anyhow, we have an *almost* one year old, and I can safely say his favorite toy is a half-filled plastic water bottle, and his favorite game is “Find the Remote and Try to Order Pay Per View!”

  2. femmeknitzi says:

    My husband and I are facing this reality right now. We’re much older–I’m 29, he’s 35 so in a lot of ways, we need to get on the ball when it comes to having children. We have good jobs, but we’ve only been married a year and we have a lot of debt to pay down.

    But OH the horrendous reactions we get when people ask why we haven’t had children yet and we say, we’re trying to get our finances in order. Most people act like that’s a hideously selfish reason to delay procreation!

    “You’ll never have enough,” they say. “You’re never really ready.” “You’ll just keep putting it off if you keep waiting until everything is perfect.” We’ve heard it all.

    But even if all that is true, that doesn’t mean that we’re ready. In fact, I had stopped using birth control because of the cost. But when my husband’s car was totaled in a hail storm and we were forced to go from no car payments to 1 car payment, I realized how truly unprepared we were for kids. So I changed brands and went RIGHT back on that birth control. LOL

    I know that we need to make this happen soon and so we’re focusing heavily on our finances. Our spending isn’t out of control but we don’t want to bring a child into the world that we can’t afford. I feel so much more justified about that after reading this so THANK YOU.

  3. Heather says:

    I asked around a lot to get an idea of how expensive children were in the first year, and the ballparks I got were way less than what I expected. For one, I could not breast feed very well at all, so the formula expenses were through the roof. For the first 3 months we used premixed formula because of colic so that was approx. $70/week, dropping to $30 when we got onto powder. Then there were the hospital expenses, $16K I think because of complications with pregnancy, c-section, and our health care plan. Now we are on an HMO and it would have cost a lot less. Then there was IVF, another $16K. We handled all those expenses because we are frugal, have good jobs, and save a lot, but I feel that people don’t realize that kids can be more expensive than your neighbor’s experiences.

  4. Johanna says:

    @femmeknitzi: You’ve been married for a year and people are already asking you why you don’t have children? I think that calls for Miss Manners’s reply (I think) of, “My goodness, what a rude question.”

    When will people learn that asking about other people’s reproductive status is almost never a good idea? Seriously, when has any good ever come of asking that question?

  5. Sheila says:

    Very thoughtful and useful post. I only have one child who had a child, and he and his wife weren’t financially prepared, especially given that their child was born with a severe disability that required my (former) daughter-in-law to stay home.

    #1 femmeknitzi, you have quite a while before your biological clock starts ticking. The women in my family usually don’t have kids until their early or mid-30s, even my great-grandmother who had kids in the late 1800s. And today medical assistance is available for those who want to wait even longer.

  6. You and the rest of the world… ;-)

  7. Penny says:

    I am newly married, age 28, with a new baby (honeymoon baby,LOL). We (hubbs and I) are financially “middle of the road”. We don’t make a ton of dough, we both work, we have a mortgage. We drive old cars, and we have no debt (other than mortgage).

    Yes, babies are spendy, but also true is the old adage that having kids never makes sense on paper. So consider any children you do have (inside of a healthy marriage) a blessing.

    Obviously you don’t want to aim for ten kids if you truly can’t afford it, but otherwise, this is just one of those things that you can’t prepare for in advance much. And things really do work out in the end (unless you’re unfit).

  8. Leah W. says:

    Trent, what’s missing here is the cost of your second child and your third child. Sure, your first kid cost a lot — you spent $500 on a friggin crib. How much does it cost now, with your new one? Does it have to be as expensive as it was for you when it was Big Mistake #6?

    Also…I wish people would stop giving advice to wait until they’re in their 30s to have kids. If you want kids, have kids. If you want to wait, fine, wait. Just don’t take your fertility for granted. It might start giving you issues in your 30s that are more expensive to fix than having kids in your 20s would have been.

  9. Des says:

    I think it’s rather laughable that people say things like “you’re never really ready.” Phh…bologna. That just means *they* weren’t ready. Yes, you can be ready. You can be out of debt, have steady jobs, etc. Ready may mean something different to you than to me but I can state for certain that from a financial perspective, DH and I are ready. If you feel like you should wait until you’re more prepared BY ALL MEANS wait! And I second Johanna’s point that it is a rude question to begin with.

  10. kids are expensive. always will be. no getting around that. If our parents thought about the financial implications of having kids, many of us may not be reading this blog right now.

  11. RichHabits says:

    There is never a right time to have kids. I agree with this statement. When I got out of college, I had student and credit cards debt. Once I started paying them off, I moved in my own appartment. I bought a used Toyota Camry. And I got married, now I am thinking still there are so many things to do, like buying a house, saving for its downpayment,having kids,saving for retirement,travelling,charity and others. I thought when will I ever have all the money? When is the right time for having kids? To generate more money,I got my wife working. And I bought a house. Even though there was money coming in, I did not feel financially right time to have kids. Three years went by… I still did not feel safe…

    And then in 2008, I said there will be never a good time. I was just getting older and older. I told my wife,let’s have a baby and we’ll deal with it as it comes. She was happy.. And you know what, things turned out good. Now, I have a son and my finance is in order. I pay myself first, leave below my means, have bi weekly morgage payment, and we go to vacations twice a year as well.

    The point is “Do not wait for right time to have kids”. There will never be. There will always be a reason not to have. I say Be educated about your finances and go have children if you want to. Do not wait.

  12. Irmie says:

    We tried for years (8 actually) to have children, and now that I think back on it, we were not financially prepared for it. I’m sure we would have made do, but it would have been a different world for us then. After giving up and assuming we couldn’t have children, we went into debt opening a business. Thankfully this year we are free of that debt and hit our break even point, because surprise, surprise, we suddenly find ourselves 38 (and 40) and pregnant.

    Having not prepared for the costs associated with this little miracle baby, we are kindly accepting all offers of baby goods from friends and family. You would be amazed how much people would like to give away, knowing it will be re-used. In the end, the only thing we may have to buy is a change table/dresser. Being inventive with the first year of your child’s life in using freecycle, and spreading the word about sharing used items can be a huge money saver.

  13. bethh says:

    Oh femmeknitzi, it sounds like you and your husband are being so smart to me! My only suggestion is you learn a nice way to tell people to mind their own business, maybe just “that’s between me and my husband” with a nice smile (which is more than the casual questioner deserves).

  14. moom says:

    Yeah I often get these kinds of comments. I’m 45 my wife is 35 and we’ve been married 2 years and we’re not using birth control…. I tend to be pretty blunt in response. Not rude. Just tell them the facts. This should stop them asking.

  15. Kate says:

    @femmeknitzi – wow – you’re considered old?!? I had my first kid last year just before I turned thirty one and got all sorts of comments etc on how young I was as was I sure I was ready for this. It was difficult being the young one in my antenatal class and things like that. Around here it’s normal to have your babies in the mid 30s range.
    Until I read this post I sort of assumed Trent’s first two babies were unexpected pleasant surprises because I know he’s only slightly younger than me. Guess not… wow… having kids in your twenties, that’s brave!

  16. Hope D says:

    I hate hearing peoples opinions about when to have children. You have them when you have them. It is no ones business. The only opinion that would matter to me is the one I asked for.

  17. Amateur says:

    I think another thing to note would be the emotional health besides financial before bringing a kid into a chaotic world. There would be tremendous costs in therapy if a person passes their negativity and other emotional issues to a child who has to absorb the mood swings and instabilities.

  18. My husband and I felt like it was important to wait for me to graduate from college before having kids so I could more easily stay at home with them, but we haven’t waited for him to finish school. He is in a graduate degree and we have two children, hoping for more soon. Our income is very low, but we make it work fine.

    I think having kids can be as expensive as anything else in your life can be expensive. If you like to buy brand-new furniture for you, you’ll want the same for your child. If you’re happy with used (safe) furniture, that will work for your baby as well. If you don’t need a lot of clothes for you, you’ll figure out how to make a couple of drawers full for your kid be enough. If you can be frugal now, you’ll be frugal with kids.

    Nearly four years of parenting has only taught me that the longer I do this, the less I need to spend. It gets easier as I go.

  19. valleycat1 says:

    Sorry, but to me this makes deciding to have a baby sound perilously like the decision to buy a car or a house. Which it isn’t.

    Some people grow up, then have babies. Others have babies, then grow up. Some don’t do either, some do one but not the other. Sometimes by design, but probably more often by happenstance.

    And sometimes the best-thought-out plan gets waylaid by real life – things work out better or are worse than you expected. You play the hand you’re dealt, to the best of your ability.

  20. Hope D says:

    @valleycat1 – Amen Sister or Brother!!

  21. Courtney says:

    I had to chuckle a little when I read your first paragraph. My parents, inadvertently, were completely done with having kids (3) before my mom turned 28. We faced ‘end of life’ issues with my dad a year ago – before *I* turned 28.

    Point being, you never know what life is going to deal you. Have kids, or don’t. Try to prepare as much in advance as you can. But trying to plan to be ‘young grandparents’ or getting your family started before you have to deal with caring for your own parents, or waiting until you have every financial duck in a row, is just that – a PLAN. Life will still throw the punches and you roll with them as best you can, because there are NO guarantees.

  22. Kevin says:

    When I started my first job after university, I asked my older co-workers about children.

    Those who had them young said, “Wait till you’re older. Enjoy your youth and get your finances straight.”

    Those who waited to have them until they were older said, “Have them young, so you’re not trying to put them through university at the same time you’re trying to retire.”

    The lesson I learned was that many people who have kids regret it, so I decided not to have kids at all.

  23. Tammy says:

    We were minimum-wage dirt poor when we had our daughter (I was 25, hubby 27) and I wouldn’t change a single thing. It made us more creative, more frugal, more focused on each other than on anything else (money, jobs, anything). When she was not quite two, I developed a medical condition that made me infertile. If we would have waited, especially waited until we could ‘afford kids’ we never would have had her and it would have been one of the worse tragedies of our lives.

    My father in law has often said, ‘If you wait to have kids when you can afford them, you’ll never have kids.’. I think that’s pretty true. There’s always a reason to wait. I believe that kids accentuate what’s already there. They won’t make you happy if you’re miserable, and they won’t fix your finances if you’re broke, but if you’re happy and stable and have room in your heart for children – and want them – there’s nothing wrong with struggling a little and doing without the finer things in order to have a happy healthy kid and a family that brings you mountains of joy and happiness.

    I’d pick our daughter over having money any day.

  24. L. says:

    I think for many people, unless you have debt that needs two wages to service, you can make your finances adjust to children pretty quickly. You can turn the lifestyle way down on a moment’s notice to provide the essentials. This may be uncomfortable but if a pregnancy catches you by surprise or you really want kids now or there’s fertility deadlines looming, it is do-able.

    In retrospect we were just *fine* when we got unexpectedly pregnant at 26, no debt aside from a very manageable mortgage (less than rent), however we would not have considered ourselves so.

    That all said, we are also in Australia with very good inexpensive healthcare, so that essential is taken care of with taxes regardless of employment.

  25. Adrienne says:

    I agree with Leah. Don’t press your luck with fertility.

    Kids are as cheap or expensive as you want them to be. The mother of a large family I know used to say, “Kids aren’t expensive, lifestyles are expensive.” There’s freecycle, Goodwill, homemade baby food, public schools, state universities, etc.. Daycare, baby formula, and unanticipated medical expenses are really the only things that are hard to do on the cheap.

    Any reasonably responsible couple living below their means shouldn’t need any extensive planning to have children.

    Maybe I’m just tired of hearing people say that they need to be financially ready when they really mean that they don’t want to sacrifice their lifestyle in order to have kids.

  26. Kate says:

    The other thing to consider is what you’ll do if you don’t get pregnant the “conventional” way. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of getting pregnant, and move quickly and thoughtlessly down the road of infertility treatments, many of which are not covered by insurance.

    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t invest in having a baby, if that’s what they want, but rather to have a plan (and budget) in mind ahead of time. It’s too difficult to decide what to do when you’re in the moment. How far are you going to go? How many times are you going to try through IVF/IUI, etc.? How much are you willing to pay, and what are all the options, including adoption?

    Making babies is a huge business, which means we all need to be rational consumers.

  27. Kai says:

    To Adrienne (#19)
    What is wrong with people who know themselves sufficiently well to say that they want to keep their lifestyle, and thus will wait until they can afford kids AND their current lifestyle? To me, that simply speaks of appropriate self-assessment, and I appreciate the fact that since they don’t want to sacrifice, they will wait until they don’t have to – rather than depriving the kid of anything in the first place. If they find themselves never ready, then I’m glad they didn’t have kids, since it seems they didn’t want them more than they wanted the things you have to give up for kids. Good for those people for not having unwanted kids!

  28. I would say we went into having children with little idea of the expenses and also with little money in savings and some debt. Not a great situation to be in, but we’re making. I think the biggest thing people have to be prepared to do is to sacrifice. This requires a reduction in certain expenses (perhaps entertainment) and having a selfless focus.

  29. NFP says:

    Amen to Penny’s (#6) comments. I, too, am in the same situation as Penny and wouldn’t change it for the world! Children are a blessing and cannot be looked at from a purely economics point of view – you are reducing them to mere ‘things’ if you do, like a household appliance or something. I like this blog, but I disagree wholeheartedly with this post.

    And at Johanna (#3): I think equally as rude are people who say “Your hands must be full” or “don’t you know what causes that?” to parents with large families.

  30. Kai says:

    Why is it so offensive when people suggest getting prepared before having kids? It’s not to say that you *can’t* raise a functioning child when you’re $30 000 in debt, or addicted to drugs, or 19, or nomadic, or in school or anything. But there are situations that I think most people can agree are less desirable. And if waiting a little and preparing can put a couple in a better situation, why on earth not try to do so?

    Taking the time to get your financial house in order and putting away some money can only make things easier for your child when you do come to have one. Why are people so irked by the suggestion?

  31. A.M.B.A. says:

    Amen @ Courtney #16!

    Both of my parents died in a car accident when I was 14 and I adopted the first of my two children at age 46 (was married at age 42 for the first time). According to Trent, I guess I’m just not “wise” enough to give birth to kids “young” and promise myself they’ll have “young” grandparents.

    I’ve never been so insulted by a blogger post ever.

  32. Bella says:

    I think having kids is great ! I am a new mom (4 months) and think it really is all about the lifestyle. Plus, it is good to realize that the easy way is often the expensive way. Breastfeeding was hard, at first, but got easy after 3-4 weeks (thanks to life, I could make it happen). Life is hard when the baby is not sleeping, but it gets easier after she does. What people don’t know is that you can make your own formula. My pediatrician told my mother, when I was young, a recipe. A lot of them can be found on the internet.

  33. Scotty says:

    @AMBA – “According to Trent, I guess I’m just not “wise” enough to give birth to kids “young” and promise myself they’ll have “young” grandparents… I’ve never been so insulted by a blogger post ever.”

    And you know, there’s just as many people who would be offended by your comment. You really need to calm down. You put words into the author’s mouth that didn’t come out. Nowhere did Trent say it was somehow wise or unwise to have kids at a certain age. He said that based on his and his wife’s personal experiences, they make a choice. If you’re that insulted, you need to stop reading so critically into the post. Trent writes about as neutral non-offending as I’ve seen anywhere. Being offended by Trent is like being offended by the Cookie Monster.

    Listen, you’re right, people are free to have kids at whatever age they darn well choose. 20, 30, 40, 50… Whatever. As long as they’re raising the kids in a loving, balanced home, I don’t give a hoot how old the parents, or grandparents, are. There’s people out there of all ages who shouldn’t be rearing a geranium, let a long a human being.

    The reality is, people only live to a certain age. Whether or not you want to have active grandparents or be active grandparents yourselves is largely up to the parent. If you want to have kids when your 40 or 50, fine. But if that’s your choice, you have to live with the reality that someone who’s 80 probably won’t be as involved [as a grandparent] as someone who’s 60. That’s the reality – people slow down when they get older. It’s up to the parents to decide whether or not that’s important or not. For many, it’s not, and I respect that.

    There’s also another reality – health risks for the mother and child also start to increase dramatically after age 30. Sure, tons of women age 40+ have perfectly healthy kids, but numbers are numbers. Down Syndrome is a known biggy there.

    But please, don’t get so insulted by a blog post. That’s almost hilarious in and of itself. “Oh my God… I think I was just…. INSULTED… by something on the internet…”

  34. Adrienne says:


    There’s nothing wrong with not having kids (for whatever reasons). I just hate seeing dragged through a Vegas casino at 10pm or seeing a carseat in the back of a BMW convertible. I think it was Oprah who said, “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”

  35. Adrienne says:

    Seeing KIDS dragged through a Vegas casino. Having an edit feature on comments must be tough because I’ve never seen a blog with one. :)

  36. alex says:

    @AMBA, #22, Way to take something personally. He’s never met you, it’s not like he wrote the post just to hurt you.

  37. karishma says:

    I think being financially (and emotionally) stable before you have kids is definitely a good thing. At the same time, there really is such a thing as over-preparing.

    It’s very easy to look at those huge numbers that get tossed around as the total cost of having kids, and say “I can’t afford that; I must not be ready to have a kid yet.”

    But, as others have pointed out, despite medical advances, there’s still a biologically optimal time to have kids, and it’s sooner rather than later. Fertility techniques get better all the time, but they’re expensive. Waiting until you can afford kids might mean having to spend a sizeable chunk of those savings on trying to get pregnant (or adopting).

    Kids can be expensive, but they don’t need to be prohibitively expensive, and there’s tons of ways to reduce those expenses.

    Deciding to have kids, and when you have them is a personal decision, and I’m certainly not going to judge anyone for choosing to wait, or choosing to not have them at all. I’m just saying if you know you want kids, don’t let some arbitrary high net worth number be the reason you delay having them.

  38. Wes says:

    Sorry – but terrible post. The post makes kids out to be a terrible burden on the parents, but in reality the emphasis should be what a terrible burden the parents habits are on the parents. Decent health plan and watching where the dollars went our first son cost $100. Our second will cost a couple thousand but we are planning for it and no big deal. You would have to be a fool to not be able to find good deals on baby clothes and baby stuff (craigslist and $1 shirts, pants, etc.). All in all, I would say we are spending a lot more feeding this little cookie monster than we do clothing or anything else (17 months and eating everything he can get his little hands on). As far as toys, we try to refuse gifts every chance we get- he plays with spoons and bottle tops more than he does any other toys his grandparents have bought.

    In reality thought he hasn’t cost us hardly anything, but given us something invaluable in our lives. We can’t wait until No. 2 gets here in November.

  39. Kai says:

    To Adrienne,
    I agree. I work with kids and see sooooo many people who should not be parents. I think people should think long and hard before they decide to have kids, and determine whether they can really support them, and if they really want to make the necessary sacrifices.

    To further that, I think all the ‘my life would be meaningless without children’ people out there need to remember that not everyone is the same, and it works differently for everyone. Please stop telling everyone they need to have kids. Many people are hesitant for good reason, and if you have any doubt at all, it is better to not have children and avoid inflicting your issues on them.

    I think it’s a problem when someone won’t change their life to match their new parenthood status.
    But I’m ALL in favour of people delaying becoming parents because they are not willing to change their life.

  40. Great article and insight. We don’t always have the luxury to plan everything out. I had kids very young at age 23. I love being a young dad though. But you really have no clue as to the real cost. Especially when they get to college and need a car, insurance, cell phones, books, room and board, parking stickers, food, extra money, a computer, a refrigerator, furniture and the list goes on and on. Actually when they are in diapers and formula is the cheapest time of their lives and it gets more expensive as they get older. Buying used furniture and clothes from consignment shops is a great way to go. There are many ways to cut costs, you just have to think of them and not get too caught up in the moment and rack yourself up in debt.

  41. Systemizer says:

    “Invest your energy in building a sustainable career,” writes the full-time blogger.

  42. Peter says:

    I love reading your posts, most days you are right on the money, but today you have missed the plot! (Tammy you rock!!)

    Trent, my humble opinion is that I think you were wiser then about this issue in the past then you are now, perhaps if you took a longer harder look at the flip side of the coin you would reconsider your comments.

    1. Having kids will always rock your world, whomever you are, and however rich too. Its not a bad thing either nor something to be afraid of.

    2. Consider the consequences of waiting, which can be a lot worse than having to fork out for some diapers and daycare.

    3. Speak to a few people who had trouble getting pregnant, and ask them how much all the fertility treatments insemination and Doctors visits cost, let alone the anguish that goes with.

    One thing I have found that almost all parents agree with is how much joy kids bring and how its ‘the best thing that could have happened to them’ sure its hard work, but I don’t want to hear that the ‘expense’ of it is a consideration or reason to not have kids or to wait until you pushing 30
    to have them.

    You also never know what your kid is destined for either, it makes no difference where you come from, but rather where you are headed.

  43. Adrienne, Get Rich Slowly has the edit option. And you know, you’ve made me think that I should check that out for my own blog. I know I can edit my own comments there, but my readers probably can’t.

  44. Kevin says:

    @Kristen: Adrienne was kidding; many blogs have an ‘edit comments’ feature.

    If you’re using WordPress, check out WP Ajax Edit Comments – and no, I have no connection to the developer – I use it on my blog and it works perfectly.

  45. Wow, Trent. I have to say you COMPLETELY missed the boat on this one. I love your writings and have followed you for several years. This is the first time I have ever commented on a post.

    Children are NOT expensive. They certainly don’t have to be, at all.


    Breastfeeding saves boatloads of money. So do cloth diapers. How about hand-me-downs from other families, and resales? Each child becomes significantly LESS expensive because you already have so many things you need (crib, clothing, etc.). And even at that, they are just THINGS.

    Kids truly don’t need a lot. They need lots of love and lots of discipline. Parents who are present and who care MORE about the child than their bank account or investments.

    Adrienne (#19) was completely right when she said this:
    “Maybe I’m just tired of hearing people say that they need to be financially ready when they really mean that they don’t want to sacrifice their lifestyle in order to have kids.” Amen!!

  46. Mrs Embers says:

    We had out kids when we were comparatively young- we were 24 and 26 when the first was born, and the second was born 2.5 years later. The thing is, we didn’t plan it that way… they were both surprises. We were definitely not financially prepared, and we had some hard years before we decided to get out of debt and my husband got his current job.

    If we’d planned things, we might have waited a few more years. Things would have been a LOT easier for us, and less stressful, if we’d had enough money to start with (and especially if we were in better control of the money we had!) but as of right now, I wouldn’t change things.

    I like being a younger parent, but I have a lot of respect for people who decide to wait, and for those who think about it and decide that they don’t want kids, and they don’t let society or family pressure them into having them. Different things work for different people. Overall, though, I agree with Trent- not about the age thing, but about wishing he’d had his financial turnaround BEFORE the baby came along. I don’t wish we’d waited longer, but I would go back and change our budgeting habits earlier!

  47. Steve R says:

    If the economy keeps going the way it is, people will require a license to have kids. Hmmm, that’s not a bad idea for some folks :)

  48. JP says:

    Doesn’t it all boil down to deciding what is really most important in life?

    We have been there done that. Had our 3 “bio” kids by the time I was 34 and my husband was 40. Guess what? 6 more came along in other ways (some of those from people who couldn’t do it as mentioned above). My oldest is putting herself through college. We manage.

    The benefit? Our kids are learning what is most important. Money and things versus people and relationships which is much of what Trent talks about.

    Decide what is most important. Think about the end and when you look back, what will you see?

    Beyond blessed mother of many!!!

  49. Tom says:

    For those of us who went to university (which is a lot of people these days) and live in high cost of living areas I think it’s very difficult to have children before very late twenties or early thirties. Having kids at 25 when you only needed a high school degree to get a job is fine. By 25 you would have been working for more than five years. Now by 25 you’re lucky if you have one or two years of work experience and that’s if you can find a job at all. Also, cost of housing in my area (and I believe in many areas) has gone way up in recent years.

  50. Mule Skinner says:

    I had two kids with the wrong wife. But money was not an issue. We were so busy fighting over other things that we never noticed whether we had enough money or not.

  51. Jane says:

    Having children also motivated us to put our financial house in order. I agree with Trent that there’s nothing like a helpless baby to spur you on to change negative parts of your life. Perhaps this is because we weren’t in serious debt like Trent before we had kids, but I don’t think we misstep by waiting until after kids to get our act together. I rather see it as another blessing that our boys brought us – a deeper interest in our financial future.

    I think one thing that is overlooked in this discussion of when to have children is that some of us didn’t have a choice. I didn’t marry until I was 28. We had our first when I was 30 and second at 32. Having recently given birth, I can certainly say that I was jealous of women pregnant in their mid twenties, since I imagine it would have been easier on my body. But that was not in the cards for me. I think early thirties is still plenty young to start a family, but this is coming from someone who did not struggle with fertility. I might feel differently if I had.

  52. KC says:

    I can definitely see both sides to this coin. I’ll be 37 in a week – married for 10 years. We’ve got everything together – nice retirement plans, lovely home with room to grow, paid for cars, all the necessary insurance (health, life, etc) – we’ve got it together. We’ve traveled, done most of the things we’d want to do before having children – we have a wonderful marriage. We save over 30% of our income now. We couldn’t be more ready to have a kid financially and mentally.

    However if I have a kid now, it’ll likely be just one. We are having one kid who will probably not know their grandparents that well as they age (they are all already in their 60s). We will be putting a lot of responsibility on that kid – they’ll have older parents to care of one day and absolutely no cousins to speak of.

    However this child will have lots of resources at their disposal. They’ll inherit quite a bit from their grandparents eventually. They’ll also get a pretty solid sum from us. They may even receive the bulk of inheritance from their aunt and 2 uncles since they have no heirs. This kid will also get a great deal of love and support from the people I’ve mentioned.

    So, as you’ve pointed out, having children too soon creates problems. But as I’ve pointed out, waiting can create problems as well. But I think your point, which is to THINK before you start a family, is spot on. Frankly we’ve probably waited too long, but in hindsight I can’t figure at what point would have been good up until now. So we’ll make the best of it. At least we’ve thought this out and are making a conscious decision.

  53. Ellen says:

    I think it is very hard to achieve a balance among emotional, financial, biological, and psychological readiness. The first child is a shock no matter when he/she arrives.

    I got married in my mid-20s and started trying to get pregnant at 27, which took 4 years due to male-factor infertility (FYI, only one third of fertility problems are exclusively female). I caution all my friends to be careful with money and avoid debt before having a baby, and also to look for a job with good family benefits, in case they end up among the 1 in 8 couples diagnosed with infertility. If you decide to adopt domestically or internationally or through the foster system, your financial background and net assets will be investigated — more so if you take out a loan to assist with expenses. Even fostering is not as inexpensive as commonly stated; the state doesn’t cover all expenses and clothing allowances are particularly paltry. Most states do not mandate insurance coverage of infertility treatments, and many insurance companies will not even cover diagnosis. A high-risk pregnancy or birth or NICU stay can be ruinous on a high-deductible insurance policy (e.g., we had a $2000 bill for anesthesia for an unscheduled C-section because the anesthesiologist was “out of network”).

    Hope for the best, be aware of the worst possibilities, but know that kids have a significant effect on the family budget, no matter when and how they arrive.

  54. reulte says:

    Don’t press your luck with fertility …

    That made me laugh. Certainly it statistically gets more difficult to conceive as you age but nothing is definite. After 27 years of doctors telling me I would never have children . .. I bet you can figure out the next part of this sentence. Yep – a baby (and no IVF or artificial assistance). Was I prepared? No way. Did I want a child? AFter nearly 30 years of being told I couldn’t have any, I really couldn’t remember if I had ever wanted kids. The timing was very bad — I was in the middle of changing careers to something that included a lot of international travel and my father had just been diagnosed with cancer in stage IV.

    Life happens. Money gets spent. You’re never really prepared. All those platitudes are old and tired and pretty relevant. Sometimes you can plan kids (and other benchmarks of life) and sometimes you can’t. Trent is right in that he says you should understand the ramifications of having a child. But you should also try to understand the ramifications of all of your significant actions – getting a credit card, buying a house, getting married.

  55. Sarah says:


    I’ve had two pregnancies in my early 20’s and I can tell you that when I look at a women with kids, I can tell from their body if they had them in their 20’s or 30’s. Of course, there are female body-builders, etc., who are in great shape at any age. But yes, I think that women who have kids in their 20’s generally recover much, much faster and have much less lasting damage to their bodies than women who have kids later. For example, I have no stretch marks, scarring, and my body looks exactly the same as it did before. My first pregnancy was at 21.

  56. iris gavaldon says:

    with the slowing economy and rising prices makes saving money nearly impossible these days… it’s only a matter of time until my children head off to college/university

  57. aj says:

    Actually, I think that the most important issue before having children is really more about having the right attitude or mentality in place…and/or maturity.

    Money is important, and being financially prepared would be great –I wasn’t when I had my first two kids in my 20’s but I was a little closer when I had my last in my 30’s–but I think more importantly is to get it together emotionally, mentally, spiritually…

    Those who feel not ready because they need to get their financial affairs in order sound very responsible, with the right attitude, as long as it is not simply an “excuse” they are using. I don’t want to offend anyone, but sometimes we are not honest with ourselves about very important things. This comes from someone who admits they married someone for all the wrong reasons, then had 2 children with him for all the wrong reasons, to try to make things better (but I love them dearly! And always have!! I just didn’t love their father.) Some people may use the lack of money as a reason to NOT have children because deep down they are not ready for other reasons, reasons that they may not have admitted to anyone.

    I think it is more important to know yourself completely, be absolutely head-over-heels in love with your spouse you are creating this family with, and have learned what it means to be responsible…All these things go hand-in-hand. I think if you have your head on right it is a much bigger advantage than just having a big bank account (but to have both is awesome!)

  58. Brittany says:

    A+, Johanna. I started getting asked when I was going have children and why I wasn’t married yet when I was still in college.

    Penny–children are only a blessing inside a “healthy marriage”?

    Kevin#17 –Ahahaha. Love it.

  59. brooklyn money says:

    One cost of kids that is overlooked in this article can be your career/work success. My job requires me to be available all hours of the day and night and I travel a lot. Most of my friends are in the same position. That’s hard to do when you have children.

  60. Ely says:

    “I had stopped using birth control because of the cost.”

    On what planet is this not completely moronic??? You can’t afford birth control but you think you can afford a baby???

    oy the pain…

    I’m with Kevin. :)

  61. Crystal says:

    I was actually told by a commenter on a another blog that I would leave no mark in life since I wasn’t having kids. At first, I was insulted…then I realized she just said a lot more about herself than she actually hurt me…anyone who doesn’t think they have a value other than child-rearing needs some self-confidence.

    Yes, children are expensive, but like Trent figured out, they don’t have to be raised with $500 cribs. Having kids early in life or later in life will each have its own problems.

    In general, your body will appreciate the whole child-bearing process better when you’re younger, and your wallet will appreciate it more when you’re older. I think the real key is to make sure you are ready to give your life over to patience and love and selflessness…that’s pretty much the most important part, right?

  62. Jenna says:

    Tammy #18 – I’m glad that you are happy with the timing/choice of having your child. However, I can’t stand when people speak of how they would feel if the outcome were different – “Had we waited we may never have had her and that would have been one of the worst tragedies of our lives”
    As humans we don’t know what we don’t know. Had you not had your child, you wouldn’t know what you were missing. As of now I do not have children, but I hear this type of justification constantly when being questioned if/when we are going to have children. There’s no way to know the correct timing or fertility issues,how long parents/ grandparents will live, etc.

  63. ed says:

    Great post! I think this issue is on the minds of lots of young couples. Unfortunately, waiting until you are 30 or 40 to have your first child, is more risky and doesn’t solve the financial issues. Choosing to have no children is also difficult.

    I was 27 when married. My wife and I started having children immediately. 11 years later we have 3. My wife is great at finding deals on children’s clothes and families at church often give us lightly used clothes.

  64. Penny says:

    @Brittany #41

    I guess I mean to imply that a healthy relationship between the parents is more valuable than being upper middle class (for example). Sorta like the idea that you could pay for private school education for your kid, or send them to public school, but the way they are raised at home will have a bigger impact on their future, 98% of the time.

    In my own experience, I wasted some time/energy trying to prepare financially for this Life Event.

    The fiscal-preparation-aspect isn’t where ones’ focus should be prior to having kids.

  65. Jane A. says:

    You know, I may be wrong, but it isn’t just a matter of “now I’m going to have a child” in the same vein as “now I’m going to make a peanut butter sandwich”. Seems to me that a heck of a lot more than money should be involved in a discussion about the decision to have children! All the planning in the world doesn’t assure that you’ll be able to have children.

  66. Jason says:

    Having kids can be spendy. Here is what my wife and I do. It’s been a lower impact than it could be for sure. We couldn’t breast feed, not that we didn’t try, just not enough production. So we do have a $200 a month baby mix bill. We use Natures Only Organic Dairy Mix. Add some Lemon Codliver oil! YUM! Plus, super good for health… btw, we are 33 and 35 and have one 11mo old and another on the way…

    – Thrift Stores are Cheap!
    – Hand me Downs Rule it!
    – Make Your Own Bibs! (out of old diapers is great and cheap)
    – Wash Your Diapers (thrift store or craigslist and bleach!), only use paper at night.
    – Puree Your Own Food from Carrots to Cauliflower and freeze it for daily use. Double boil it to defrost it.
    – We have chickens, so egg is a given.

    We also aren’t much on toys. I grew up with a stick and had a great time. Imagination is huge. Let them play with it.

    Tell the grandparents that a crib or mattress or something bigger like that would be a better gift than a big plastic beeping thing. They’d love to help pay a portion of it I bet.

    Hope that helps some!

  67. Golfing Girl says:

    If everyone waited to have kids until they could afford them, the human race would cease. :)
    In all seriousness, children deserve some planning and sacrifice from the parents so I think Trent is just showing the reality of both sides of the coin. Yeah, if you have your kids at an early age, you’ll be around to see your grandkids, but you might not be able to buy them any Christmas presents if you’re like my cousin, who is a grandma at 35.

  68. Tammy says:

    Jenna, we wanted several kids and it still hurts sometimes to not have had more. Being lower income, we couldn’t afford to adopt and while we were foster parents for a while it was horrible, horrible AWFUL hard to watch them go back to their birth family.

    So. Yes. Life without our daughter would have been a tragedy for us. Not for everyone, no, but we still wish we could have found a way to have more kids.

  69. Anitra says:

    @KC (#38): If you and your husband want a child, go for it! You’ve pretty much described my parents’ position before I was born. They were 39 and 41, and yes, I am an only child. I did get to know one set of grandparents fairly well – in fact, my grandmother is still living independently, and she turned 93 the day after my daughter (her first great-grandchild) was born.

    I really appreciate all the resources my parents were able to provide for me; even if they weren’t able to get down on the floor to play as much when I was a toddler. Some were financial, but some were simply being able to share their life experience with me.

    Downsides? Well, I am dealing with some end-of-life/retirement issues with my own mother (who is 70) while also having young children at home. But my husband is helping on similar issues with HIS mother – and she’s only in her 50s. You have no way of knowing what your children will face once they are adults.

    In general, I think that there are advantages to having children both “early” or “late” in life. I would recommend to newly-married couples that they wait at least a year before trying for children, just to really start to get to know each other and get comfortable in their marriage before expanding their family. And yes, to be prepared financially – whatever that means for you. For my husband and I, it meant one of us having a large enough income (and low enough expenses) so that the other one could afford to stay home if that seemed best for our children.

  70. Todd says:

    @Crystal #43 “In general, your body will appreciate the whole child-bearing process better when you’re younger, and your wallet will appreciate it more when you’re older.”

    I love this sentence. What a great, concise way to phrase the entire issue.

  71. Nicole says:

    moom– Getting asked those questions is SO HARD. I NEVER ask people about their plans for children. I know much better from personal experience.

    If you haven’t, a quick step you can take are to have YOU start taking a complete multi-vitamin. I won’t go into detail why.

    Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a great book if you don’t have a copy of it and you’re not yet ready to see a doctor for more hardcore interventions.

  72. Personally, I think the expense of a child is a little overrated.

    I have a three year old so, of course, who knows what the future holds, but so far, the expenses for raising him and giving him a good life have not been overwhelming by any means.

    Maybe I’m just lucky, or there’s much more to come…but so far, we’ve handled it pretty well.

  73. Cheryl says:

    My husband and I (more me than him) have recently been giving consideration to a third child. We’re both still under 35, though it’s not far off. The real issue more than anything else is how to afford a third. While the costs of “stuff” would be minimal, and diapers and formula very short-term, it is the daycare cost that is unsurmountable. Given our current financial situation it is absolutely impossible to have two in daycare at the same time (our oldest is school age now). It truly pains me that the cost of childcare would be the prohibitive factor in adding a third child. We do not have an extravagant lifestyle, and we’re working hard to eliminate the small amount of credit card debt we have. However, student loans and daycare amount to 2/3 of my take home pay. My husband is convinced that the additional expense of raising a third child (aside from the short-term diaper, formulas, daycare) would never allow us any financial freedom.

  74. Joan says:

    My grandson became a father at age 16, his girlfriend was 17. He will be the first to tell you to wait to have children. That being said, They are great parents. My grandson was with the mother for the complete time she was giving birth and she had a hard time. Since the birth of the baby, they have both been very active in caring for the baby, both money and time. No, they are not married or living together. They both just give loads of time and money. I wish all parents could be as wonderful with their children. They are both calm and caring. The mother and grandchild live with the child’s grandmother; who insists that the parents make all the decisions to care for their child. The only time I have seen my grandson cry was when the place he worked closed and he was without a job (he said how am I going to provide for my child)(he quickly found another job). The child just turned two. Will the parents ever marry? Who knows? Right now, they are both working and considering college. Their daughter is a very lucky young child, she will always have the love of lots of relatives; and a wonderful mother and father who both work and care for her. No amount of money can buy the love that this child receives.

  75. Todd says:

    There’s no end to these kind of “what if” questions like “Is is better to be a young parent or an old one?”

    We moved to San Antonio when our kids were little. We’d grown up in Minnesota and we dreamed of never having to wear coats, never driving in snow, never feeling cold, and being able to swim nearly year round. It has been wonderful in many ways. Now, of course, our kids think it isn’t fair that their cousins got to grow up playing in the snow! They dream of snowmobiles and making snow angels.

    Once you decide the right age and the right amount of money to have children, then you are going to have to find the right place, the right kinds of friends, the right schools, the right food, the right doctors, etc. And you know what, you’ll have some regrets, your kids will have some regrets, and no matter what happens the best you’ll all be able to do is to look back and say, “We did the best we could with what we had.”

  76. Cheap Texan says:

    @50 – Nicole,

    I am definitely with you! That book saved us so much time and money! I think those basics should be taught in school.

    As far as starting a family, that’s extremely personal and I think you make sacrifices either way. My mother waas 21 and I distinctly remember financial issues they had when I was younger. Although it’s nice now because my parents will (hopefully) have a long relationship with my son. I waited until I was 28 and had been married 7 years before starting a family.

    What irritates me is when people mock our choice to have one child!

  77. ed says:

    The element you are missing here is the religious one. God issues a command in the Bible to “multiply”. It indicates that “children are the blessing of God” and they should be viewed as blessings and not burdens. It is unresponsible to view children only in light of finances. Finances are important don’t get me wrong, but shouldn’t be the only factor when deciding to have children.
    Finally, the Bible also requires belivers to contribute 10% of their income to their local church. Should we forgo attending church or wait until we are more “financially stable” before attending a church?

    I think not.

  78. Georgia says:

    I did not especially want children (I was from a family of 7 kids and helped raise 1 or 2 of them.) However, I was certain getting pregnant would be no problem. Have you ever heard the old saying, “Fertile as a turtle”? That was my family. Both grandmothers had 10-12 children and my mother died at 30 with her 6th one.

    I was married at 26, immediately pregnant, and had her just before my 27th birthday. No. 2 was planned. We quit birth control and the next time I could get pregnant, I was. About 1 month or less. He was born when I was 30.

    I turned out to be a halfway decent mother and often thought of having 2 more, but my husband said no. Some said to quit birth control & not tell him. But I informed them that having children was a “joint” decision and not mine alone.

    We were blessed at the time in that we each had a good job, had low debt, and had good insurance for No. 1. But times did get rough through the years. When #2 was born, we were single income (farm hand) and had no insurance. We survived and love each other tremendously.

    As Trent said, try to be as financially sound as possible. I would add, as others did, try to be as emotionally sound and ready for children before you conceive. Don’t have them if you’re not certain you really want to be a parent.

  79. Lauren says:

    We had kids when we were young and broke. Not in credit card debt or making irresponsible financial choices, but just out of college and broke. Was it hard? Sure. I would have liked to have been able to buy a $500.00 crib and a wardrobe of adorable designer clothes. Those were never options for us.

    Reality was we used mostly second-hand stuff. I nursed. Our big expenditure was a $300.00 car seat, which we paid for mostly with gift cards. I have zero regrets about not being totally financially stable when we started our family. We weren’t on welfare or anything!

    Now we’re expecting our fourth and I’m 32. Are we totally financially set? Nope. Still paying off those student loans, still have a big mortgage and I stay home with the kids (always have.) Raising our kids is a total blessing, and although I can agree that you shouldn’t try to have babies while you’re in dire straits, I think something as personal as starting a family cannot be reduced to a spreadsheet or bank statement.

    You make do with what you have. I don’t know anyone who has regretted having their children, but I know a lot of people who’ve regretted waiting too long (because of unforeseen fertility problems.) I also think people that wait many years to start a family sometimes have trouble adapting to the major life changes that come with parenthood. The couple in their late 30s that are used to sleeping in on weekends, eating out whenever they want, going on vacation on a whim, hanging out with friends all the time – the realities of parenthood are harder to accept than for the 23-year-old couple who has never had “the good life.”

  80. iris gavaldon says:

    Why does it take so long for post to be approved… are the moderators bias or something

  81. Jan says:

    My parents struggled with their five – all of whom went to college and are alive and well. My parent’s parents struggled with their collective six. Both had spouses die, went through the depression.
    I subscribe to the “there is never a good time to have a baby”. You will get used to whatever the lifestyle. Your child will as well. You will NEVER be a perfect parent. You will ALWAYS question if you could have done it differently.
    And yes, my children did (and do as adults) cost me a lot. I would not trade them for the world. We have traveled the world together and now talk through things as life goes on.
    Looking at the current generation- you all seem to only marry when you are ready to have a baby- so what is the question?:>)

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