It seems to be pretty common for people to believe that having kids is an expensive endeavour. The cynical part of me thinks maybe the people spreading this idea are the same ones who spend tens of thousands of dollars on their weddings.
Now to be fair, of course kids are going to have some impact on your wallet. Unlike most things in your life, kids are people too so you can’t sell them or just neglect them if times get tough. There is a floor to how low you can go with your spending on kids. It would be criminal to not feed them properly, for example.
But within the parameters of making sure you’re not neglecting your kids (or on the other hand, spoiling them), there is a huge spectrum in terms of how much they can actually cost.
For starters, you have to remember that each person you add to your household has a reduced marginal cost. This starts when you get into a serious relationship with someone. Two people living together is cheaper than the sum of two individuals funding individual lifestyles. Adding a third person in the form of a child is cheaper still than when you added the second person. As most people tend to not live in one-bedroom houses and don’t drive two-seater cars, chances are you already have the basic infrastructure in place to support your first child.
Everything beyond that can really vary wildly in terms of how much it costs you. From cots to car seats to strollers to baby clothes, baby stuff can either be bought brand new for thousands of dollars or second hand for tens of dollars. Even basic stuff like baby formula comes in budget and gold-plated versions. Of course, while not everyone succeeds in breast-feeding, it’s the cheapest option in the early months. Disposable nappies are much more expensive than cloth nappies and so on.
Furthermore, when you have your first kid, you’ll find your friends and family are more generous than you ever realised. Chances are you’ll be offered more hand-me-down clothes, toys and baby equipment than you know what to do with. Things you thought you might have to spend a lot of money on will be given to you because someone else’s kid doesn’t need it any more. Now I concede not everyone might have the luxury of a supportive community, but most people will be surprised at the freebies that come their way.
If you play your cards right, your child will never be cheaper than when they’re a baby. Babies hardly eat anything and they have very limited wants and needs. As they get older and start school, you’ll probably get fewer hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. Eventually once they’re teenagers they’ll eat everything in the fridge and will probably be involved in extracurricular activities at school that can get expensive at times. Though even then a bit of Googling can probably help you come up with some techniques to manage expectations before they get the idea you’re going to just stump up for everything.
There are other valid points to take into account when considering whether you will have kids, such as environmental impact and whether you’re cut out to be a parent (sure there are a few people who probably shouldn’t have kids, but I’ve heard plenty of people say they don’t think they’d be a great parent when honestly, they’d be perfectly fine at it, if not downright amazing). But the financial impact isn’t as cut and dried as some would have you believe.
Another financial impact of having kids, of course, is having a support network for when you get towards the end of your life and it’s time for your kids to return the favour in terms of providing care. This is definitely not a reason to have kids in and of itself (that’d be pretty cold), but it’s a good thing to take into account if you’re looking at the impact over your lifetime – love is a two way street!
If you’re the kind of person who reads financial independence blogs and thus tends to challenge the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses”, having children is definitely levelling up. Suddenly, it’s not just about monitoring and questioning your own wants and desires and society’s expectations of you, you now have to do that for the next generation and hopefully teach them how to do it for themselves. It’s ultimately this that will determine how expensive an exercise parenting turns out to be for you.
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