It can be hard to decide if you can afford to have kids.
One of our friends recently got laid off from a job, and was saying that now he and his wife would have to wait to start their family.
Another friend has been debating whether or not she and her husband can afford to have a third child.
I can understand why they are carefully considering the financial costs of having children. After all, a 2012 government report estimates that it costs $235,000 to raise a child. That’s a lot of money, even in a good economy.
But here’s the thing. You can’t prepare for every single situation when you have kids. You could struggle to conceive and end up spending money on fertility treatments or adoption. Your decision to have just one more child, may result in having twins. Your child could be born with complications, or develop an illness and need expensive medications or therapy. You can’t possible foresee what activities your kids will want to participate in when they are older. You can’t anticipate what expenses will come your way as a parent.
You’ll have no idea how strong a desire you will have to provide the very best for your kids.
How To Decide If You Can Afford to Have Kids
Deciding if you can afford to have kids shouldn’t be about how much money you make or how much money you have in the bank. It’s about whether you are ready to handle the tough financial decisions you have to make as a parent.
Instead of asking if you can afford to have kids, ask yourself these questions:
Am I willing to put others’ needs ahead of my own?
One of the biggest transformations you’ll make as a parent is that suddenly your life isn’t just about you anymore. You’ll have to make decisions on how to spend your money that aren’t always all that fun, in order to provide what’s best for your family.
Am I willing to forgo instant gratification for greater, long-term goals?
There may have been a time in your life where you if you saw something you wanted you bought it. But parenthood changes that. You’ll need to consider what values you want to instill in your children and what goals you have for your family before you’re ready to spend. Having a child is an investment in the future. If you’re willing to give up what you want right now in order to get something more important to you later, then you’ve developed a mindset that will bode well for you as a parent.
Am I willing to sometimes let my career take a backseat to my family?
There will be times when your children need you. Whether it is because they’re home sick or they have an important school program, you will probably want to be there for them. You may hesitate to work overtime when asked because it cuts into family time. You or your partner may want to become a stay-at-home parent. All of these things can affect your ability to advance your career. It’s possible to have it all, but not without some emotional sacrifice. Understanding that can mean you’re ready for family life.
Am I prepared to do whatever it takes to provide for my family?
One of the things I’ve learned since having twins, is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. You might think that you can’t afford kids, but once they have arrived, you realize that you will figure out a way to make the numbers work. If that means cutting back in some areas of the budget, you’ll do it. If it means finding a new job, you’ll do it.
Sure, having a steady income, money in an emergency fund and being able to live within your means, are all very good ways to decide if you can afford kids. But you also have to be prepared to experience the emotional costs. You will be opening your heart to a love like no other. That special connection you make with your family changes everything.
When you’re ready for that kind of love – when you’re ready to make good financial decisions in emotionally-charged situations, you can afford to have kids.
For more posts on the connections between family and money, check out Women’s Money Week.