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Monday, January 23, 2017

A Reader Asks: Do I Make Enough Money To Have Kids?

I recently received a message on Facebook from a couple that are interested in having children, but are worried that they don't make enough for the woman to be a full-time mom, and they were curious what I spend on Anders.

Before I share what I spend on Anders, here are some things that I know:

1) There is a wealth of information about this on the internet that can be Googled. There are even cost calculators that you can do by geographic area. Assume that your costs will be higher than those listed if you will not be feeding your child fake food. Also, cheap plastic diapers and wipes gave Anders diaper rash, so we used the Seventh Generation brand which is much more expensive. We used plastic diapers when we were out. We used cloth diapers at home, but I did not wash them myself, I had a diaper service. You could save money by using cloth diapers and washcloths and washing them yourself. Also, I was never willing to use the cheapest childcare available for Anders (daycares), so my child care costs (high quality babysitters) were always higher than what the websites list as well.

2) I read that parents spend about 33% of their expendable income on their first kid. If they have a second child that number goes up to 41%. If they have a third child that number goes to 47% and after that it stays around there, just under 50% regardless of how many children the couple has.

So my first thought is: Do you have expendable income?

Note that at my house, one cannot say, "No." Because my husband worked minimum wage jobs for ten years and during that time lived on just 20% of his income. No joke. So literally no one can tell him that they "can't save."

Now, what my husband did, I do not think most people are capable of doing. The sacrifices he made blow my mind. He parked miles from venues but never once paid for parking until he was over thirty years old. He periodically slept in his car for a few months to save on rent. He shared a studio apt with three other people. He couch surfed for years while working and saving. He worked as a bus boy at a restaurant and only ate the free food from there. The only food he was willing to pay for was Ramen noodles and cans of tuna fish. He drove a car with no a/c and a busted window in Los Angeles for over half a decade. He did not go out to eat or to movies - ever. He did not pay for books or movies, he only rented from the library. Stuff like that.

If you have a dream and you can make these sacrifices for it, even working minimum wage jobs, you can save. So, regardless of how much you make, what is your savings rate? Assume that 30% of your income needs to go to your child and another 10% needs to be saved each year, can you live on 60% of your income?

Surprise! If you were married to my husband, saving 10% would not fly. He would say you should save a minimum of 30%. Assume you will spend 30% on the child and save 30%. Can you live on 40% of your income? Start experimenting now to see. How does it feel to make those sacrifices? Because if you are not happy to do it now, when you are getting enough sleep, you will feel much less happy about doing it when you are a bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived parent.

If you are going to have a child you should definitely have six months of income stashed in a savings account for emergencies. If you are Mormon, you have to have an entire year. Do you have that?

3) Another thing I know is that, from the book, The Price of Motherhood, if the woman makes less than 50k a year, it is a better financial decision for her to stay home than it is for her to work. This is because the costs of childcare and taxes negate the entire worth of the woman's salary if it is below 50k. If you haven't read that book, I recommend it.

4) For Tom and me, our highest value is health. I would consider it cruel to have a child that I couldn't afford to feed a nutritionally-dense diet. Can you afford to feed your child real, chemical-free food? If not, start making friends with local organic farmers.

Also, remember that you need to prepare your body for two years before you have the child to maximize the DNA you pass on (this is from what I have read about epigenetics). Have you been doing that? Have you read about the pregnancy-prep diet in Nourishing Traditions?

5) Tom and I take pride in our family being "hard to kill." Are you prepared for black swan emergencies? Do you have a gun and know how to use it, gold and silver coins, medical supplies, batteries, and two months of stored water and food and a way to cook that food if there is no power? If you live in a cold climate and the power is out, how will you heat your home? Do you have a wood stove and two months of back up wood? *Assume it is not safe to leave your home for two months and figure out how you will survive. If you are Mormon, assume a year. (I really respect the Mormons in this area!)

In addition, have you taken an EMT class? Not CPR, that is basically useless, EMT. Have you studied a martial art, hopefully krav maga so that you can protect your family if there is ever an emergency?

Remember that children cost a lot more in time than they do in money. Assume that your family will now be your hobby. After work, are you happy to skip your favorite activity or show/video game and instead go to krav maga for your family? For the next year, experiment with having no down time. Instead, spend your free time on your unborn child – working extra to get the emergency food stash, money, and skills you need for your family to be hard to kill. How does that feel? Are you happy to be a king instead of a squire? If not, you will most likely not enjoy having a family. (The king/squire comment is referencing this post. If you have not read it, I recommend it:

6) Finally, what do I spend on Anders every year? I don't have the info with me for the first few years, but in both 2015 and 2016 we spent about 18.5k, not including food or plane tickets. Here is the breakdown:

2015 (Anders was 3)

$10k on childcare
$5k on classes, camps, experiences, books, and toys. (We buy almost no toys, opting instead for experiences and camps.)
$100 on haircuts
$2.5k on health, this includes insurance (catastrophic coverage only), and dental apts. Keep in mind dental costs would be a lot higher if we agreed to fill his cavities. And medical costs would be higher if we went to the doctor for "checkups."
$900 on clothes

2016 (Anders was 4)

$4k on childcare
$11k on classes, camps, experiences, books, and toys.
$150 on haircuts
$2.5k on health, this includes insurance (catastrophic coverage only), and dental apts.
$1k on clothes

Food costs an additional $1k per month if we are feeding Anders in Los Angeles and an additional $200 a month if we are feeding him in Nicaragua.


-Where you live matters the most. If you live in Nicaragua and make 30k, you are rich. Like, maid, cook, driver rich. If you make 200k in Los Angeles, you still can't afford those things.

-There are ways to do kids for a lot less than what I spend, of course. If you have a social network that you can rely on for hand-me-downs, that can save you money. Goodwill is a great option, but it's a big time investment. If you get the plastic tubs now and start hitting the store once a week, you could have a good collection of clothes two years from now when you need them. It doesn't work to go there when you need the clothes, as you will leave with only one or two items each time you go.

-If you have relatives nearby that would babysit once a week for a full day, that would help significantly. You will need time off. After Anders was a newborn, Tom and I got zero help from our families. Many families try to do without time off. I think that, except for a select few, this doesn't work. I think planning to have no time off is basically planning to end up divorced.

-When Anders was younger we didn't go to any classes (except for his RIE baby class), so I imagine those costs were negligible. There are free classes offered at libraries and through homeschooling networks that I know are available, but in general I found them to be not what I was looking for. I think that if Tom and I had a stronger social network (which would require being more mainstream) they might have been.

-I don't think kids need their own rooms until they are much older. So one way to save money is to plan on sharing a room with your child until he/she really wants one of his/her own.

-I do think it's important for you to think about what will keep your family together. Because if you don't plan for it, your family will most likely disperse and then – what was the point of having kids? This means: Are you in a city near your own family? Are you in a city you could live in for the rest of your life? Are you in a city you would be proud to have your child live in for the rest of his/her life? Are you in a line of work that you can share with your child? Start thinking now about how you will involve your child in your work life. Start thinking now about your grandchildren and great grandchildren. Have you read The Little House books? They were poor, and they had a happy family life. But the children were malnourished and unable to produce viable offspring. For me, that is a big fail. They would have been better off limiting themselves to one child. Or staying in the big woods where they had the support of their families. Either way, the point is to start thinking long-term. Most people think that if the children survive to adulthood, the parents were successful. I disagree. I think the children must survive to adulthood and be better off physically, emotionally, and financially for the parenting to be deemed successful. (Note that I am not suggesting parents should be perfect, just that they should think realistically and long-term about their abilities to do better in all three areas than their own parents did.)

-Tom and I would save quite a bit of money if I would stop writing this blog, and instead spend my free time growing veggies, preserving food, taking Anders on hunting and fishing trips, and learning how to make our clothes and do basic home repairs. I recommend saving money by not starting a blog! :)

-If you can get your hands on The Baby Decision by Merle Bombardieri, I highly recommend it. And one of those books along the lines of 100 Questions to ask before getting married. I do not agree that love is enough. (I think one should breed primarily with one's head, not one's heart.) Values and long term plans should be addressed before the long term commitment is made.

-And finally, if you don't do any of these things that I recommend, and you decide to be what I would call "irresponsible," remember that because you read this blog you will probably still be better than 99.9% of the parents out there.

I give you sooooooo many point just for even considering these things before having kids!

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