Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a frequent search term that leads people here to Frugal Dad: “Should We Pay Off Credit Card Debt Before Having a Baby?” I make two assumptions from the volume of hits I’ve received–there are a lot of people interested in having a baby, and there are a lot of people deep in credit card debt. Many financial planners out there advise to have your financial house in order before expanding your family. In general terms, I think that is pretty good advice. However, I do not fully subscribe to the idea of holding off on having children just because you owe money. Here are a few reasons why.
If You Wait for the Perfect Time, You May Wait Forever
So many times in our lives we put things off in the name of waiting for a better time to get started. Many people put off weight loss plans until next Monday, or next month, or maybe January 1st. High school graduates put off immediately attending school to “experience life” through backpacking adventures, or working, or just taking a break and living at home. But those things seem awfully trivial compared to the idea of having a child. Children are our legacy. Raising a child is one of the most beautiful experiences two people can share, and it deepens the love shared between partners in parenting. Because we never know what twists and turns life will throw our way, it isn’t advisable to wait to have children simply in the name of finances.
Kids Are Not Really That Expensive
When you think about it, babies do not require as much upkeep as us adults. Sure, they must be diapered and fed, and there are a few other baby expenses unique to having children, but babies do not eat nearly as much as grown adults. Infants have not yet been exposed to commercialism, so their wants and desires are fairly easy to cover without spending much money. Of course, as they grow older kids do add additional expenses to your household budget. Hopefully by the time you are school shopping and fitting them for their first bicycle you will be doing better financially, and can easily handle any budget impacts.
Kids Can Inspire Greatness From Parents
When my wife and I decided to try for our first child some thought we were a too young. We married at 20 years old (well, my wife was 19, a bit shy of her 20th birthday). We were so young we toasted sparkling grape juice at our wedding! However, we were both mature beyond our years and neither of us believed in long engagements. After all, once you’ve met your soul mate, why delay the inevitable?
I had just started an entry level call center customer service job when my wife and married, and I quickly recognized moving up in the corporate world would be more difficult without returning to school to finish up my degree. I put school on the back burner, and instead spent the first year or so of marriage just enjoying being married. When my daughter was born everything changed. It was a reality check that led to a wake up call, of sorts. Suddenly I realized there was more at stake than just my wife and I surviving, financially. I wanted nice things for my daughter. I wanted her to have an easier path than I did (although thanks to the hard work of my mom and grandparents, I had it pretty good, too).
So the summer after she was born I enrolled in a local university, changed majors to business, and embarked on a long, challenging pursuit of a college degree. It was probably the worst timing possible considering I had a wife and newborn daughter at home, but I was not going to put off the pursuit of my dreams any longer.
When deciding whether or not to start a family, do not allow financial issues to completely dissuade you. Give more consideration to the partner you have chosen to share this responsibility. Give more consideration to readying your home for a child. Do not allow money to control your destiny, and the destiny of your children.