Today, I want to show off some pictures that a friend just sent to me, so I've fabricated a contrarian personal finance opinion about babies. Neither the pictures nor the opinion is meant to induce you into reproduction, but it could have that effect (especially because the baby pictures are of my son in the squishy faced stage that yields maximum uterus quivering for women of reproducing age).
Babies are not net worth killers!
Most parents will tell you that their kids are their biggest and best expenses ever, and its popular within the personal finance world to call children net worth killers or financial vampires (they slowly drain your bank account without actually killing you).
While I agree that children can be big expenses, I think they are, more often than not, the impetus behind a quest for financial freedom and the force that causes parents to get their shit together and act like grown ups when it comes to money.
Be honest- did you have financial goals before baby?
Of course, you're probably a personal finance blogger so you've had financial goals since you were nine years old, but I can say that I never had a single realistic financial goal prior to having a baby. I think that everyone eventually has a "Personal Finance Moment", a moment where getting control of their money matters because something is more important than money. However, I think babies factor into a huge number of these personal finance moments.
When my husband and I first started seriously talking about having kids (6 weeks into our accidental pregnancy), my husband immediately developed very clear career goals. He changed jobs and got about an 80% pay raise (for a few months), and he solidified plans for getting his PhD (something he had been considering for the past 6 years). You're wondering the primary motivating factor behind the PhD? Future income.
On the other hand, I got serious about learning about investments, saving money, and enacting lifestyle changes that would allow me to take 12 weeks of maternity leave (4 without income) and move across the country for my husband's PhD program.
For our last 7 months as DINKs, we grew a huge pile of cash because we were serious about saving for baby. All told we were able to buy a $65K house with cash, move across the country, and take a few weeks of unpaid maternity leave without horrible financial stress. If you would have told me that I could do this prior to my pregnancy I would have laughed in your face.
Babies make it hard to spend money on stupid stuff
Babies might be expensive (daycare alone runs more than $1000 per month), but for me, my baby eliminated a lot of mindless spending. When you are untethered by a 15lb weight that also cries and wants to be fed every 2 hours, eating out might sound like a great convenience. With an ankle-biter in tow, it's not.
For example, we went to Chik-Fil-A last Saturday (which is known for being kid friendly), and it was a bit of a nightmare (but one that included delicious fried chicken). Maybe I'm a bad parent because I can't get my son to eat chicken nuggets rather than play in the play place. And maybe I'm a bad parent because my son screamed at the top of his lungs for 15 minutes as I attempted to drag him from the play place put his shoes on and get him out of the restaurant. But if that's how my son behaves at a Fast Food joint, I can't even imagine a nice restaurant (okay, I can- he's been fine, but we also had an army of grandparents in tow).
I'm also no longer inclined to spend money on movies (as that also requires a babysitter and about a month of planning), clothing (it just gets dirty when I play with my son), exotic ingredients for fancy recipes (just not happening), or really any of the trappings of a successful lifestyle. Since most of my desired recreational spending requires both financial and time inputs, and the time inputs have dropped significantly it doesn't make much sense to spend the financial parts.
As my son gets older, I definitely hope to start doing more stuff than we do today (most of our outings are limited to the nearby park or friends houses), but I think our focus has already shifted to enjoying activities where we get a huge bang for our buck- Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer, Organized sports for our son, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Free Music, Netflix and snowboarding (yes, its a good value if you do it enough).
Babies solidify the time>money equation
As a very young adult, if you would have asked me if it was possibly to lead a rich and meaningful life with an income below the poverty line, I would have absolutely said no (this is only odd because my spending my first year out of college was below this line).
After tracking our spending for a year and half (since Kenny was born), I have confidence that our spending could drop that low, and we would lead contented, meaningful lives. We could support ourselves on my husband's stipend and our rental property income for at least a few years. Because we believe in practicing Agile Finances we are continuously evaluating whether my current earnings are in fact worth the time sacrificed away from my son. My husband and I have agreed that because I earn a lot of money in a very flexible job, and we have the worlds best babysitter that its worthwhile for me to keep working. If any part of that equation changed, I think that our decision would change too.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.