I cannot tell you the amount of times I have heard that financial independence is simply not possible when budgeting for a baby. That as soon as you procreate, all notions of economic autonomy go out the window, along with your sleep, sanity and sex life.
“Must be nice, but wait until they have kids.”
“Whatever. Saving is easy when you have no dependents.”
“You can’t be good with money with mouths to feed.”
Is it true that having children burden us so much that we lose all sense of fiscal responsibility? Are kids so expensive that our only destiny is to forever bounce from one pay check to another, always sacrificing in order to make ends meet?
Maybe for some in certain circumstances, but in reality, it’s likely those circumstances existed before the baby. The baby just stretches an already lean budget, making what is a difficult situation even tighter.
But for those who aren’t in financial straits, why is our view of the financial burden of children so bleak and one-dimensional?
Since finding out we were having a baby earlier this year, we’ve been determined (if not a bit excited) to see how our FIRE numbers will change.
Currently, we routinely save and invest up to 80% of our incomes.
The process looks like this: money comes in, we save first, pay expenses and bills second and then live on the rest.
Whether or not we’re going to be able to do this with the same ferocity alongside budgeting for a baby remains to be seen. One thing we can control now, however, is how much we spend in anticipation of our new addition.
From the beginning of my pregnancy, I’ve come to see first-hand how the marketing of stuff ramps up in the targeting of soon-to-be parents for what they need (not want – need) in order to have healthy, happy spawn.
Here’s how we’ve combatted that in order to make sure we’re still achieving that, without blowing our budget through the roof, and compromising on our FIRE goals.
Living on one income early, saving the rest.
I’ve written about this in the media a fair bit because I think it’s very prudent if you can give it a go.
We learnt to live on one income early on, saving the rest in a separate baby fund that was dedicated to buying both baby stuff we needed, and also giving me an extra buffer for disposable funds should I decide to take a little bit longer off than first anticipated.
We had a goal of having $15,000 in there by November – some of it we’ve spent on the bigger-ticket items we needed, like a car seat, modern cloth nappy stash and a doula, but the rest is for us to play with as we want.
It will also serve to ease the burden of the one-income sticker-shock during my maternity leave, and give us an extra buffer if I decide I want to take a bit longer away from the business (when my government maternity payments end).
Creating a baby budget.
We created a baby budget for living on one income, which included me going through our expenses to minimise or pause what we wouldn’t need.
Some of my business subscriptions could stop, some things that were entertainment-related went in the bin (bye bye Hayu, I have a feeling I’m not going to have time for your mind-numbing goodness anymore), and I shopped around on some of our insurances and dues to lower the cost.
I largely kept the ‘social’ category in tact to account for a new type of socialising. Think less boozy Sunday afternoons, more mummy midweek brunches.
On the subject of being organised, we also made a baby list on Wunderlist (one of my favourite free list resources) and were ruthless on what we wanted and needed – no twenty million blankets or endless amounts of clothes, five types of barrier cream and all those electric baby accessories that line the shelves of baby shops with enormous price tags.
We were strict on selecting only things we had been told multiple times (by different parents) that we’d need, or those aligned with our parenting preferences. Everything else, we decided we would get once he arrived and the need was proven, including a pram.
Yep, no pram. We’re baby-wearers, yo.
Getting everything secondhand and freecycled.
This has been such a huge part of our money-saving baby journey. We have literally saved thousands by getting things for free or secondhand on Facebook marketplace and pay-it-forward groups.
I cannot stress this enough – people are so generous once they know you’re expecting. As in, I’d go and pick something up and I’d be presented with an array of other things offered up as well.
So far, I’ve picked up a baby bath, a baby bouncer, a tummy time mat, a change table, nursery rhyme books – all free, from people in my neighbourhood. Someone even gave me the whole Peter Rabbit book series – those things go for a bomb.
For everything else, I’ve saved up to 90% on the retail price by buying secondhand. Think an Ergobaby carrier, a double electric breast pump, a MotherCare bassinet, virtually all unused. And when we had our baby shower, we asked for only some key, practical things if folk felt generous enough to bring something along. They weren’t the fluffy, idealised baby things but they were just honestly what we needed.
Buying in bulk, upfront.
If it’s something you need and know you’ll use, buying in bulk can be a major cost-saver.
We invested a few hundred on a stash of modern cloth nappies and wipes at a baby fair, which we hope will last our little bambino until he’s ready to brave the porcelain throne solo. FYI – this is a really good read if you’re interested in the cost breakdown and environmental impact of cloth vs disposable.
I am making my own baby products from products I already own – like coconut oil, essential oils, cocoa butter and castile soap, in containers I already have, to save on the cost (and chemicals) of mainstream baby cults… I mean, brands.
Putting your money where your heart is.
As with everything on this FIRE journey, allocating your cash flow to things that you prioritise is key.
What matters to you on your parenting journey? What kind of pregnancy or birthing experience do you want? What kind of parent do you want to be?
We are, and always have been, an experience over things kind of unit. After a miserable and very sick pregnancy, we decided that we wanted to pursue an intervention-free water birth with full gusto. We wanted to be present – and even enjoy – every moment of bringing our son into the world, together, sans medication or surgery, and completely united.
In order to best architect the best birth experience possible, we brought on an amazing birth doula and have spent many hours researching the birthing process together, even taking a CalmBirth weekend course.
We’ve practiced breathing, acupressure, tried to understand the mechanics of pain and how it can be overcome and will go into our birth, whatever may happen, with that knowledge.
On the other hand, one of the things that didn’t rate highly on our list was showy, expensive activities. I don’t like the idea of enrolling in flashy classes or groups just to feel a sense of social achievement that I’m in a club, and I resent predatory marketing that makes parents feel like they are doing their children a disservice by not involving them.
This is obviously all a personal preference but instead, I created a series of free, low-cost or just really fun sounding activities for me and bambino ahead of time. Ones that take advantage of our community services, or align with our lifestyle.
This is the kind of exercise that helps you funnel your money into things that matter to you, and when budgeting for a baby, is going to make all the difference.
Hey there! Love the post. Great to tell people about the second hand market, having been through buying stuff for my sisters kids, I have been able to suss out great bargains on Gumtree and FBMP, new stuff in stores can be ridiculously expensive! Also LOL at the “just wait till they have kids” part, People say that to me ALL THE TIME because I don’t have kids, but talk about finance and wanting to start a family. Time will tell I guess!
I now have a child and can honestly say that none of our principles on money have changed. The additional family headcount has meant we’ve needed to readjust our retirement numbers a bit but absolutely not to the extent that it makes FIRE unachievable within the next decade. Whatever you decide will be the right thing for your financial goals because at the core of it, you’ve got the right foundations in place, and that doesn’t change with kids.
Love this blog. We are firing and have 1 baby, #2 on the way. It’s not a choice if children or fire, yes having a baby has made it slower but the joy is worth it and we are looking forward to fire with new zeal as we can spend more time with our children. 2 Nd hand and buy nothing are fantastic. Our biggest expense is going private but completely worth it as that’s the birth experience I want and have saved hard to afford
Beautifully put, Jess! While the joy is priceless, the children themselves aren’t, but still not to the extent that it’s a ‘one or the other’ decision. Congrats on baby number two and hope everything goes well!
I agree it’s definitely possible. The biggest expense however is not the daily nappies or the food (not when they’re young anyway) it’s owning a house big enough to accommodate a family. I’m separated and now have a blended family with 4 kids. If we had no kids, a 1-bdr would do the job. The difference between a 1-bdr and 5-bdr is significant. Not to mention 25% of our expenses go to our exes for child support. We will likely need to support our kids to some degree, into university. If you add up these costs you are likely looking at needing another $million+ for the 20+ years. I’m not saying it can’t be done — I’m nearly there — but it’s helpful to be realistic about the big picture expenses!
Hi Alison, thanks for sharing your experience. That’s an interesting perspective although it certainly doesn’t make it unachievable as you’re well on the way even with five kids and child support obligations! I’m curious, are you in Australia? Why would university fees be factored into your plans, unless they aren’t covered under a government loan scheme?
Great blog Michelle.
Really great to see your follow up comments now with baby and would love to see a follow up article.
I agree, everyone said how expensive it would be but I really haven’t found that to be so. The medical costs were the bulk. We were very blessed to be gifted money and a number of our big ticket items. And then as you said, the gifts and the second hand stuff has just come from everywhere. I did a little bit of op shopping, but other than that, I’ve bought maybe 3 new clothing items for him ever. It’s amazing how generous people are.
And I had the same experience with marketplace – going to get one thing, and people giving me 3-4 other things. Even my breast pump was given to me by a friend.
And in terms of his costs monthly, it all evens out. We go out a little less, so that covers his nappies (we also do reusable so don’t buy them that often) and formula. Other than that … he doesn’t cost much!
Excited to look into some more ways of putting away income first.
Oh and we also have set up a fund for him – so he has a bank account from me and shares from his Dad. Starting him VERY early.
How amazing! Thanks for sharing Emma.