Financial reasons to not have children

Be forewarned, this post is extremely sarcastic, maybe it’s because I’m nine months pregnant. I don’t know.
If I hadn’t found this article on MSNBC, I would have been convinced it was a joke on The Onion.

First let me say that I understand that children cost money, I take that seriously. That will always be one of the things we consider before expanding our family, and it’s one of the reasons we wrestle with how large of a family to have. I also understand that losing a job can be a very scary thing, and can definitely impact your ability to provide for your family.

That being said, the examples in this article are completely ridiculous. First off, the survey was of households that make less than $75k a year, arguing that 44% of these household are putting off having children because of the economy. Is $75k considered the new income required to have a child? If so, my husband and I (and I would wager most childbearing couples) are in way over our heads.

The first couple in this article are both employed, she works from home and could continue to do so after the birth of a baby. The health insurance premium is a real problem, a travesty of living in the USA. But I’ve been there. I grew up uninsured and had two pregnancies and births uninsured in the states, and there are options.

The thing that baffles me about this couple, is that (as far as I can tell) they are talking about one baby, an infant. A baby doesn’t cost that much. Actually, I don’t think I paid anything for baby furniture, clothes, toys or books with our first baby. We used hand-me-downs given to us by friends, items acquired at our baby shower, or we did without. Our single biggest expense for children so far, (besides our uninsured births) was probably diapers, and that’s because I still use disposables. Seriously, they could sell the Dining Set in the picture and probably afford to have a baby for a year.

I realize that school age children will cost more, but that is in the future. This couple is basically saying that they have no plans to increase their ability to provide by ten years from now, and no hope for better times either.

The third woman mentioned is 30, again is employed with good benefits and can work from home. But (horrors!) they will soon be down to only one income because her husband is looking for a different job. She can’t risk having a child if she can’t pay their way through college, or be unable to buy them a brand new car for their 16th birthday. (Somehow she can deduce that won’t be a possibility in the future?) She may have children in a more stable future, but she will “never be as prepared as her parents were”. Really? Maybe your parents were extremely “prepared”, but most people aren’t. And you live in a completely different economy than your parents did, it’s time to adjust your expectations and be OK with your someday 16 year old owning a bike or taking the bus if you can’t afford to buy them a car!

The final example made me laugh. Again, they are both employed, but she knew it would be a “financial stretch” when they decided to have a baby, because their combined incomes are (gasp!) less than $50k a year. (Um, isn’t that most people?) Can you believe that they actually have to plan their errands to save on gas? Imagine the hardship! One day she found herself with only $40 dollars, and needing both baby food and groceries, so she called her mom crying about how she couldn’t feed her family. What?

They make more money than MOST people! (And if she really is that incapable of using the money wisely, what is she expecting her mother to do about it?) Her 7 month old child does not need to have $40 worth of store bought baby food. Actually, a 7 month old doesn’t “need” baby food at all, they are still fine with 100% breast milk or formula at that point, and if you want to give them some table food, mash up whatever you are eating and let them taste it. And if you really feel that you absolutely must have baby food for your child, boil a two cent carrot and mash it up for the kid. Where is this woman shopping? Whole foods? Exotic foods R Us? $40 could easily feed her and her husband for over a week, and she can’t make it stretch for a day? If she is that desperate, she could always sell her car and have enough money to provide groceries for a couple years.

This kind of mindset completely baffles me. What are these people waiting for? They moan about how badly they want to have a child, but they seem pretty desperate to find excuses not to. Am I actually supposed to relate to this article and feel sorry for these people? I guess I do feel sorry for them, but not in a financial sense. More like a sense of pity for how much they limit themselves from experiencing life for no real reason. It’s like someone moaning about not being able to afford to own a boat stored at a private dock where they could use it a couple of times a year. When they could easily afford to buy the boat and store it on their property, and use the public dock. Or, they could rent a boat a few times a year, and not have to maintain, insure and pay to own a boat they rarely use. Or they could even buy a ticket to go for a ride on a public passenger boat.

But no. Instead, they gripe about how they will never be able to afford to spend time on the lake, poor them.

Somehow I’m just not feeling that bad.

Re-post: I am Not My Parents
Re-Post: Lies we tell ourselves about abuse
What I Understand
Fundamentalist Approved Feminist Literature
  • priest’s wife

    …and people wait until they are 35 and older to 'afford' a child and then have to take out loans to do IVF (I realize that young people can be infertile- but age is the greatest reason for infertility)

    $75,000!!! to afford a child! eE have 3 Master's between the two of us- I teach college part time- my husband has a great hospital job (church doesn't pay beyond a small stipend)& we barely make this in the most expensive place in the US (gas was $4.35 today)— do I send my 4 kids back? No- but I did go to 99cents for groceries today (be careful- but sometimes there are great bargains)

  • Michelle

    I typically stay away from article like that for this very reason. :)

    Somehow I enjoy my children much more than I think I would enjoy owning a boat or a humongous house. :)

  • Caravelle

    You know, I'm one of those strange women who loves children to pieces, absolutely wants some of her own but has no particular use for a husband. I mean, I understand it would be easier to raise a child if we're two but I'd need to get along really well with the person in question and I've never met someone I felt about that way, so why bother. I figure, single mothers exist, they survive, lots of them raise worthy children, my mother was one, and I have a plentiful family and a good education to help me if I did have a child.

    A few years ago I was working as an engineer making 24000 euros net a year, and the subject of children and the financial costs thereof came up in conversation. For some reason I emitted the opinion that surely (caveat : France is like one of the most kid-friendly countries in the world) nannies and nursery school weren't that expensive, the food budget would, what, double at the very most, and all other expenses (maternity clothes, crib, bottles, baby clothing…) were one-time expenses I could save a lot on thanks to said plentiful family… And when you count the subsidies I would surely get for caring for a child alone (again : France, yay)… Surely someone like me could afford a baby, right ?

    What really amused me was my boss, a late-middle-aged father of two adult daughters, agreeing with me that yeah, children don't cost that much. A baby would easily cost 300 euros a month (I saved 700 on average at the time).

    Validated ! That doesn't happen often :)

    Dunno how that applies to the US though.

    What are these people waiting for? They moan about how badly they want to have a child, but they seem pretty desperate to find excuses not to.
    I see that sometimes, not with children but with travel. Because while I don't have children, I have been to Japan and when people hear that I often get "wow, you're so lucky ! I envy you, I wish I could go there too". Which, when it's people who can't afford to travel I listen to with sorrow and compassion in my heart, but a lot of times I've heard it from engineers like me. All I wanted to say was "you could, you know. Just buy a freaking ticket. I did. It's not Mars, and if it were wouldn't it be worth it ?".

    But when people have their lives set up the way they think they should be, what can you do…

  • Breeze


  • Shelly

    Love it!

  • jen

    One of the things they tell you to do in the hospital is see if you qualify for WIC because if you do, you get checks to help with food… in YOUR (the mother's) name.

    Yeah… my husband and I are surviving fine on less than $50K (which we've never made with TWO incomes) and feeding our baby without a problem. It's a matter of priorities.

  • jen

    Although I should add… formula is EXPENSIVE. We went through $45 a week before Daniel transitioned to food.

  • Maggie

    I LOVE this post!

  • Carolyn

    Hang on, I'll catch up with you all… I'm still digesting the passage:

    “I called my mom, crying, (saying) ‘I can’t feed my family,’ ” Herndon recalled.

    Mom’s advice: “That’s what the dollar menu is for.”


  • Young Mom

    Priest’s wife- My husband pointed that out too. Delay having kids now because they can’t afford them and because you can always pay a crazy amount of money to get fertility treatments later so there is no rush. How does that make sense?

    Michelle- Yeah, not looking for a McMansion here either.

    Caravelle- I hear you, raising kids with someone is serious business. France is light years ahead of the US in supporting moms. One of the reasons I thought the examples in the article were so dumb is because none of them actually had to deal with the maternity leave and day care problems in the USA, because they all work from home!
    Interesting point about the travel. I think you’re right, they don’t really want it that bad. I’m more and more convinced that while you certainly can’t have everything, you can have almost any one thing. My Grandpa lived that way, and even though he did not ever make much money, he was able to travel and see the places he wanted to because he made that his priority.

    Jen- WIC can be very helpful for people who actually have low incomes, they can even help with formula expenses, which I agree is VERY expensive.

  • Rach

    I'm right there with you. And in our case, a wonderful surprise happened. I feel like most people don't realize that it IS possible to get pregnant if you're having sex. It might happen…..whether or not you use BC this is in God's hands.

    But anyway, I can say that I've even been surprised by how little our baby has cost. Medical expenses were significant, but we were blessed to be able to pay them off pretty quickly – if we couldn't have, arrangements of some kind would have been made. There are other options, as well….homebirth midwives will often take patients on a sliding income-based scale. The first year of life is NOT expensive for a healthy little one, especially if you breastfeed. In addition, breastfeeding may very well cut down on medical bills in the future. WIN.

    I might be biased because we have been extremely blessed with free furniture/gifts for our son. But, even most of those things have proven to be luxuries rather than necessities. In defense of the parents in this article, there can be a lot of fear involved in having a child…I think that fear may be manifesting itself as financial concern.

  • Melanie B

    Yeah I've never understood the financial reason to not have kids. My husband lost his job two weeks after our oldest was born and he was unemployed or semi-employed for most of the next year. We got into debt and are still clawing our way out. He doesn't make much– he works for the Catholic Church– and I don't work at all but we have still managed to have three more children. Kids don't cost that much and you know you can give up quite in terms of lifestyle a bit in order to afford what little more they do cost. How many of these people complaining about not being able to afford kids regularly go out to eat, pay for cable television, etc? There are all sorts of luxuries that Americans seem to feel entitled to as a right. Bah! I have no patience with that attitude,

  • Peter and Nancy

    I was smiling about the $40 — that was our weekly budget for groceries when we had our first baby. :o) I think many people buy SO much stuff for a 7-lb. bundle that can't even move!

    We received great advice during our pre-marital counsling — our pastor said it might be a good idea to live on one salary from the beginning, so that we were used to it in case I wanted to stay home. At the time, I never thought I would (my mom worked part- or full-time during my childhood), but now I'm really glad we did.

  • Leah

    There was an article in our local paper a few years ago about what it's like to try to live on food stamps. The reporter talked about how hungry she was by Thursday, but she'd already used up all her food stamps, and how pitiful she was.

    My husband and I just looked at each other, and all we could say was, "But you bought Juicy Juice!" And not the big bottle or Juicy Juice, which would have at least been semi-economical, but the little juice boxes of Juicy Juice! Of course your money didn't last a week!

    Yeah, the article went over her shopping list, and it was not rocket science why her money didn't go far enough. Not to diminish the challenge of living on food stamps, but some things are just like, "Well, duh!"

  • SarahZ

    I am always so blown away by people like this. I stay at home with my four kids, and since my husband got laid off a year ago we have had our income cut down to under 20K. Things have been tight, but I haven't been stressed and my kids don't know the difference between now and two years ago when we were making over 50k. Granted my kids are still four and under so they haven't reached a point where they are asking for the "in" thing yet. I get our clothes at goodwill and our grocery's at Aldis. Many of our family members pity us because unlike them I don't have a housekeeper, get manicures twice a week, or take my kids on annual vacations to disney world. But I don't need those things and my kids are too young to even be aware of what any of that is.

    As far as when they do get older, my husband will be finished with school and working a better job. I will be able to go back to work myself once my kids are older and in school. There is nothing wrong with expecting them to share a vehicle, and even if we could afford it at the time we have no intention of paying for all of college. We plan to pay for half of tuition and give them a place to live, but they will have to come up with the other half plus books. If they work hard they can probably cover it with scholarships, if not they can get a job. If my husband and I were making a million a year we still wouldn't just hand then everything. My husband and I both come from "wealthy" families (technically we are "trust fund kids", which does us no good cause we cant touch the money for another ten years), but we were not just given everything by our parents. We lived well, but we had to put ourselves through school and pay for our own car expenses. We were allowed to live at home rent free if we "helped out". We each had a bill that we had to pay (electric, gas…). It wasn't that our parents couldn't afford it by any means, but they grew up in poverty and wanted to teach us what living in the real world looked like.

    No matter what we are making we will expect the same of our kids. If our parents hadn't prepared us to be grown-ups then I don't think we would have been able to get through this last year. But in the real world stuff happens. No matter when you have kids there is no guarantee that you wont get laid off, or go through some other difficult time.

  • Calah

    You know, I think this is a good post. But I also think those of us with large families have the benefit of watching our parents make it work, no matter the cost. So we know it can be done. So many people have grown up with only one sibling or no siblings and been told that they must have X amount of money or their children will surely not be raised properly that they're literally paralyzed. They feel that if they can't give their children a "good" life, then it's better to not have them at all.

    So while I think your position is just so sensible (and funny), I do think that their situations are maybe a bit more complex than we realize.

    Except the woman with $40. What? I don't get it. I could feed my family of five for four days, if necessary, on $40. We probably wouldn't be terribly happy, but we'd be adequately nourished. That's ludicrous.

  • Molly

    Though I would like to point out that depending on where a couple lives, any student loans they have to repay, healthcare premiums, their ability to get affordable childcare (not everyone lives near relatives or has wide circles of friends to rely on, particularly if its a new area) and their place in the hand-me-down ladder (if you're the eldest or only child your hand-me-down pool can be very limited) can greatly affect whether or not 75K or less is enough to live on (p.s. are the number pre or post tax because they definitely have no reason to complain if 50-75K is post tax) I do agree most of these people just don't get it – they remind me of the woman I worked with this fall who (when her husband lost his job) tried to get off work early to go to the food pantry for free food after spending an hour talking about how she can't give up her cable.

    Personally, I think that sacrifice is one of the best things you can learn while being a parent – when we found out we were having our son we made a ton of "sacrifices" – we moved cross country to be back near family, we both found new jobs in completely new fields that would allow us to provide better financially, have job security and stability and allow us better schedules, and are currently living with my parents so we can finish paying off our car (a necessary purchase and we're about to pay it off 2 years early) and get a good solid savings base so we can get a modest home in the near-ish future. By "giving up" my career and moving back home and taking an entry level job I've actually given myself a higher yearly salary (even though I'm currently at a starting salary I get a raise after 6 months and get another when I become certified), better benefits (we no longer have to pay for health insurance), a better schedule and a wonderful new bond with my family – and all that "sacrifice" is totally worth it!

    Though sometimes it's hard to look beyond and not compare what we don't seem to have to what others do(a friend recently shared the "walk-through" of the 5 bedroom house she and her husband are ordering in time for their first baby) we know that we are making really smart decisions right now (we're almost debt free except for those darn student loans, will have a house within the next year, are incredibly well insured and have even started our retirement accounts) and it won't always be like this and eventually we'll be better off than a lot of people who tried to have it all too early. Heck because of our "sacrifices" in preparation for Henry this year we feel like in the next 5-6 years we'll be able to finish my husbands degree, get me my MLS and hopefully give my son a sibling (if we can beat the endometriosis again) and we don't think we'll be near 75K.

  • Anonymous

    First, I agree with what you wrote, completely, YM. I raised children alone with the help of public assistance for a couple of years in the absence of any other help and with inadequate skills/circumstances at that time to provide for my family and childcare while I worked. WIC and other outside sources can be very helpful, and I ended up needing to use public money at one point, but as soon as persons use public or other charitable monies-especially if they aren't working and contributing to those funds, they can no longer say they are raising their children alone cheaply as an example. Others are helping them and then it is only fair, I think (having been in both places-helpee and helper)to absent oneself from the discussion on being able to raise kids for less. I am not suggesting a person not use outside help; I am just saying it negates the ability to say one is raising their children on less money as a doable option. If you are receiving help from others, you aren't really raising your kids in the same context that the richer couples were describing-you are really raising your family with the government or some other agency, etc. and now you really can't say 'you' (you and the govt., etc.) are poor. Those well-to-do couples wouldn't qualify for these services and arguably wouldn't need them, but their children probably wouldn't qualify for help with college-depending on the income. So they know that they have to be able to completely provide for the children they bring into the world, by themselves one way or another. I guess what I am saying is: yes, kids can be raised for less, but I don't think couples or singles should make the claim they are doing so if they are being helped by 'the village' financially. They are then comparing apples and oranges.

    The wealthier couples are having to provide not only for their own children-if they choose to have them, but for the children of poorer parents as well, to varying degrees. They bear a heavier load. I think they deserve some credit for the support they provide for others-via their taxes, at a minimum, even if they never have children themselves. Again,I say this having been both on welfare and having had plenty.

  • Kacie

    well… I guess I push back a little.

    The first couple, for instance. While you say both are working, if they have a child they either have to go down to one income or pay for childcare (not ideal). If they go down to one income AND add on a 400+/mo insurance payment, it drastically changes things.

    And the $40 for groceries… that partly depends where they live, as the cost of groceries varies, and what qualifies as groceries in each person's budget also varies. If I had to feed my husband and I and baby on $40, I can definitely do it. But is that also covering diapers and printer paper and a pack of toilet paper… you know. Those things that add up and suddenly make the grocery bill jump $10.

    So … I get it. I still think it's do-able, and living simply is an art that is now being forced onto people who didn't expect it.

    Ironically, the cheapest and most manageable births among my friends were for the poorest – Medicaid (or is it medicare??) babies. Those births were completely covered, making the baby essentially free if they don't buy a lot of uneeded baby gear they could just borrow. If you're paying an insurance deductible, losing the wife's income, and adding $400/mo of insurance payments, that baby costs a LOT of money.

  • Young Mom

    Rach- Great point about fear. Becoming a parent is very scary, and that can affect the way you see finances too. The medical costs would be the biggest barrier in the states in my opinion, I certainly haven’t missed that mess since living in Canada.

    Melanie- We are still paying off the debt from the house that we (prematurely) bought and lost. If everyone waited until they were 100% debt free and able to afford all the little luxuries, when would anyone have kids?

    Nancy- It was our weekly grocery budget too! : )

    Leah- I recently saw the US government stats for how much it costs to feed a family my size (and ages), and the monthly plan was over $1000. The lowest budget ("economy") estimate they had was $600 a month, which I thought was funny because where we live in Canada the cost of living is 150% (and food costs about twice what it did where we used to live in the states) and we still spent less on food than the bare minimum estimate of the Government stats.

    Sarah- Exactly. Even if we were able to pay our kids entire tuition, not planning on it.

    Calah- You’re right, I suppose that growing up in a large family helps a bit. Except my parents are pretty dismal when it comes to finances. They kind of talk out of 2 sides of their mouth. “God will always provide for any baby and you shouldn’t limit family size, but children cost ALOT and that’s why we are in so much debt.” I think there is a lot of confusion over “needs” vs. “wants”.

    Molly- Agreed, childcare and healthcare are 2 major downfalls of living in the US. Those problems can make it very difficult. One of the reasons I thought the examples in this article were silly, was because most of them had healthcare coverage and would even be able to continue working without the usual daycare challenges because they worked from home. And yes! Getting what you want requires sacrifice, for us it involved moving 1000 miles away from family to get a job where we could afford to pay off our debt (which we are now doing with great success). I think as young people we get alot of pressure from society and even our families to “have it all”.

    Anonymous- I agree, the burden of caring for the children you have rests solely on the parent, and I have never been on any type of assistance. However, I am glad those programs exist (I’m glad that my taxes go to them) and if I ever needed help from one of them I would not hesitate to apply. I don’t think that getting help from the government or family negates the fact that you are raising your children. Assistance programs are often a pathetic excuse for help, and many of the people on them truly have no other options to get jobs that actually pay enough to get an apartment or put their kids in daycare so that they can get to work in the first place! Living on assistance is an incredible challenge as well and my hat is off to the parents who make it work and continue to provide what their children need. Just because a wealthier person has to pay a percentage of taxes just like any other person, doesn’t mean that they are “raising” other people’s kids. A wealthy person could also choose to raise their child with a lower standard of living than their income would imply, so I see no connection between having a larger salary and it being more difficult to support a child.

  • Young Mom

    Kacie- Again, I agree. Medical costs are ridiculous in the states. But the reason I thought most of these examples were silly was because they are not uninsured, and most of the moms in the examples worked from home and planned on continuing to do so after the birth of a baby. These particular moms wouldn’t even need daycare. Medical and daycare costs in the states would definitely up the overall cost of having a new baby.

  • Molly

    YM – yeah the health care premium is outrageous, I wanted to cry for joy when I found out my new job offers free health insurance. With the money we no longer pay for that we've been able to purchase a few additional insurances (life insurance, etc. through work) and start putting money in our retirement account (my job again is amazing for this.. I put in 5% they put in 10%) and we still aren't spending as much as we were when we had to buy it! But I'm thankful I had it when I had my son… without insurance my emergency c-section and 4 days in the hospital would have cost over 20K, and so far our insurance has covered it all.

  • smoore2213

    My husband and I have a combined income of around 75k. We live in an inexpensive part of the US, but honestly, once you add in day care($400 a month for 2 days a week), my student loan payments($500 a month), health insurance($200 a month, but only because my husband's company offers an amazing insurance plan, most families I know pay twice that), gas/car insurance for two vehicles, mortgage($650 a month, which is very cheap here), and food/clothes/internet/phones, it adds up so quick. We can afford to have two children, but we can't afford to send both to day care and our parents are already watching other grandchildren/children, so we're going to have to do some financial gymnastics once we have another. Three kids seems almost out of the question, and by the time three kids are here, I should be out of nursing school and our yearly income will be close to $100k a year–and yet we still feel that we can't afford 3 kids.
    All the little expenses just add up so quick.

  • Jennifer @ Conversion Diary

    I LOVED this post. I'm an only child and was raised in the "if you can't give children a Disney Land childhood it's best not to have them at all" culture.

    It's been hilarious to me to see how it all works out when you put openness to kids first and financial worries second. Especially factoring in my husband's EPIC student loan payments (which were more than our mortgage) that we paid up until recently, our effective income was not very much — definitely nowhere near the range of what you "should" have to have four kids. Plus I have medical complications that make pregnancy very expensive for us.

    There's always a way to work, especially here in a first world country. It might involve having a much lower standard of living than your friends from college, but it's not like anyone is going to go hungry. (I know more than one family with 4+ kids and a combined income of less than $48K who have perfectly lovely lives.) And, interestingly, the kids in the broke big families I know seem to be very happy, at least as happy as the kids with the "perfect" upper middle class lifestyles.

  • Kids and money

    I agree babies do not cost as much as we think they do. When our kids were young we were making 40,000 per year, owned a home and paid cash for our cars and remained debt free (except for the mortgage)

    Times are different now. I know having the same scenario with the current real estate market we could not do it. Many who came after us lost a great deal in the real estate market.

    Just a comment re: medicaid births being the least expensive. They are the least expensive to the parents but not to the tax payers. I struggle with couples having choosing to have more children and being on gov't assistance. It is not right. At the same time some of them belittle families whose parents both work to make ends meet. I have not been able to understand why some find having large families and not being able to provide basic needs for the children (food, clothing, shelter, health insurance)is morally acceptable. I understand situations where things happen beyond our control but we can control how many children we have (even if we believe NFP is the only way to do that) We have many years of fertility and I think that sometimes spacing kids farther apart so we can get on our financial feet is wise. (If someone who disagrees can share their opinion I would like to hear it. It is a sensitive topic and people (of faith) often want to avoid it.

    Over the long term I have seen the stress of financial hardship really weigh on a couple's health and emotional resources. I think we all need to be wise and plan for emergencies and have some kind of savings. I think America is going broke (for many reasons) but too many people relying on the gov't because they did not plan prudently is one of them.

    I have seen situations where large families always expect small families to give more because they assume they can afford it. But if kids do not cost much why are the large families always asking for help? For example, a friend who runs a summer sports camp who does not earn much is always asked by a large family for a big tuition break because they can not afford it.

    I think a college education is valuable and would like to support my kids in some way towards this. I paid for my own education but see that the cost of college is enormous and I do not want my kids to have that much debt. Who knows how we will do it!!

    I think as with everything there is a balance–kis do not cost the fortune we think they do but at the same time we do need to provide for our families and consider that when having more children

  • ‘Becca

    I see both sides of this.

    On one hand, I'm often astonished by how much money people think they need! I make <$30K/year, and right now I'm the sole support of my family of 3; we don't live luxuriously, but we have everything we need plus some extras, and we have savings that we accumulated when we both were working. Many of my friends and their partners earn twice as much (so 4 times as much for their household) and don't have kids, yet they claim they "can't afford" to save anything or give to charity! I'm happy with a frugal lifestyle, and in my case it's not because of big families or poverty but because I learned from birth that saving money just makes sense and that most of the really great things in life aren't expensive. Spaghetti is my favorite food!

    On the other hand, I appreciate that my parents had only two children, and I'm happy with having only one. There are many reasons, and I wouldn't rank financial security near the top, but it is a consideration: I don't want to take a job I like less that pays more, move to a dangerous neighborhood, or use up our savings and go into debt, just to have more children. I think it's sensible for people to consider delaying pregnancy until they feel able to care for the child and themselves without freaking out about running out of money. It only worries me if the people don't have ANY children and do WANT to be parents but their standard for "enough money" is unrealistically high, because they may wait too long and be disappointed, and meanwhile their wasteful lifestyle has consequences for the rest of us.

    About paying for college: My family paid for much more than half, and that's been a great advantage to me, but because I was expected to pay SOME of my expenses and expected to keep all of them as low as possible (for example, by eating a lot of peanut butter, taking notes on scrap paper instead of buying notebooks, and line-drying my laundry) I came out of it extremely thrifty. I know many adults who've been self-supporting for years but still think they are "too good" to do those things–and many of them got through college on loans because their parents' years of living to the extent of their income left no money to spare for tuition, so I think it's more a matter of priorities and attitude than of what % of the bills are paid by parents.

  • Pippi

    The only one I really feel for at all is the last one, actually. Depending on where they live, that kind of income may not be much. My sister in OK used to tell me how insane it was for poor people to feed their kids sweet cereals instead of bacon and eggs. I told her it's because that is by far the cheapest breakfast you can get. She said "Are you kidding? We get bacon for a dollar a pound on sale here!" I was so jealous. When I went out there to visit, I laughed and laughed. They live one town away from the Tyson meat plant. Hahahaha no wonder they get it so cheap! Out here bacon goes on sale for 6-7 dollars a pound. Or if you really need a deal, they sometimes jack that price up to $9 and then do a buy-1 get-1 deal. And eggs? Starting at $3 a dozen without a sale. Sweet cereal, on the other hand? Often on sale for $2-2.50 per box.

    Now if you sit down and budget, of course, you realize that you can afford to divide even the expensive bacon and eggs into more portions than the cereal with greater health benefits. You just have to not eat so much. But I doubt most people understand that without being reminded. Advertisers take advantage of the visual stimulation a low sale price gives.

    Anyway, in the beginning I was just going to say that I often WISH I had $40 left for groceries, and if I did it still wouldn't go far in my area. One reason I want to move away. And that's a big reason why I didn't want to have another baby right now. But, it happened anyway. I guess God has a different plan.

  • Pippi

    P.S> – After reading some of the other comments, I want to point out that while I am on MedicAid for this birth (because we have no money to spare at all), we also do not have broadcast OR cable television, do not go out, do not buy snacks, use as many hand-me-downs as possible (and I have to laugh about the comment on being the eldest; I'm in that situation and it is difficult) and do most of our other clothes shopping at the thrift stores or exlusively on clearance racks. I sold everything I had that was of any real value to pay the rent a couple years back, and we don't have beds (only mattresses), or chairs except for the table set left by a previous occupant. I don't buy fancy toiletries or hair things, which were always my splurges in the past. We don't have a vehicle, which is by far our biggest problem at the moment. So even though there have been times I felt bad about applying for government assistance, not now. I wouldn't be able to feed my family without it at the moment. And when that changes, I will be off of it ASAP. I don't want to be one of those people who relies on it for spending money. I just need to pay the bills. And when I start to have spending money again, I will know it is time to stop getting assistance.

  • ‘Becca

    One more thing I wanted to mention: Young Mom and several commenters who are at-home mothers but do not "work at home" (the terminology for these things bugs me–of course taking care of kids and a home is work–but I mean working for pay) said that the mom who works from home could continue to do so after having a baby, without paying for childcare. That may not be true. It depends very much on what kind of work she does and what her baby's temperament is like. Most people who work from home either work at the computer (boring for a baby) or work with dangerous stuff (sewing machine and pins, power saws and varnish) or need to talk on the phone a lot. All of these things are difficult to do while caring for a baby or young child unless the child is unusually self-sustaining, obedient, and quiet. I do not know anyone who's been successful at working from home with a child under 3 years old except by having someone else care for the child during working hours or by cutting working hours to times when the child is sleeping. For most types of jobs, it's not realistic to plan to continue exactly as before but with a baby lying in a corner. In my own experience, I have an office job outside the home and have tried bringing my son to work at various ages; it really didn't work too well until he was four. Four years of full-time childcare cost over $40,000, so I think it's something work-from-home parents need to take into consideration.

  • Rebecca

    You're absolutely right that there is a loss of perspective here.

    Still, I do think it is far more expensive to live in certain areas. A simple house in CA, for instance is awful. My husband, like yours, is a pastor, so we live in a parsonage and that helps a lot. Especially since we both have school loans. I can't imagine what we would do if we had a house payment.

    Still, it would be good for all of to stop being so materalistic and realize the most important thing is time with our families.

    Which is why I made the crazy, crazy choice to quit work at least for a while. Every time I look at the want ads, I think, yeah, I could do that but do I want to trade my time, my freedom, my time with my daughter. No, not really.

  • Amber

    Sigh. I read this when you first posted it. I showed it to my husband. I talked about it with my friends (your post and the article). And still I can't believe the article actually exists.

    My husband and I live 150% below poverty level. I am not making that number up. We have had 2 children while in school and, gasp, somehow managed to feed both our children and ourselves on a mere $100/month grocery budget. We budgeted for insurance costs and figured that, like everything, it would all work out if we keep our heads financially and don't spend unwisely.

    Somehow it worked. Our children our healthy. We don't live in a house. We don't have expensive furniture. Our kids wear hand-me-downs and picks from consignment stores.

    But we are happy. They are loved. And we don't EVER feel poor.

    Crazy how life works, huh.

  • priest’s wife

    Pippi- Americans can afford to have assistance programs for people like you- it is a safety net- so don't feel badly. I pray you will get on your feet and start paying lots of taxes! ;)

  • jemand

    I think it's good to feel sorry for these kinds of people, a bit, and not completely blame them. Their problems might carry 'obvious' solutions to you, but not to them, they don't carry the knowledge that is so second nature to you.

    There are some people who would survive and even thrive if put into a wilderness, who know all the plants to eat, who know how to preserve foods, etc. They might look at the things YOU think necessary for life with a similar measure of befuddlement and surprise, but you were never taught the tricks they have.

    Similarly, a lot of rich and upper middle class people in the US *truly are* that out of touch with living life cheaply. And honestly, even poor people in the US who are getting by quite well, like many people in this thread, would be completely befuddled if they had to live on the normal daily monetary allotment the average someone in Nigeria or Bangladesh finds so normal.

    Not all resources are financial, and one can feel confident, for example, about having children with fewer financial resources precisely *because* they have more of the non-monetary resources and knowledge than these other people, even if these other resources feel so *obvious* that they are invisible.

  • Kelly

    Great Post. For me, I am unsure of whether I want to have a kids because they are a huge responsibility. I do not think kids are expensive. My parents raised me on a combined income level of under $25,000 for a number of years. The three of us shared one room together and the bathroom with two other families for years before my parents were able to save up enough money to buy a one bedroom apt. As a teen, I never had my own room, I just slept in the living room. Sure I felt jealous of my peers but so what, I got over it. I know that my parents were doing their best.

    Now that I live comfortably, I make sure that I never forget the tough times. I do spend frivolously but I also make sure that I give back to society.