As a family law practitioner, I provide advice on many topics relating to kids, including the financial impacts of starting a family. As a mom of a two-and-a-half-year old and nine-month-old twins, I have personal experience and understand that nothing can be more powerful to you as a parent than investing in your children. But investing in your children isn’t easy.
Compare Monthly Expenses and Income to Budget
Itemize your monthly expenses and compare your total to your monthly income to determine if you have a shortfall. If so, what expenses can you cut back on to stay in your budget? Being honest about your spending habits can be an eye-opening experience but will allow you to compare the expenses that are must-haves to those that are discretionary to find ways to cut back to stay in your budget. Although I’d love to eat out more often, the reality is that saving that money allows us to take our kids on more adventures and expose them to new things.
Determine How Long You Can Afford to Be off Work
Too many parents find themselves rushed back into the workforce because they need a paycheck and their employers do not provide any paid maternity or paternity leave. Make sure you plan for the financial impact if you can’t return to work when you planned because of a complication in your recovery or a health issue with your new child. Do your best to save a three-to-four-week financial cushion so that, if necessary, you can remain out of work and still pay your bills.
Consider Day-Care Expenses
Paying for daycare for three kids in some areas, such as where I live in the suburbs of Washington, DC, can cost more than a mortgage. Don’t be discouraged because you can’t afford to send your child to the Harvard of daycares. But remember the importance of investing in your child’s early years of learning. If you do your research and leave yourself enough time, you can find a loving, nurturing environment where you feel comfortable and where your child flourishes, all within your budget.
Entertain Low-Cost (or Free) Alternatives for Your Kids’ Necessities
In the early months, babies need a lot, but you don’t need everything available at Buy Buy Baby. Babies bring about giving in people, and if you ask around, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of things people will give you. Instead, invest in services that can help make your life easier. I’m an Amazon Prime mom and easily pay for my membership in one month with the number of baby items that I automatically reorder with “subscribe and save.” (There are a ton of apps and social media networks that will help you save money when buying things for your kids.) Another way I save is by buying consignment t-shirts for a dollar so that when my toddler demolishes her “play” clothes, I don’t feel bad throwing them out.
Reap the Greatest Return on Parental Investment—Quality Time with Your Child
You don’t need a fancy vacation to bond with your child. Some of the best times our family had when the twins were first born, and we couldn’t venture out into the winter weather, were building forts out of blankets and sheets in our living room, reading stories with hot chocolate by the fireplace, and having paper airplane competitions down the hallway in our home. Your kids yearn for time with you. Take time away from work and all your electronic devices to play and connect with them. At first blush, I’m never thrilled about my husband teaching my kids to make mud pies, but the laughs and giggles are completely worth the extra loads of laundry.
Parenthood is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever faced, but it’s also been my biggest blessing. When it comes to parenthood, I advise my friends and clients the same. Take a minute to decide what works and doesn’t work financially for your family before making any decisions, because investing in your children is the most important part of the job.