When is the Right Time to Have a Baby, Financially?

Awhile back I wrote about 6 conversations you must have before you get married, but today I wanted to write about a particular question that a lot of couples our age have: is there a right time to have a baby, financially?

While Toots and I don’t have children, I’d be crazy to think that we won’t eventually have a few miniature gingers running around the house. For those of you that don’t know me personally, this is a groundbreaking realization as kids weren’t anywhere on the radar when we first met 7 years ago.

have-a-baby

Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Having coached hundreds of parents and having a myriad of friends that have babies, I have a fairly good grasp of the financial implications that bringing a baby into the world entails:

  • Delivery costs and medical bills (pre- and post-pregnancy)
  • Diapers — whether you go cloth or disposable
  • Day care costs
  • Food, formula, clothes, more clothes, and LOTS of toys

Oh yeah, one must not forget that these little tots eventually grow up. When that happens then we’re talking about more clothes, sports expenses, camps, maybe private school, and even college!

While reports vary, I used a handy calculator at BabyCenter.com, and they were quickly able to estimate that the cost of raising a child is around $300,000 if your baby was to be born within the next year.

Wow! Three hundred THOUSAND dollars.

While I realize these numbers can be disputed and will vary based on each household’s unique financial situation, the reality is that babies and children cost a lot of money. Especially if you want to pay for their college education.

Should Your Finances Be In Shape?

I know families that were strapped for cash, had piles of debt, and couldn’t manage money well. Despite their strenuous financial situation, they each decided that having a baby was right for them.

Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not! I’m not here to tell anybody that there is “technically” a right time to have a baby, financially. But what I can tell you is:

The better shape you’re in financially, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to provide some of the blessings that having a strong financial foundation provides.

Wow, I know…earth-shattering stuff there.

Does that mean the baby is loved more by a family that has a good financial footing before having one? No. Does it mean your baby is going to love you more? Probably not. Does that mean your baby will be worse off or that you shouldn’t have a baby just because you may not be able to provide them all of the worldly luxuries? No.

Our Financial Checklist Before Having a Baby

1. Have an Emergency Fund in Place

Having a rainy day fund is important regardless if you have a baby or are planning on having one in the near future. However, if you’ve been unable to save consistently, then you have to ask yourself whether or not you can truly afford the additional expenses that a baby brings with it.

We currently have $2,500 saved in our emergency fund. While I’d like for that to be more, I think that could handle most medical emergencies or issues we’d have with a baby (while taking into account our insurance).

2. Have at least $1,000/month in Disposable Income

While I’m not suggesting that a baby costs an additional $1,000/month (especially as an infant), I’d personally like to be able to ensure that we can cover all of the baby’s costs while still being able to save money in a high yield online savings account, pay down debt, and/or save for retirement.

Furthermore, if my wife would want to be a stay-at-home mom, the disposable income would need to be greater as we’d lose her income. If she continued to work, then we’d have the eventual, absurd cost, of a day care facility. From the rates I’ve seen, that can range anywhere from $700-1200/month!

3. Be Debt Free

I’d NEVER tell somebody that has debt that they shouldn’t have a baby. However, if you’re determining the right time to have a baby financially, then having debt may be a huge hurdle that stands in the way of you being able to provide for your child.

For us, we have $500/month in minimum student loan payments. While we’ve paid off $60,000 worth of debt over the past 5 years, we still have a ways to go and eliminating that debt will go a long way to helping our disposable income.

4. Take a European Vacation

For us, the right time to have a baby will also coincide with accomplishing some of our personal goals. This won’t be the case for everybody, but Toots and I have spent years climbing from underneath the pile of debt we’ve created. In doing so, we’ve neglected many of our personal goals and many of those involve traveling the world.

Having a baby would make it more difficult to travel and save for an expensive vacation, and that’s something we want to accomplish before our lives change forever.

So, Is There a Right Time?

Every person and situation is different. Some men/women out there feel called to have children at an early age and desire nothing more than starting a family. However, on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with wanting to wait to have children.

Determining the right time to have a baby is different for every couple. However, if you’re wondering when the right time might be financially, then having an emergency fund, understanding the principles of budgeting and having a decent disposable income, and being debt free may all be factors you consider.

Did you give any thought to the financial side of things before you had children? If you’ve yet to have kids, is it simply because you’re waiting to get your finances in order?

Picture by FreeDigitalPhotos.

About the Author

By , on Oct 15, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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{70 Comments}

  1. I think if you really want to have a baby, you will adapt your finances once you have the baby. This is what happened to me. Although I was already frugal, this made me EXTRA frugal. If you keep worrying about having money for a baby and yet you want to continue to buy Starbucks in the morning, then maybe a baby isn’t for you.

  2. Boris says:

    It really depends on how much you can live within your means once you have a child. If you are willing to sacrifice driving the luxury car or that Hawaiian vacation for a pinto and a staycation, you will manage just fine.

  3. Did you give any thought to the financial side of things before you had children? Yes! We purposely waited until we were around 30 to have children. We wanted to be able to provide the best for our children and waiting allows us to do that. If we would of had children before, who knows were we might have ended up financially.

  4. My wife just hit 3 months and we are so thankful we did some much needed planning and debt crunching before hand. We also have about $1k in disposable income to account for when the baby does start going to daycare. Between all the things you mention I would say being realistic and understanding that your life will change is key. You can never have “the right time” but you can make sure you are in a good situation.

  5. The funny thing about having a baby is that when they look up at you (while you are holding them or feeding them), you don’t see the dollar signs at all.

    Now, when they reach their teens and start looking at you like an ATM? That’s a different story (but I am not really complaining).

  6. Sneha says:

    Baby is a very big responsibility on parents.

    Baby should be planned. parents should be financially and mentally prepare themselves and then have a baby. Financially sound is really important as every parent see lot of dreams for their baby so they sound be financially sound to take care of him and provide him all what he wants in his life. If they are financially sound then only they should plan a baby.

  7. AverageJoe says:

    This is great advice. Too many people have children before they’re financially able…almost like they’ve gotten the craving for a big screen tv or ….I know…..a baby!

    Cheryl & I debated for a long time before having children. We decided to have children while we were young because we wanted to be able to enjoy them as adults when we were older. Her parents are much older than mine. Now that I’m an adult my parents are closer to friends than parents. It’s great to hang out with my mom and dad and I think they also think so.

  8. Peter says:

    We waited until we had been married for 7 and a half years before we started trying to have kids. Before that we had done a lot of things to prepare ourselves for having kids. We got rid of all our debt, we saved up a nice emergency fund, I started creating a second income so my wife could stay home with our son, and we did some traveling including a Mediterranean cruise the year before my wife got pregnant.

    Everything seemed to work out perfectly in our situation where we were able to get our finances in order, do some traveling and be with each other before we brought a child into the mix, and we’re glad we did. Now that our son is here it’s been one of the biggest blessings you could ever imagine. Also, I have to say I think some of those “how much you can expect to spend on kids” forecasts are a bit overblown.

    While we waited and go everything in order, I can see the other side of the coin, however, having kids before everything is 100% set and ready.. There are times when there isn’t a perfect time to have kids, and you just have to go ahead and do it. Kids are a huge blessing, and they definitely change your life for the better. Sometimes it’s more than just a financial decision.

  9. Terry says:

    Andy,

    Nice article.

    I was in graduate school when my wife and I had our two boys. We were financially stable at the time, but the decision was based more on my wife’s biological clock more than anything else.

    She said she was “ready” to have babies and there was on turning back.

  10. Deacon says:

    I read this and couldn’t believe how similar we think. We are planning on having kids in the next couple years and here are our steps that we are taking to be financially ready. Be debt-free, budget up to $1000/month for baby expenses, Have an emergency fund of six months expenses, and go to the UK next summer. Unbelievable! Side note: I know most people say that you can never be truly ready, but our hope is that we will be more ready than if we didn’t have any plan at all :)

  11. I think it is important to have insurance setup and in place as well. That could be important if something happens early on.

  12. CF says:

    We are not interested in having children. Certainly for any life change, it’s good to have an emergency fund and a good amount of disposable income, so I think those are good tips.

    • Andy says:

      I was in your same boat about 3-4 years ago! For some I don’t think the desire ever changes, but for me personally I know I have opened up to the idea a lot more over the past few years. It will be interesting to see how things play out. :)

  13. Mrs.CBB and I do not have kids and were at the point where it’s have one or move on with life. We were both the type that we wanted to be debt free except for the mortgage and have our education and careers on track before starting a family. Sometimes I think the more we read the worse it is for us lol but it’s like budgeting you should be prepared. In the end if we don’t have kids I will still love my wife more than I did yesterday and live our lives to the fullest. Cheers Mr.CBB

    • Andy says:

      Thanks for the honest insight CBB! I didn’t realize you were DINKS; having followed your financial situation I do think you’re more than prepared to have children if you want. Now the question comes: is that something that’s placed on your heart or not? I don’t think it’s a requirement for everybody to have children, but if it’s something you desire then I don’t think there is anything that should hold you back.

  14. Andy Hough says:

    It makes sense to be financially prepared for a baby but since most children aren’t planned that usually isn’t going to happen.

    • Andy says:

      One of my biggest issues is that I’m a planner…I often see that as a good thing but I think it does hinder me at times.

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