44 comments

What is the Real Cost of Raising Children?

Despite the reputation Mrs. M and I are cultivating as extreme nonspenders, we do indulge in the ultimate luxury: being parents. Our lovely little boy brings us happiness and learning every day and as with all parents,  we feel the experience of parenthood is worth the cost. Whatever that cost might be. Hey.. what exactly is that cost anyway?

The interesting thing about the answer is that there IS no fixed answer. When you research this topic, the cost is usually listed as a percentage of income. And whenever you see anything listed as a percentage of income, you should start getting excited, because it means there is wasted money in the air. Hundred dollar bills swirling this way and that, which you can catch for yourself in your own Money Mustache.

The cost of raising a child can range all the way from less than zero (if you live in a rural environment and can get your kids to help out on the farm as they did in the olden days) to millions of dollars if you own the Hilton chain of hotels and your children run wild over the world on your credit card.  Middle and high income people tend to say that taking care of their children is very expensive, but when you dig right down into it, these people are mostly just being suckered into Consumertown by the amazing amount of marketing that tries to sell products to desperate parents. Or even worse, using their children as an excuse to buy things.

To figure out the true answer, you have to go to a quiet room or a forest, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. You have to imagine what a child really needs when growing up. What is truly the ultimate upbringing we can provide for our kids?  Only with your eyes closed, with none of the noise or images of the Consumer World leaking in, can you truly start to realize what is real in parenting and what is a distraction. As the answer comes to you, you might start to shed a few tears.

Kids need to really know their parents, and live in a warm and loving environment. And not just furnace-warm, I’m talking about skin, soil, and sunshine-warm. Kids will thrive when they live in a forest of the arms and legs of their parents and siblings, and when their most prized playthings include dirt, water, rocks, and plants. They grow when they learn by observing the laughs and singing and patiently resolved disputes of the family and friends around them.

They will suck up the advanced knowledge of modern human civilization – things like literature, science, music, art, and math – if their parents live and share these principles as part of daily life right at home – in that chaotic forest of warm skin and human voices.

Humans are just smart animals, we’re part of the Earth and we have evolved to be one with the planet that made us.  We, and our kids, will thrive when we embrace the natural world, and our bodies and minds are at their best when we use the Earth for our education instead of trying to pave it over and overpower it with plastic substitutes to meet the same needs.

The Treehugging words above are there to convince you that giving your TIME to your kids is actually worth putting some effort into. And keeping your time is the opposite of spending your money. So every time you spend money buying THINGS under the pretense of doing what’s best for your children, you must weigh that against the guaranteed cost of your young children getting less of their parents. I’m serious, you have to weigh every…single…thing and think about it. It should hurt at least a bit.

For example: does your baby benefit from being left to fend for herself at a day-care when she is still too young to even speak? Do your diaper-clad toddlers really benefit from the early-dropoff and late-pickup options offered by the preschool so the parents can work extra? Do your kids really care whether they ride around in a thirty thousand dollar car instead of a five thousand dollar one? Is that worth saying goodbye to mommy for an extra year of their childhood?

Let’s imagine that I have convinced you, and you are ready for a change – you are a young parent ready to do a complete 180 – to try to strike a balance between having time to actually parent, and having the material things needed to do so. So given that, how can you start?

1 – Start with the assumption that it is NEVER necessary to have two full-time jobs to pay for raising kids. Many people make the wrong assumption because they have been sold the consumer myth that “times are harder now”. They are not harder. Plenty of families with kids, including mine, live a perfectly good life on the equivalent less than one average salary. Instead of two full-time salaries, plan for one, or even better, two part-time ones if both parents want to have time to be real pillars in their kids’ lives.

2 – Think about every kid-related purchase logically instead of emotionally. Instead of browsing through Target looking for things that might be nice, stay home with your kids and only plan for purchases once you realize definite needs, like outgrown shoes or socks with holes in them.

3 – Realize that you are not the first person on Earth to have a kid. Thus, almost every possible product you need is already out there, waiting to be handed down for free or sold used. View “Used” as the normal way to get everything for your child, and “New from the Store” to be the exception – something you only do with regret when the used option fails.

4 – New and Expecting Parents – don’t fall for the disposable diaper myth! This deserves an article all in itself, but in summary, disposable diapers are not any easier than modern cloth diapers. When you have a baby, you buy a Dozen Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers or a competing brand, new or used if you can find them, and you wash them in a high-efficiency washing machine and hang them on clothes hangers to dry. You save way over a thousand dollars per child, and prevent a huge dumptruck load of crap-laden toxic waste from pouring over your child’s world. When all your children are done with the Fuzzi Bunz, you can even sell them used for a good portion of what you paid.

5 – Drive less. You are endangering your kids when you drive them around town unnecessarily, and you are burning up the very money you could be using to spend time with them. There is no need for a child to ever be part of a fender-bender in a shopping mall parking lot, because there is no real reason for anyone, parent or young child, to ever visit a dedicated shopping mall.

Having said all of this, the final answer to the question is that as a family who does a moderate job at being natural and nonconsumer parents to our child, we find that it cost less than $300 a month to have a very young child from age 0-2. Cloth diapers, food, the odd piece of clothing we couldn’t get from hand-me-downs, the occasional stroller, car seat or baby toy, doctor visit, etc.

Then we started some one-day-per week preschool at age three which ramped up to three days per week by age 5, to get him ready for the routine of kindergarten. This has by far been the biggest expense, at several hundred dollars per month.

As he grows older, the average cost will drop again since public school is free and doctor visits are now very rare. But if we round up the spending estimate to assume a continued $300 per month until he reaches age 21, that yields a total childraising cost of about $75,000. Not bad at all, less than a year’s salary for an engineer, and you get a whole lovable and productive adult out of it!

As for paying for University tuition – there’s enough fat in that $300 number to give our son a nearly-free education if that is desired, but that topic deserves its own article, like this one.

We will still provide whatever it takes to give him the best upbringing we can possibly give. It’s just that by thinking carefully before buying products in the name of being better parents, we are giving ourselves more time to actually work at being better parents.

We could have spent a couple million more on parenting to this point, but so far, seeing how well he is turning out without leading the typical rich kid lifestyle, I am thrilled with this more Native approach to childraising.
  • Roger May 26, 2011, 10:14 am

    How do you factor in saving money for college education?

    Reply
  • Mrs. Money Mustache May 26, 2011, 10:49 am

    By the way, when we bought fuzzi bunz back in 2006 (after trying many other brands of cloth diapers), we bought them brand new at $14.95 per diaper and probably cheaper for a 12-pack of diapers. I ended up selling them used at a cost of about $8 per diaper. I bought them at cottonbabies.com and diaperco.com, which are great cloth diaper web sites.

    Now, it seems that fuzzi bunz cost more ($19.45 per diaper, according to your Amazon.com link — although it is nice to see them sold on Amazon), so buying used makes even more sense now. I noticed that cottonbabies sells used ones for $14.95 each. There are plenty of lightly used cloth diapers out there and since fuzzi bunz are pocket diapers, they really don’t wear out. You can just purchase new inserts, if necessary. Diapers with velcro wear out a lot faster than the ones with snaps.

    Anyway, this whole cloth diaper thing is deserving of it’s own post as it can be quite confusing for new parents to sift through all the information out there. Ultimately though, cloth diapering is super easy!!

    Reply
  • Tammy May 26, 2011, 10:57 am

    I am not of the opinion that parents owe children a college education. If we can help out, great, but it’s actually better for the kid of he pays at least part of it. I say this having raised 3 kids into their 20s this way, and all of them are self supporting, hard working, happy adults.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache May 26, 2011, 11:04 am

      I agree, Tammy!

      I’m sure MMM has more to say on the subject (and I believe it may be covered in the post regarding a coffee machine paying for a college education), but this is basically our point of view as well.

      It’s great to hear that you raised 3 kids this way and it all worked out beautifully.

      Reply
      • Roger May 26, 2011, 11:25 am

        Interesting. My father funded my college education and so I felt an obligation to fund the education for my two sons. I gave them each enough to cover the cost of a state college and told them that they could spend less and keep the extra or spend more and take out a loan. They both seem to be minimizing costs to save money.

        Reply
        • Mrs. Money Mustache May 26, 2011, 11:38 am

          That seems like a great compromise, since a state college would be a much more manageable cost.

          MMM and I both paid for our own college education, although I did get some help from my parents. It was very rewarding to work and put myself through school and it really made me appreciate the cost of an education. In fact, my first year of University (as we call it in Canada) was free since my mom worked on campus that year. Guess what? I didn’t appreciate it and I flunked that year. The next 5.5 years, I paid for my own education and I certainly didn’t want to let that money go to waste. I really thought about my major and took everything much more seriously.

          I also like to keep in mind that our son may want to choose a different path, which may not include college. While I would encourage him to go to college, you just never know what the future holds for your children.

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          • Jen May 26, 2011, 1:40 pm

            I agree. Many of my friends had college fully paid for and seemed to totally take it for granted anyway. I also think that something has to give with the college system in the next 15 years or so because I can’t imagine anyone will be paying $200k a year or whatever it’s expected to cost by then!

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            • MMM May 26, 2011, 4:02 pm

              Agreed! I think we’re in for some exciting changes in higher education in upcoming decades, because the learning can now so easily be done outside the setting of a physical university, with its expensive stone buildings and distracted researchers who treat their teaching as a necessary evil on the side. Bill Gates speaks about this topic quite a bit – ways to use technology to bring students together for learning, without all the 90% of university spending that is unnecessary for learning. We can do things much more efficiently if we break the silly tradition of current universities.

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          • Heather Lei January 29, 2014, 5:21 pm

            I had the opposite reaction. My mom paid for my tuition and in return I felt obligated to do the best I could since I was not paying for it myself.

            Reply
        • Emmers August 13, 2012, 8:05 pm

          Exact same here — if I don’t pay for my kids’ college educations, then I feel like I would be failing my parents and *their* parents. College is expected (although starting your own business is also acceptable), and when you’re at school, *school* is your job. You are there to excel. You’re not there to make $6 an hour waiting tables because your parents want to teach you some bullshit “lesson” about “self-reliance.”

          You also go to an in-state school, naturally. And you get jobs during the summer to pay for your own luxuries.

          Maybe this is an immigrant thing? I dunno.

          Reply
          • Nancy September 27, 2012, 12:59 pm

            The instate school is not nearly as much of a bargin as people say it is now days. For instance my home state (NH) has a grand total of 3 state schools, two of which are glorified baby sitting programs and the other is known for being a blatant party school with some decent programs but nothing in the field I nor my brother wanted to be in, plus it’s still very expensive for an in-state school ($16,422 in-state) . We both looked out of state, him in the SUNY system, myself at a small private college. Our out of pocket costs each year are maybe 3k different and I personally felt I got a much better experience (I was never in a class larger then 30 kids for example whereas he was in giant lecture halls of 200-300 being taught by someone only a few years older)

            Reply
  • Jenny May 26, 2011, 11:26 am

    Agreed! Hallelujah for cloth diapers. My fuzzibunz bought in 2006 lasted through three kids! Child care is by far the greatest cost, and of course, our family has some other factors as well for income/expense, as we all do. We buy very little for the kids, buying used and getting things from friends (and then we pass along as well) but we do spend more money on experiences, travel, all of which we do very little of anyway. Now, 5 years after my first child, I’m thinking about doing all of these things, and wonder why I didn’t do this before now – when my kids were all really small. Oh ell, things always look more clear in reverse.

    Reply
  • Frugal Vegan Mom May 26, 2011, 12:06 pm

    Hi, found you through ERE, THANK YOU for this post!!

    I’m a new mom of a 3 mo. old and have had discussions with friends about everything you said above and how we might educate other future parents – both parents working all the time with kids in daycare should NOT be the norm!

    Most people do it out of what they believe is necessity, and it sure makes for a stressful, unhealthy life for both parents and kids.

    Also I’m curious about the details of your $300/mo. figure, I haven’t even actively tried to cut costs in the baby supplies dept. and we spend less than this. Healthcare is the biggest cost, and then we don’t buy anything other than diapers and wipes… which is definitely offset by our lack of going out to the bars all the time!

    K

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    • Mrs. Money Mustache May 26, 2011, 12:18 pm

      Yes, I’m curious about this $300/mo figure as well! :) I feel like it was a lot less. We did end up paying for the birth and a minor surgery in those first 2 years, so maybe this is included in this number? There were also some major breastfeeding issues, so formula had to be purchased as well. My goals of a natural childbirth and breastfeeding my child did not go exactly as planned…

      When our son was born, we bought 3 things: a co-sleeper, a Maya wrap, and cloth diapers. Everything else we got used from friends.

      In retrospect, a co-sleeper wasn’t even really necessary and we should have bought the cloth diapers used… but now that same co-sleeper has made the rounds to at least 10+ other babies and the cloth diapers and Maya wrap were sold, so it all worked out.

      Can you tell I like this topic? ;)

      Reply
      • MMM May 26, 2011, 5:21 pm

        Yeah, the recurring monthly costs are much lower than $300 for a young child, but I budgeted a little extra to cover occasional special health issues, plus things like additional utilities for laundry, an extra plane ticket for the annual family vacation, etc.

        Reply
    • EWW (Early Withdrawal When?) September 15, 2014, 6:08 pm

      I used to date a girl worked at a child care provider and she would tell me stories of how both parents being doctors, lawyers, engineers or the like would drop their kid(s) off in the morning and not pick them up until eight at night! I think this stems for resisting change. A child can be planned or not. Jobs and careers not so much. If one chooses to be in a profession, and all of a sudden has a child, I can see why they would choose to just drop them off at a daycare center; because it is easier! When money runs rampant in a family it does sound easier to just make use of existing facilities instead of compromising their own lives by being a stay at home parent. I really like MMM’s suggestion of both parents having part time jobs. Best of both worlds in my mind.

      Reply
  • Sarah May 26, 2011, 12:07 pm

    I use cloth as well, and bought from cottonbabies. I loved it. I think Kids need to learn how to work. If they did we wouldn’t have a debt problem across the nation and more kids would appericate what their parents do. My boys work. Hard. They go to sleep very tired. They are happy, well adjusted, and really appericate sundays, when my husband and I do their work for them.

    Reply
  • Heidi May 26, 2011, 12:13 pm

    MMM
    I’m surprised you are on a path to sending your kid to school given how much you value a child’s home environment and interaction with parents. Did you consider homeschooling so you could continue doing what you are already doing with your child?
    Heidi

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache May 26, 2011, 12:31 pm

      I’m going to butt in again — sorry MMM. :)

      Great question, Heidi! Homeschooling is a most excellent option and I admire all parents that choose this route.

      For us, we’re very happy with our local public school and look forward to walking/biking with our child to school every morning and being home when he returns. We also plan to be very involved with the school as volunteers. And, we do feel like we are already doing quite a bit of teaching at home and will continue to do so once our child is in public school, after school and on the weekends.

      While I know that homeschooling provides many many opportunities for social interaction, etc., we feel that our child (being our one and only, by choice) would really benefit from the interaction and routine that a school environment would provide. Many of his friends from the neighborhood are also attending that same school and he seems very excited about it. Left to his own devices, our child can be quite introverted and extremely stubborn and we’ve seen him come a long way in preschool.

      I would be open to homeschooling though, if I felt there was a need and if I felt like my child wasn’t thriving in public school. I would really need to educate myself a LOT and also discipline myself a lot to be able to provide the right kind of homeschooling atmosphere at home and to have good solid routines. We’re a little too “go with the flow” around here at times.

      Reply
      • Jen May 26, 2011, 1:43 pm

        There are a lot of positive things about a good public school, my son loves his school and has lots of friends. Not all kids at school are little monsters either, there are actually a lot of nice kids! His teachers genuinely seem to care about their jobs as well.

        Reply
      • Heidi May 27, 2011, 8:02 am

        It sounds like you have a great situation. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

        Reply
      • KR August 2, 2014, 5:29 pm

        Mrs. Money,
        You said in the comment above, “need to educate myself a LOT…”
        You are infinitely more prepared to teach your son than any of the “certified” state educators. There is a misconception that parents are ignorant, therefore the education of OUR precious children should be handled by the government “experts”. Not only are you giving undivided attention to your son (rather to him + 19 other kids), you are his Mother. You know him better than anyone. His learning style. His personality. His passions.
        Yes, prepare you mind to teach. Yes, prepare your home/schedule to be a good atmosphere of learning. But don’t outsource. You/MMM would NEVER outsource the cutting of the lawn or the prep. of your taxes. Don’t outsource your child. Take 2 hours and read “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor Gatto.
        Best wishes! Thanks for all y’all do to inspire and educate us!

        Reply
  • adam prinsen May 27, 2011, 7:45 am

    i love your values MMM.

    Its great to read this blog and get encouragement like this since the rest of society makes me feel like i’m crazy for thinking like this!

    Adam

    Reply
    • MMM May 27, 2011, 1:41 pm

      Thanks so much Adam!

      Yeah, when you are here in the warm cozy confines of the Mr. Money Mustache blog, you are surrounded by thousands of frugal and non-consumer people. It’s easy to forget that the regular world exists. But then you visit your kid’s preschool, as the other commenter named Kevin just mentioned, you see the real world of middle-to-high-income parenting – the fancy clothes and accessories, the leather-seated Mercedes ML500s and Toyota Sequoias with car loans, the 60 hour work schedules plus business trips, and you need to go and sit in a forest for a while.

      Reply
  • Rainbow Rivers May 27, 2011, 10:37 am

    Great thought provoking post! I would have to say most likely my cost per child a month would be around $200 a month although I would really start having to pay attention to the numbers of child related costs a lot more for a truly accurate number.

    I am basing it off of 5 people living off of $1200 a month income and dividing that among the 5 people to get a cost of $200 per person a month.

    My children are 13 and 10 so needless to say they do eat their share in food as they become teenagers.

    I also value my time with my kids and therefore I did choose the homeschooling route where they are free to explore their interests until that interest is fully satisfied. As a homeschooler I have to factor in the cost of being home all the time so need 3 meals a day, educational expenses and the like related to having children home all the time. I suppose this figure will increase as my 10 year old daughter is already thinking of starting her own business and I will need to help her raise funds to start her business and advertise it as well.

    I am on the fence with college, I do not feel I am obligated to fund their college either but I also feel sometimes college is over rated as I saw many of my college degree friends totally crumble when the economy went and were not prepared to lose thier jobs, cars and homes as they thought they would always be economically safe with a college degree. I also had a few who went to college only to find out what they majored in became obsolete when they finished and had to turn around and go back to school! While I know a college education can indeed help many, it is not always the case.
    However I would fully support my childrens desires to go to college if it is what they truly wanted.

    I would much rather teach my children how to stand on their own, be their own boss, and become entrepenuers of their own making I think.and how to be successful business owners that know how to manage their finances. Financial Management is a sadly overlooked education in most schools today that I think really should be a mandatory class.

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  • Kevin M May 27, 2011, 12:42 pm

    My favorite line:
    “So every time you spend money buying THINGS under the pretense of doing what’s best for your children, you must weigh that against the guaranteed cost of your young children getting less of their parents.”

    So true. My wife and I discussed this at length before having kids. We determined it would be best for her to stay home with the kids rather than spending day after day in daycare. It takes some sacrifices, but it is well worth it. She used to work at a daycare and saw first hand what you talk about. Double income families making well over $100k/year, driving luxury SUVs, dropping off early and picking up late, and talking about putting them to bed early. I can’t understand why people even have kids under those circumstances.

    Reply
  • Tammy May 27, 2011, 8:54 pm

    for what it’s worth, here’s how we did it:

    1. each kid decided for himself whether to go to college
    2. each kid decided for himself whether to take the free classes at the community college offered in place of high school classes during their high school career
    3. each kid decided for himself whether to work, go full or part time, what to study
    4. each kid decided for himself on his major

    we didn’t mind discussing it with them, but they made up their own mind.

    we helped by giving them the choice of either:

    1. living at home for free, with an old beater car provided (along with the insurance), and they paid for tuition and gas. if they wanted to eat at home it was free also.

    2. living on their own and applying for financial aid, etc. Whatever costs came out of their pockets after the aid, we reimbursed them 50% of that.

    they all chose various options among the many i listed.

    our daughter had 80% of her two year degree when she graduated high school – at no cost to anyone, books included. she went on to live cheaply at home, get her 4 year degree, only borrowed during her last year when her money ran out, and then paid off her $10,000 in loans within a few years.

    one of our sons married and had a baby and bought a house and worked 50-60 hour weeks in maintenance, all the while going to college part time. he is 3/4 done at this time, still chipping away at it. he plans to teach high school math. he has only started taking some small loans this last semester, and will probably not need too many more along the rest of his path. it made sense to him to take the zero interest loan and work a little less, in order to spend more time with his family.

    our other son works full time in accounting and is 6 months away from his 4 year accounting degree. he has no debt, and will graduate debt free and with money in the bank, largely in part to living cheap and not marrying yet.

    they all took quite varied paths, but were all appreciate of the experience along the way, and i like to think its because they paid for a part it all along the way. they all chose to complete their first two years at the local community college — so affordable. and they all lived in non-dorm situations. and they all finished up/are finishing up their last 2 years at the local liberal arts college. it’s a respected institution, and their education has not suffered at all because of the community college and the lack of a dorm experience. i think it saved them from some trouble also ….

    we made a practical decision to help them at the level that we did because that is what we could afford without taking out loans as parents. it was simple math based on our income. if we could have paid for it all we probably would have because we love them, but i’m not sure that would have been for the best.

    we also home schooled the first two for a few years, until life got to complicated to do a good job of it. I liked home schooling for lots of reasons, but I also saw an advantage to them going to public school and learning how to swim with the sharks, cause life ain’t easy.

    I also got my 4 year degree and then my masters all through those years of child raising. so they went to school along with me at times, and that was a lot of fun. I would like our society to view education as a life long thing, and as an optional thing that we do when it is to our benefit, and as a financially calculated decision rather than as the last stage of childhood. it’s so much more useful and honest that way. it can be a good thing if we know what we want and if our goal requires that degree or licensure. it can be a real waste of money if we just go to college because its the time in life when everybody goes to college ….

    Reply
    • Elizabeth April 10, 2013, 2:02 am

      What a wonderful comment. Particularly about education ‘not being the end of childhood’. Here’s to a real lifelong education!

      Reply
  • Mirwen December 8, 2011, 8:58 pm

    I’ve found that early child-raising costs amount to ($200*child#)/month for our first child. I suspect that each additional child would cost less, but only slightly. $160 is food. From the third trimester on, a child eats about half as much as an adult, or about 1k calories, until the teenage years where it spikes sharply to more than an adult. Based on $75/wk for an adult we spend about $162.50 a month for a child sized serving of our current diet. The remaining $37.50 is spent about equally on clothing and diapering, with a small amount for toys at goodwill. We use cloth diapers at home, but we do use disposable diapers at night and when going out or traveling. This results in about 50/50 cloth/disposable use for our household. I suspect that any more or less than this includes child care or gifts.

    /rant
    I personally take great offense at the idea that gifts can save you significant savings of money. Some suggestions that I strongly object to include the idea that all your family buy clothing for your child and you use a spare room or park a tumbleweed home on someone else’s property for no cost. I could tell you that someone let me use their spare room for free, but that would not be a savings, that would just be someone else paying for my expenses. Although I do not recommend denying such help if it is available, I do not think that getting someone else to pay for your expenses as a legitimate survival strategy. Along with such a philosophy, I consider the expenses of my first (and expectantly) only child to be $200 per month until near the teenage years where I expect it to double (food + social/transportation expenses) excepting inflation (so I expect it to be $400/mo in today’s dollars between approximately age 13 and age 18). /rant

    On a personal note, I was raised by a very poor single mother with a master’s degree (poly sci). Although I was I was raised to value education, I was also raised to pay my own way partially from age 16 on. After this point I was expected to pay for everything I needed except for food or shelter. From 16 on I had at least a part time job. After 18 I was expected to pay for all extras plus pay rent for food and shelter. Admittedly I was paying less than the total cost of food and utilities I was costing my mother, but just the idea that these things cost money and I needed to pay for them continuously really helped my education in finances.

    Reply
  • Wendy January 2, 2012, 1:33 pm

    I’m fairly new to MMM-was introduced by my hubby. I’ve enjoying reading the various articles. It’s great to hear different perspectives on this particular topic.

    I do agree that it is beneficial for children to earn money to cover their costs as they grow up and go off to uni/college. We are blessed to have parents contributing to an RESP for our son.

    Considering that my hubby and I (mostly) adhere to the philosophy of MMM and want to transition to one full time working or both part time working in the near future, what suggestions or advice would you give if we were considering having a second child? Appreciate your comments on this. Thanks.

    Wendy

    Reply
  • hands2work September 5, 2012, 3:44 pm

    I used the old fashioned kind of cloth diapers that inherited from my Aunt. She had inherited them from my mother. In our family that’s just what we did. I was lucky enough to have no trouble breast feed for my son’s entire first year of life. He never ever had a bottle. I taught him how to drink out of a straw when he was 2 months old and any juice or water he needed he got that way. Considering he was the first grandchild on both sides he got all the clothes and toy he needed from relatives. He was virtually free for us for the entire first year. Because of that fact, I was able to stay home with him for 2.5 years until he was desperate to be around other kids and I put him in daycare and went back to work. My friends thought I was crazy for doing cloth diapers, but I really don’t see how anyone pays for the disposables especially considering that every disposable diaper ever used still exists in a landfill somewhere…they take 100 years to decompose according to what I’ve read.

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  • Fitzy February 24, 2013, 12:49 pm

    You fail to address the issue of the financial risks a parent takes by withdrawing from the workforce. If you were to die or divorce your wife, would she be able to support herself and your son? You seem to disfavor life insurance. I’m assuming the money you are currently living off of would support her if you died but it wouldn’t work if you divorced. Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them, but all to often it does. Then a family needs to fund two households and the woman usually needs to go back to work. If you haven’t worked in five years, good luck finding a job, particularly one that pays anywhere near what you would have been making if you had stayed employed. Women stay trapped in bad marriages when they have no source of their own income. I would never completely withdraw from my career.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 24, 2013, 3:08 pm

      Ahh – all the more reason to raise children frugally, save money in advance, and maintain a diverse set of skills and a minimal level of insatiable consumer desire!

      Meanwhile, I do know about a dozen divorced couples now – many are indeed struggling because they had designed things like car loans and long commutes into their lives, which they suddenly could not afford when the income stream was interrupted.

      If we split up, there would be more than enough savings for both people to remain retired. And since we both have interests other than sitting around at home, both Mrs. MM and also I have the ability to go out and earn money whenever we choose. Since retiring from our single-focus corporate jobs seven years ago, we have become MORE employable, not less, as we’ve had time to develop skills in more fields and meet more people.

      The ability to get jobs comes from having useful, salable skills and knowing a good network of people who work or own companies in industries of interest. Or from starting your own company. Holding onto an existing job out of fear does not really increase one’s income security.

      Unfortunately, using a phrase like “good luck finding a job” can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it represents a helpless attitude that makes a person less employable.

      Reply
  • Laurie March 18, 2013, 3:26 pm

    Whoa, way to rub in how bad I feel already. My baby daddy and I just recently quit our jobs for lower paying part time jobs, because we know that time is much more important than money. Unfortunately, the lower income will delay our retirements for a very long time.

    Pregnancy and childbirth cost me over $3,000 (I did a home birth which actually was a lot cheaper than going the hospital route, but that is not why we did it). But as for costs on my child, who just turned a year, I think I spent a total of $150 on him. Everything we have is either hand-me-downs or baby shower gifts, and with my friends having kids older than mine, it looks like I wont have to spend a cent on clothes or toys for a very very long time. I also learned how to sew, so I can repair clothes, make cloth diapers/bibs/other clothes/etc, and I have even made stuffed animals. Where do I get the material? No, not a fabric store. I get it from clothes that have gotten stained or holey, and from friends old clothes that they were just going to dump off at Goodwill anyway.

    Also, after using cloth diapers, i recently got turned on to cloth sanitary napkins (momma cloth) and vaginal cups to replace pads and tampons. I have to tell you that these cloth pads are ah-mazing! I feel like I’m sitting on a cloud instead of an itchy plastic thingy. Highly recommend it for you Ms. MMs out there.

    Reply
  • Laurie March 18, 2013, 3:29 pm

    Forgot to mention that we NEVER bought baby food. It’s a waste of money. We just blended whatever we ate for dinner. Since baby eats so little compared to us still, we haven’t seen our grocery bill rise yet.

    Reply
  • noob October 28, 2013, 4:29 am

    Curious — what about health insurance? My sister-in-law pays $800 per month to insure her family now that she has twin babies — what is the MMM way to approach health insurance for a family?

    Reply
  • Travis January 19, 2014, 11:06 pm

    With regards to the diaper issue, I cheered and nearly did back flips when my son officially traded in his diapers for underwear. Disposable diapers were costing about $35 per month and took up a third of our weekly trash.

    Reply
  • Bunnykick2000 January 22, 2014, 9:41 am

    Triple M,

    Thanks for starting this blog. I started reading from the beginning and LOVE it.

    It helps keep the family on track and not get sucked into the world of obnoxiousness. Side note: Black Friday = “The Dumbest Day in America”

    Up to now i’ve been wanting to comment, but this article really got me hoppin’. Kids are as expensive as you want them to be. With the Triple M lifestyle they should barely put a dent in the budget. Our kids are 10 and 7. The first child used clothe diapers. Yeah it’s more environmentally friendly and cheaper than disposables, but still GROSS. Kids do not want to sit in their own waste!!! Our society trains them to enjoy sitting in their own feces then spend a huge amount of time to re-train them to use the potty. Where is the logic in that? Also, and I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned this being someone that cares about the earth: our landfills are not designed to handle human waste, it is a complete disaster to place all that baby crap in the land without treating it properly.

    With the second child we went DAIPER FREE. We decided the best thing we could do for our kids was to have one stay-at-home parent, no matter the “financial” or “career” consequences. It was best for mom, because she could feed the kids for free with breast milk and sync the rhythms of early life together It only took a couple weeks of work to get our daughter to use the bathroom when queued. We started this when she was just weeks old. It was just so much fun having a child that can’t even crawl that used the toilet on queue.

    Here is a link to diaper freeness:
    http://www.diaperfreebaby.org/

    Kickin it Triple M-style

    P. S. You should do a post on not buying anything disposable. I suppose our only weakness in this category is TP. i.e. no diapers, napkins, “women’s” napkins, cups, plates, filters, trash bags, towels, strange cleaning things like swiffers, etc. Though I think most of your intelligent readers know this already.

    Reply
  • Vanessa February 5, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I’ve been devouring all of your posts and had to comment on this one to say thank you- this is by far my favorite post. Thank you for putting this out there. We have two boys and we wouldn’t trade the time we have with them for anything in the world.

    Reply
  • Jodi March 10, 2014, 11:51 pm

    Hi, I am currently making my way through your blog having followed a link from a savings forum. We visited the idea of early retirement about 10 years ago with 3 children already and decided while we liked the concept, our stage of life was somewhat prohibitive. That particular program encouraged a lot of focus on low spending and increased earnings to get to financial freedom as fast as possible. Our choice at the time was to use the ideas to enable me to stay at home with our children and work toward part-time retirement instead.

    We paid off our mortgage in 7 years and then saved and spent $50,000 on a caravan and extended trip with our children.

    Sadly, after that, we lost our way a bit and got sucked in to consumerism. Child number 4 is now with us, we’re choosing to send our firstborn to a private school plus boarding costs. I’m surrounded by the ridiculous amount of stuff we’ve accumulated and ready to start over.

    What I did want to say is that I like the way your advice can be useful across many different situations. Our choices mean our path is different to yours (4 kids for a start) but I love that we have the freedom to choose, rather than continue to be products of the world around us. Our plan continues to be early semi-retirement and despite our little detour, we are still on track for that.

    I also wanted to offer a warning to consumers about modern cloth nappies. It’s really easy to spend waaaayyyy too much on pretty patterns and embroidery. I’m happy with our reduction in waste and we will save money but nowhere near what we would have if I hadn’t got a little carried away. :/

    Reply
  • Izzy September 14, 2014, 10:36 pm

    I am a brand new reader, and I’m going through all the archives to catch up. I was a fan until this article.

    Your comments about both parents working outside of the house are disrespectful and painful. My husband and I are working to pay off our debt, we are working on paying off our house, we are working on me leaving my day-job, which is in law enforcement, so my schedule is up and down. Our kids do go to daycare and now kindergarten (2 kids) and it breaks my heart every freaking time I have to drop them off, or don’t get to see them but for a few hours. It is painful enough, without you giving your opinion. How about we all accept the fact that every family is different, and every family has different goals. Ours are similar to yours, just right now we are doing things this way.

    Do not be so judgmental when it comes to other people’s families and choices they make.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 15, 2014, 8:26 pm

      Sorry to hear this one hurt your feelings, Izzy!

      I think when I wrote this, I was marveling at some of the folks I keep meeting who consume furiously (his and hers Mercedes SUVs parked at the McMansion, long commutes due to choosing the ritzy neighborhood, etc.), and then insist that it would be impossible to raise kids on a single income. It’s not the double working parents that are the problem, it is the refusing to accept that they got to that situation by choice that bugs me.

      You’ll get more enjoyment from this blog if you don’t take things too personally – it’s addressed at our society as a whole. If something hits close to home, that is a good thing – it is up to you to accept the challenge and decide if your life is truly meeting your own goals. If it is, no need to take offense, because you are confident you are doing the right thing – right?

      Reply
  • Stellar October 13, 2014, 10:34 am

    I’ve never understood why people think children are so expensive. I’ve never been burdened with true day care costs so I suppose my observations are skewed. My father is retired and he helped us with my daughter until we enrolled her in Pre-K. The biggest reason we opted to send her to school a bit early was so that she would gain some social skills. A 2 year old stating she doesn’t really like people was a little weird! We do pay for pre-k: 4500/yr.

    I did not use cloth diapers so I can’t remember the cost being a burden but I was not a frugal thinker back then. I am sure if I had to do it all over, I’d see it with compound interest in mind. :-)

    As for the working part, I love, love, love my job. My kid is a miracle kid – she was never supposed to happen. After the initial shock and fear, we were excited. I’d already worked my butt off for a few years at my current company so I’d proven my worth by then. The only thing I had to do to be happy was change my mindset about my career path. Instead of certain promotions per 18 months… I needed to be fulfilled and exude excellence where I was. I am pretty lucky in that my manager allows me to be flexible because I am worth it as an employee. We manage our time so that our child has our attention and healthy alone time in the dirt and climbing on the deck outside.

    My situation may be different as in most people do not have the work/life balance options at work but even once we achieve a true ‘retirement’ status I think I’d love to work even if part time…

    Reply

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