We at Dual Income No Kids obviously focus on financial issues that pertain primarily to couples, rather than families.
At the same time, discussing what your financial strategy is in terms of family makes a great deal of sense to bring up long before you do have kids. Just as it is advised to seriously discuss whether both partners are interested in having children, it is also important to talk about the finances around this decision.
As we know, kids are a great expense, that pay off in dividends that never show up in our bank accounts. So in making the choice to have children, it is a good idea to discuss many different areas that this decision will impact. For example, do you agree on the following areas, or can at least compromise on them.
Planning to have children. Is it better to plan ahead financially to have children, even if this means you’ll have to wait? Or do you see children as a choice that you make and then adjust your finances accordingly? This is an important one to make sure you are in alignment on, as it will affect your family planning greatly.
Public vs. Private. Are you both on the same page in terms of whether to go the public or private school route? Do your finances back up this choice? If you choose more expensive schools are you willing to make sacrifices for this choice?
Allowance vs. Tough Love. What are your thoughts around whether to give an allowance, give nothing at all, or hand over your wallet to your first born? The subject of whether or not you got an allowance or earned your money baby-sitting might not just come up, but it is likely to be important in the way that you will approach disciplining your own children financially.
General Expenses. It will also be good to discuss what your boundaries are in terms of spoiling your children. Are you fine shopping at second had stores and swapping with friends, or do you need the latest matching outfit? This will make a big difference, from the cradle to college. It might start out with a cute doll sized outfit, but those types of expenses can turn into cars and so forth. Choosing how much to spoil your children can make or break your budget. But not discussing this in advance can also cause ongoing conflict within the household.
Chores vs. Cleaning Service. While it might affect your budget only slightly, the choice of giving your children chores to discipline them will greatly impact their general approach to work. Even if you don’t get help from outside, if you take on all of the household work yourselves and let your kids off the hook, this will impact their overall work ethic. I come down on the side of giving a hefty dose of chores, but you’ll want to make sure you agree on this work ethic issue.
Paying for College vs. Letting your Kids Foot the Bill. You might already know where your partner stands on this, but it might surprise you as well. Sometimes having had to pay for your schooling yourself will teach you what a learning lesson this is for children. While if you got your expenses covered throughout college you might have appreciated that support from your parents and believe it was their role as parents. This will be a hefty expense, so you’ll want to be on the same page.
When to cut them off? Also keep in mind your principles around when kids should be left to fend for themselves. If you aren’t in agreement on this it won’t be easy. These days many people I know still get support from their families years after I would ever feel comfortable it.
For James & I, we definitely haven’t come to the table with the same opinions on all of these issues but I’m confident that we’ll negotiate them on the frugal side if we choose to have children.
Readers: We’d love to hear what discussions like this have led to, whether or not you have kids.