You can have your kid and be FI too!
Get it? My play on words? I hope so. I did a play on “you can’t have your cake and eat it to.”
Well, you can have a kid and be FI too! We are living proof that it can be done. Now to be clear I am talking about being FI – Financially Independent. I am not talking necessarily about the RE part of FIRE – Retiring Early. But to be honest, we probably could have retired already but it honestly was not part of our plan to retire too early.
A few quick stats before I get too far into this post. First. The US Department of Agriculture says it costs $233,610 from birth to age 17. Holy Smokes. A cool quarter mill and some change. And this does not even count in the college years and tuition. If you really want to geek out then check out the Study.
In 2015 the data says the average annual cost of raising a child is $12,980. 28% of that is related to housing, followed by 18% for food and 16% for childcare. Another interesting statistic is that the average family spends $500 to $1,000 per season (yes, per season) on extracurricular activities for their kids.
Anyway, so it ain’t cheap to have a kid. And with me having two kids, that’s a cool half mill (ok I rounded up a bit from $466,000 to $500,000). Thinking back to when we decided to have children we did not sit around the kitchen table and talk about the money impact. Having children is a choice and an individual decision for a couple.
For those that decide they do not want to have children – that is perfectly fine. Everyone makes their own choices and if that choice is to not have kids, so be it. Having children is not for everyone, whatever the reason is. Some may just not be kid people or maybe the decision involves the discussion around financial costs.
And remember, the definition of FI is unique to you. Like I have mentioned before, don’t focus on my financial numbers or the financial numbers of others. Focus on your own. Choices about lifestyle also impacts being FI greatly so have an awareness of your choices before you make them.
So, what are some ways we were able to achieve FI and have kids? Let me show you.
Limit Extracurricular Activities
This may have been an easy one for us. Our two boys (now young adults) never really asked to be in multiple activities. With a three year separation in age usually the younger one followed the older one.
We know friends that on the one hand complain about ‘always running’ from one kid event to another but also never limit their kids activities. But Little Johnny wants to do everything, who am I to say no. Your his parent so act like one.
While we never had to say no to multiple activities we were prepared to. Both our boys played one sport – ice hockey. Now, in a South Texas town that is not the cheapest sport to play (think cooling ice in 100 degree weather). An average season cost here cost I think like $1,000 and the season was only 4 months long. Tack onto that, the Summer season (another $850). Then you have all the equipment that goes along with it. While I complain about the cost, on the other hand is being indoors at an ice rink when it’s 100 degrees outside…..
The second activity was Boy Scouts. They both started as Cub Scouts and worked up to earning Eagle Scout (highest rank in Scouts). I will admit, while they joined on their own, they had a little pressure in that I am an Eagle Scout, as well as my three brothers and one sister earned Girl Scout Gold. Anyway, while the average weekend campout was cheap (like $35), it was the annual summer camp trip out of state that cost around $1,000 a pop. Times three (two boys and dad as Scoutmaster).
The only other activity was band in middle school, followed by marching band/symphonic band in high school. For the early middle school years we rented trombones since we were not sure about the ‘stick tuiteditness’ of staying with band. But when it was obvious they were committed, we shelled out $2,500 each time for nice trombones. But you have to realize those lasted their entire career – 6 years in band. There are other costs too – the annual fee for marching band (schools do not subsidize band like sports) was $950. Times two boys. Then add in the occasional big band trip to NYC or Orlando at a cool $1,500.
Even with all these costs, I know friends that spend a heck of a lot more on their kids activities.
Make your kid pay for stuff
This is a life lesson for any kid. Have them pay for stuff that goes beyond housing them and feeding them. This teaches them valuable lessons that there is nothing free in life. Buying something is a choice that has consequences, the main one being you are exchanging your money for the item.
Now we do not consider ourselves harsh how we did this. We started out with small things when our boys were young. Whenever the boys would ask to buy a toy or that candy bar, we would always ask how much money they had.
I am not suggesting you achieve FI by making your kids buy everything they want. Use these moments a teachable moments to start them on their own path to understanding finances.
Pay your kids for doing chores
OK, this one may tweak people a bit. There are two camps on this one – don’t pay or pay. We are in the camp of using this as a financial lesson to our kids about earning money. We do not just give them money for nothing (wasn’t that a song in the 1980s?). We had chore lists and they both earned money for doing their chores.
What this led to what the realization that if they did some work, they got paid and that led to them being able to buy more of the things they wanted. The goal of this was not to be cheapskate parents by putting the cost of things on our boys. The point was to make this a teachable capitalist moment that would stick with them for life.
Just Say No
I grew up during the Reagan presidency and I remember Nancy’s “Just Say No” campaign. While that was focused on saying no to drugs, I took that to saying no to every want that our boys had.
It’s ok to say no. You are the parent so act like one. You do not have to cave in every time your kid asks you to buy something. Oh sure, that led to many a temper tantrums during the terrible two’s or slammed doors during the teenage years.
Again we used these as teachable moments for our boys. We would walk through the scenario of earning money, spending money, saving money for a bigger goal. This was adapted to their age, as they got older the concepts got heavier and more involved.
Have some fun – at a reasonable cost
We took plenty of family vacations and had a blast on them. Most of our vacations were visiting family since we lived far away from them. Most of the time this meant free lodging while we shacked up with the parents or siblings. In addition we would make family dinners and thus avoided over price restaurant meals. The largest expense we had was plane tickets.
We did occasionally splurge on trips but did so on a limited basis. We went to England and Scotland – but that was when my brother was overseas and we used his place outside London as our base of operations. We went to Banff in Canada – but we stayed in a off the beaten path, no so touristy part to save money – and still saw everything we wanted! We did other big ‘celebration trips’ like high school graduation.
What we did not do is do high cost extravagant trips every year. Or if we did do a big trip, we figured out ways to save on costs.
We know families that are taking trips every time the kids are off from school. And they are not doing cheap things, I mean trips like skiing at the peak of Colorado skiing season or going to Hawaii at a peak time. Hey, more power to them and I not jealous, we just have different priorities.
At the end of the day, life is about making choices. We decided that we would have kids. We also decided that we wanted to achieve FI but knew that our plans might take longer knowing our choice.
What choices have you made when it comes to kids and FI?