Parenting Perspectives: Raising Children Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

Parenting Perspectives: "Raising children doesn't have to be expensive |

I was recently involved in two separate conversations regarding the cost of living, specifically around raising children.

The general consensus was that “it’s so expensive to live nowadays” and “raising kids costs a lot of money” and “we’re waiting until we can afford kids before we have any.”

There are the sky-high medical or adoption fees, and that’s before your baby even comes home. There are the cribs, car seats, changing tables, strollers, swings, high-definition video monitors with 360-degree sweeping views and close-up zoom that you can access from Argentina.

Diapers, wipes, food. The endless food.

What do you do with the kids all day? Day care, preschool, K-12, university. If you stay home, there’s lost income.

Sports and activities. When people ask if my kids will play hockey, I laugh. Those are my tire marks you see on the pavement by the ice rink, burning rubber to get away before the short people in the back seat could start asking questions.

The cost of raising kids |

I probably sound more cynical than I mean to be. But as I was reflecting on these family-raising conversations, two main points came to mind:

First, that we are raising children in a more affluent time than any generation before us. Royalty from a century ago would be flabbergasted at how the middle and even lower classes live in 2016: attached garages, 40-inch flat screens hanging on our walls, running water in multiple bathrooms and a kitchen, access to Google in our pockets, and we spend our leisure time binge-watching strangers on Netflix.

Seriously. Think about it.

It’s verging on the edge of insanity what so many of us consider “necessities” these days. Raising a kid isn’t THAT much more expensive than it used to be. Humans haven’t changed; our expectations have.

I beg you to reconsider how it “has” to be. Our family spends a lot of time thinking about and discussing our values and we do our best to spend our money in a way that reflects those values. Catholic school is important to us, so we find a way to make it a priority. Good day care that shares our values and high-quality nutrition. Vacations for my husband and me. Savings for emergencies and retirement.

Keeping up with the latest technology? Not so much. My husband and I finally upgraded to smartphones a couple years ago, and I’m still dreaming of one day owning an iPhone.

Television? Meh. We have one TV in our house, and we really only use it for movies once in awhile (and Sunday night “Downton” or “Sherlock”), so we only have bunny ears for catching the local airwaves.

While we’d like to upgrade to a larger vehicle, so far the slight inconvenience on long trips hasn’t made it worth it to us to pick up a car payment. The sedans we have now are happily paid in full.

The second, flip side to this concept is the danger in comparisons. I struggle with this daily, as well. Seeing the Audis in the school parking lot, hearing about the family vacations to Florida, thinking about how unjust it is that they can afford a brand-new home on only one salary when I deserve it just as much! For ridiculous, Nicole. Just stop.

We have no idea what goes on in someone else’s home or bank account. They might be swimming in credit card debt to “afford” those seasonal home furnishings. They might have worked their tail off for years to start their own business that is finally showing a profit. Maybe one spouse works in a job that pays well, but is not completely fulfilling, because it’s more important to their family that the other parent is home with the children full time.

It’s a dangerous trap, and I guarantee falling into it is not going to make parenting your kids or following your budget any easier.

What matters to you and your family? What’s on your list of “must haves” that you would be willing to sacrifice in order to reallocate those funds? Eating out? Unlimited monthly data?

I don’t believe there is one right answer. But it breaks my heart when I hear people put off starting families because they have been conditioned to believe that they somehow can’t afford it.

Are there additional costs involved? Absolutely.

Can you find a way to make it work? Creatively, without a doubt.

This column originally appeared in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.
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