The Cost Of The Decision To Have Children And How Many Children To Have

The majority of people know before they get married if they want children or not.  A select few make the decision slowly like my friend who was married for 10 years before she and her husband finally decided they wanted children and had them when she was 37 and 39.

A Comparison: Life With And Without Children

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Within our circle of friends and family, there are only two couples without children.  They are dual income and take wonderful vacations, going to Europe for three weeks and flying around to different locales in the United States.  They have nice homes and frequently host parties.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes I envy their freedom and the extra money they have to enjoy their lives.

Everyone else in our circle has children, and while they are doing well for themselves financially, they live a more modest lifestyle than our friends without kids.  Is it any wonder, considering the United States Department of Agriculture recently proclaimed it will take $295,560 to raise a child born in 2011 to the age of 18? (USDA).  No, that price estimate does not even include college!  Many parents rightly scoff at that report and declare that it costs much less to raise a child, which is generally true.

The Cost Of Having Children

We are raising three children for much less than that, but we still feel a deep hit to our finances, especially as they get older and eat more and want to be involved in more extracurricular activities.  We also pay for private school because we don’t live in a good school district, and now that two children are in school, tuition can get expensive.

the decision to have children

I made the decision to quit my job and work from home after our youngest was born.  I love being able to work from home while caring for my smaller children, but by doing so, we easily gave up $40,000 a year in income (the difference between what I was making in salary compared to what I am making now).  I also gave up an employer-matching retirement savings plan.

Of course, not all of the $40,000 I lost is true loss.  I ultimately quit because not only did I want to be a stay at home mom, but the high cost of child care in our area would have eaten up most of our salary.  A couple with children must make the hard decision whether both should keep working and pay for daycare or whether one should quit his or her job and become a one-income family.

A couple that has no kids can get ahead financially more quickly because both partners can work.

Making The Decision To Have Kids Or Not

My guess is that people who decide not to have children are not necessarily driven to make that decision by finances, though some may be.  It just so happens that a more comfortable lifestyle is often the result of being childless.  I would also guess that even when considering the financial trade-offs, most people who want children will still have them, regardless of the financial implications.

My husband and I always wanted three kids; we are now blessed with three children, and though we struggle financially, the struggle is worth it.  We love being with kids, and we enjoy watching them grow up and watching them learn new things daily.  We look forward to one day, maybe 20 or 25 years from now, when we will also have grandkids.  Even though we sometimes wish to take nice vacations and live comfortably financially, we see our children as an investment, an investment in our family, and we are willing to give up international vacations, new cars, and other material items to care for them.

Did financial considerations affect your decision to have children or not?  If you did have children, did finances determine how many children you had?

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Last Edited: 9th July 2012

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  1. says

    I used to really want children, but now I am not sure.

    But I’m also not currently in a long-term serious relationship OR financially ready to have children, so the idea has been shelved for a bit. I think in 5 years or so I would like to be a mother. It’s really important to me to be stable in all areas of my life before I bring any children into the world, so I am carefully preparing all that now so I will have the freedom to make the decision later.

  2. says

    I just had a great conversation about this topic over the weekend with friends. Biblically speaking, children are a blessing from God. But, taking into account your own personal financial and social situation can add a twist. Now that we have the capability to decide when and how many, is there any Christian ethics involved in this decision making? Great conversation, btw!

  3. says

    My wife and I always wanted kids so there wasn’t much hesitation. They do cost a fortune and as you said it can be tough seeing the dual income/no children couples living in style at times, but I wouldn’t trade my 3 little ones for anything.

    • says

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Mike. We have three kids and my husband and I are both self employed, which makes us, at times, somewhat poor. But our lives are rich, rich, rich.

  4. aa says

    The latest trend is like Christian couples tend to get married and have kids, non-Christian couples tend not to get married or not to have kids. Anyway, choosing between vacations or kids? I choose kids – you can’t go to vacations every day but I see my kids every day.

  5. says

    We both knew that we wanted to have kids, and while we could have been making more money and enjoying more luxuries if we were both working without kids, it was never even a consideration for us. Thankfully I was able to create a nice second income with my websites, so that has replaced my wife’ s income, and allowed us to still be doing pretty well in this tough economy.

    I also think that the numbers for raising kids tend to be a bit high and overstated. I was braced for having kids to be so much more expensive, and while it has been a bit more expensive than without, it hasn’t exactly been overwhelming on our budget as government stats seem to imply.

  6. says

    I recently dug into the 30+ pages of the USDA report and in my blog and disagreed on most of the assumptions for their underlying cost estimates. That being said, we reviewed our finances but they did not stop us from having a child and since our second child is due in Feb. 2013, our finances also did not determine our number of children. We did have a plan and were prepared to live off of one income, but our finances were not perfect. We decided that waiting for the “perfect” time to have a child was a myth and have no regrets.

  7. Noah says

    I’m not sure “struggling financially” would be an appropriate description for a family that sends their children to private schools. My guess is that your family had income of at least 80K/year which puts you nicely ahead of the average family.

    • says

      Noah–We are not there yet in terms of income, actually quite far from it. :) Maybe in a few more years. A large part of the financial struggle IS paying for private school, but it is what we are committed to because our area does not have a good school district. Hopefully we can move out of this area and into a better school district in a few years.

  8. Noah says

    Melissa, I’ve always heard about people paying $10K/year (or more) per child so that is why I questioned the struggle. Is there no way to move to a better area and have your husband commute to work? I admit I don’t know your situation (I did check your blog) but unless the private school is not nearly as much as I think, saving tens of thousands or even thousands might be worth the move alone.

  9. says

    Noah–Our private school is much less than $10K a year, thankfully. The nice area near us has rent at $2K a month and houses that sell for $500k up with $10K to $14K in property taxes yearly. Simply put, we are not interested. Instead, we plan to move out of the area all together when my husband completes his current job. We will then move to an area with a lower cost of living.

  10. Noah says


    that sounds like a good plan! Wow, $500K sounds like the area near me in Orange County, CA. You are living in AZ and prices are that high?

  11. Gil says

    I think we also forget or intentionally don’t mention that there is also a God-factor in having kids too, that being he provides for your needs (not just spiritually, mentally, emotionally, but also physically – including financially). It’s not meaning we’re irresponsible and expect a handout, but sometimes what we need for ourselves, our kids, our family come from unexpected places and doesn’t follow our finances on paper plan. We do our best to earn, save and budget in our family so that we’re good stewards, but honestly plenty of years God just added to our finances/provisions beyond what we expected… a gift here, some hand me downs there, an unexpected need becoming no longer needed, new opportunities for a season, etc.

  12. Shawn G says

    Another part of the children discussion (at least for my wife and me) is adoption. My wife and I are talking about taking care of the orphans (a biblical command), and for us that means adopting at least one child.

    God has placed it on my heart that this child should be older. The question then is when? We have a biological child, and would like to have another. So when do we adopt? Adding the cost of adoption, and where we God will call us to in the future makes these decisions very difficult.

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