The Financial Perks of Being Childless by Choice

When I met up with Modest Money, Outlier Model, Freedom 35, Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses and Add-Vodka in Vancouver last month, an interesting topic came up: many personal finance bloggers, particularly women, choose not to have children. I hadn’t noticed it before — and maybe it’s just because many of us are still in our 20s — but a fair number of PF bloggers are either delaying having children or not planning on having children ever. (Except Daisy, who immediately piped up that children are definitely in her 5-10 year plan).

Before I go too much in one direction, I want to point out that I love children. I freakin’ adore them. I like watching cartoons and building forts and dressing up Barbies. As a part-time nanny through most of my undergraduate degree, I got my share of vomit and poop and tantrums too, and it didn’t make me love them any less. However, over the past few years, I’ve become less and less inclined to have children myself. I don’t know why. It might just be a phase because I’m single and career-focused right now, or I might just be changing my mind. At this point, I’m unsure what the future holds for me family-wise, and I feel no sense of urgency or desire to figure it out yet.

When people point out the financial benefits of not having children, I get it. I’m not sure if I’m quite there yet, but I totally understand the appeal. Children are a lifetime financial commitment. Imagine never having to pay for:

  • education costs (especially post-secondary)
  • toys & baby supplies
  • childcare
  • extra-curricular activities
  • health, vision and dental care
  • missed work days or career stagnation
  • miscellaneous costs (like replacing things your kids have destroyed)

Speaking of replacing things your kids have destroyed, if you want to know just how expensive that can be, you’ll probably enjoy Shit My Kids Ruined.

Not to mention years of stress and worry. Furthermore, you don’t really know what life holds for your child. They could be an athlete or a math whiz that will get a full-scholarship to the college of their choice, or they might be born with a a developmental disability that means expensive long term care. Your child might become a functional independent adult at 20 or they might be hanging out in your basement at 30. I know that the cost of it all is ultimately “worth it”, but I also believe it is possible to be perfectly happy without children.

TeacHer Finance wrote a recent post on the topic titled Would you say no to parenthood for purely financial reasons?

Would you choose not to have children based solely on your finances?

It’s a funny question, because I’m a firm believer that you should NOT have children if you can’t afford them, but it seems weird to make the opposite decision and choose not to have them even when you can afford it, just because you stand more to gain financially. I think the decision to have children is as much about your lifestyle and personal values as it is about money, so the decision cannot hinge on only one of those three aspects. What do you think about the cost of having children and choosing to be childless for financial benefit?

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Comments

  1. I would not choose to not have kinds just because of finances. I believe that you if set certain monetary goals for yourself before you have kids, then there will be some sort of other goal that will always pop up, mainly because of lifestyle inflation.

    I do want kids, and probably in around 5 to 10 years (just like Daisy). However, most of my friends and everyone around us think we’re crazy and that’s too old. I disagree!

  2. I am of two minds on this one. First, I am incredibly frugal and can understand every point that you made. Kids are expensive in money AND in time. They are exhausting. There are a million things that you have to buy when you had kids- diapers, formula, toys, baby crap, etc.

    However, there is nothing in this world like holding your own newborn child in your arms for the first time. There is no feeling like your child telling you that they love you. There is absolutely nothing that has ever made me happier on this earth than sharing my life with my children.

    Think seriously before you choose not to have children for financial reasons. You may regret it one day….and when you do it may be far too late.

    • There are other things that could give the same happiness without the resultant misery that having kids brings. Like a significant other. I’d rather hear the person I chose to spend my life with say “I love you” than someone who drains me of energy and depends on me for everything and never gives me a second to myself.

      Is there also nothing like tantrums, expensive-to-repaint cars damaged with “I love mom and dad” scratched into them by a child, and surly, out-of-control adolescents? Have you even been a parent long enough to see the big picture?

      I don’t understand when people with kids try to sell others on having them. We’re not buying it.

      • Hey Angry Pants, it’s your prerogative. I’m certainly not trying to sell you anything. She wrote a story detailing her thoughts on the subject. I shared mine. Get ahold of yourself. And seriously, since my response triggered a giant tantrum so easily it is probably best that you do not have children.

      • That’s a bit of an extreme reaction, C.

        Not everyone can forego having children — it’s bad for the economy. Low birthrate in North America means an ever-aging population with no youngn’s to replace them. That’s a lot of people on long-term care with very little in the workforce. It’s a highly unfavorable situation for a country that wants to stay viable.

        I thought the topic was interesting, I’m not advocating one side or the other. I think Holly shared a very nice comment and made a great point about the rewards of parenthood. It doesn’t warrant biting her head off.

    • I see no need to retype everything that Holly just said, so “ditto”

    • I totally understand the love/bond between mother and child (my mom is my best friend), but I think it’s better to regret not having kids than to regret having them. I say this just because my grandmother treated my dad very poorly throughout his whole life and it really took a toll on him. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

  3. What about pets? I realize they’re not AS expensive as kids but dogs and cats can be a 10 year commitment and while litter/food isn’t too pricey, vet bills, emergency care, and destroyed furniture/shoes really add up!

    • PFFFFFFFFT! Pets cost pennies compared to children. For our two cats, we buy one box of litter per month ($25.93), and we buy a 16 pound bag of cat food once every three months ($28.20). That’s an average monthly upkeep cost of $35.33. One kid’s lunch money costs more than that for a month!

      But there are lots of people who choose not to get pets for purely financial reasons. In fact, I think that’s more acceptable socially than not having kids for financial reasons. Even though people we talk to laugh when we say “nah, kids are too expensive,” people routinely make the decision to have children despite the exorbitant cost, whether they can comfortably afford it or not.

      For me, pets are not the emotional drain that kids are. Our cats are a bit needier/more dependent than the stereotypical cat, but all they expect is food, water, a clean litter box, and some affection. Kids, on the other hand, require constant care, teaching, molding. But that’s a whole other thing. I consider the emotional resources that having a child would cost me over 18+ years to be a much better reason not to have them than what they would cost financially.

      • I agree with you! Going to play devil’s advocate anyway.

        As I mentioned above, food & litter are cheap. However, as addressing the original post, dogs can destroy just as many things as kids do (my cat alone has broke several drinking glasses and a lamp), which cost money to replace. Dogs, in particular, are more expensive than cats. Some people pay for dog walkers, doggy-daycare, obedience school, and a kennel when they go on vacation.

        Also, vet bills, especially long-term health problems and emergencies needing surgery are expensive! I would say these can be just as emotionally draining because, obviously healthcare for your child isn’t optional, but if you need to decide between spending a few thousand dollars on saving your pet or putting them down, that can be a very emotionally taxing decision.

      • Loving this topic !! My relatives have a dog they call the 10 million dollar dog because he has eaten rubber sandals TWICE and had to get very expensive surgery both times. Obviously still much less money than children, but it can cost you a TON in vet bills especially when surgeries and such are included once the pet gets older and starts to have health issues.

  4. If you look at it purely from a financial point, you would never have kids. The costs are too high and the benefits are pretty much unquantifiable. That being said I don’t regret my little guy at all. No matter how crappy my day is going, that little guy smiles at me and makes it all go away. I say this as a person who wasn’t sure they ever wanted kid(s).

    I also look at the more morbid side and there really is nothing as sad as dying alone. We visited my wife’s grandad in the nursing home and there were so many residents who didn’t have family and no one to visit them. It was truely heartbreaking…

  5. Bridget, I’m with you on this. People who have children should be reasonably financially stable first, but the decision as to whether or not to have them shouldn’t be a financial decision.

    I’m leaning towards not having them, and there’s a big financial perk that goes along with that. I’m not ready to declare myself childfree yet though, who knows, in 2 years I might end up with baby fever :)

  6. If I am living on the poverty line, no, I would not have kids. Having another mouth to feed when I can’t even feed my own is not an option.

    If I am living above poverty, and it’s just a question of my frivolous spending (e.g. I could cut back on things like eating out or buying stuff), then yes.

    I also don’t believe in spending on a new car, a new, bigger house and all that stuff that everyone thinks a baby needs to have before coming into the world.

    I’m more interested in being able to pay for safe shelter, food, transportation, basic baby needs, and having a warm, safe environment for the kid, than having lots of space to stuff junk that a baby doesn’t even care about having.

  7. I can see it from both sides. There definitely is a financial sacrifice to be made when you have kids. We have three of our own and the costs CAN be endless, which is why it’s important to be wise in your spending. If you’ve got major financial issues that need straightened out, then maybe having kids should be pushed back a bit until you get on some solid ground.

    That said, the saying holds true that if you wait until you can afford kids then you’ll never have them. They do cost a crapload of money, but they’re so worth it. There’s nothing quite like holding your child the first time, or watching them discover things you as an adult can take for granted.

    In the end, it’s a personal choice whether or not to wait. We waited a few years and that probably helped us in the long run financially.

  8. Christian L. says:

    Bridget,
    Few people think/say, “I’ll have kids because I can afford it.” The desire to procreate is beyond fiscal values. For me, it’ll be about being with the right gal. Yes, I’d make sure I’d be bringing children into a financially comfortable home.

    I’m a happy person in general, so I could live with or without children. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t make the decision whimsically, but if I never have kids I won’t regret it.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  9. I think the the decision to have children is one of those that is so important that money shouldn’t be considered, either on the positive or negative side. However, money may factor into our decision on how many children to have as we plan to live in a very high cost-of-living area.

    My husband is more eager to get on the baby-train than I am. I want to be married for 5 years before we start reproducing, for relational and educational/career reasons rather than financial.

  10. I can also appreciate both ends of the spectrum concerning this topic. Personally I know that my husband and I may not end up having a child together and we’re okay with that for a myriad of reasons of which financial considerations are near the bottom of the list. The only time money entered into play was concerning the number of children and we agreed that we’d only. Keep in mind that I already have a stepson, but I am not necessarily feeling a desire to become pregnant and raise one of my own. We gave ourselves a cutoff of when we reach 40 and we’re still not willing to have one then that’s it and we’ll be happy regardless.

  11. The problem with introducing finances into the picture with too heavy a hand, is that it skews the decision making process. The physically optimal time to have children is some time in your 20’s, while the financially optimal time is somewhere closer to your 40’s. Not everyone is physically capable of having children in their 40’s, and I’m not sure people are thinking about the costs of multiple rounds of IVF or adoption when they delay it based on money. It used to be common practice for young women married older, financially established men, but that doesn’t necessarily happen anymore. I think I agree with mochiandmacarons, if you can financially provide a child with its needs, you have a green light. Most of us project wants onto children, call them needs, and then assume we can’t afford them.

  12. I’ve always been staunchly anti-children but lately I’ve started thinking that it wouldn’t be so bad to have a family one day. I’m not set on having them or not having them so wtv the guy I end up with wants will probably be ok with me (unless it’s like… we’re having 10 children, in which case there will be an issue…)

  13. Interesting post! I think that I would have the responsibility to delay children if I couldn’t afford them, and I also think I’d definitely delay having them in favour of other goals. I have 13 nieces and nephews and based on what I’ve seen family members go through, I’m on the fence about whether I want children at all. If I do end up going ahead with kids, it’ll be in seven to ten years so hopefully I’ll be a little better financially established by then.

  14. I really don’t enjoy being around children. I have never wanted children. For me, the financial benefits are just a perk of avoiding what for me amounts to a lifetime of misery. The money problems are probably the LEAST of it. *shrugs* Just my $.02.

  15. While I am super stoked to enjoy the financial benefits of not having kids, the decision to not have them (count me among the 20-something female PF bloggers who don’t want them!), mainly came from an emotional standpoint. Honestly, when I was younger (20ish) I did want kids until I realized just exactly what came along with it. I’m easily readable and am known at work for my epic judgey face, and I just don’t think that’d be good for a child. I don’t have a maternal instinct and I have no desire to get pregnant (my mom had preeclampsia and that scares the shit out of me – see also, vaginal birth).

    What’s the worst is that when people say to me “omg you’re so organized, you’ll make such a great mom”, or “you’ll change your mind someday”, or my favourite “who will take care of you when you’re old?”. I can use my organizational skills to be kick ass at my career, I’ve made a decision so don’t patronize me, and I will be in the best care home in Canada when I’m old and decrepit. So there. I just want people to shut up and respect my choice already (and Mr. Dollars’ choice too, since he doesn’t want kids either. But does he get questioned about it? Nope). I’ll be a cool aunt to our friends’ kids, and that will be that.

  16. I would not decide not to have kids purely from a financial standpoint. I think the decision should really depend on your (and your partner’s) wants and desires of family and what family means to you.

    Having said that, my partner and I are more or less in agreement that we will not be having kids (our family will be us, a cat, and maybe a greyhound), so the lack of the financial burden is just a perk, not a deciding factor. :)

  17. I don’t think that finances influenced our decision to have children, at all. However, it did influence the decisions that we make regarding the care etc. One recent example when considering schools. One of my top choices was a semi=private, high ranked, school with additional costs for transportation. I was gung-ho, this IS the choice we are making until the husband made the point of sure, it’s doable for one child, two children, sure. Compare this with our plans of 3-4 children coupled on to other costs, education fund etc. and it becomes quite expensive. As for the decision to have kids though, I think if you waited for the right time, the right number of savings, etc. I think there would be much putting-it-off in reach of loftier goals. I do agree however, parents that are not financially prepared to have children should not do so.

  18. Part of me wonders if this trend is in response to women – ever so slowly – getting closer to equal footing with men. No offense to men, but the decision to have children for them is not quite as costly as it is for a woman. As we become equal in terms of career opportunities and salary, doesn’t it make sense that we also become hesitant to make a decision that may take us out of the office for years, will most likely affect our salaries long-term, and will definitely impact the time we have available to devote to our careers and other pursuits? At this point, statistics for the U.S. show that parenting falls disproportionately on mothers (field trips, cleaning the home, helping children with homework, taking kids to doctor’s appointments, taking time off to care for sick children and elderly parents). So of course women are going to become more and more hesitant to make this decision.

    Personally, I just think I lack the mothering gene. I have a nephew who I love to pieces, but I also really love the fact that, when he gets cranky and would rather scream than sleep, I get to go home to a quiet house. I don’t have a desire to leave my genes behind in another person, and the idea of committing to caring for another human being for 18+ years is just unappealing. Leslie mentioned above that pets can be a 10+ year commitment and even looking at our cats in that light makes me a little antsy. I love them to pieces and put their care before anything else, but knowing that no matter what happens to David and I in the next 10 years, we are responsible for these two cats? That’s a commitment!

    So yeah, financially, I wouldn’t make the decision to have children, but I have about 20 other reasons I don’t want to procreate that come before money.

  19. I could never let money go before kids. I`ve always wanted kids, but I would of course wait until I have a steady job with a decent salary. No need to make it more difficult than what`s necessary. I think if I never have children, 80 year old me is going to feel pretty lonely.

  20. First – thanks for the shout out!

    I’m very conflicted about the issue of having kids. Part of the issue for me is emotional – I’m an extremely anxious person, a total worrier. I know that if I have kids I will have to find a way to cope with this because otherwise I will literally drive myself insane with worrying about them.

    Also, there’s the issue of my work. I’m in a profession where I need to be constantly worrying about the welfare of others all day long; I’m just not sure I could come home and have to continue to pour so much energy into caring for other people.

    Still, I feel very pulled to the idea of having a family. Particularly, to adopting children.

    I just don’t know….

  21. We don’t have any children and it had nothing to do with finances as we’ve never had any money type problems. It was more about wanting to enjoy the marriage a bit before kids and figuring out whether we wanted to take on the responsibility. In our mid 30’s now and if we are meant to be parents it will happen. If not, life goes on.

  22. Right now, I am firmly on the side of not having children-atleast not my own. I have recently thought about fostering as a way of helping children who are already in this world and are given the raw end of the stick. I would like to be in a much better place financially before I do that, however. To each, his own.

  23. Good topic. One I’ve personally never seen before. I 42 and have never wanted children, and it has nothing to do with finances, although I guess it’s an added perk. Mine is solely based on the fact that I never had that urge.

  24. I agree with Holly….There is never going to be a perfect time to have kids. Something else will always come up. As for expenses, we’re choosing to share our money with our daughter by providing for her. I get that it’s not for everyone and you may change your opinion but there;s nothing wrong with not wanting kids either.

  25. I wouldn’t not have kids purely for financial reasons if I wanted them otherwise. That said if I do want them I want to be able to provide with them.

    If you want kids and just don’t want to spend the money (and you have the money) that’s pretty sad…

  26. I’m fairly sure I want to have kids but I think theres a big difference between the question of stalling paenthood to have stable finances and not having kids if you cant afford them. I definitely want to be stable or at least stable-r before I start.

  27. Wow, this is a touchy subject. I can certainly see why people make the choice they do for the reasons you’ve laid out. Being a parent is very personal, very committed choice that is not to be taken lightly. As a father of two, I can tell you that if you decide not to have kids for financial reasons alone, you’re missing the point of what children can actually do for your life.

  28. I’m not sure what I want to do about kids yet. Sure, there are tons of things I want to do personally and professionally, but I’m not sure waiting to have kids, if I decide to have them, is really the best idea either. The below article, and the second link, which inspired it, really got me thinking today. Older parenthood, both male and female, may be a huge risk to kids’ genetic well being.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/12/10/older_parenthood_is_waiting_longer_to_have_kids_a_feminist_triumph_or_a.html

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/magazine/110861/how-older-parenthood-will-upend-american-society

  29. Thanks for the mention. That was definitely an interesting conversation. I either want no kids, or at least 2 kids because growing up without a sibling can get lonely. If I don’t have kids, it wont be because of financial reasons, but because I’ll be too afraid to have them. If I’m gonna be a parent I want to be a good one, but at this point, I don’t know if I can do that or not. It’s a personal choice in the end between couples. But in terms of demographics, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have more younger people in the work force by the time we start to cash in our pensions :)

  30. I would have kids as long as I can feed them and put a roof over their head. Oh, some clothes would be nice, too. But if you wait until you have saved for law school, trips to China to learn Mandarin and the Iphone 39, you’ll never have them. I have met many people who didn’t plan their kids and have thrives professionally because of the need to provide for their family.

  31. I don’t think of our finances will be an excuse to not have kids. We do believe in being financially ready. However, I’m not sure if we will have kids. I’m pretty career driven, and kids slow down a woman’s career. My hubby gets it too. I think time is more of an issue for us. No time for kids.

  32. I know this sounds awful, but I was in Costco today and there was little kid having a tantrum, and I thought to myself “Thank god I don’t have kids!”. I know one day I will want them, but I’m closer to 30 than 20 and I still can’t see myself having them. And I do like having the financial freedom in my 20s my parents never had. Is that so wrong? I don’t think so.

  33. If people made their childbearing choices solely based on finances, nobody would ever have kids.

    Seriously though, I think it’s important to be in a good place financially before considering having kids because – no matter how budget savvy you are – there are some expenses you just can’t avoid after having kids. You’ll also have to account for a significant loss in income since few employers offer paid maternity leave, and one parent may need to quit his/her job altogether depending on the cost of childcare.

    It’s definitely a tough decision. My husband and I are still undecided on when the timing will be right. Ideally, I’d like to be 100% debt-free before we have kids… but I also know, realistically, that won’t happen for at least another 5-10 years. By then, the “ideal” time to have children (physically speaking) will have passed. :(

  34. Interesting post–I agree with you that people should be financially secure before purposely having children, but I also understand that sometimes there are “surprises” along the way. All that being said, I don’t have kids yet so I can’t speak from a parent’s perspective, but I can certainly say that I wouldn’t have kids purely based on financial reasons.

  35. I never “wanted” kids. Not when I was a kid myself, not as a teen, not as a young adult, and not now, particularly. I do know that if I marry someone who really wants to have children, I will probably end up having one or two and I will think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I consider myself lucky because I certainly don’t suffer from baby fever and am happy to wait until I’ve planned for kids financially, emotionally – the whole package.

    Also, I have a not-so secret fear that I’m not the nurturing type. I forget to feed my fish on the regular.

  36. iheartbudgets says:

    I have far too strong an opinion on this to join the discussion based soley on the financial aspect. I guess my asnwer is no, finances were not our top consideration when choosing to have kids :)

  37. I’m absolutely planning on having children, but I have a feeling I might end up being the “mean mommy” who won’t buy expensive toys and will take my kids on trips to petting zoos instead of Disneyland. Hopefully one day they’ll appreciate me for it. :)

  38. Anne @ Unique Gifter says:

    I wouldn’t base my decision completely on finances, but they would definitely play a major part. Things would have to change drastically for me to forgo children based on finances, as we’re pretty solid. That said, we don’t really want them, at least at the moment. I’m content to support friends who are adopting children with disabilities and such, as my financial contribution to the world’s children.

  39. I’m not too sure if children will be part of my life, but if I decide not to have them, it’s not purely for financial reasons. I am quite busy as it is (it really irks me when people who have kids say you’re not busy. Just because you don’t have children, doesn’t mean you can’t be busy). I am not sure I would want to give up my freedom and I think it’s important to be a caring parent, willing to take the time, to have the patience to raise a child.

  40. I agree with makinthebacon- not sure if I’m ready for the financial and personal responsibility just yet. I will find other ways to build family/community and a legacy without having kids though I know many people who are very happy with kids..I’m not sure if I’m set to be a parent!

  41. Having kids is such a big decision, instead of just thinking about the financial consequences, future parents should think about the life consequences. Many people seem to rush into having kids without really thinking long and hard about taking this step. When you think about the impacts on your life, the financial topic will naturally come up.

    Instead of deciding that you want a baby because they are cute, you feel like you’re getting older or you just really really want one, decide to have a child after some long, hard thought and consideration. Once you’ve weighted everything, including emotions, you’ll make the right decision!

  42. As a mom of two (one planned, one not), I’ve learned that there is NEVER a perfect financial time to have kids. Although finances were not a consideration in decided whether or not to have kids (in the first place), but they WERE a determining factor in limiting our family to two children.

    That said, I don’t think you can ever understand motherhood until you’ve had children of your own. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true!

  43. They say you can retire earlier too if you chose to remain childless. Being a DINK (dual income, no kids) sure can have it’s benefits, although I suspect mothers would say there is nothing more important or worthwhile than their kids.
    I don’t have any children, but finances aren’t really a factor in that decision.

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