Financial Considerations When Deciding How Many Kids to Have

When I was growing up, my mom, who was the second to the youngest in a family of nine children, was fond of two sayings when it came to the topic of having children. 

The first saying was, “All kids really need is love.”  The second saying was, “God will provide.”

When you are young, your parents influence your thoughts, and what you hear and learn from them becomes your normal.

I did truly believe that all kids really need is love.  Now, my husband and I have three kids of our own, and while we love them plenty, that isn’t enough.  Unless you have a high paying corporate or professional job, more often the decision as to how many kids to have depends on what kind of financial situation you are willing to have.

Living Expenses Grow As The Kids Grow

As our kids grow, I am amazed at how much they can eat!

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Our oldest child is nearly eight, and he can eat as much as my husband and I do.  Because we have food intolerances and prefer to feed our family a healthy plant based diet with meat at some meals, couponing doesn’t really work for us.  I am spending $500 to $600 a month for groceries.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), each month shares the average amount people spend for food.  They break this average down into four levels, the lowest being “thrifty”, the highest being “liberal.”  Following a “thrifty” plan, our family of five’s food expenses should be approximately $677.50 per month.  If we followed the “liberal” food plan, our expenses would be $1,318.90. (USDA)

While love is important, it is not putting food on the table every month.

As my children grow older, more and more I feel the pinch in the wallet when buying groceries.  True, God has provided, and we have never gone hungry, but getting ahead financially does get more difficult the more children that you have.

More Is Expected of Parents Today

think of money when considering children

Having kids is a serious financial consideration.

When my mom was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, most high school students graduated from high school and began to work.  Some never graduated from high school and instead dropped out and began working.  In fact, in the late 1960s, only approximately 11% of those ages 25 or older had obtained a bachelor’s degree.  Now, as recently as 2009, nearly 30% of those ages 25 or older had obtained a bachelor’s degree.  (Wikipedia)

In my mom’s youth, parents weren’t expected to pay the tab for their child’s higher education, in part because most children never attended college.  Now, a college degree is becoming more and more important, and while some parents cannot afford to pay part or all of their child’s tuition, their children are often saddled with student loan debt.

We Are More Spoiled Than Previous Generations

Thanks to the rise in two income families, many of us experience luxuries that weren’t available to our parents such as yearly vacations to exotic locations, and even the daily use of technology such as iPhones for parents and cell phones for kids.

These expenses weren’t part of the financial scene 40 years ago.

Now, rather than viewing the extras in life as extras, we view them as necessities, which make our expenses climb.

Societal Changes Have Affected the Way We Raise Our Kids

When my mom was young, she and her brothers and sisters played outside, often unsupervised.  They roamed the neighborhood all day long riding bikes, going to the park and playing games.  Because most mothers were home, all of the moms, collectively as a group were able to keep tabs on the kids.

However, parents didn’t worry as much then about dangers that may arise.

Now, many families have two parents that work, so kids must go to afterschool programs.  If they are home after school, most parents don’t allow their children to roam the neighborhood and play freely.  Instead, children get their exercise by enrolling in various extracurricular sports teams, which cost money.

So, too, when a child has a birthday party now, instead of a simple affair at the child’s home, parents shell out several hundred dollars to have the party at a local play area or bowling alley or gym.

In many areas of life, societal changes have influenced what parents are expected to do (and pay) for their children.

Final Thoughts

I am glad that my grandparents had nine children.

While I, myself, only had one brother, I was always surrounded by many cousins my age, and even today I take great pleasure in being part of such a large extended family.

However, the simplistic thought that love is all a child needs I now recognize as false.

I love my three children and am so glad to have them.  However, by choosing to have more than the typical two kids most families have, we have given up some financial freedom.  Financially, we will probably continue to struggle while our kids are home with us.  We have had to say no to our son more times than we would like, and he is still learning why his friends can have things that we cannot financially afford.

Ultimately, the decision as to how many kids to have is a personal one.  Kids enrich their parents lives in many ways, and it is a pleasure to raise them (though admittedly a struggle sometimes too).  However, as much as I may not like it, there is no denying that finances do play a role in the decision of how many kids to have.

Do you think you should think about money when considering more kids?

About Melissa

Melissa blogs at Mom's Plans about learning to live a fulfilling life on less. She has quit her day job and now blogs and writes, in addition to taking care of her three kids.

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  1. I don’t think money should be the main factor, but it is hard not to take it into consideration. The more kids, the more efficiencies per kid (especially if they are the same gender and can wear each others’ hand-me-downs). But even if they are the same gender, it does still mean fewer resources for each child. For us, it came down to allocating a different kind of resource. Two parents, two set of eyes, able to run in two directions chasing kids – stop at two kids. Never let the kids outnumber the adults!

    • Haha, yeah we’re already outnumbered here!

      I think what’s key is figuring out what is important to you and realizing what you may have to sacrifice if you want more kids. Though some things get easier, like hand-me-down clothes, other things get exponentially ore expensive.

  2. There is no denying that kids cost money, and they cost more today than in the past. In the past big families were more the norm, and mom stayed home to take care of the kids. Today, many families are much smaller, and both parents choose to work to make ends meet.

    As a society we have come to value things more than family. The biggest challenge is the comparisons that will come with a bigger family. Kids put pressure on parents to spend like their friends’ parents.

    Teaching your kids to accept NO is the key as you mentioned. It’s a difficult but important value to teach your children.

    • Yeah, we live in a consumerist culture where kids see all sorts of things they want on TV and well, all around them.

      It’s interesting how bigger families were indeed the norm but these days when you have more than 3 people look at you like you’re insane sometimes.

  3. First of all, you are doing awesome at $500-600/month for a grocery bill. We feed six at my house and spend considerably more than that. I dream of being in your grocery bill range.

    This is a very personal decision between husband and wife that should be discussed before marriage even begins. Set very clear goals as a couple as to how many children you want to have and when you want to begin. Then, as much as possible, stick to those goals and begin money planning early so you will be able to support the size of family you want.

    We did not think about money when deciding to have children. However, we have made mid-life career changes, in part due to the added expenses a larger family brings. It has been tough but a sacrifice we were happy to make for our kid’s sake.

    • That’s a great point about discussing children before marriage. I think some couple get married then realize they have different views on the family they want later on.

    • I just wanted to add that you may change your mind regarding the number of children you want. My husband and I discussed family plans before marriage and again before our first child. Him: 2. Me: 2-4. I grew up in a larger family than him. Our first and only child is now 2.5 and we both agree that we are happy as we are and don’t feel we are missing anything/one from our family. We plan on stopping with our only.

  4. Interesting post. As the parent of three ages 19-24 I can attest that everything you wrote is true. As they get older they get even more expensive. We now have two in college and I won’t even begin to go there. I love them beyond words and wouldn’t trade a minute of being their Dad, but they are expensive.

    • I hear you. Being a parent is an awesome experience like no other. But man do those expenses creep up! I think I get some school notice every week that requires money to be sent in. It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts sometimes (other times it’s death by one big boulder!).

  5. I would have children as long as I can provide education, a home, and food on the table. If they want the latest gadget, they can work for it. I worked from age 12 doing baby sittings and tutoring other kids, and was always able to keep up with kids who had big allowances.

  6. Finances indeed play a major role. But societal change in terms of technology isn’t really a huge factor because I discourage my kids to use these kind of gadgets. It steals their valuable time together to experience real play.