Many young adults decide to either pursue higher education and career instead of raising a family, or vice versa. In addition, many people face the difficult decision to choose between financial independence or raising a family. I’ve collected 12 ideas that have helped us on our journey to financial independence with a family.
Nobody disputes the fact that children are expensive, but so are car loans, boats, and restaurants. All too often I hear people making financial excuses, but the reality is we’re in charge of our own financial health and well-being.
Children will slow down your path to achieving financial independence. It’s simply a function of how much you’re able to invest, your rate of return, and for how long you remain invested.
The goal is to reduce your expenses where possible so that the cost of your children is balanced out by the reduced spending in other categories. If you can do this, you can still achieve financial independence with a family.
The Cost of Having Children
A family will spend about $13,000 per year per child in a middle income ($59,000-$107,000) household (source). This is caused by a mix of an increased space requirement in the home, increased food consumption, healthcare, clothing, etc…
For a family of 5 like us, our 3 boys likely cost us about $3,250 per month more than if it were just Kayla and I and that feels reasonable when I take everything into consideration.
We spend about $1,000 a month on groceries (including household staples like paper towels, pet food, etc..). In addition, we up-sized to a house twice the size of our first home to accommodate future growth. Going out to restaurants is easily $50-$100 and a day at the movies is more than $100.
Expenses affected by increased family size:
Water and Electricity
Birthdays and Holidays
If your children are increasing your household expenses, we need to find ways to reduce expenses in other categories. In our experience, we had to greatly reduce the amount of money we spent on our own clothes, toys, wants, etc…
Based on Experience
I’ve found the best way to motivate and inspire others to action is by sharing my own story. Here’s why I’m uniquely qualified to share these ideas with you:
Married at 19 (10-years ago)
Raising 3 boys (from2-8 years old)
2 Master’s degrees (5 total degrees)
No student loan debt
Geoarbitraging our family across the country
Household net worth of ~$100,000
This isn’t to say “look how great we are,” but rather to lend credibility to what I’m about to share with you. It hasn’t been easy, and little has been given to us. We don’t come from money and have literally created the life of our dreams in our 20’s.
12 Ideas for Financial Independence with a Family
You can still achieve financial independence with children. No matter what your extra monthly expense is, it’s still just a simple math equation based on your savings rate.
I’ve collected 12 ideas for you to consider on your financial independence journey with a family. This list is not a prescription nor is it in any particular order.
These ideas are what has helped my family on our own journey to financial independence. We’re on track to reach FIRE by the age of 45 (16-years). It’s likely this timeline shortens as our incomes continue to increase and our kids grow out of daycare.
12 Ideas for Financial Independence with a Family:
Save for emergencies
Use a FIRE calculator
Improve financial communication with spouse
Don’t buy new
Join the military
Have free fun
1. Avoid Debt
If you’re planning to have children in the future, one of the best things you can do is to avoid debt. Avoid student loans, avoid car payments, avoid RVs, boats, and credit cards.
I would trade the experience of raising children over any of my material possessions. It’s hands down the most rewarding experience I could have ever imagined. There’s simply nothing that could replace the feeling.
There’s no way of knowing how much you’re spending each month if you aren’t tracking it. You may have a rough idea, but the human mind is infallible and likely telling you a different story than what’s really happening.
By implementing a zero-based-budget you can see every dollar of income and where it goes. This is a powerful tool at your disposal and can save you thousands of dollars per month if you stick with it.
3. Save for Emergencies
An emergency fund is essential for a growing family. As your family increases in size, so to does your responsibility to protect them from financial emergencies. It’s likely that your assets are growing (increased house size, larger vehicles, etc…) and your emergency fund should grow accordingly.
4. Reduce Expenses
My largest monthly expense on myself is a haircut. I budget $25 to get a decent haircut every month. It’s amazing the satisfaction I get after a fresh haircut. I used to buy video games each month and my wife used to get her nails done every month.
We still do those things occasionally, but not each and every month. A lot of our spending on ourselves has transitioned to spending on the kids.
Can you handle a slower internet to lower your monthly payment? Can you use Netflix or Hulu instead of cable? No matter what you’re spending on, try to reduce it.
5. Increase Income
Rather than just reducing your expenses, actively work on increasing your income through promotion, new jobs, education, side-hustles, etc… Your income trajectory should continue to grow as you approach your highest earning years.
For example, Kayla determined that earning a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction would provide her a pay raise of about $7,000 through her school district. The cost is about $8,000 through WGU and we were able to cash flow the degree. This pay raise will follow Kayla and increase her peak income trajectory over the duration of her working career.
6. Invest Consistently
Even if we can only invest a small percentage each month, we make sure to contribute to our retirement account. The majority of our retirement contributions is done automatically before our paychecks are directly deposited into our bank accounts.
You cannot expect to achieve financial independence if you don’t invest consistently. Whether or not you have children is irrelevant because it’s simply a function of the amount of money you invest and how long that money is invested.
The goal is to plan ahead for children, avoid debt, reduce your expenses, increase your income, and invest for the long term. If you can accomplish those things, you can achieve financial independence and possibly even retire early.
7. Use a FIRE Calculator
I created a simple FIRE calculator for you to use to determine not only how much money you could have at retirement age, but how much you would have if you retired today. It’s a fun tool to run numbers with and maybe a sobering experience for some.
I ran the numbers before Kayla and I made sweeping changes to our strategy and began running our household like a business. Once we had a good idea of where we are and where we want to be, we implemented some sweeping changes to our budget.
8. Improve Financial Communication with Spouse
Financial communication with your spouse is imperative. If you aren’t communicating then there is room for all kinds of negative situations to occur. The majority of marriages that end in divorce are a result of poor financial communication.
I created the Money Marriage Checklist to help married couples navigate difficult financial topics. These are discussions that didn’t occur overnight. Kayla and I have been married since we were 19, we have had to learn, grow, and compromise a lot.
9. Don’t Buy New
From your cars to your children’s clothing you should try to avoid buying new. We made this mistake with our firstborn, new crib, new clothes, new toys, etc… I promise babies don’t know if they’re in a new crib or a lightly used crib.
We’ve received several bags of hand-me-downs from coworkers and while we don’t keep most of them, they prevent us from having to buy brand new clothes all the time. In addition, now that we have 3 boys, they hand-me-down everything to each other including toys.
Some cities simply aren’t affordable for families to live in. Think of Seattle or New York City. Everything is so expensive and there’s a real shortage of services like childcare. This naturally drives up the cost due to supply and demand.
We’re relocating our family of 5 from Washington state to Texas for several reasons, one of which is called Geoarbitrage. Basically, we’re moving from a higher cost of living to a lower cost of living while maintaining our household income.
The difference in the average cost of living is about 10% between these two locations. This means that our income will go 10% further. For example, daycare expenses are about half of what we’ve been paying and houses are nearly half the price.
11. Join the Military
I understand you may or may not be qualified, but I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you about the total amount of benefit I received from serving in the United States Military. Consider sharing this with a friend or family member that may be considering signing up.
From the Post-9/11 GI Bill to having children without medical costs, the amount of value my family has received from my time served has been significant. My college tuition was completely covered for 5-years AND I was paid monthly for attending.
It doesn’t have to be active duty, Guard and Reserve members enjoy many of the same benefits as active duty. I spent 3-years on active duty and 2-years in the Air National Guard so I have a good idea of the benefits of each.
12. Have Free Fun
Our family has always found ways to have fun without breaking the bank. We do plan for a major summer vacation each year but have found several activities to do on a more regular basis.
We enjoy hiking, fishing, tent camping, playing in the nearby lakes and rivers, making crafts, building stuff out of scrap wood, etc…
Our boys enjoy homemade pizza and a Netflix movie every bit as much as they do going to the movies. Instead of going out for a steak dinner, I bought a pellet smoker and make steak dinner at home for a fraction of the cost.
The goal of this article was to change your perspective on raising a family and the financial impact it may have on your marriage. This entire website is intended to be a light to you and your spouse on how you can still achieve your educational goals, financial goals, marriage goals, family goals, at the same time.
We’ve done it in our 20’s and the best way for me to teach you is to share our story. I truly hope this article has helped you and your family.