Being a parent often means having to be mindful about money matters. And when you’re a mother who also writes about personal finance, there’s a lot of pressure to do a good job with managing your cash flow, all the while making sure your kids’ needs are accounted for. With that in mind, my fellow writers — and moms — and I are here to share some tips to help you navigate the financial side of parenthood.
1. An emergency fund is even more important when you have kids
Christy Bieber: I’ve always stressed the importance of an emergency fund as a personal finance writer. But once I had a child, I learned that kids are pretty much emergency magnets.
Of course, any time you add a new member to the family, whether a person or a pet, there’s an increased chance of surprise expenses. After all, there’s another individual who could have issues that cause unexpected spending. But the reality is that a child significantly increases the chance that you’ll have costs you didn’t plan on.
That’s because kids come with all kinds of unexpected expenses, from surprise trips to the doctor’s office to needing a different car seat because they scream at a very high volume when they hate the one you bought.
My emergency fund was tapped more in the first year of my son’s life than it has ever been.
And because of the frequency of unexpected costs he has brought on in only 19 months of life, I actually now have an entirely separate fund just for surprise child-related expenses. That way, I can preserve another portion of my bank account for emergency savings I may need for other life events.
If you’re thinking about having kids or if you’ve already got them, I’d advise you to start building this fund ASAP before a crisis strikes.
2. Teach your kids about money
Dana George: I duplicated my parent’s approach to money management by making my children believe there was a fairy in the basement who magically printed cash. Like my parents before me, I didn’t want my sons to worry about money — ever. My protective instinct hit them smack dab in the face when they finished grad school, had jobs, paid bills, and had to figure out their personal finances on their own. That was unfair of me.
If I had it to do over, I would involve them in all things financial. They would have a seat at the table as I worked the family budget and planned for the future. I would have taught the right financial lessons about responsible money management in a way that was age-appropriate. Would they have complained? Absolutely — until my ears bled. Still, teaching my kids about money would have been in their best interest. And really, isn’t that all we want as mothers?
3. Budget extra for activities
Maurie Backman: When my children were babies, I remember joking that once they were out of diapers, I’d have enough money left over to buy a boat. Fast forward a bunch of years, and I can say with certainty that children don’t get less expensive as they get older — they start costing you more money. That may seem counterintuitive, but these days, between summer camp, new clothes, and entertainment, my kids cost me a small fortune.
That’s why, as a parent, I always advise other parents to make room in their budgets for activities like soccer, gymnastics, music lessons, and so forth. Not only is there a lot of pressure to engage in these activities, but they tend to be more expensive than many of us would expect. And also, don’t be shocked when you invest money in a specific sport or activity, only to have your kids change their minds and want to quit six months later. That’s just part of the deal, and to an extent, you can’t fault a seven-year-old for deciding he’d rather play baseball with his friends than continue learning how to play the flute.
As moms, we juggle a lot — our jobs, our kids’ schedules, and our financial goals, like boosting our savings account. Hopefully, these tips will make it easier for fellow moms to get a handle on their finances — and better maintain their sanity in the process.