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Save Money By Not Having Children

I don’t have children; perhaps I will at some point, but I don’t see kids in my immediate future. It’s not due to the cost of raising children, though for many years, I believed I wasn’t in a financial position to provide all that I would want to provide to a child growing up.

A few weeks ago, this comic from xkcd was making the rounds among my friends on social media websites. The comic increased the level of smugness among single men, single women, and dual-income-no-kids couples, while tacitly angering those who have chosen to bring miniature humans into the world, particularly those who have realized the implied truth of the comic — the smaller bank accounts and lighter wallets.

Save money by not having children

I never understood the appeal of those family window decals in the first place. They deserve the same derision as those “My kid is an honor student” bumper stickers. It’s great to have pride in accomplishments, but there is no need to announce successes to strangers who haven’t asked about the academic performance of your family. I don’t think there’s a need to share reproductive accomplishments, either, as those family decals seem to do. Perhaps this is my bias as a non-parent; would my opinions change after I have kids?

The above comic illustrates that the typical couple trades in significant wealth for the blessing of children. To generalize, happy and well-adjusted parents might say you can’t put a price on the positive experience of nurturing a family, while a couple sans enfants par choix might laugh all the way to the bank, directing the hundreds of thousands of dollars saved per each non-existent young adult towards retirement, fun, business opportunities, and charity.

According to a cost calculator from BabyCenter, a family earning over $100,000 in an urban area in the northeast United States could expect to pay $500,000 for rearing a child through college, including tuition for a public college. Choose a private college and the cost increases to $530,000. Alternatively, a family could reduce this cost by requiring children to pay their own way through college.

In an article I wrote last year for U.S. News and Yahoo Finance, I suggested people could save money by, among other things, choosing not having children. This engendered a a vitriolic response from parents offended by the implication children — their children, specifically — were nothing more than a waste of money. For those who have not had children, though, continuing to not have children is a legitimate choice. Most decisions in life are temporary, but once you have children, you cannot un-have them. This permanence, while a beautiful life-affirming experience, is expensive, and if having children by choice, families should consider the financial consequences.

The idea of having children is one of those special conversations where the decision isn’t always about the bottom line. Finances must always play a role, but the choice isn’t always logical in nature. How strong a role should finances play in the decision to have children? And if finances pay a strong role, does it follow that low-income or poor families shouldn’t procreate?

Published or updated September 19, 2011.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I think it’s always good to have your financial house in strong order before deciding to have children. I think it’s also one of the reasons why many couples tend to have children later in life than their parents did (I think another reason is because Gen X and Y’ers tend to hold on to their childhood too long, but that’s another story). Allowing yourself time to accumulate wealth will put you in a better position to live in a better neighborhood with a better school system, thus providing your child a better area in which to nurture his growth.

By putting yourself in a secure financial position, you may also be able to increase the amount of time you spend with your children. Be it by being able to maintain a single-earner household with one parent working and one staying home with the kids, or by avoiding a situation where both parents work and one (or both) have to hold down multiple jobs to pay the bills.

Either way, being a parent of two myself (and becoming a father at the relatively old age of 34), I can’t see going through life without them. I feel simply working to gather wealth is an empty existence. I reached a point in my life where I felt I achieved as much happiness as I was going to get by myself and moved on. Then, when I became a parent, I discovered that life is even more fun rediscovering it through the eyes of your children.

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avatar 2 shellye
avatar 3 wylerassociate

finances have to play a role in a couple deciding to have children because in the future the cost of living will continue to increase, I don’t see wages increasing unfortunately and the real issue that is going to hurt american families is that college tuition is going to increase each year. Too many families right now are being priced out of sending their children to college and it’s only going to get worse for my generation who are new parents.

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avatar 4 lynn

We have never thought that paying for our children’s education was our responsibility. We helped, but our 4 children paid for their education. Whether with loans or on a cash basis, it was their choice – and their responsibility. You better believe they worked hard to get their degrees. Two even have Master’s. They weren’t in bars and partying. Well, maybe a little bit! What I don’t know won’t hurt me.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

where is that window sticker…i want it!!!!!

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avatar 6 Anonymous

@Tom: “I feel simply working to gather wealth is an empty existence. ”

Well said. There is much more to life than simply squirrelling away all of your pennies.
We are expecting our 1st in the next few days – we’re excited and anxious as the birth and being a parent is part of the unknown. Our finances are in good order and this played a part in our decision to raise a family.

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avatar 7 Luke Landes

Congratulations, Sustainable PF!

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avatar 8 lynn

When to start a family is such a personal choice. It’s nice to have a strong financial foundation, but life can throw us a few curve balls.

We were financially ‘sound’. Had it all planned out, then one of our children became chronically ill and DH became chronically ill (at the same time) and all the best laid plans of mice and men suddenly went astray. But good luck to anyone who thinks they can control their life. I learned a lot about such things.

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avatar 9 cubiclegeoff

It’s true, you can’t predict the future. But, there is something to be said for trying to at least get your present situation in order before having children.

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avatar 10 Ceecee

It is good to first feel that you can afford a child….not that you have to bestow them with riches, just that you can house, feed and clothe them. Accidents happen, but intentionally having a child that you cannot provide basic necessities for is irresponsible.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

@Tom: “I feel simply working to gather wealth is an empty existence. ”

I’m sorry that you feel that way. As a 47 year old with no children, I can not imagine the stifling and suffocating effects a child would have on my life. There is so much more that I want to explore, do, and experience, and a child just would not fit into those plans.

Yes, I am gathering wealth. When I die, my month is being left into an educational trust to benefit children. I don’t have to physically raise one to benefit one.

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avatar 12 lynn

What you say is true, you can help others when you die. But you are missing one of life’s most beneficial ‘explorations’.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

IT IS YOUR OPINION that he is missing out on one of life’s ‘most beneficial explorations.’ Why do people with children always have tunnel vision when it comes to some people, gasp, choosing not to spawn? I am married but never in a million years would I feel it was my business or responsibility to tell someone unmarried (and who didn’t want to marry) that they were ‘missing out.’ Why? It’s none of my business what someone else does or does not do. Try adopting that philosophy….

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avatar 14 qixx

You don’t take this far enough. If someone does not want to have children then they will likely not make a good parent. Just look at all the screwed up kids raised by parents that did not (and in too many cases still do not) want them.

I thank these people for not making the world a worse place.

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avatar 15 Anonymous

I’ve been saving money by not having children for 26 years and counting!

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avatar 16 cubiclegeoff

I think you have to be cognizant of your financial situation. My wife wanted five kids, and that went down to 3, understanding that 5 won’t be financially possible. Now that may go down to 2 because of other changes. This is based on our preference to be able to enjoy life with our children (travel, and such). If we couldn’t enjoy life with kids because of financial constraints, then we feel we would not be providing our children with the best possible life.

If people prefer money over children, that’s all fine. I just don’t like it when those people somehow forget that having children is a societal necessity and a natural, biological action, and think of children as being a nuisance (some are, but so are some adults).

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avatar 17 Anonymous

I love window decal… that was too cute. I have 2 grown children or mostly grown anyway, and I can tell you from experience that I have a lot more in my savings account now than I ever did when my children were younger and in school. It really is a personal choice to have children, and I am glad we live in the good ol’ USA and have the freedom to make that choice. Have a Fabulous & Frugal Day!!!

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avatar 18 Anonymous

I found the comic amusing, despite having a child. I suppose it helped that
I have a sense of humor about myself and my own choices.
I recognize that having a family is a personal choice, with no right answer. (I think that Tom Dziubek and Nick are correct in their views!)
I think the stickers also being lambasted, are silly.

“Having a family” and “financially secure” are not independent variables. Having a family increases the amount of money you need to be financially secure. On the other hand, many people have reached financial security inspired by the existence of their family. If everyone waited until they had enough money, very few people would ever have children. If you wait too long you start to run into fertility issues, which can be expensive to fix. You also increase the probability of having a disabled child, which would be very expensive for life. On the other hand if you have a child when you are financially insecure, the extra expenses could put you behind the 8-ball indefinitely.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

HaHa. I would hate to see what type of responses I would have gotten for my article, “Why do we have children? Is it just the thing to do?”

I’m a proud parent of one, and no more. Children are not only a financial burden, but also an emotional burden. Some people live to have children though. They can’t explain it, they just do. No one can really, rationally, justify their existence. They are just a part of life. I guess?

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avatar 20 lynn

I find it interesting that you describe children as a ‘burden’ in 2 of the most important areas of life. To me, that’s a very sad existance. My remark is not snarky, but rather from a heart that is saddened by your thought process. Your approach will make your life more difficult – “emotionally”.

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avatar 21 Anonymous

Wife and I 40+ now and so the window’s closed and that’s fine. We’re both quite busy and yes, if you work and are frugal like us, with zero debt, house paid off, and no expensive habits, the money does pile up quickly.

But it’s not a pointless existence — we love to do things together. Plus, I can retire when I want — my wife, at 43, will retire early next year and me — I own my own internet-based small business – very successful so ‘retirement’ has a different meaning but I’ll pay someone to do the most time-consuming work involved — starting in 2014. Then, until I hang it up for good, all I need to do is check in online every now and then – from anywhere. We have three homes. Life is good. No regrets.

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avatar 22 GraduatedLearning

I think I want to have kids. I see my parents, and think that I want to be like them, and have kids come home and visit me even after they’ve graduated and started their own lives! I feel like otherwise it would get lonely!

There’s definitely something to be said for being financially ready for kids. Though I’m pretty sure my parents had us when they were still working their way up, and in retrospect probably couldn’t have afforded us! But they saved money and didn’t do anything extravagant.

Also, I kind of hate those stickers. It does seem a bit like their bragging. But also, I feel like I wouldn’t want to put stickers on my car like that. I feel like it would be like advertising your children to creepers who would do bad things. But that’s just my paranoid self…

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avatar 23 Anonymous

Flexor! Love that you had the balls to say this! 1) seriously hate both those stupid bumper stickers! 2) I don’t need to birth no babies to have them in my life. Between my brother, extended family and friends I have 16 children in my life who love me and for who I care deeply for. 3) I believe in addition to being able to care for your child financially there should be some sort of emotional test administered to parents. There is way to much neglect and abuse in this world for so many children, because their parents were not fit to be parents.

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avatar 24 Anonymous

LOL! I found this funny though you have a point. But for me, I can still raise kids at the same time save by having business. I don’t have business right now but will surely help me to have capital. I heard they’re buying structured settlements. Yeah.. :)

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avatar 25 tigernicole86

Right now, my boyfriend and I don’t feel like we’d be able to support a child. We both make decent money but my boyfriend is a contractor and his work is never guaranteed. I came from a large family but there was rarely money to be found even for necessary things like dental work. As much as I love all of my siblings, I’d rather have a smaller family(also being that I have a 2 bedroom house and want to keep it for a while) who I’d be able to make sure they have a decent quality of life.

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avatar 26 Smithee

I imagine having children, even if you’re not yet financially ready to support them, would have a significant effect on your ambition and drive you to find more household income, because for better or worse, you’re responsible for more people now. I’m just extrapolating, since getting married had a similar effect on my ambition levels. It wasn’t just me, anymore.

But I’m thrilled that I married a woman who agreed that we shouldn’t have kids. For one thing, I don’t want to pass on my ADHD-riddled DNA to anybody else and see them suffer the way I have (though I like my wife’s DNA a lot, I didn’t want to take that chance). The world is already overpopulated, so my human instinct to reproduce is easily overridden by my conscience. Thankfully, I’m not religious so a vasectomy was an easy and cost-effective solution.

I’m no model of wise wealth-building, but we’ll get there someday, and the money won’t go to waste or accrue meaninglessly in a bank account. We like toys and traveling and entertainment and hobbies too much to let that happen.

Neither the people with the kids nor the people with the money bags should feel smug, though.

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avatar 27 Anonymous

I have no issues with poor people procreating as long as they’re not doing it on my dime. I was getting my hair done, when my hairstylist (pregnant at the time with her “oops” baby) starts chatting about using our state’s Medicaid health insurance (which she qualified for by cutting down on her work hours to go to college p/t). Of course, I don’t say anything, but it doesn’t even occur to her that the money for that health insurance comes from taxpayers like me! And the worst thing was that she never should’ve been on Medicaid because her live-in baby daddy-fiancee of 8 years makes $80K+/yr in an extremely stable job with the federal government. Just get married or leave the bum already! Don’t go around flaunting the 2-carat diamond if you’re never going to buckle down and set a date! I realize that not everyone is scamming the system, but I know way too many of them to think that it’s very uncommon. Anyway, it completely pisses me off that DH and I have put off having children to get our financial house in order while “poor” people have been sucking up my tax money (I live in a very high-tax state) and are now at an age where conceiving is just not that easy. Phew…glad to get that off my mind.

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avatar 28 Donna Freedman

@Bonnie: I frequently hear people carping about poor people using “their” tax money for things like health care or food stamps. Would you have kids go without immunizations or adults wind up in the ER vs. using a public health clinic? (Which, by the way, anyone can use; fees are based on income.)
Another point is that middle-class and wealthier Americans get to use the lower-middle and lower-income folks’ tax dollars (yep, they pay ’em) in ways those folks may not be able to enjoy, such as:
Visiting state and national parks
Attending sporting events at city- or state-subsidized stadiums and arenas
Attending live theater/concert/opera productions at city-, state- or nationally subsidized theaters and concert halls
Sailing or kayaking in waterways maintained by local, state or federal funds
Sending their kids to charter or magnet schools
Attending public universities
Naturally some people do abuse social programs, just as some people cheat on their taxes or don’t pay their child support. But saying that you know “a lot” of people scamming the system doesn’t really mean much. How many is “a lot”? Maybe it’s coincidence that you know this many scammers. Maybe because you live in a high-tax state where increasing numbers of people are too squeezed not to use (maybe or maybe not “scam”) social services.
Understand: I’m not saying people should set out to have kids they can’t provide for adequately. But I know from personal experience and familial experience that life doesn’t fit into little boxes.
Remember: If your life went to hell you might find yourself right down there with everyone else, lining up at the food bank or praying that you could get a temporarily lower rate from the utility company. Then you’d know the sting of people passing judgment on YOUR life, your laziness, your general shiftlessness without knowing a thing about you.

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avatar 29 Anonymous

@Donna – First I’d like to say that I subscribe to your blog and really like it. Regarding welfare, I don’t know where you live, but I probably do just happen to live in an area with a high rate of welfare fraud. It’s not everyone, but certain populations in my area seem to use welfare as part of their financial plan. One ongoing joke in my area is that the rattiest shacks always seem to have an Escalade in the driveway (and no, it’s not because they’re drug dealers). I was chatting with a client of mine who is a teacher and she was telling me about how several of her students don’t bother to study because they figure the government will take care of them when they become adults. They believe this because their parents live off welfare and don’t encourage the children to study hard so they can pull themselves out of poverty. I realize that this mentality may not be the norm in America, but it’s not uncommon where I live, which is probably why I have a different perspective than you do.

I have no issues whatsoever with people using welfare and food stamps as they were meant to be used, as a temporary safety net to get them through difficult times when unforeseen things happen, such as job loss or disability. In fact, I think it’s fine for people to permanently be on social security disability and food stamps if they’re truly disabled. However, I also think it’s appropriate to defer or decline to have children while they’re in that situation if they can’t afford to support the children without government assistance. I also understand that not all babies are planned and some moms may need to use WIC to get them through their pregnancy and feed their child. However, I do have issues with women having one “oops” baby, then a second, and a third… By the second child, it’s really more of a choice as there’s an abundance of free contraception available available at the free clinics. Yes, I realize that most contraception only has a ~97% success rate, but that means the failure rate is only ~3%. So, most of those unplanned pregnancies are more likely simply due to a failure to actually use the contraception. I once knew a woman who had 3 young children w/ 3 baby daddies who actually admitted that she simply “doesn’t like to use contraception”. What kind of excuse is that?

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avatar 30 lynn

Well said. To drive your point home: I have a neighbor who is constantly talking about poor people and how she just doesn’t know how they could use social services. I kept thinking, “You are foreshadowing yourself”. Sure enough her husband lost his job (5 children) She has become a shrew and a financial mess. She lost the position of top dog in the neighborhood and has state insurance for the kids. They are fighting all the time and he can not find work. To help him out I had him build a deck for me. I paid him 34.00 an hour to do it. That’s good pay these days. She got mad at me because she thinks I should have paid more. (They agreed to the amount before he did the work) She’s a mess. I feel sorry for her, but on the other hand I have no control over universal physics. You get what you give.

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avatar 31 qixx

I am not a fan of the decals. They tell the wrong people the wrong things. For instance child kidnappers know who to target. Those on the right are just asking to be robbed. The only time the decals might be useful is when you are going to a family reunion and want to brag about your finances or child producing capabilities.

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avatar 32 Cejay

I do not have children. When I was younger I wanted them and kept waiting till I could afford them. Then I thought that time would never come and we decided it was time. After a few years of trying it just never happened and we both looked at each other and decided that we were just dine with that idea. I am the oldest of seven and we were poorer than dirt even though my Mom and Dad worked their tails off. But they did give most of us children a better life than they had. Hubby lived in foster system and never had anything that was his. I know that I have more money than my younger brothers and sisters with kids. But I have to say that my choice was hard to come to and so were my brothers and sisters to them. I can say they would not trade their kids for any of my money.

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avatar 33 lynn

I’d be interested in an article that highlights the benefits of having children. As an example, parents rise to the need and increase their earning power. Or the financial lessons learned and implemented because the need for income is greater. Perhaps the use of sales and coupons to keep costs down and a bank account moving forward. Or how to have an EF despite the costs of children. Maybe included can be teaching children the frugal lifestyle as a path to wealth. Things along these lines. I’m not a creative soul, but you appear to be. The grand benefit is they teach us the intangible. Our hearts grow to include others needs and learn patience. Is there a financial benefit to these things? I think you are able to meet this challenge.

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avatar 34 Anonymous

You don’t need kids to learn any of that. I’m a single woman and would be commiting financal suicide if I had kids. I work and support myself and you learn frugality when no one else is paying your bills. I use sales a-plenty. And not making enough for an apartment is just fine as an earning power incentive. Really, your thinking is very odd. My parents planned me and had me when they were financially able. Children might be a benefit, but only for those who want and can afford them NOW.

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avatar 35 Anonymous

I look at it from a much larger perspective. To me, having children is the natural order of life. It seems odd to be the result of millions of years of evolution and then choose not to continue your bloodline because you don’t think it makes fiscal sense or because you want to spend more time with yourself. To me, it just seems selfish. I want my kids to have kids of their own, and I want my grandchildren to do the same. And, again, this is *my* view…I apologize if it’s coming across as preachy…that’s not my intent.

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avatar 36 Anonymous

There are many who would argue that it is selfish to have children. Generally the reason they think that is global overpopulation and/or finite resources.

Of course the drive to pass on your genes is strong; but they are *your* genes – your self, the very definition of selfishness. If you consider the whole human race, it is far more debatable whether or not having children is good for us all or not. (Obviously we need some children, as a species, but not as many as we are currently making.)

I am saying this as a parent myself. I would never call someone else who chooses not to have children “selfish”.

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