In 2009, my husband and I became parents to a child — a daughter named Lydia — for the first time. Practically overnight, our lives turned upside down.
Where we once focused mostly on ourselves, we were suddenly thrust into a new world where someone’s life was solely in our hands. Becoming a parent was exciting, but also terrifying and oh-so-exhausting. Of course, our daughter has been absolutely worth it a million times over. The same goes for her younger sister, Vivian.
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The first thing I learned as a parent was how deep my love could actually grow. Of course, parenting also taught me just how tired a person can be. The sleepless nights push your mental and physical limits, especially in the beginning.
But, we also learned a ton of lessons about money from our kids, lessons you can’t really grasp until someone depends on you for every little thing in their life. Take a look at five of these lessons so you can be prepared for your future.
Saving for the Future Is Crucial
While we knew we should take saving seriously before parenthood, having kids really drove the concept home. Once we became parents, we instantly realized we never wanted to be a burden on our kids — and that the financial decisions we make now could drastically change their lives.
As a result, we paid off all debts quickly after having kids. From there, we started saving 50 percent or more of our income and maxing out retirement accounts. We also started tracking our net worth with Personal Capital so we could monitor our financial process over time.
It’s OK to Splurge
Life isn’t just about saving though. Having kids made me realize just how fun it can be to splurge. While we live a frugal life most of the time, we love to travel and show our kids the world.
We also set up a special savings account to cover those times when we want to treat ourselves. Our splurges don’t have to be trips to far-flung parts of the world, either. Sometimes we just head to Sky Zone or the movies, and those trips are special too. As long as our savings goals are being met, we never feel guilty.
It’s OK to Think Differently About Money
Another thing we’ve learned is that you don’t have to spend money the way other parents do. So many people in our area drive fancy cars and pay for the most expensive daycares, but we have always opted to spend less when we can.
Our frugal lifestyle has made it possible for us to travel, boost our savings rate and avoid adding financial stress to our already hectic lives. There are so many ways to save money if you’re willing to do things your own way.
Toys Are Usually a Waste
Speaking of saving money, one lesson we’re still learning is how useless many of the top toys and gadgets can be. I can’t tell you how many times one of my children has opened a toy and played with it once before relegating it to their bookshelf or desk.
Toys are everywhere, but we know we’re better off if we don’t waste our money on cheap junk that will end up in a landfill. Becoming a parent also made us realize that we wanted experiences and memories more than “stuff.” Our kids don’t get most new toys that hit the market for that reason, and they’ve survived so far.
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Most Things Kids Want Are Free
Now, here’s the good news: Most things kids want don’t cost a dime. While my kids occasionally wish they had something their friends have, what they really want is time with us — time to be a family.
You can buy your kids all the toys in the world, but chances are good that what they really crave is your undivided attention and love. For that reason, I try to give all I can, read with them every night and create special moments like trips to the park and movie nights. Those special moments are priceless treasures that will last forever, whereas toys are temporary, hollow and fleeting.
The Bottom Line
Having kids is a learning experience for sure, but it’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. There’s nothing as momentous as holding a newborn baby for the first time, nor is there a greater joy than having the love of a child.
Kids are expensive, sure, but they are worth every cent. How you spend those dollars is up to you, so make sure you’re spending where it counts.
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