How We’ve Adjusted For An Unplanned Pregnancy
Sometimes Things Don’t Go to Plan
My dad once gave me great advice as I hesitantly told him I didn’t think I was ready to have a child: “you’re never ready; you have no idea what you’re getting into, but you’re going to learn and figure it out.” I told him with both excitement and trepidation after my wife had told me with the same amount of excitement and trepidation that we had an unplanned pregnancy that was already 13 weeks along only 6 months into our marriage.
Why was she fearful? I had a plan and this wasn’t it. We were supposed to have kids much later in life after we had established plenty of wealth (or at least a more comfortable lifestyle) in a combination of equities and real estate. I was going to be wealthy enough that I could buy myself a yellow biplane that I could fly us all over and sell occasional rides, if for nothing else, to offset some of the costs of ownership. We would be established enough in our mid to late 30s that our long-term retirement could grow on its own and we could finally spend some of our money for things like vacations and having a family. She felt like she ruined that plan; it was just like the saying: “God just laughs at your plans” – he certainly had his own for us (and our daughter!). I reassured my wife that I was excited about having a baby and not mad about it at all; and oh-by-the-way, it takes two to tango to have God bless you with a baby. I was however, scared about the finances. I (maybe not-so) quickly got over my dream to have a biplane, but financial strains certainly occurred.
In reality, I have nothing to complain about – it’s not like it was a teen pregnancy or anything like that – we both had jobs at the time, were in the back half of our 20s, lived in a safe neighborhood, and had (and continue to have) very happy and supportive families, not to mention we were already married, so there wasn’t the added pressure to get married because of an incoming child. But, that doesn’t mean that having a baby was the easiest thing for me and I’ve constantly had to continually re-adjust my goals and my expectations for quality of living.
Priorities – and Costs of Living – Change
Sure, there were the costs that I expected, like diapers and baby food. There was the immediate impact of moving from a relatively modest 1 bedroom apartment that was great for the two of us, to moving to a 2 bedroom apartment with a bigger living room to account for some play area for the baby. Initial cost increase: $457 per month. There were also some unexpected costs like our daughter needing an incredibly specific type of formula that was practically worth its weight in gold. We paid $1.76 per ounce for this formula. My daughter would drink an 8 oz bottle of the beverage that required 3 oz of the powdered formula. That added up to her drinking $5.28 per meal and sometimes $15.84 per day when she actually drank all 3 bottles (if you’re keeping score, that’s $457.20 in formula per month). I would get pretty angry when she’d sip on some and then never drink the rest, partially because she needed to gain weight and wasn’t, but also because I’d look at those remaining 6 oz. and think “gee, thanks. Glad I made this for you. I literally have to pour $3.52 down the drain because guess what? It doesn’t keep for more than a couple hours even when refrigerated!” Figure she did this at least every other day – we are talking wasting in the range of over $50 per month… on wasted food. Did I get bitter? Yeah, definitely. Looking back, how stupid was I? There’s no way a 10 month old can control or anticipate her hunger, let alone describe that she would want 2 oz. instead of her normal 8 for a “snack.” I stressed out needlessly.
But, regardless of the state of my stress, our finances had to change. I prioritized saving before; now I had to prioritize my baby. But, after ensuring her basic needs were met, I still prioritized saving… but even that had to change. I’d like her to go to college if she’d like, and I don’t want her to stress that she can’t go because of money – so we’ve been saving in a 529 plan for her (with some help from both sets of grandparents too, thanks guys!). Some of the money I was using for funding my future vacations or entertainment, earlier retirement, or medium term savings started funding these aforementioned new priorities.
I didn’t cut back on on our “mandatory” savings of Roth IRAs and TSP. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t taken a hit. There’s less left over each month. What used to be left over after all my savings and spending now departs my checking account for long term savings.
We had to cut back on leisurely activities. A dinner out that used to cost $35 for us now cost $35 + anywhere from $8-15 per hour for a babysitter. If you go out for 2 hours, that $35 meal is now a $65 night out with a babysitter! Alternatively, we could bring our daughter to some restaurants, but even there, figure the typical kids meal is about $8-9 before tip and tax, and half the time, she won’t even eat it anyway.
Perhaps the most noticeable cut was travel. Like many millennials, my wife and I love traveling. When I was single, I could get to a friend’s city for a $300 plane ticket for a long weekend and crash on a couch. When I got married, that became $600 in plane tickets and probably $125-150 per night in a hotel. Now that I have a daughter that’s over 2, that’s $900 in plane tickets and forget about trying to save money by staying in a hostel; now I have to ensure my hotel room has 2 beds and a full bathtub. Where we once would stay in a city and use their mass transit system and ride-sharing apps, I can’t anymore – walking long distances to/from bus and subway stations can’t happen often and I can’t get a ride-sharing app to ensure they have the right car seat. What this means for us: we usually need a rental with a car seat now, so tack on an extra $500 per week of travel for that now too. So, unfortunately, since we’ve had our daughter, my wife and I have only had 1 vacation together and a couple “staycations” with our daughter, at least within a 2 hour drive or so of wherever we’ve lived. Unfortunately, our travel itch is certainly there, but personal finance is often about what we want, and what we want now, so we’ve cut back on travel in order to prioritize savings.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a dad. My daughter is awesome, and I love being such an idol in her eyes. It’s amazing. But, I’m just saying that the added expense of a child changes things. Children’s basic needs will set you back a bit, in the form of more real estate required than what you previously needed, diapers, clothes, food, entertainment, and education just off the top of my head. In our case, we continued to focus on long term savings over our present-day leisure like dining out and traveling. Hopefully, one day, we’ll get back to a more leisurely lifestyle. For now, I’ll keep on saving towards that goal.