Suthesh and Arita tied the knot in 2009, with their first child unexpectedly on the way just a month after the wedding. They are now happily expecting their 2nd child. Maybe Baby spoke with this lovely couple to find out more about how they managed their finances to deal with the surprise arrival of their first child, and how they are now preparing for the new addition to the family.
1) What were the top financial concerns for you when you thought about starting a family?
Suthesh: Not being able to spend more lavishly on luxuries e.g. a bigger car, and having to re-think holiday destinations.
Arita: We didn't plan for our first child; hence, everything came unexpectedly for us. Thankfully, we had made some careful choices at the start of our marriage that didn't stretch us financially. For example, we purchased a simple home and a second hand car that was well within our budget. Of course, we are sometimes tempted to splurge more to treat ourselves. But before we got married, we had set some goals for ourselves for the future (things that we want to achieve by a certain age that require us to keep our expenses in check), so that keep us grounded.
2) Did you and your spouse discuss financial matters at length with regard to family planning, or did you just take the plunge and work things out along the way? Were there fundamentally different approaches towards finance between the two of you? If so, how was it resolved?
Suthesh: Arita is fairly accommodating, and most of the major financial decisions are made by me as the main breadwinner.
Arita: We would discuss the big picture, like cost of education for our children, medical expenses, insurance, etc. In addition, we would talk about our future plans – eg. where we would want to stay eventually. Living near one set of parents has always been a priority for us, as we know we would need their support as long as the kids are young and both of us are working. However, as both our parents live in prime districts, it's going to be financially challenging for us to upgrade to a bigger home within the same district. Between the two of us, Suthesh is definitely the one who likes to plan and save scrupulously. I'm the one who is more laid-back. It has been challenging trying to strike a balance. My lackadaisical attitude towards keeping track of my day-to-day expenses is what frustrates Suthesh the most. But I'm slowly beginning to see the importance of doing so, especially now that there are kids in the picture.
3) Who did you turn to for advice with regard to financial concerns about having a baby? (eg. family members, financial advisers, friends, guide books, internet). Did any of them turn out especially helpful, and if so, whose and what advice was it?
Suthesh: I did not do much research into this. Partly because I knew we would have sufficient money as we were living a lifestyle (prior to baby) that was well within our means.
Arita: My parents, as well as my in-laws, are our mentors. I am from a lower-income family. So it was through sheer hard work and discipline that my parents provide a better life for my brother and I. They assured us that everything we needed were in place, especially when it came to our education. For that, I really admire them.
4) Did the family finances work out according to plan? Were there any pleasant/ unpleasant surprises along the way?
Suthesh: Family finances worked out according to plan. Unfortunately, Arita had to leave her job due to domestic issues and she went through a difficult time re-adjusting to being a full- time mum.
Arita: We went overboard and bought too many things which were unnecessary when our first kid was born. With the second kid, we are going to be much more prudent. We will be re-using 90% of the things we had bought for our first kid.
5) Could you please share your strategy on managing the additional finances of having a child (cost of diapers, milk, childcare), as well as saving for your child’s future?
Suthesh: We do not really have a particular financial plan for our day-to-day needs and expenses. We live within our means and budget, and if our child requires something, we will get it only if it is prudent to do so. However, we did make long-term plans for our child's education. e.g. we signed up for an endowment plan to cover the cost of our child's university fees.
Arita: With regards to saving for the future, we set aside a percentage of income for insurance on a monthly basis.
6) Have there been personal financial sacrifices made as a result of having a child? Please share a specific example, if any, and how you feel about it.
Suthesh: Our lifestyle is slightly different now. Having a child has resulted in us taking fewer overseas holidays and going out less frequently for meals. However, I do not view these as sacrifices, as I accept that as just a different phase of life.
Arita: Actually, these sacrifices happened naturally. Once you have a child, your social life will change. We scale back on going out, and traveling overseas. I had Shreya (our first child) when I was 29. Most of my close friends were not even thinking about having kids then. But overall, the sacrifices are worth it!
7) Were financial concerns a main factor for you, in planning when to have your 2nd child?
Suthesh: Finance was not a main factor for the 2nd child. I do not think we will do anything differently with the 2nd child. We are a little smarter about what the child needs, and when the child needs it. We probably wouldn’t go overboard with buying too much stuff for a baby(e.g. rompers). The kid needs just 4 rompers at any one time which he/she will use for 2 months before out-growing them. We definitely went a little overboard with our first child.
Arita: Why did we decide to have a second child so soon? I wanted our kids to have a close age gap, and financially, it makes more sense because I can reuse many of the things I bought for the first child, like the sterilizer, milk bottles and toys. The set-up for a baby is also in place, so we do not have to baby-proof our house again, or create another play area.
I am mentally preparing myself for a bigger lifestyle change when No. 2 arrives because it's going to be harder to have some ‘me- time’or “couple-time”. But I’m grateful that my parents and in-laws are around to help if we really need a break.
9) Any other thoughts / comments you would like to share?
Suthesh: I would strongly recommend married couples to have kids, and at least 2!
Kids help to shape the character and personality of parents, and make them better persons. With children around, you tend to become more patient, and physically and emotionally more resilient. You end up learning more about yourself during the process of raising a child, than you would otherwise. Personally, I think I am now a better person to the people around me (especially my wife) due to the lessons that I have learnt with and from my child.
My advice to everyone out there is: "Don’t buy the Audi...Drive the Honda…and have kids!"
Arita: I didn't plan to have kids so early on in my marriage…but it happened. It has been tough at certain stages, especially when I think about the things Suthesh and I could have done as a couple (like travelling). But it has also been really amazing. You would not know what true love is until you have a child: it is deep, intense and almost magical. My daughter is only 2 years old. Yet through her, I've learnt so much about myself. She inspires me to be a better person!
My advice: Don't over-think it…just do it! With a supportive and loving partner, everything will fall into place.
I Love Children would like to thank Suthesh and Arita for sharing their views on family finances, and we wish them all the best as they welcome their second child to the family!
Look out for the other article in this 2-part series on “No Worries about the Money, Baby!”:
Part 1 – No Worries about the Money, Baby! (Andy & Deborah)
Part 2 - No Worries about the Money, Baby! (Suthesh & Arita)
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