Finances

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By Mandy Loh
 

Thinking of starting a family, but concerned about whether you are able to afford it? In this 2-part series, we talk to couples who have taken the plunge, and ask them for their views on family financial management.

Andy and Deborah are the proud and loving parents of AJ, an adorable and active 2-year-old boy. Deborah chose to be a stay-home mom to spend more time at home with AJ. Maybe Baby spoke with this lovely couple to understand how they manage their family finances on a single income.

 

1) What were the top financial concerns for you when you thought about starting a family?


Andy and Deborah: We decided that Deborah would stay at home to take care of our son as we believe that the formative years of the child are very important. Hence, the top concern was how we would cope with a single income.

 

2) Did you and your spouse discuss financial matters at length with regards 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?


Andy: I guess for us, we just took the plunge and worked things out along the way. There wasn’t too much thought about the future (e.g. that we need $600K in total to bring up a child), but we just felt comfortable to take on the additional monthly expenses, and we were sure that we would be able to provide our child with the necessities. The cost of raising a child is not insurmountable when you realise that the initial expenses involved are actually manageable, and you can save up along the way to cope with recurrent expenses.


Financially, Deborah and I agreed to plan our expenses, although my wife is much more meticulous in planning. There wasn’t much conflict in this aspect. I will give a fixed budget to Deborah for family expenses. I will also give more when other variable expenses are involved.


Deborah: We took the plunge and worked things out along the way. Andy is a more a big-picture person while I tend to focus on the details of financial planning.

 

3) Who did you turn to for advice with regards 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?


Andy: I guess it helps that my brother and sister have five kids amongst the two of them. Therefore, I do get some advice from my siblings, as well as friends who are parents themselves.


Having said that, we were lucky that finance was not a big concern over the last couple of years as we had sufficient savings.


Deborah: We are fortunate as we received practical advice from Andy’s siblings and church friends. I think one very good advice I received was to buy things that are essential and not go with the frills, because babies grow up very fast and they would outgrow these material goods (e.g. clothes, toys) very quickly (often within 3-6 months). So we spent within our means and only bought things that were essential.

 

4) Did the family’s finances work out according to plan? Were there any pleasant/unpleasant surprises along the way?


Andy: It was definitely not as expensive as we thought or planned for initially. We received lots of hand-me-down items from my siblings and friends. In addition, the government subsidies helped defray the other healthcare costs such as the jaundice treatment our son required in hospital.


Deborah: It helped that we received hand-me-downs (clothes, toys) from Andy’s nephews and friends. My family and friends also bought new clothes for our little one. . We practically didn’t have to buy any clothes for our son until he turned one!


The only unexpected cost came about when our son had to stay in hospital for a period of time to get his jaundice treated. Thankfully we were able to use our Medisave to cover the bills.

 

5) Could you please share your formula on managing the additional finances of having a child (cost of diapers, milk, childcare), as well as saving for your child’s future?


Andy: I set aside 20% of my monthly savings (after deducting all our financial commitments and monthly expenses from my income) to pay for insurance and endowment plans.


We do a quarterly review of our expenses to check if our expenses have been rising. If so, we would analyse our spending to find out the reasons for the increase, and consider if the expenditure is actually necessary.


We will usually discuss whether we can afford to pay for premium items e.g. premium honey, goat’s milk, branded toys etc before making decisions. For items which we think are value for money and affordable, we will spend more. If not, we will reduce our expenditure or refrain from spending on them. Deborah: Initially, we used Huggies (the brand of diapers that was used by the hospital when our son was a newborn) and stuck with this brand because of its quality. We had tried other less expensive brands but they weren’t as good. We waited till he was about a year old before switching to a cheaper brand for day use.


I nursed our son until he was about 15 months old, after which we switched to formula milk. I researched on the ingredients of various brands of milk powder recommended by friends and through online sources. Eventually, I decided on a brand which was value for money and contained adequate nutrients for my son. I learned that popular brands may not be the only ones out there in the market that are good.


With the birth of our son, our lifestyle has somewhat changed. Previously, we would go out during the weekends to shop, watch movies, and have dinner at restaurants. Now we cut down on these activities, and channel the savings towards his CDA and his insurance plans.

 

6) Have there been personal financial sacrifices because of having a child? Please share a specific example, if any, and how you feel about it.


Andy: To be honest, I do not think we make many personal financial sacrifices. Initially, we started eating out less, but sometimes Deborah would feel tired juggling dinner preparations and taking care of our son. Therefore, we decided to eat out again once in a while. While we have to cut down on restaurant visits, we find that we are still able to enjoy good food at affordable prices at food courts and coffee shops.


Deborah: I shop less because it isn’t as convenient to shop with a child. But whenever I do shop, I enjoy looking out for children’s stuff and buying things for my son rather than for myself. I guess this is a mother’s love for her child.

 

7) Are financial concerns a main factor for you, in planning when to have your 2nd child?


Andy and Deborah: No. Rather, the main concern for us is getting help to care for two children.

 

8) Any other thoughts/comments you would like to share?


Andy: Parenting is a gift, not a liability, and you cannot just weigh the pros and cons of starting a family on financial terms. Once you become a parent, the joy of caring for a “mini-me” will supersede all the other considerations; especially when your child smiles and cuddles up to you. That is worth much more than all the spas, massages and holidays that one might have to cut back on.


Sometimes, we tend to be over-concerned about the financial aspects of starting a family, perhaps due to reports on how expensive it costs to raise a child.


Personally, I do not feel that it is really that expensive to raise a child. Within our extended family (my brother’s, sister’s and my family), we have six children among us, yet we can still afford the daily necessities in life.


Parenthood also entails some lifestyle changes, for example, it is more difficult to go for midnight movies and suppers.But what you receive is so much more than what you give to the child when you see him grow up every day. It has been a valuable learning experience for me as a parent for the past 2 years.


Deborah: The joy of parenting outweighs the sacrifices we have to make. It is a joy to see your child grow up each day, discovering and exploring the world around him, and loving the people around him. My son may frustrate me with his tantrums but it’s priceless when he smiles and calls me “Mama” and gives me a big hug.


I feel loved and fortunate that I have a child who is happy and healthy. He is always smiling, laughing, and his antics like his silly dance moves and chasing our dog never fail to brighten my day.


I think if we keep thinking about the costs, we will never get started on trying for a child.. The bottom line is to spend within your means and be prudent with your money. There are plenty of fun and cheap/free activities to engage in as a family, for instance, taking a stroll in a park, playing with sand or swimming at the beach. Having our son participate in these activities with us definitely make them more enjoyable!I also read somewhere that children thrive best in a loving home environment. So at the end of the day, it’s about the quality time spent together, and not the material goods, that matter most to your child.

 

I Love Children would like to thank Andy and Deborah for sharing their views on family finances, and we wish them all the best as a 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)

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are based on personal thoughts and experiences of real-life parents with young children, and do not necessarily represent the views of maybebaby.sg, I Love Children and the administrators of this site.

Information and comments given in this article are personal views only and to be used at your own discretion. Maybebaby.sg shall not be liable for any statement, misstatement, inaccuracy or omission of any type for any content contained herein.

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