Should you wait to have a baby until you are debt free? –

Your heart – or your biological clock – signals that it’s time to have a baby. Your credit card bill, however, may say something else. This heart-versus-head argument forces a number of expectant parents to make a difficult decision: throw finances to the wind with birth control? Or put off having kids until you pay off your cards?

The price of parenthood

In a 2016 poll, 7 out of 10 mothers surveyed said they were worried about having enough money to raise their children – an understandable concern given that the average annual cost of raising a child is 13,000 $, according to the survey. Add to that maternity leave or a part-time postpartum work schedule that reduces income, and the resulting lack of cash can wreak havoc on your finances. “A lot of people don’t realize how expensive having a child can be,” says Erica Sandberg, author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.”

“If you’re already in debt, you’re already behind,” Sandberg says. This is the case for 9 out of 10 mothers interviewed for the survey.

See related: Don’t let money anxiety cause problems in your relationship

For Kristina Windt, the financial cost of raising a child was enough to ditch her credit card debt before trying to get pregnant. “Children and debt are both stressful,” she says. “If I have to stay up most of the night with a crying baby, I don’t want to stay up the rest of the night wondering how I’m going to afford daycare.”

However, many parents get away with it. Ellie Kay should know. The financial expert and author of ‘A Tip a Day with Ellie Kay’ was $40,000 in debt when she quit her job as a stockbroker and had five children in seven years. “There’s this hidden factor that ultimately can’t be measured, which is, ‘Is having a baby right for us?'” she says. Still, she adds, being baby hungry isn’t enough to keep a family afloat financially. “When we had our children, we accepted a much lower standard of living. We have been creative in our ways of paying off our debts and making ends meet. In two and a half years, we had no more debts.

Count the cost

In an ideal world, everyone would clear their debt before becoming a parent. “The reality is that if you wait for the perfect time to have a baby, it will never happen,” says Karin Maloney Stifler, financial planner and co-founder of Walden Wealth Partners, near Cleveland, Ohio. “The decision always involves a certain leap of faith.”

Do your homework ahead of time and you can ensure that your new baby won’t break the bank. Here’s how:

1.Analyze your debt. If you can afford to pay more than the minimum on your credit cards, if you’ve started to chip away at the total, and if you have a cushion of cash at the end of each month, your debt probably shouldn’t have you. prevent you from planning your pregnancy. . If you’re struggling to meet the minimums or keep increasing the balance, you’re already living beyond your means. A new baby will only make your bad financial situation worse.

2. Calculate the numbers. Make a spreadsheet of the expenses you expect a child to add to your tab, including prenatal care, diapers, formula, and child care. For estimates, talk to other parents, call your local day care centers and pediatricians, and browse baby stores. Also consider the impact of the little one on your income if you decide that a parent should stay home and care for the baby, even if it is not planned for the moment. “When I had my first child, I absolutely thought that I was going to continue working full time, says Maloney Stifler. “But once I had this baby in my arms, I changed my mind.”

3. Revise your budget. Want to make room for a baby? Reduce your expenses. “My wife and I used a 0% credit card transfer to consolidate our $8,000 in credit card debt, then cut our spending on things like cell phones, car insurance, bills trash and dining out,” says Joe Morgan.

4.Give it a try. Once you’ve made a rough estimate of how much you think you’ll need when the baby arrives, set that money aside now for credit card repayment and see if you can hack the tighter finances. “We knew when the baby was born my fiancée wouldn’t be going back to work, so we practiced living off my earnings alone, using hers for debt reduction and savings,” says Shaun Ramos. “We managed to pay off $9,300 of debt.”

This reduced their credit card payment by $550 a month – money they were able to spend on caring for their daughter, Hailey.

5.Keep your eyes on the prize. To keep herself from wasting money from a better-paying job on extras, Windt had a portion of her paycheck deposited directly into a savings account, which she used to pay off her credit cards. She also continually reminded herself of her ultimate goal. “I really tried to associate paying for the card with getting what I wanted: babies.”

6.Lower your expectations. While it’s tempting to spend on high-end strollers and designer onesies, avoid increasing your lifestyle for your baby’s sake. “Yes, you want the best for your baby, but the best for your baby is a good financial future for your family,” says Kay. “You might be buying a car seat for $60 instead of $300, but that’s okay.” Borrow gear like swings and slings, stock diapers on sale, and do consignment sales and garage sales for clothes and toys. If you really want a baby, you’ll be happy to equip it for less.

See related: 4 ways to sabotage your child’s financial independence

The bottom line

For couples dreaming of pregnancy, tackling credit card debt probably isn’t high on the to-do list. For Sandberg, it’s like starting his own business without a business plan. “People say, ‘Oh, everything will be fine’, but the moment you get pregnant is the moment you need to start looking at your finances and say, ‘How can I create the safest and most safe for my growing family? » ‘”

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