Hey guys! I want to start off by thanking the Frugalwoods family for inviting me to guest post here. It’s always a trip reading about their frugal adventures in Bean Town. And I have to admit, they outdo my own family when it comes to frugality.

Father and son: hiking in the middle of the week. Just because we can.
Father and son: hiking in the middle of the week. Just because we can.

Before I jump into today’s new awesome, exciting, completely serious post, let me step back and introduce myself. I’m Justin from the Root of Good blog. At age 35, I’m a few years older than the Frugalwoods. My core goal during my 20’s and early 30’s was reaching financial independence and retiring early. At age 33, I hit that milestone and left the days of full time work behind for good. With a seven-figure portfolio and a three percent withdrawal rate, we should be fine for the next half dozen decades.

Along with me on this incredible journey through life are my wife and three children (ages 3, 9, and 10). My wife’s early retirement adventure hasn’t started yet, but it will commence in the near future. In fact, she resigned last month but it didn’t work. To keep her on board, Mrs. RootofGood’s employer offered a four day work week and a switch to telecommuting while keeping her at full time pay. Mrs. RootofGood is 20% of the way retired and we’re still working on that last 80%.

And now, onto today’s post…

While Mr. Frugalwoods and I enjoy/attempt to survive our very first month as parents to our daughter, Babywoods, I have a delightful slate of guest posts from my friends lined up for your reading pleasure. Today, please welcome experienced frugal father of three, Justin from Root of Good!

By: Root of Good

The Frugalwoods Are Screwed Because Kids Are Crazy Expensive… NOT!

In case the Frugalwoods haven’t received enough friendly advice on raising kids (as all new parents inevitably do), I’m here to provide even more. But I’d like to address the kids angle through the lens of an early retiree.

My daughters observing the aquatic life in the Bahamas
My daughters observing the aquatic life in the Bahamas

While you’re on the path to early retirement, you want to keep kid-related expenses to a minimum so you can maximize savings. Ignore all those studies that say it costs an average of a quarter million dollars to raise a kid to age 18. The key word there is average. Pro tip: don’t be average. There’s no one making you be average when it comes to raising your own kid. As the Frugalwoods point out over and over, there are many clever ways to remain frugal without sacrificing quality of life. That same truth extends to raising kids, too.

Kids just don’t have to cost a lot of money. Other than the necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, almost everything else is optional. You can spend a little on the extras or you can spend boatloads of money. But it’s a choice. Other parents, advertising, and peer pressure will try to make the spending decisions for you, but ultimately it’s up to the parents to provide a good life for their kids while managing the household finances responsibly.

You don’t need every baby gadget available. And even if you do need something for the little one, it doesn’t have to be brand new. Since kids grow up quickly, there’s a constant fire hose blast of baby stuff that other people desperately want to jettison. Ask your friends and family who have older kids if you need something and you’ll be doing both you and them a favor by taking unnecessary kid stuff off their hands. If that fails, check facebook, craigslist, or other online message boards and you can usually score free or near-free kid gear (and lots of it!). Yard sales are another source of cheap kid gear. $5 for a box full of clothes that originally cost hundreds of dollars brand new? Frugal score!

Don’t feel bad about getting second hand stuff for your baby. THEY WON’T KNOW OR CARE. After a few years, their cognitive abilities will grow to the point where they might notice the stuff you get for them isn’t brand new. Once that magical time arrives, it’s even more important to keep on getting used stuff because it teaches a great lesson. It’s okay to buy used stuff because it’s usually just as good as brand new stuff!

Nothing made me prouder than the day my kid shot down a classmate with expensive sneakers. The other kid was bragging about how awesome his two hundred dollar shoes were. My own kid quickly replied “wow, your parents wasted so much money on those. My shoes were $5 from the thrift store and they are just as awesome as yours” (they were almost brand new name brand sneakers worth $60-100 new). She’s flying the frugal flag proudly! Lesson learned by her: the value of an item is largely independent of how much you paid for it. Not only did I save $195 on the purchase price of shoes for her, I also provided the priceless lesson to always seek value when you need to buy something.

Kids save us $5,500 per year in taxes!

Having kids will cost you, but they also save you a ton of dough. In my famous article on how we paid only $150 in taxes on a $150,000 income, I determined that our kids save us $5,500 in taxes every year. That’s enough to cover our entire family’s grocery bill for the whole year!

The savings aren’t limited to tax deductions and credits. Having kids radically changes your life, which means your spending patterns will change, too. Since the Frugalwoods are already doing it right by spending next to nothing on dining out, drinking in bars, and entertainment, they might not see a huge spending reduction in those categories, but most families will. For us, having kids means spending more time at home with frugal family activities. Playing with your own kids is a wonderful and endless source of free entertainment!

If you focus on free or cheap activities first, then you won’t have time to spend money on expensive kid-related entertainment. In our city, there’s a constant flow of downtown festivals and community events at libraries, museums, and community centers. I can’t recall the last time we spent money on any of these activities.

In early retirement, our family of five lives on a budget less than $33,000 per year. Some say that’s not possible with kids, but we are living proof that it’s entirely feasible to have multiple kids and live very comfortably on significantly less than a six-figure salary.

Kids and Early Retirement

If you retire early, will your kids turn into lazy blobs and fail to launch when they are adults?

Probably not.

Kids don’t really get much benefit out of watching you leave for the office every morning and come home late at night. They don’t vicariously absorb “work ethic” by watching you pull out of the driveway. They have absolutely no clue what you do at work each day.

Grabbing breakfast in the Mexico City bus station. That’s all the luggage we carried for 7 weeks.

In contrast, there are actually a lot of advantages to retiring early with kids. You can spend more time with them and teach them things they won’t learn in daycare, preschool, or regular K-12 school. You could even push the early retirement advantage further by choosing to homeschool your kids.

By leaving the working world and entering the realm of early retirement, daycare fees disappear. No longer will you have to pay someone else to take care of your kids!

In early retirement, your time becomes yours once again and you can spend it however you want.

In our case, we love to travel. Early retirement freed up our schedules to allow extended vacations. Since I retired early two years ago, we spent the first summer on a 2,500 mile road trip along the east coast of the US and into Canada. This past summer, we packed our bookbags and jumped on a flight south of the border for a seven week adventure across Mexico.

Revolutionary Times

To offer a bit of perspective on raising children in today’s world, let’s take a quick glance back at the typical family in the time of George Washington. Times were tough. Luxuries and conveniences were rare or non-existent. The family home had one room, perhaps two, at a time when families had a half-dozen kids (not the 2.3 children of today). Today’s youth would love the fact that they might not have to go to school…. Until they found out they would instead be working in the fields or in their parents’ workshop before they lost all their baby teeth.

Relaxing on the back deck with good free library books
Relaxing on the back deck with good free library books

In the age of Washington, entertainment included telling stories around the fire, rereading one of the few books your family owned (if anyone enjoyed the benefit of literacy), playing simple games, and playing music (for those wealthy enough to own an instrument). Clothes were expensive, ill-fitting, worn out hand-me-downs (unless you were the first child). Adventure travel would be the hours-long trip (possibly on foot) to the nearest town to sell your family’s produce at the market once per week.

Fast forward to the average family of 2015. We are freaking wealthy beyond belief! Kids today, even poor kids, are so much better off. Free education, vaccines, the internet, libraries, cheap computers and tech toys, and an unbelievable range of entertainment options. Clothes are cheap (and even cheaper if you shop thrift stores). Safe, reliable, and fast transportation lets families visit other states and countries quickly and inexpensively as compared to riding a horse or in a wagon.

The internet acts as a great equalizer of opportunity for kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds. With Khan Academy, Codecademy, Coursera, and other self-paced learning opportunities available for free, eager kids of modest means can get ahead. In terms of our basic bundle of human rights, females are on par with males (and they can even vote now!) and slavery is abolished. Times are pretty good these days for kids and adults of all backgrounds. Most people today live like the aristocracy of G-Dub’s time, yet we’re too busy to realize that wonderful truth.

Our lives today are so much easier than they were a century or two ago, and that’s true regardless of whether or not you spend a ton of money raising kids. George Washington thought he was living in Revolutionary times. But we’re living in truly revolutionary times today!

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

RootOfGood_KidsCoverI’m pretty happy with the choice to retire early with school age children still at home. The change in lifestyle saves us money on kid costs and it’s wonderful to spend the extra free time with them while they’re still young.

For the Frugalwoods, I imagine they’ll do spectacularly well when they leave the city life behind and move to the homestead with their little bundle of joy in a few year’s time. It’ll be a time of new opportunities with the kiddo, and a great chance to get much closer to nature on a daily basis.

If you want to keep in touch with me at Root of Good, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to the email list at the blog.

Is retiring early with kids completely crazy? Do kids really cost a quarter million dollars before age 18?

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  1. This is really inspiring. Not that we will be able to retire very early, but the notion that having children MUST be hideously costly is just false and you have proven this to an extreme. Obviously there are things that come down to luck, such as continued good health and there are terrible catastrophes that can befall any of us, BUT assuming the normal slings and arrows of life, you have shown it is totally doable to have a fun, fulfilling and interesting life, with plenty of all that you need, and much of what you want / life’s luxuries… no one need dress in rags and live on crackers! This rampant ”you must buy” consumerism is really quite something once kids come along, the guilt at ”well… if you don’t want THE BEST for your child…” really plays into the insecurities and fears many of us have.

    I have 3 young kids and whilst we place a high value on good education / educational supplies / enrichment and so on, I do ask pointed questions when I’m told ”ooh, there’s a course that’s a million squillion per day and it’s THE BEST for little Johnny to learn and excel”… and the first question is ”what precise guaranteed value are we getting here that cannot be gained through something either free or markedly less costly?”. Almost without exception, the answer is silence…

    Saying that, I have been advised by a podiatrist of my acquaintance to never buy used shoes unless they literally have only been worn once or twice and to not pass shoes between children. It is better to buy cheap shoes and buy new, because – apparently – particularly children are still developing posture and weight distribution and we all wear shoes differently and it can store a whole host of back, foot, knee and ankle issues later. It’s such a pain because shoes are expensive, but I’ve taken that advice to heart, particularly since it came from someone with no vested interest!

    1. Totally agree about the very minimal difference in long term value from a cheap/free course, lesson, or experience versus the very expensive alternatives available. For so many activities that kids do, it doesn’t really matter later in life.

      I’ve seen so many peers who did crazy expensive stuff when we were young that didn’t really add value later in life (other than the experience itself and possibly a small gold star on their college applications).

      As for the shoes, we won’t buy any used shoes if they look worn. I’m not even sure they sell those at the thrift store where we shop. The pairs of shoes we’ve purchased were brand new or maybe worn a couple times (but it’s hard to tell). No degradation in the soles at all. Most likely they were purchased by someone who never wore them and then outgrew them, or maybe they got them as a gift and they didn’t fit. We saw another pair of boots we bought for $3 were on a rack at Saks or Macy’s for over $100. Not sure if they were the exact same brand but they looked identical, and they were brand new (zero wear anywhere on the shoe).

      1. In that case, snap up the footwear!! Here in South Africa, where poverty is grinding and unrelenting for many, the notion of a virtually-new or even unworn pair of brand shoes winding up anywhere near a shop is next to zero, and it’s something I really miss about life in Europe, the notion of thrifting, of getting almost new (or brand-new!) great stuff of all kinds. Of course it does exist, but where clothes are concerned, the items are often in very poor shape and not really good value.

  2. I certainly haven’t calculated what my daughter has cost me over the course of her 6 years, but I highly doubt we will ever hit that quarter million mark. Even before she was born I couldn’t understand for the life of me why kids were so expensive. Turns out, they’re not. They’re only as expensive as we want them to be. My daughter wants to grow up to be a vet. She loves animals and I actually wouldn’t be surprised if she follows through on this early ambition. However, I’ve been teaching her about earning money, paying for expenses, and investing since before she could walk. She wants to be a vet, but she wants to own rental properties to make money. She wants passive income that she doesn’t ‘have’ to work for. She also knows that the more hot water she uses during her bath means less money we can spend on the fun stuff. I was amazed to hear a co-worker say that her 5-year old daughter has no idea why her and her husband go to work. That’s crazy to me.

    I completely agree that kids are not that expensive. If they’re bleeding you dry, you’re doing it wrong. All they want is our time and love.

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  3. My kids are still young, but so far parenthood has been inexpensive. I’ve also experienced that, if you’re committed to a frugal lifestyle, kids can even curb your spending in areas like recreational shopping or frequent restaurant trips, because those pastimes aren’t much fun with little kids in tow. I also agree that having at least one spouse home with the kids is invaluable.

  4. First of all, congratulations! Second, I often see this competitive thing with friends who are parents. They often feel pressure to put there kid in EVERYTHING. Every sport. Every music class, every camp. I can imagine that the expenses pile up if you care too much about what other parents think of you and how you are raising your kids.

    1. This is my experience also. My kids are 9 and 3. It starts early. The “right” preschool ($1600 a month). Then the “right” camps. You can get discounts, for sure. But summer is 9-10 weeks long, and if you insist on $300-$400 camps, that adds up. (We have a tendency towards the free summer program at the school with a few camps tossed in).

      Then there are the activities. We do have our children in some – swimming for safety (we live at the beach). Baseball for our older child, and also chess. However I have some friends whose kids are in 2 activities each, including traveling soccer, or traveling swimming, or traveling water polo. I get that these sports give them confidence and socialization and physical fitness. But to lose every weekend for months because you are traveling and paying for hotels? Yikes.

      1. This. This exactly. I have 3 children, and whilst the youngest is only 2, the sheer array of extra-curriculars, many of which carry a fair-to-hefty price tag (but don’t you want to give your child EVERY OPPORTUNITY??), and more than that, involve hours and hours of time, petrol, travel and more. The only activity that I have signed any of my children up for that involves travel of any sort is my eldest child’s robotics club. The only place to do it is a bit of a drive. Upside is that he is absolutely enthralled by it, is really learning some amazing stuff, it’s not crazy expensive and you pay for a block of sessions, but you can use them as you see fit. It happens on a weekend, so you aren’t committed to EVERY Sunday 10-12, you can skip a few sessions and pick up, because it’s individualised and the projects wait for the kid to come back. Otherwise, it’s free / nearly-free school sports and activities and that’s that. Children are so over-subscribed, I saw it with my nephews. Literally every weekend, every single extra second was given over to ”oh but Johnny has a cricket match 200kms from here… so we can’t make lunch /dinner/ anything, ever”. And the cost of all this is staggering, adds up to so much… and for… what? Unless a child has a serious, concerted interest in a specific activity, really, most things come down to healthy exercise and teamwork skills. These need not cost the earth, or anything.

        1. Yes! We have taken our son to the occasional chess tournament. And he’s really into chess and computers/robotics. So those are the two camps that we pay for in the summer (that are expensive). We recently put our 3 year old into a more expensive swim class, but boy do I see a difference already in his capabilities.

          For our older son, he tried a few sports that were cheap or nearly free. It wasn’t until he was 9 that he really wanted to try baseball, and even that is $200 but for a really long season. We do have to take him to 1 practice a week and 1 game a week, but they are in town. And ALL kids get to play.

  5. I think there is way more benefit to retiring early with kids. You are able to give them something most people can’t, a great chunk of your time. There was a time when giving them your attention and time was a bigger deal then having them see you work 12 hours a day! I’m only 8 months in to fatherhood but I can’t see how a kid costs $250k. Sure, we don’t buy everything and shop for used items but who needs to buy new for these things! They are barely used! So hopefully everyone else keeps buying things so I can get cheap deals once they toss them aside ????

  6. As someone hoping to have kids in the next few years, I never get tired of reading posts that refute the high costs of raising children. I’m definitely of the generation where it was expected that kids get everything they want, participate in every sport, and then go to the best college they get into regardless of the financial aspect. Hoping I can instill good financial sense into my future children just like you have!

  7. I agree kids don’t have to be expensive. My little one turns three this month. I’ve outfitted his entire winter/fall wardrobe including shoes for under $20. We get hand-me-downs from friends and I’ve purchased a few things on sale from stores for pennies. The most expensive part was shoes as I did purchase those new from Kohl’s since he has a wider width foot, but used a few different coupons and ended up getting them pretty inexpensively too.

    We are still working on getting to FI, but have saved thousands of dollars by having family members watch my little one instead of paying for day care. I do have him in preschool now as I want him to have the social interaction and that has added some expense, but I do use the DCSA in order to lower my gross income. The only other slight expense is that he is in swim classes. I feel this is a necessity for all kids as I’ve witness a child a couple years older than mine nearly drown since he has never learned to swim.

    1. Swim classes are very important, and one of the rare “extra” expenses we’ve paid for. It’s pretty cheap with our parks and rec department (something like $60 for a month of lessons).

  8. Sorry, but I can easily see how families can spend $250,000 getting a kid to age 18. We easily will. And yes- we cloth diaper, breastfeed, use handmedowns exclusively, drive a 14 year old 2 door hatchback, live in a small and inexpensive house, and eschew expensive lessons and activities. This is all low-hanging fruit. It is fantastic to do all of this stuff as frugally as possible! But in the end, this is not why kids are expensive.

    Kids are expensive bc of 1) childcare and 2) medical expenses (in the US, at least). If you avoid paying for childcare by having one parent stay home, you need to take that lost income into account as well. I quit my job when my son was born 4 years ago. I did not have a very good job and I was making only $36K/year. Still, in less than 7 years, that is $250,000 in lost income alone. That’s not counting possible raises. It’s also not counting the value of my benefits, which were very good. So now we have significantly worse medical insurance with much higher premiums. Our eldest son has been blessedly healthy so far, but we still had to pay over $7k for a minor outpatient surgery he needed last year, on top of the eye doctor and dental care. All of this is totally worth it! But it is not cheap.

    Of course it is wonderful that you can retire early and be with your kids! That is a great course of action to take. Was your desire to retire early based on wanting to be home with kids? There is just a tendency amongst bloggers to emphasize the easy ways to save with kids while leaving out the most significant expenses/ how to save on those.

    1. agree 2000%. Time out of the workforce for one parent is years of raises lost, or management track derailed, even if someone can go back to work after taking time off. A shitty childcare option in my city would be at LEAST $1,500/month for an infant, and you would feel guilty leaving your kid at these places cause they suck. So it’s either pay over $2,000/month for expensive childcare, or leave the workforce entirely, and leave a huge amount of income on the table. I find it borderline futile to talk about hand-me-down clothing and cloth diapers as money savers when the cost of daycare is the financial equivalent of taking a nice vacation every single month. It’s misleading.

      1. I didn’t mean to gloss over the child car costs, as they can be huge! We lucked out by having my mother in law watch them, and we paid her a little, but nowhere near the market rates here (somewhere around 1/2 to 1/4 the going rate I think).

        Child care costs locally were around $600-700 for home care options (which you might lump in the “shitty childcare options”) up to $1200-1400 or so for the fancy five star places. Maybe more for an infant, I just don’t remember.

        A friend of ours has had a lot of success with pretty good nannies by hiring college students studying early childhood development. $10-11/hr. Costs are obviously variable based on geography, but that’s what he pays here in Raleigh. Definitely cheaper than paying for daycare for 2+ kids. I’ve seen others work flexible schedules so their need for childcare is much less than full time (shift work, working weekends, part time work, work from home, etc). And then there is family. Even if it’s less than full time it can help with costs (and sanity).

        Obviously not a solution for everyone in every situation, but there is a lot of flexibility even for child care costs.

        And I would definitely recommend to all readers to not rule out quitting work for the lower paid parent if you’re facing $2000/mo per kid (and possibly for more than 1 kid!) childcare bills. The second salary gets hit with taxes at a higher marginal rate, there are all of the costs of commuting and work-related expenses, and the extra costs of being super busy with work and kids and running to daycare (less cooking at home, more convenience foods and take out, missing opportunities for cheap/free stuff during the week, etc). I wouldn’t pay $24,000 or $48000 per year for childcare if I was making only $36,000 or $40,000 for example.

        Large preschool/daycare bills are also a limited duration expense that usually go away by age 4 or 5 (other than much less expensive before/after school care). So yeah it sucks to pay $10k-20k+ per year but that’s the price for some for the first 4-5 years.

        And I don’t think you can disregard the optional “other” costs some incur. I’ve heard of people spending $1000+ per month on travel sports. Between hotels, lots of miles on a car, or sometimes flights for the kid(s) and parent(s), it adds up. Maybe that leads to college scholarships and personal development, but does it pencil out?

        Wow that’s a long comment response. Not just directed at you, Diana but to anyone who’s curious about my take on childcare.

    2. I’m going to respond to Diana’s comment (who responded to you) about the childcare.

      As for motivation to retire early, spending more time with the kids was definitely a big part of it. And it’s much easier to be a “good” parent when you have free time all day. Hey Daddy, let’s play a board game for 2 hours. OK! Let’s read this book again. And again. OK! No need to rush now because whatever I’m working on in my own life I can always postpone until tomorrow. Can’t get back those precious moments with the kids though! 🙂

  9. Great article Justin. I know with complete certainty that I didn’t cost my parents $250k 🙂 Your points are valid for life in general, not just kids. Things are expensive because you let them be expensive by the choices you make. You just choose to make them cheaper, which sounds like a great idea to me!

  10. Hi Justin! We are definitely not buying our kids a quarter-million dollars worth of “stuff” and piano lessons, but we are soooo far from retirement, so we do have childcare and lost income costs. (I’m a part-timer.) And then here’s the house–if it was just the two of us, we would not live in a three-bedroom house with a yard.

    We did not have kids until we were 30 and we both really wish we had used our 20s differently. We could have been looking at retirement while our kids were still young.

  11. Great post and that’s great that you can spend all that quality time with your kids! I hate the articles that say that kids cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – I think that applies only if you can’t figure out have to have fun with your kids instead of just trying to spoil them with expensive gifts!

    Having a daughter five years ago really pushed me to figure out how to become financially free so I could spend more time with her. We spend a lot of time playing and learning, but I still feel like work gets in the way. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to pull the plug on the career until she’s about 14 or 15, but that’s usually a kid’s hardest age figuring out life anyway, so it’s good to know I’ll be available for her whenever needed.

    — Jim

  12. Thanks again Justin. As you know, we also have 3 kids just a few years behind yours in age (with two girls and a tailend boy as well!), so you are a constant source of inspiration for us. My “win” moment with my kids was after we went to dinner at a friends’ house who has a giant mansion overlooking the ocean and a bouncy house in the basement. I was nervous what my kids would say when we left their house “oh, I wish our house was bigger or had a bouncy castle!” Instead, we got in the car and my oldest said “think about all the chores THOSE guys have to do!” I may not be winning at everything, but that was definitely a win moment! And my daughters are already planning our international family adventures. Ironically, my oldest said out of everywhere in the world, the first place she’d like to visit is Mexico! So I’ll be rereading those posts! 🙂

    1. Nice, you’ve done well with the money messages with the kids! It’s amazing how they get it, even at a relatively young age. More/bigger often means more expensive to buy initially and maintain/operate long term. Cars, houses, everything.

      Have fun in Mexico! Feel free to reach out if you have any Q’s as we’re battle hardened Mexico travel vets at this point (I’ve spent ~5 months in country between 3 long summer trips).

    2. I think my initial response got deleted somehow. 🙂

      Great job on teaching those kids about the true cost of “stuff”. That will undoubtedly help them start out on the right foot with money when they are older.

      Awesome to hear your kid wants to go to Mexico! Feel free to drop me a line with any travel planning questions not answered by my blog posts. I’ve got ~5 months of in country time between 3 long summer vacations down there.

  13. I don’t disagree with anything in this article. My wife is able to stay at home. With the birth of our daughter, it increased the priority of me leaving my job of constantly being on call to one with a defined schedule. Not early retirement (yet) but an improvement in quality of life.

  14. I agree with most of what is written in this article – especially that time spent/experiences with family is much more valuable than any object that may be purchased. I share many of Justin’s values while raising our children:

    I was a stay at home mom for six years to our two children who were both breastfed and cloth-diapered. Both my kids mostly wore hand-me downs until they entered school at which point I started buying them new, quality clothing. I was deeply humiliated as a child with respect to my clothing, which were not fashionable and I was not willing to have my children go through the same thing. Adults have the advantage of intellectual and emotional maturity to reject consumerism (especially fashion), but I think parents need to be mindful of these choices and be sensitive to how frugality may impact their children, as our children may hide their feelings (such as I did), out of fear, solidarity with their parents or out of pride.

    I’m all for not over scheduling children and finding free and/or frugal activities, but I also think it’s our duty, as parents, to nurture our children’s interests and talents, and paying for such (like music/dance/sports activities), if we have the means.

    1. I hear you on the clothes- we live in an affluent suburb but looking at the kids they are dressed like the other kids but it is easier for me to to tell you what was purchased new rather than secondhand/hand me down because perhaps 1 of 20 items is new and that is only if we can’t get it used. We do pay attention to brands/trends because if they don’t like it, it won’t get worn. they regularly get complements on their outfits and get major sticker shock at the mall. We have talked about how used items mean that someone is not working in a factory in bad conditions to make something new, it has already come from halfway around the world and we are keeping that cool thing out of a landfill. A telling moment was when my older girl and a friend happened to own the exact same pair of jeans that are $45 at the mall. The friend’s mom bought them at the mall for full price and my daughter got them at the thrift store for $1.69. We do lots of cheap/free activities and a few activities. We chose the town rec program for a sport at $50 a month per child and there were other programs in town for the same thing from $100-150 per child. Ouch. We can do a lot of things with an extra $300 per month.

      1. Great job! We routinely get very nice name brand stuff in new or lightly used condition from the thrift shop. Most recently, it was a couple pairs of Banana Republic jeans. For a buck each. Sticker price was probably $100+. It was summer time and the girls needed shorts so we just cut the pant legs in half and stitched them up.

        Our kids get lots of compliments on the clothes when they are dressed nicely even when it’s a complete thrift shop wardrobe.

    2. Yes, that is a very sensitive issue. Of course one must be careful not to constantly do everything el cheapo re clothes, and by that I mean, to make your kids FEEL that they are wearing cheap ”poor substitute” stuff, because whilst it seems shallow, self-esteem is fragile in kids, easy to shake, rather better to focus on finding great stuff that is good value, with some basic staples that are inexpensive / thrift type things, and one or two ”treat items”, ideally bargain-hunted, but that the child concerned wants, especially as the tween-teen years hit.

      When they are older and must finance stuff themselves, then is the time to have the consumerism chat, but children are so sensitive and it feels awful to be the weird ”poor” one, odd one out, even if your parents are actually in far less debt and far better off than all of the designer-clad peers!

  15. When I think of it I guess I could see kids costing a lot of money, not sure about a quarter mil but I can see a great chunk of resources being spent if you choose that. I can also see some individuals going the extreme opposite. We have one child, a son by choice. We invest a lot of time and resources (money) into him and give him a great childhood in our opinion. I believe time would be the more valuable resource we could share with him and getting to know his friends and his friends parents can be equally important and rewarding. At the same time my wife and I work 40+ hour week and love the life; Right Now.

    I see things through a slightly different lens. Kids related expenses, I see those expenses as opportunities and teaching moments in life. Spending money, not spending money, eating too much or over or under indulging on anything feeds into emotional triggers and feelings. Right now we are trying to teach our son to learn how to have a healthy balance of knowing how to say no but also knowing when to say yes with the multitude of things in life. We are all assaulted each day with advertisements to spend money and equally to over indulge in everything. Just look at the obesity epidemic and the expanding waste lines; everyone is feeding some kind of emotion. It is good to learn about these emotional triggers and how to live with them.

    Right now my wife and I are gifted with good paying jobs. We get to go to work each day and have fun while at the same time make a great salary. This salary allows us to do some many things as a family, we are truly blessed. One of the best things it allows us to do is give to charity and volunteer our time with others. On of the best lessons we can show our son. My son has he opportunity to sees me leave for work each day.He does not see me put forth the efforts at work while at the same time I do not see him working hard at school. But on the other hand this has shown him the reward of what a good education can do and getting a good job can provide. We are now teaching him how to take those earned resources and live, save and have a healthy relationship with life and money.

    I can not say we are like most Americans that spend each and every cent that comes in but on the other hand we are not the extreme opposite and make it a personal accomplishment in not spending anything we make. But either way, we try not to judge or look down on those lifestyles different from our own. Its hard keeping your mouth shut and just smile at times. In America you have that freedom of choice though. We have tried and continue teach our son to behave and react a bit different when someone gets in his face or is bragging about something they have. We have taught him to be happy for those people that have more than what he has and to share in that joy. Hard to do. At the same point share with others that do not have as much as you. Enjoy what you have in life, there will always be others with more or less and it does no good trying to compare. I think as a parent it is so important to teach these little people these valuable lessons on how to handle ourselves in a respectful way and how to inter-relate with others that have a different view points than our own. Does no good stepping on others sneaker, in my opinion.

    I love how you did the trips with your children. We do the same but in chunked out times through out the year that are between his other sports and educational activities we enjoy doing as a family. We are basically doing as our parents did for use when we were kids. It brings back many happy memories that I shared with my parents and I am fortunate enough to do the same with my son.

    I am happy and grateful to have writers like yourself that offer me a different and new perspectives on life and ways of doing things. As you can tell I am not both feet in with your view of frugality but I think I can take some tid bits of experience and learn from it and improve on our own frugality. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Hi Justin – great to see you posting over here! I loved the bit about the shoes and your daughter. My kids are still to young to ‘notice’, but I hope I can do half as good a job with mine as you have done.

    I’ve said it before, but your story is inspiring, and certainly one of my biggest inspirations to give early retirement a go. Please keep beating that drum!

  17. If I have any children in the future (I don’t plan on having any though), I would try to be as frugal as possible with them. Buy used toys, buy baby supplies in bulk, simple meals for when they get older, buy clothing for when they are babies, young children’s clothes at thrift stores, and only essential Christmas presents. Things like that. I guess richer families spend more money on their children because they can, but why would you? Vacations are expensive! Not knocking the author for theirs if they can afford it, but traveling to different places constantly would definetely put a dent in your wallet if you did it often enough. In my current financial situation, I wouldn’t even dream in going on any vacations. As long as I had a roof over my head and enough money to buy the essentials and maybe two or three extra things along the way, I would be fine. I don’t need a lot to be happy. C:

    And the author is right! We live in exciting times right now! With drones for delivering things being developed and self driving cars coming to the market in five years time, our lives will become even easier! It’s just the waiting for it all that kills me. Dx

  18. Frugal living and childrearing forces creativity! There are so many times when we wait for what we want and surprisingly we either get it for free, find it on a markdown or are able to use reward points or gift cards or… Realize we don’t even need it. I would much rather share experiences of travel than stuff. Activities add up, especially as the kids age, but there are always free funsies to do too.

  19. I tend to believe kids can be as cheap or as expensive as you make them. My kids are ages 6 and 4 and, to this day, I have spent more on the hospital bill to bring them into this world than anything else combined. Kids don’t really need a lot, and they’ll be happy with what they have if you let them be.

  20. Depends. Kids are quite expensive if you are both working. With our current daycare it will cost just shy of $50,000 per kid (so $100,000 for the two of them) until they enter school (and that’s with 1 year of mat leave). In the meantime my wife will earn at least $300,000, so it’s worth it, but there is no getting around that expense for us.

    The rest can be done quite thriftily. Biggest expense other than daycare will be education, where we will put in about $35,000 per kid (to max out the government grants).

  21. I completely agree that kids don’t have to be expensive. Hand me downs are money savers and like you said you can work around childcare. We did one parent not working, family providing care. One day shift, one night shift. One full time one part time. Wow I didn’t realize we had done so many combinations. And I hope to figure out a work from home option soon. And then passive income development. We have spent very minimal amounts on childcare.

    My daughter is 2 and my son is 7.

    Though costs do change as they grow. My son has started to really go through his clothes.

  22. Thanks for writing this. I am a SAHM but do a little work on the side as well. I love being able to home school my kids and be with them everyday. The level of education is second to none. Last year we went to California and studied local plant life, Memphis to visit the Civil Rights Museum and will be exploring rain forests in Dominican Republic this year! We are looking for hubby to retire in the next 4 years to make it a family affair. It’s a good life if you can do it. We started with getting out of debt. Now we are adding more to our investment accounts.

  23. Both my parents past away when I was in my mid forties, we grew up very modest with garage sales, used bikes and hand me downs, 4 kids in a 3 bedroom house with one bathroom with a stay at home mom ( I had a great childhood) we did not pay sports all weekend and after school, l we were involved in the basic school activities that are in your property taxes . My point is, its all about time together, I do not believe you can put a monetary value on time spent with your family, I am sure based on some the above matrix above the $250,000 is low for a cost, but as the old saying goes what is cost ?????. If both parents are working 40 plus hours per week then you are paying someone else to be your seraget and placing their values on your child. We have a 7 year old and I am 52 my wife is 47 ( stay at home ) and our best times are not paid for activities but fun free things to do together , fishing , gardening hobbies ,bike riding, hiking camping in the back yard. Yes some of her fiends are already in organized sports that cost a ton, That is because both parents have to work to support the high end life style that they have created based on pressure from family, media, community and friends. Like the mouse on the treadmill with cocaine the more you use the more you need. Stop and get off the mill. Your renting time on plant earth, remember your lease can end at anytime. I wise man once told me . most people always want what they don’t have instead of being happy with what they do have. Your heath, family and friends is more valuable then the extra 250,000 your spend in 18 years. As far as saving money, its not a race small about over a long period of time works very well, starting early is the key. Do a monthly budget and look at those cost that are needs wants and delights ( here is one, cable TV / internet ) at 180 per month, need want or delight ?

    We drop it down to 65.00 by using creative ways to have the same value.

  24. W-A-Y late to commenting on this thread, but after being retired for three years now with three teenagers, I can honestly say that money has never been the issue. TIME is the issue. Lots of people are talking about spending time with their small children, but what I’ve learned is that your teens will take up way more of your time than they ever did when they were little. School activities, homework, sports, jobs, testing, college applications, college essays and trips, and social activities – you name it, your time will not be your own. We have always lived a frugal, happy life but our daily schedule and what we get to do each day is determined by our children’s calendars and schedules, not ours.

    We will be down to only one child remaining at home this year as our middle daughter heads off to college (and that’s another incredible expense, not just tuition and fees, but supplies, and transportation, etc.), but I would love to be able to freeze time whenever we’re all together. I miss our children so much, but they are leaving the nest and spreading their wings. Still, my husband and I are looking forward to our “retirement,” and writing our own schedules for a change.

  25. I am a reversed example of retiring with the kids! My daughters purchased a home with a plan for second careers/retirement. Early in the process they invited me to retire early and come on board as caretaker, project manager, future participant in those plans. Still have to adjust for expenses, routines, and togetherness. It, thus far, has been so successful that my only regret is I didn’t provide an opportunity like this for my parents!

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