We are DINK’s (Dual Income No Kids). Many years ago we made the decision not to have kids. That decision didn’t have anything to do with money. On the contrary, we could have afforded kids quite easily. We just didn’t want kids. I’m the sort of person who likes to visit with my nieces and nephews and then send them home. I don’t have the sort of temperament that lends itself to having kids. I like things just so and I like doing what I want with my time without having to worry about a child. My husband is much the same way. Of course in a society that values children to an extreme at times, our choice is often unpopular. We’ve been accused of being selfish; denying a child the benefit of being raised in a comfortable home. But I’ve always thought it was the opposite. It would be more selfish to have a child that I don’t want to deal with just to satisfy some societal norm than it is to know I don’t want kids and act confidently on that knowledge.
Now that we’re many years down the road from that decision, I look back and I realize that part of our ability to remain debt free stems from our decision to forego children. If we had had children, I think we still would have remained debt free because that is our priority and we’re very frugal by nature. We would have found a way to make it work. Likely we would have forgone a lot of vacations and bought quite a few hand me downs. I probably would have stayed home to avoid child care expenses. There would have been far fewer meals out and our kids would certainly have gone to public school or been home-schooled. They would most certainly not have been spoiled and had the latest of everything. We’re just not wired that way. We would have enjoyed a good standard of living, but certainly without many luxuries. Our parents did it; I’m confident we would have made it, too.
However, not having children does make it much easier to stay out of debt. When one of us loses a job, we only have ourselves to worry about. When creating an emergency fund, we only have to worry about each other, not what can go wrong with several children. Our expenses in every category are less without kids (except maybe housing as we would have this house with or without kids). We don’t have college educations to save for so we are able to put away more for our retirement or other big purchases. Our incomes only have to cover us, not educational expenses, childcare, extra insurance, additional medical bills, lots of clothes, and additional food.
I know friends who have kids that have remained debt free so I know it is possible. They do a wonderful job of balancing the needs of their children with the household needs and saying, “No” when the budget does not allow for extras. But I do know that it is harder for them than for us. They say no a lot more often than we do. And while they have remained debt free, they have not been able to save as much as we have. They have very little in their retirement accounts and a modest emergency fund that would only last two months. It is harder for them and I am aware, when I visit with them, that remaining debt free would have been much harder for us if we had kids.
As I said, we didn’t decide to skip kids because of money. But there is no doubt that remaining debt free has been much easier without that burden. People often remark, “Oh, well, you don’t have kids so it’s no wonder you don’t have debt,” as if kids are an automatic free pass to rack up the debt. And I don’t deny that not having kids makes it easier. But everything about personal finance comes down to your choices in life. Those of us who choose not to have kids sometimes reap the financial benefits. But there are plenty who do have kids and remain debt free, albeit with a lot more effort.
I know other DINK’s who are in debt up to their necks, so being child free does not confer an automatic debt free life, either. It’s about the choices you make and the priority you place on remaining debt free. I wouldn’t recommend basing the decision to have kids or not solely on your desire to remain debt free. Kids are about a lot more than money. But there is no denying that it is much easier without kids. It’s yet one more choice and factor that has to be considered when planning your financial future.