How do poor people afford children?

I’m about to get married soon. My fiancee and I together make about $55k a year. But I’m looking at some of the projected expenses for having children (education, food, clothing, medicine, et al.) and I’m kind of baffled.

Granted, we live in an expensive area (Washington D.C.). Granted, we’re both pretty young (22 and 23) and we’ll probably make more money in the future. But we both live frugally. We rarely go out to dinner, neither of us own or even desire a television, only one car between us, no unusual medical or therapeutic bills. We don’t want a huge home, nothing more expensive than $200k.

But just the costs of paying the bills and raising one (1) child, it seems we’re making barely enough. How do you do it if you’re poorer than we are? Welfare? Lots of help from the parish and family?



You really need to move. :slight_smile: My husband and I live in a city where you can still buy a three-bedroom house in a very nice neighborhood for under a hundred thousand. For 200k, you can buy a mini-mansion in our city, one of those big homes with several bathrooms and a three-car garage.

As for your question–a lot of the poor are in terrific debt and have no hope of ever being free. And you’re right–a lot of the poor get help from other relatives, or from their local charitable organizations, churches, and of course, the guv’ment.

This is a 200k home in Silver Spring, Maryland. One floor and one basement, just a driveway.

I suppose my question should be, how do people in my area afford children. :shrug:

Through the grace of God.

I had no idea I grew up poor until I was an adult. Yes, I knew times were time, but I had no idea by how much.

I didn’t know it was a luxury to have home made bread because we didn’t have money, but we had home made bread.

I didn’t know it was a luxury to have home made maple syrup because we didn’t have money, but we had home made maple syrup.

I didn’t know it was a luxury to have home made butter and ice cream made from fresh milk from our neighbour because we didn’t have money, but we had home made butter and ice cream made from fresh milk from our neighbour.

I didn’t know it was a luxury to have home grown free range chickens because we didn’t have money, but we had home grown free range chickens.

I did know it was a luxury to have music lessons, but my parents made that a priority.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve done my parents taxes for years. They make NO SENSE. So it must be God.

Well, you have one, and then see if God is calling you to have another. You don’t have 10 suddenly show up on your doorstep!

We were 23 when we had ours, 4 yrs ago. Children are very cheap- esp the first few years, provided you have good insurance. We never bought any of the “big” stuff- pack and plays, bouncers, swings, etc are nice, but certainly not a NEED. Our family gave us some little things- clothes, toys, but all under $20 (I’d love one of thsoe families that buys the huge-ticket things HA!) A car seat is needed, a bed of some sort, and a few clothes. If you decide you are going to formula feed, that incurs more costs. We made 45k, I stayed home the first year, and we were still able to save for retirement/sinking funds/etc- you must be on top of your money and budget. We received no type of assistance/welfare. You do projected budgets- how do things change if I stay home? For 8 weeks? For 3mo? For 6mo? For 1 yr? Forever? etc. What is best for the FAMILY? To move to a lower cost area? To stay where you are and live more simply? Etc.

We were also fresh out of college, and make significantly more now. We pared down hard, and paid off all of the student loans in 3 yrs- I think we actually lived on about 15k. Lots of spagetti LOL.

I always consider it from the perspective of when I’m old. Will I ever regret having a child? Does the more prestigious house, nicer car, ability to shop more often, neat vacation, etc outweigh the life of a child for me? At some point, I think most of us do have to say we can’t afford another, but luckily my family is not there yet.

For us, budgeting is a lifesaver. Sure, it’s boring, and we dont’ have enough extra to be “spontaneous,” but it does give peace of mind. You know all the bills are covered, savings are covered, and maybe there is enough to go out to eat that month! lol

I only make $30k by myself. We could afford, but with absolutely no savings, only an apartment if my fiancee decided to be a stay-at-home mom according to our current finances.

This is it. The Grace of God. We raise cattle for a living. We dont have a gaurenteed paycheck every week. Many times I wonder where the money will come from. God always provides. Sometimes in very strange ways. We could never do it on our own. Trust in the Lord. It is not a cliche.

Well, you have touched on a couple of things that are near and dear to my heart.

First - Kids are the absolute BEST. I highly recommend them. If you wait until you think you can afford them, you will never have kids. Leave it all up to God, and He will provide. You always seem to find a way when it comes to the kids.

I’m taking this a bit off topic, and I apologize, but there are a couple “pet peeves” of mine that are indirectly related to the OP question.

If you have marketable skills that will translate well outside of a metropolitan area, then by all means consider moving. The problem is that most people need to live near cities and large suburban areas due to the location of their employers. Most employers need to consider the size of the population where they are located to draw from a larger talent pool to get the best qualified people for their company. This causes the employees to look to live as close as affordably possible to the employers.

Unfortunately, this causes housing prices to skyrocket the closer you get to major cities. I personally commute nearly 4 hours roundtrip (2 hours each way) every day to get to work. I have a nice home, but I couldn’t really consider moving closer to work. My house would currently be valued at $450k, not considering that I bought it nearly 20 years ago for less than half that, but you get the idea. The annual taxes local municipal & school are over $10k per year.

This is the price you pay to live “close” to a city. I envy (strong word) those who do not have to significantly commute to work, and those who can live comfortably away from the cities.

This leads me to my other pet peeve, and you folks who live in or near cities will know what I mean. Our politicians are constantly concerning themselves with the “middle class”. The problem with that is the definition of “middle class” varies based on where you are located, and varies it greatly.

A person making $100k on Long Island (a major commuter location to NYC) wouild most likely not even be able to afford to buy a house. The cost to commute to NYC would be an average of probably $350 per month just for the ability to get to your job. This $100k person would be considered lower middle class.

Whereas, a person making $100k in Lincoln, NE (not picking on Lincoln, I’ve been there, and enjoyed it) would certainly be much more well off than the person living near a major metropolis making that same $100k. The definition of middle class needs to vary, and not even by state, but by county and locality. You cannot lump all the “missle class” into one pot and think you have a cure for them all.

I apologize for taking this a bit off topic, but I feel this is important, especially if the OP has the ability to translate their skills to a marketable position which is outside the major metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, many people are “stuck”.


I live in an area where a no-frills modest 1,500 sq foot home in a track is about 450,000-500,000

If you want your kids to go to Catholic school, play competitive sports, take music lessons, etc. it is extremely expensive. That’s why people think I’m insane for having 5 kids! My husband makes about 140,000 a year - we are broke, and we save nothing and have 90k in student loan debt.

We cannot move. Both of our families are here and so is my husband’s job. When I hear Obama talk about the “rich” being those who make 200k or more I’m like “puh leeeez!” That is squarely middle class here.

As they say…you are preaching to the choir! AMEN!


As others have mentioned it depends on where you live. A couple I’m friends with had their first child last November. Only the father works and he makes less than 15k a year. They live in a two bedroom apt with an adult roommate in a low income area of the city. They don’t own a car so they rely on rides from friends or family to go into town for groceries or to see the doctor. The father has a college degree but they don’t have any debt due to a local program that helps low income students attend college. However, he can’t find a job in his field. They have no credit to speak of and if they can’t afford something they ask for friends and family to help, and if no one can help, they go without. Most of their baby supplies have come from friends and family only a very few things have they been able to buy themselves. The only form of government aid they have is medical assistance for mom and baby to see the doctor. Niether of them considers themselves bad off and are in fact quite happy. They feel they are doing better now finacially than ever before. They also love being parents, they feel it makes it all worth while. They are 25 and 22.

Sometimes my husband and I (we both work) wonder how we could make it but then we remember, that all though we make more than our friends, we live in a nice area of town, we don’t have a roommate, we own a car, and I have some student debt. If we moved into a low rent apartment, got rid of the car, and found a roommate, then we could save enough for one of us to stay home and then it would be easier to afford a child. We are putting our money towards luxuries our friends go without. That’s not to say our luxuries are bad things to want for our family, only that they do take up money that could go towards a child. :slight_smile:


4 kids here. While we are saving a little for each child for college, we know (and they will know) that they are not getting a full ride from Mom and Dad. Don’t think you have to have all their expenses paid for. Make sure you raise holy children who have a good work ethic and know and love Christ. He will provide for them, and their faith will be strengthened by difficult situations that He helps them overcome.

God is never outdone in generosity.

Just stop looking at the “What Does a Child Cost” reports! They are BOGUS! They frighten people away from having children! Children are a GIFT and a BLESSING! They are not a cost! You make a family and God blesses you! Have faith and stop reading those stories right now!

(And, it wouldn’t hurt to consider living somewhere else, but if you both have family in the area, then stay and make the best of it.)

I grew up in your area.

They afford it because they move…or become those crazy Dc workaholics who like the office more than home. But let’s be real this area is very transient and full of ambitious ladder-climbers and there are far fewer families here than many places, and there are a lot of the families who never see their kids and have them in 38 activities a week. And go to elite private schools that cost an arm and a leg and no longer have any values (I know from experience)

So I’m a little frustrated by the city, yes, and I also know that good catholic families like yours aren’t raising kids this way. But it’s a really really expensive area that isn’t family friendly as a rule. Just thought you should know…

And yes being a workaholic is basically considered the highest good in a lot of places here.

In all honesty though it’s the grace of God that will carry you. He has lots of money.
Hey, I was broke and homeless last summer! And in a job I hated until recently! I prayed all the time and offered up suffering. It works, on His time. Sometimes an emotional roller coaster…but try to remember the lilies in the field…(I should take that advice too)

Homeschooling is an option. A good one I think. Can’t say I was impressed w all of the “catholic” private schools around here. Weird place to grow up. Though I didn’t grow up in a faithful Catholic home like your kids will. My friend used to theorize that people get stuck here for some reason. It’s definitely weird.

There is a very strong catholic community here, actually near silver spring in the “little Vatican” area with the shrine, CUA and all the religious orders and schools. Highly recommended!

God will provide.

I’m not criticizing you two btw, I love seeing Catholics marrying especially at your age. Just warning you a little bit about the culture :slight_smile: I guess I shouldn’t worry since even Jesus has issues in his hometown, lol…

They are definitely a gift and a blessing… But has one of your kids ever seriously pursued ballet??? :eek:

When you look at the total cost of a child from birth through college the numbers can be overwhelming. But if you look at a single child’s cost from day-to-day (or month-to-month) you can see where expenses can be cut. Pay a little more up front but save a ton in the long run by using cloth instead of disposable diapers. Breastfeeding saves lots of formula cost. Start out with a small stash of clothes and see how many you really need, make your own baby food instead of buying the jars. Plan on public school and pick one outside school activity at a time. Shop at consignment or gently used stores. Look for frugal living forum boards to belong to.

Children don’t have to drain your bank!

My wife and i live across the river in northern Virginia. We moved here when we were 25 with no jobs. We didn’t make much at first. You just make do, work hard, and advance.

Four kids later, we are still in the same townhouse and our baby is in high school.

You never think you can afford kids. You just have to jump in.

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Talk about bringing me back.

First, don’t worry. Second, don’t read the analysts (they all live in New York, don’t have kids and don’t know what happens when other women learn they have a friend that can use their kids clothes).

Understanding kids are a gift, it is short-sighted of anyone who doesn’t think that means come with the most precious gift.

Think of it this way, when you give or get a gift that takes batteries, do you not buy / receive the batteries as well? The best gifts from the best giver always come with batteries.

This doesn’t mean you live outside your means expecting God will bail you out.

We’re about to have our 6th kid. If I was to calculate what having 6 pre-teens should cost me, the analysts would assume I am bankrupt on my salary. I think we are pretty blessed.

11 years ago, I was your age, had a 33k salary, 2 kids, $700 / month student loans and was renting for 700 / mo… Doing the math doesn’t make sense, but we did it.

You’ll make it work.

Take care,

Many ‘poor’ afford children because their children are their wealth. :smiley:

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