Currently my wife and I both work, and we have no kids. We have no debts (besides our mortgage), live very frugally (friends call us cheap), and are roughly breaking even. We would like to have kids, but I don't know how we could afford it. If we lost my wife's income, we'd be in the hole. If she kept working, we'd have to pay someone else to watch the kid(s), which would cost us the better part of her income (and she couldn't be with them then). How do people do it?

Update: To answer a comment regarding where our money goes... The cost of living is above average where we are (near Philadelphia). Our spending breakdown is about

  • 35% mortgage (including escrow)
  • 17% church offering
  • 12% food
  • 9% transportation (fuel, insurance, service)
  • 7% taxes
  • 6% utilities
  • 14% other?

For anyone wondering, DINK = Dual Income, No Kids; SIWK = Single Income, With Kids.

  • Where is your money going? Are you in a part of the country like, say, San Francisco, where housing is very expensive?
    – user296
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 16:38
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    it looks like you don't have money here for savings, if true that's making the picture even tougher; short term it means unemployment or another problem can throw you for a loop, long term it means no money to retire. :-/ saving 12% or so, into an emergency fund first then a 401k/IRA after that, might be about the minimum for security...
    – Havoc P
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 1:32
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    for a more positive comment, I think we spent far more than needed on our first child. it's kind of like weddings, where friends and stores are all convincing you of a big list of stuff you need, and you just don't. I mean, humans have been raising babies fine for thousands of years without all this crap. Even if you want it more convenient than in prehistoric times, you still don't need half the crap. Even stuff that's useful for certain kids, may not be useful for yours. And kids don't care if stuff is new. So buy everything used, and only buy it once the need becomes apparent...
    – Havoc P
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 1:35
  • There are lots of sites out there where they show you exactly how little you need to spend on a kid (as opposed to the estimates in parenting mags that are super expensive). My DINK spouse & I will use them when we switch to 1.5IWKs or SIWKs.
    – justkt
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 14:16
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    We spent very little on the first kid for the first year or two. We had neighbors literally drop off boxes of baby clothes on our doorstep. We got tons of second hand toys. They don't eat much -- it seems like more comes out the bottom than goes in the top, and diapers was probably the only real sizable expense for the first year. The drop in income is a bigger issue than any increase in costs.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Feb 26, 2011 at 3:19

9 Answers 9


Others have tip-toed around this, but I'll just come out and say it. The amount of money you're giving to the church is bordering on irresponsible given that you're just barely breaking even yourself. The best thing you can do if you want to have children is to stop paying such a high amount to the church, and redirect most, if not all, of that money to your savings account.


If you want to have your wife stay home with kids, you'll have to make a plan to get there. As you point out, your situation right now won't support this.

Create a budget that will work for you with a single income -- a "zero based" budget, not a budget based on your current expense structure. Figure out what you can afford on just your income for housing, church, food, transport, etc.

Or apply the same idea on the assumption that she will keep working -- budget based on a second income plus child care expenses.

Then you can decide what you have to change in order for that to work: maybe it means selling your house, renting, relocating, selling a car, finding a better or second job, etc. Then decide what you need to do in order to make these changes.

  • 1
    Yes. This is the answer. It's not called the "two income trap" when people get married and live on both incomes who want to eventually live on one for nothing!
    – justkt
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 14:19

How do people do it?

Firstly, I'd advise you to explicitly budget all taxes. The reason is because taxes get complicated when you have a child deduction. Not that raising a child is profitable post taxes, but it can change your perspective.

SIWKs with high income get by just fine. The rest sacrifice. They buy less house, or rent. They drive more than 30 minutes to work every day. They work second jobs. They stop saving for retirement. And when they fail to save or plan, they borrow from family or rack up huge credit card debt. They don't buy the sweet new truck they were planning on. They cut cable and cook meals at home. They skip church, because they can't afford the tithe, and say it's because they don't have time, don't want their children to disrupt services, etc.

So right now, that "other" basket is looking pretty juicy, and the taxes can maybe be examined as well. But ultimately, if you're looking at a 30 percent hit in pay, that won't cut it. Mortgage + food alone is nearly half your budget!

  • 7
    I'm not personally aware of any churches which would seriously encourage you to "skip church... because you can't afford the tithe".
    – user296
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 1:42
  • 1
    It's not encouraged by the church, its rather the shame involved in putting a tiny check in the offering tray. Jesus is more forgiving than the tax man, after all.
    – jldugger
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 4:10
  • 10% is the normal target. And it's toward all charities, not just ones church. My house of worship gets 2-3%, and the rest goes to other charities my family and I consider important. Commented May 24, 2017 at 22:19

As this is anonymous, can you give us actual numbers? I can make guesses based on your percentages, but it would help. Lets assume you both make $35k (since you said child care would take up the bulk of your wife's income, it must be fairly low incomes)

The answer usually isn't a simple "do this", but small adjustments in your lifestyle which add up.

  1. Church offering is 17%, the standard tithe is 10%. Lower it? It's the most obvious large non-required expense.

  2. Transportation is almost 10% of your income. If my numbers are right, that is somewhere around $500 per month? What kind of car/cars do you have? There are very cheap used cars which cost very little in upkeep / fuel. Is it possible your cars are more expensive than needed? My wife and I bought a used car for around $8k in cash a few years ago. Still running strong, only have done oil changes since then.

  3. Food is 12%, which would be perhaps $600 or $700 per month. That seems awfully high. Maybe I'm wrong about your salaries :) You said you were cheap, but now the numbers don't add up.

  4. Mortgage of 35% ($2k with escrow if I'm guessing on salaries right) seems reasonable. I'm assuming you don't want to downsize, particularly if you're going to have kids. Do you have a great mortgage rate? I assume you're on a 30 year fixed already?

  • You aren't far off; my wife is a substitute teacher, and makes a little less than 20k. These numbers were percentages of our take home pay; 17% of our net is closer to 10% of our gross. Most of our transport costs are fuel; we both do a fair amount of commuting. We purchased our house about a year ago, have a low 30-yr fixed rate, and it was pretty much the cheapest we could find within about 30 minutes from our target.
    – Ray
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 20:02
  • 5
    @Ray - many Christians, at least, tithe on net as opposed to gross, and all churches that I have attended understand that there are seasons in life where one may not be able to afford as much. I am not as familiar with the tithing expectations in other religions based on their holy books, but you may want to talk with your pastor/priest/rabbi/immam/etc about it.
    – justkt
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 14:17

With your wife's income, you're not doing to see a net difference if she stops working that job. You may actually yield a little more.

At the end of the day, it's doable, but you're going to have to rationalize your spending and one or both of you should pick up a part-time job. Do you remember the last time you bought lunch or went out to dinner? You're wasting money. Even a 50% gig at a quality employer like Starbucks or Home Depot will let you make $15-20k.

I respect your religious beliefs, but 17% of your income is steep, and you may want to revisit that.


If commuting is a big budget item, then can you:

  • Carpool?
  • Take public transportation?
  • Telecommute?
  • Find a job closer to home that is a net gain?

A side job is one way to make extra money, but I'd suggest a home business. If your wife substitute teaches, I bet she writes fairly well, and in any case you can. Write a personal finance blog or just a site with articles. Focus on surviving and thriving with child(ren) in a one-income Christian household in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Or if you have a hobby that stokes your furnace, write about that. Heck, do both. The content just stays there and gets traffic day after day that you can monetize.

My main suggestion would be to start this now because it's not overnight money. But in the long run it can turn into a nice, fairly passive income.

The big advantage of this is that mommy gets to stay home with the kids and build up a decent business. The cost is $10/year for the domain (per domain) and maybe $10/month for hosting.

Or, if some other legitimate work-at-home business presents itself, go with that. I suggest blogging because it's what I know, but everyone's an expert in something unique.

  • This is a site devoted entirely to working from home. Currently the blog author is going through different opportunities for home-based businesses.
    – justkt
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 14:20
  • Also car-wise - remember that with your wife not working, car insurance should drop, gas usage will be much lower.
    – sdg
    Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 1:27

What makes it hard is that you're making this decision now, when you've already made decisions over the years going in a different route. I've noticed this recently w/some of my friends, that decisions, even small ones, over the years now come back to bite them b/c they didn't have a long term view. Now in early 30's they are constrained by choices throughout their 20's. Unfortunately, most people aren't equipped to make good decisions earlier, which hurts them later. So making such a change in lifestyle becomes harder.

So while it can be done, it's going to take some hard decisions. Just remember, children are a great reward, and a great sacrifice.


I see three areas of concern for your budget:

  • 35% mortgage (including escrow)
  • 6% utilities

This is way high. I am not sure how much of a house you live in, but the total of these two numbers should be around 25% not 41%.

  • 17% church offering

I am a person that considers giving an important part of wealth building, and gives to my local church. But as one other person has rightly said, this amount is irresponsible. I am okay at 12%, but would like to see you at 10% until you are in a little better shape.

  • 14% other?

That is pretty vague for a significant portion of your income. What makes up that other category?

You are doing pretty darn good financially, although I would like to see some contributions to investments. I think you are kind of failing there. Your debt management is spot on. That is okay, we can all get better at some stuff.

There needs to be some numbers behind these percentages. The bottom line is if you make an average household income, say around 55K, you are going to struggle with or without children. If you guys make about 110K, and your wife makes 50% of your income, and she quits work to take care of the kidlets, then you will be in that "boat".

Having said all that I find 37% of your income as questionable. At least 5% of that should be invested, so we are kind of like at 32%. That is a significant amount of money.


It is simple: G-d provides :).

EDIT: By "it" I mean the answer to the question asked. Raising kids is not so simple; G-d does provide :).

  • Someone downvoted you for that answer. :( It's at least half true. I don't know about simple, but I believe He does provide (Gen 22:14)
    – Ray
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 22:56
  • 1
    I wasn't the downvoter, and I do believe God provides, but I've seen him provide about subsistence living, and he also does command people to at least do their best work to care for their own.
    – justkt
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 14:18
  • 10
    God can provide you to be homeless as well I imagine. Coming up with a plan, budget, etc is needed to get things done. Certainly don't assume things will just handle themselves :)
    – Ceberon
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 18:29
  • @Ceberon - It is the person's job to do what is in their human capabilities to make a vessel for G-d's blessings (by finding a job etc.). But one should not worry that they might not manage financially if they have kids, because G-d provides, so it is not our place to worry about what will be; G-d can make one be OK financially no matter how much effort they put in, and no matter how much they must spend. A person's job is only to make a good vessel -- a source of money; then G-d will give as he sees fit. So planning is OK, but one must remember that what actually happens is in G-d's hands.
    – Abbafei
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 21:15
  • 2
    -1: this doesn't answer the question at all. Commented Feb 26, 2011 at 18:26

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