Finances, Frugal living, parenting

Motherhood and FI: Family, finance and frugality

Image result for baby mobile money
Does it add up?

Most female financial independence (FI) bloggers I’ve noticed are single without children (just the UK?). Yet, there are many father bloggers. Lots of FIers are couples, some with kids, though many who blog about FI are male. So, the pool of female FI bloggers is smaller to start with.

Then, there’s having the time to blog when you’re a mother (sorry, but equally shared parenting* isn’t totally mainstream yet), having the high salary that helps make FI achievable (noting salary inequities), the fact that many mums go part-time or stop paid work when they have children (more below), and by no means least, the (unknownish) expense of parenting that lasts at least 18 years! Eek, that’s a lot of factors at a societal level.

Even within the male contingent, a disproportionate number of FIers are in traditionally male-dominated careers, such as software, accounting etc. Maybe more men have an interest in personal finance as a hobby, so FI blogging could be an extension of that. Pride and money are inextricably linked for all of us probably but society may have stronger messages about that for men as the traditional provider for their brood. Traditions die hard.

Do women tend to organise the home while men more often look after the family finances? I don’t want to fall for stereotypes here. Household tasks which increase astronomically once kids arrive are more efficient streamlined and so comes a division of labour. Most families have a one pot arrangement for finances, so daddy may take care of that while mummy does laundry. It needn’t be that way, of course, but we ourselves fell into more stereotypical gender roles when Little Firelite entered our lives (less so now, phew!), and if mum goes on unpaid leave then there’s a logic to the money stuff being daddy’s domain.

In fact, if you google ‘financial independence’ and motherhood, then the reference to the former usually describes being not financially dependent on the husband. This post isn’t about that – the ‘independence’ here is concerning not having to do paid work, and not relying on anyone else (though I appreciate that partners may also be involved in some way).

Mothers can be interested in finance and FI too!

Many women are now aiming for FI, as we know by the many female bloggers around! Why would mums be any different? They may not bother blogging about FI even if they track their portfolio and savings rate. It’s just about the numbers really. If you haven’t amassed a large amount of capital pre-kids, then it may be more of a long game, because kids need lots of care (time) early in their lives – this is the one domain where compounding works hard for you.

Frugality (expense reduction) as a major route to FI

Mothers practice frugality, though maybe more out of necessity than for FI. Rarely do I see kiddie items ebayed by a man. Budgets get tighter usually due to childcare costs or one partner (usually mum) giving up work. Sacrificing that income is viewed by many women as worthwhile to spend time with the kid/s and beneficial for their development. I can’t argue with that at all! 

For those of you thinking of being a mother in the future, don’t be daunted by what they read online about the cost of raising a child. Most things for kids and babies vary hugely in price. But lots of mothers/parents choose to indulge! This is very often really for the parent/s and not for the kids who mainly need love, time and attention.

The 10 money saving ideas below saved us upward of 10-20 grand over 3 years. All but perhaps the last point are more eco-friendly options, making any extra efforts worthwhile. Many of these things I only found out through researching myself and reading along the way, so it may be of help to someone… Otherwise, scroll down to ‘Children’s money’…

My big money savers as a parent from 0-3 years:


1. Breastfeeding, cloth nappies (modern type), and vest extenders if you have a fast growing baby. (Don’t have a tumble dryer already? You can be just fine without one.)

2. We didn’t need a changing station or small cot. We had changing mats for upstairs and downstairs. Mattress on floor (of junior cot bed) instead of a cot.

3. Pram/pushchair, nursery furniture, car seat – We spent £370 for a pram/pushchair (real back tyres helped as we don’t have a car – Much better steering!) Our car seat was about £50 from Argos – yes, you may get judged, but we were hardly using a car! Furniture – we’ve yet to get any except the cot bed, some stripey curtains (note that they’re not ‘baby’ curtains) and wall decals.

4. We didn’t buy a car. Not a popular one but its entirely okay!

5. Soap nuts, e.g. Ecozone‘s. Best things ever! Replaces washing liquid and softener. We combine with a little soda crystals which are cheap from Coop or discount stores.

6. I use thingstogetme.com to create a gift list to family so that I can suggest toys that LF will more likely use and avoid duplications (this was common too).

7. We didn’t do age 1 or 2 birthday parties – We had family gatherings 2pm onward – saves a fortune! If you do a home party, be the entertainer and/or rope a friend in! This helped me. Seriously, until they’re older, I don’t think they prefer an ‘organised’ party over a home one with mum leading musical statues!

8. At the baby stage, we got clothes bundles used from Ebay. Local mum2mum type fairs are good esp going near the end when sellers mark down their prices massively.

9. Batch cooked a month of frozen meals while was pregnant. Wraps were the most successful and take little freezer space. Best thing i did in pregnancy!

10. Holidays are a major cost once they’re 2-years-old. As our main hols, we do all inclusives in June before the school summer hols (of course, only works when you’ve no school-aged kids) and the week before Christmas . Half the cost of peak season costs at exactly the same places. (Some kids clubs are closed out of season though, so worth checking if this is one facility you want.)

With childcare costs being massive, childcare vouchers also a biggie, but I believe the system is different now. Use any scheme open to you and check if you can start buying into in pregnancy or during leave. I don’t have any tips on how to get it much cheaper unless you have family nearby who can help out – we don’t, unfortunately.

Finally, presents! The more you give, the more they want. 🙂 Give time, give experiences, give small gifts or things you think will help with their development anyway (e.g. a balance bike).

What we spent more on

Although the points above are on not spending much, really this should be about spending on the truly important stuff. I didn’t want to lose that point. Baby doesn’t need a lot of things. Also, parks are free. What children need is time and attention, especially early in life. It’s the best investment we have made to another human life.

What we personally spent/d more on:

1. What we felt was the best childcare locally – which meant that staff seemed to give their attention to the children and care for them well (£60 a day, above the average cost, though we’re definitely not suggesting here that higher cost necessarily means better care.)

2. I took a year’s maternity leave and then we both went 0.8fte for a year to have a day each with LF (so we didn’t spend more as such, but we took a drop in salary)

3. Cleaner/home help for a while every 1-2 weeks, again to max quality time together

4. Two good baby carriers when LF was little, probably around £150 for both. I later resold both. The cheap ones were infinitely harder/impossible to use and were wasted (almost no resale value). If I wasn’t going to get the coolest pram or clothes, the one thing I wanted that helped baba and mama feel close (and saved my arms) was one damn beautiful mother-earth sling!

A bit like the ring sling I had and I loved it!

Overall, with the change in lifestyle, our spending has been diverted (e.g. from socialising) rather than increased, except maybe most of the childcare cost. Things will change as kids get older, of course. Now he’s eating a tonne, we consistently shop at Aldi!

Children’s money 

There are financial products for children that are simply not a feature of life pre-kids. LF has his own account (see below), but overall, we feel no rush to separate LF’s money unless there’s a real financial advantage. After all, the joint account kinda feels like his pot besides the bills.

We’ll need figure out at some point whether we’d save to provide a financial lift up or not. This sounds like a future blog post topic as it’s not specific to motherhood. One thing I will say is that the child’s personality may be paramount in our decision, but as yet I’ve not put anything mentally aside diverted from FI plans.

Our current financial considerations:

1. A kids’ account gives a 2%ish rate (in the UK). That’s okay and it’s a good place to keep money gifts from rels. This kid is rich compared to me at that age!

2. Junior ISA: This is an account in the UK that gives up to £4,368 per year free of tax but the child can’t access it until they are 18… We’ve not opened one (yet) due to not wanting to tie it up, the fact that he pays no income tax anyway (that I know about!), and not being sure how much we want to save for LF. However, I’d would consider a lump sum if markets fall into an s&s isa which most parents seem never to consider, despite the long investment period.

3. Our toddler got a moneybox for his 3rd birthday. Loves putting coins in and understands the coins buy things. Hope he gets the idea that nice things require saving for. We ask for pennies for his birthday too. (Note: We haven’t shown him how the money comes out of the box yet. That bit’s important!)

4. Child benefit goes in joint account towards family spends. We decided not to separate this. We both save anyway, so this keeps things simple.

Motherhood, priorities and FI – My personal thoughts

It’s entirely possible to be a mother and be achieving FI as well as growing a healthy family. Needless to say, more kids will always be more money leaving the nest, but that’s exactly what you spend on. There are lots of ways to be frugal and live well, spending time together and making experiences rather than spending money on things. However, lots of costs are as yet unknown for young families and so trying to achieve lean FI fast would seem to me foolish and the fastest way of needing to return back to work again.

I am not of the attitude that ‘any mother can aim for FI!’ I certainly don’t want to suggest to any mothers out there who may be struggling (in whatever way) that they must take on financial goals as well as the gazillion things they’ve already got on in their life. Nope, for many, it’s not realistic and not a priority. It certainly shouldn’t stop mothers taking usable ideas regarding financial strategy over the long haul, but this is not a ‘call to arms’ (sorry, should find a better phrase.) Also, individual circumstances are incredibly important. If I had a child with special needs or struggled with nursery, I would definitely not be aiming for FI!

The path to FI doesn’t have to be a straight one, but saving early – well before having children – seems to be very important (for both parents). Being an older mum and a fairly high to high income earner certainly helps me as this gives the time needed to build capital pre-kids. For me, this entailed getting my foot on the property ladder on my own first. For others, if you have manage to create passive income streams before you have children, then perfect! Side hustles are difficult to do when you have young kids if you’re either a stay-at-home-mum or in full-time work already, unless the plan is for it to replace a job you want to leave.

Taking an equally shared parenting* approach is important for building finances if you both have a similar income, and both want to continue working. There’s lots of ‘ifs’ there, I realise, and that’s exactly why you don’t get so many mummy FI bloggers!

Many mothers prioritise spending time with their children and that’s absolutely great! Realistically we should do away with the myth of ‘we can have everything’. Well, it’s true that “we can have anything, just not everything“. More money but less time. Less money but more time. Usually, not both! You need money and time to FI, and time to blog about it. 🙂

FI is not an end in itself, as I hope the notion of Life 2 conveys. Many people who want to achieve FI do so to be able to travel and do other things that are almost certainly less attractive to families with young children. Mothers who may be near FI may well want to take time out precisely to spend time with their children; that’s what the “FU money” is for.

Mother as a positive role model

Certainly, work in itself is not inherently bad and I’d like to be a positive role model for my LF. I personally feel it’s important that LF, once past early toddlerhood, knows that I work. LF knows that this is how we generate money for the household – not in a guilt-trip way, but that we’re all working for the family. Work – it’s a thing adults do, not just the men.

This doesn’t sit completely easily within me. Yes, I plan to take a year out for Life 1.2 and to try for early retirement but even then I will do something productive. This is yet another reason I need to be very clear what my new life goals will be that replace work. I am creating a new role just for me. It’s crucial that at some point, I contribute to society, not just disappear into my own “vanity projects” forever. I’m an idealist and it sounds cliched, but I really believe that I need to be the change I want to see in the world. At least, in my own little way.

Equally, do I want LF exposed to an overworked mama who complains about her job and not do anything about it? That’s not the kind of messages I want to give. Having Life 1.2 will also enable the option of me spending more time with LF by doing school drop offs and pick-ups, knowing that I’m there for him more than I am now.

Planning to take time out unpaid certainly forces me to find my life priorities, that’s for sure – and that’s not motherhood, it’s just good planning. And while I’m using this blog as a vehicle to busily plan, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes, that might reveal the ‘secret’ of why there are not very many mother FI bloggers.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans

John Lennon

This has been the hardest blog post I’ve had to write so far, so great if you’ve got this far, haha! Thank you. I welcome any comments on this issue or questions about this content from parents and non-parents alike. If you are a mummy FI blogger, please stand up! 🙂

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*I’m not for a second suggesting there’s one best way to parent. However, if you’ve not yet had children and you’d like to plan your parenting approach with your partner, we found Marc and Amy Vachon’s book, Equally Shared Parenting, an excellent resource, because we basically found so few models that we could follow from the people around us. We hadn’t even met anyone at that time who’d used shared parental leave, which was a new law in the UK.

1 thought on “Motherhood and FI: Family, finance and frugality”

  1. thanks a lot thanks !! this is a great article and beautiful picture, baby should not be in children’s car, left alone. !!! Babies are safe and warm, those who break up to the second year of life, this cloth in Asia and Africa and many other spots on our earth indispensable! Great !!

    Like

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