What I’ve Learned About Money by Becoming a Parent

What I've Learned About Money by Becoming a Parent - picture of young boy putting coin in blue piggy bank

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It’s hard to believe that I’ve been a dad for almost 7 years! To be honest, it feels pretty crazy. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that my two little girls are growing so quickly into wonderful young ladies.

As a parent, I’ve learned plenty of things that I never imagined learning. With two little girls, I’ve got playing “tea party” and “dress-up” down pat. I’ve also got dolls and Barbies covered. I wish I didn’t know how to remove smeared poop from walls or catch vomit in my jacket…but I do. When it came to getting the puke smell out of my car, I had to leave it to the professionals.

Beyond the gag worthy lessons, I’ve learned how to have a private dance party in a public setting and not care what anybody around us thinks. I know that a Band-aid cures any type of scrape and that whispered words of love and encouragement can make my daughter’s eyes sparkle with pride. I’ve also learned how unconditional love looks when they stare back at me…and how it feels to want to be a better man so I don’t let that love down.

Yes, I’ve learned a lot of life lessons over the past 7 years. But, they’re not all dripping with mushy girly goo. Becoming a parent has forced me to deal with money in a more productive way too. Here’s how.

Money Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenting

It’s Not About You

Before you become a parent, people are always telling you that, “You’ll understand once you have kids.” I didn’t exactly blow that off, but I kinda thought I already had a handle on the situation. Then, I saw my daughter take her first breath and everything changed. I got to see it again when my second daughter was born, and it solidified everything I’d already learned. Life is no longer just about you. It instantly becomes about helping the wonderful little person in front of you get off to the best start possible.

Until I had kids, it was easy to spend money on whatever I wanted. Even after getting married, Holly and I would regularly splurge on meals and nights out. We were relatively frugal, but we didn’t have to worry about anybody but ourselves. Sure we saved money when we thought about it, but it was without regularity or purpose.

After having kids, saving money suddenly became crucial. We had young mouths to feed, and we no longer had the luxury of just scraping by. Saving money was no longer just an abstract concept. Getting our financial house in order became a very real, conscious decision. And, with two little girls depending on us, we could no longer afford to just do good enough. We had to do better.

You’ll understand once you have kids.

(Money) Decisions Have Consequences

Like most young adults, I never completely grasped the fact that my decisions had consequences. Sure, intellectually I understood. But, on an emotional level, I really had no idea..until I became a parent. Suddenly, I viewed all of my decisions through a completely different lens.

I was – and in many ways still am – a dreamer. That’s what led me to pursue a “passion” in college rather than earn a degree in a well-paying field (bad decision). It also helped lead Holly and I to start this blog (good decision). Being a dreamer doesn’t preclude you from making good or bad decisions. Not understanding the potential consequences can.

Every money decision you make affects your children. Sometimes those decisions are tangible, like choosing to save money in a college fund. Other times, those decisions affect the way your child views and relates to money. Additionally, your personal relationship with money has a huge impact on how your child will view money as they grow.

Your children are watching every move you make, and that includes the decisions you make with your money. Don’t shut them out of the money conversation. It’s up to you to teach them how to relate to money in a healthy manner and to become good financial stewards.

Time is More Valuable than Money

Want to know what’s more valuable than money? Time.

Being a wage slave sucks, but it is pretty much par for the course in this country. We work ridiculous hours, to get paid for our time, to make more money, to buy stuff we don’t really need, to make us forget about how hard we’re working to buy stuff we don’t want. It’s a crazy cycle, and it’s all based around consumerism and debt.

My kids don’t care how much money I make. What they really want from me is love and attention. As a parent, I’ve learned that best way to spend my money is to buy more time with my family. Getting out of debt and living below our means has allowed us the opportunity to work for ourselves and do just that.

Poor people sell their time for more money. Rich people sell their money for more time.

Sometimes, I Still Put Money Ahead of Time

Look, I work too much. Unfortunately, that’s the curse of entrepreneurship. It’s true that I have the freedom to go wherever I want, when I want. But, the harder I work, the more money I make. Since I don’t punch a clock, I can work all night to make more money if I wish.

This was a lot easier to do when the kids were younger. They’d keep themselves occupied, get tired, and hit the hay at about 8 PM without even caring what I was up to. Now, they’re much more aware of  when my mind is preoccupied. They know when I’m stressed. They feel it when they don’t receive the usual attention that they deserve. And, I can tell that it hurts them when I have to work longer hours.

A huge part of the reason I left my 9 to 5 was to be able to spend more time with my family. Lately, with a house remodel and some side projects we’ve picked up, I’m failing miserably at it. But, the money has to keep rolling in, and we’re always afraid it could all disappear. That helps keep us motivated. It also drives us insane. As with all of life, the trick is finding a balance…and that can be hard to do.

I’m still working on it.

Money Isn’t Everything…But it Sure is Nice

In some ways, becoming a parent has made me far more aware of how our family handles money. It’s also made me realize that money isn’t everything; but, being in control of your money definitely makes life easier.

Money isn’t worth anything in itself. If you pursue money only for money’s sake, you’ll never win. Somebody always has more. It’s also not a magic elixir. Having more money isn’t a cure-all for everything that ails you.

When it comes down to it, money is a tool to help you get what you really want. By controlling your money, you can do great things – like travel, enjoy your some entertainment, or just rest comfortably knowing you don’t have to worry about paying the bills. If money controls you, it could mean disaster. Debt, greed, and out-of-control spending can cause you incredible stress and increase the pressure to constantly earn more.

Money is not the goal. It’s a means to help you get there.

Wrapping Up

Becoming a parent has been the most incredible journey of my life. As I continue to watch my girls grow, I constantly find myself learning new things. With their teenage years fast approaching (and boys on the not-too-distant horizon), I’m sure I’ll still have a lot more to learn. Check back in a few years and maybe we’ll do a recap!

Did I miss anything? What money lessons have you learned from becoming a parent? Fire away in the comments below!

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  1. Since becoming parents, the importance of having a well-funded emergency fund has become even more apparent to us. Before becoming parents we always tended to have this “we’ll land on our feet somehow” attitude. Now we PLAN to land on our feet always by having safeguards in place like a will, life insurance, and a solid emergency fund. We just can’t leave as much to chance now as we did pre- baby. But I think it’s a good thing 🙂

    1. Definitely! You’ve got to have that e-fund as a cushion for the inevitable stumbles.

  2. Kara @ Money Saving Maven says:

    I agree – having an Efund in place (and not using it for frivolous things) has become a huge priority now that we have kids!

    1. Totes! E-funds are super important to keep your budget on task, kids or not!

  3. I can dig all of these because I learned all of these lessons too once I became a parent. I used to demand a Coach for birthdays and Christmas until I had my 1st baby. Once she came she put everything in perspective and I forgot all about what a Coach was and started immediately learning how to create a solidified legacy for my yougins. I don\’t want them to grow up in the same financial environment I did and I know in order to achieve that, I have to continue to make sound financial decisions for their sake.

    1. So true Latoya! Kids definitely give you perspective on what’s important. It sounds like you’re doing a great job of setting an example for your kids. They’ll learn a lot just by watching you!

  4. I don’t have children, but I definitely agree with your last point: money is a tool. My goal is to create my own six-figure income so that I can be financially independent and help my younger brothers pursue their goals.

  5. I think the first thing you learn about money as a parent is that money is extremely important, but it is far from everything (which is your last point) . Ask a parent of a sick child, with no money for healthcare. They will tell you how difficult life is without money. And then walk over to a rich parent who has lost his/her child, and they will tell you all the money in the world will not bring back their child.

    1. So true. Having money can mean so much…but in the end it means nothing at all.

  6. This is a great article, Greg. I can completely relate – except for the poop on the walls part :). I think being a parent has also taught me how to be a better person because I am constantly having to serve as an example to the little one on how how to use and respect money. I guess the only thing I would add to your list is the importance of establishing a will and or trust to make sure the children at properly provided for for in case the inevitable or unexpected were to happen.

    Keep up the great work. You are a hero to your little girls.

    1. Awww thanks! I agree that having a will is important. I also have to admit that I was kinda slow on getting that done…but I have one now. Life insurance is also an important tool to have in case disaster strikes.

  7. I’m not a parent but definitely one of the reasons I chose my major and why I started a business while going to college was because of my future family. I want to have options and to set a legacy for my future family.

    1. Having options is huge! Most people are either without a financial plan or so far in debt that their only option is to go to work to pay everything off. When you have you money under control, suddenly a whole new set of options opens up!

  8. Excellent post Greg and can relate to a lot of it myself. Ultimately for me I’ve learned that regardless of how much Nicole & I make it really just comes down to the imprint I/we make on our kiddos and how we prepare them for life. Of course, this isn’t always the easiest to remember when you’re in the thick of things but it’s what I try to keep forefront in my mind.

    1. It’s hard when you’re swamped, right? I’ve actually been really bad at balancing things lately. But, I’m hoping things will get back to normal quickly.

      Thanks John!

  9. You know, I’ve definitely put less of a focus on money in my life since becoming a parent. I’ve watched some of my friends who have also been parents get further ahead in their careers and make more money, but they also share with me how they hate the long hour or travelling that I don’t have. For me, this is a time about choices. I figure there’s always money to be made, but my kids are only going to be this little once.

    1. That is very true! It’s hard to make those decisions, especially when it comes down to time. I guess it just depends where your priorities are at. Children are only children for so long…

  10. I definitely accept that things will change if/when we have a kid. It’ll change our financial outlook — and it’ll change our time and energy to go out and spend money anyway.

    Here’s hoping we get that chance!

  11. I’ve come to the realization that money isn’t everything and that time is more important. It’s a shame that I don’t get to spend more time with my son during weekdays due to work. That’s one of the key reasons I want to become financially free one day.

    1. That’s a great reason to strive for financial freedom. Money really isn’t everything, but it sure is nice 🙂

  12. This was a great post for me to read as someone who doesn’t have kids. I like your point about time being more valuable than money. Both Victoria and I are sinking a TON of time into things right now (me – side hustles; her – grad school) that will give us a more solid financial foundation and more income streams. Ultimately, though, what I really want is options to work or not to work, and to work WHEN I want to work. A big part of that has to do with the kids that I will (likely) have someday. I want to be able to at least always have the option of spending more time with them and not HAVE to go to work. So this is all great advice and I think I’m on the right path, but I won’t really know until I have kids 😉

    1. Thanks DC! Creating financial freedom isn’t about becoming ridonkulous rich, traveling the world, or quitting your job. Sure, you can do all of that. But, what it is really about is having the option to do that if you want to. Just having options makes life so much more fulfilling.

      And by the way, knowing you and Victoria, you’re going to be great parents someday if you choose to be. 🙂

  13. You are right about how perspective changes when you hear children take their first breaths. We are 8 months into the whole parenting thing. My co-worker said it was a crazy,weird feeling for both his children when they first started breathing. I was present for the birth of our daughter & life literally changed like the flip of a switch.

  14. I learned all these important lessons when I became a mom and I honestly believe becoming a parent helped me change my mindset to manage my finances better. It’s not all about me anymore and I have a little one watching my every move and depending on me. Also, I value my time so much more now and all I think about is how I can work more diligently and move my schedule around to free up more time to spend with my son.

    1. I love you point about your time. Having kids really puts things into perspective.

  15. What a great post that was both amazing to read coming from a Father’s point of view but also so true!
    We became those same people, especially after deciding to have three kids. I am more aware of what we have to offer them and how I can prepare their financial future. Savings plans for all of them were started and instead of the occasional splurge on ourselves (like we used to in the past) we put it towards our kid’s future.
    An emergency fund as well is crucial when having kids and dogs for that matter. There is always something that happens where we are grateful for that cushion we have available.

    Thank you again for this post!!

    1. I”m glad you enjoyed it Addi! Emergency funds are always important, but they are especially important with kids. things get broken, kids get hurt/sick, other unexpected expenses always pop up. Having an emergency fund has saed our budget a number of times!

  16. What a wonderful post! Your little ladies are lucky to have such a great Daddy! Before we were parents we never really worried about money either. We had our budget, and lived by it but that was all. We lived and spent much of our money in the moment. It wasn’t until our our oldest now 5 1/2 was born that we realized living in the moment wasn’t possible anymore. And we worked very hard to get our emergency fund in place and begin to work on paying off debt. All while living on a single income. We now have a second son AJ who is 3 1/2 and are expecting twins in September. Money and being prepared for any emergency is now a top priority for our family as we still live on a single income. It is amazing how children change your view of the world.

    1. They really do. And there is this weird pull between not wanting to wish the time away but needing to look toward the future at the same time. Thanks for your kind words, and glad you enjoyed the piece.

  17. When I became a parent, everything changed. I always have to budget and see that the purchase I would do is in the budget. And, one greatest lesson is that I have to earn more to meet my family’s needs. With this, I became financially responsible.

    1. Having kids certainly helped me to grow up quickly. That sort of responsibility doesn’t come lightly.

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