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Updated on Monday, February 23, 2015
When you become a mom for the first time, it’s overwhelming. Your entire world changes drastically. Suddenly you become a morning person, even if it’s not by choice. Your clothes fit differently, you’re exhausted, and you’re overcome with an intense instinct to protect your baby.
As part of that instinct, it really helps to be financially secure. When you’re worried about money or don’t know how you’ll be able to pay your credit card bills or your rent, it creates a stressful environment for your family. To add to that, you have to deal with outside pressure to buy certain things or give certain things to your baby, and if you can’t afford it, it can create a lot of mommy guilt. Mommy guilt can be avoided (or at least minimized) by embracing these five pieces of financial wisdom.
1. Build An Emergency Fund No Matter What
With kids, emergencies happen. They fall, they tumble, and they get sick. They often require visits to the doctor. Sometimes it’s minor. Sometimes it’s not. If an emergency happens, it’s often the breaking point for many families. Most Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, but if you can be one of the ones who doesn’t, you’ll feel so much more secure. I personally like to keep $5,000 liquidable in an emergency fund, but eventually I want to grow it to 6 months worth of expenses. Even if you start with just a $500 in a separate account, that will cover most issues. Just remember to fill it back up again if you empty the account.
2. Toys Won’t Make or Break Your Child
I struggle a lot when it comes to buying toys. I can count on one hand the amount of toys I’ve purchased for my children in almost one year, and most of them were recommended by their pediatrician to help with certain aspects of their development.
I have friends who have amazing houses full of every toy you can imagine, and when I visit, my stash of toys feels inadequate. Just the other day I walked through Buy Buy Baby to use a gift card, and I felt sad when I left because I saw so many toys my babies would like, but I didn’t buy them anything except what they needed (a baby gate and some snacks).
Sometimes I feel like a bad mom for not giving them what’s trendy, but when I see them happily throwing blocks in a pasta strainer from the kitchen, I realize they really don’t need much. Plus, unlike many babies, both of my kids have investment accounts that are actively growing. That’s more important than keeping up with the other moms.
3. You Are the Best Financial Teacher
Your child will learn many of his or her habits from you. Talking about money is no exception. When you buy something at the store, explain to your child how that transaction works. You can start this as early as possible, even if your children can’t talk yet. Your actions, the amount of times you buy things at the mall, the way you delay gratification, and whether or not you give in to your child’s wants in the future will all determine how they view money for the rest of their lives (no pressure!)
Many children blame their parents for their poor financial education and many people vow to handle their finances differently from their parents. It’s important to me to be the type of parent my children want to emulate. My husband and I believe that children can absorb information like this from an early age, so we plan to talk about investing, saving, and spending as often as possible to teach them good habits.
4. You Might Not Remember to Pay Your Bills
People talk about “Mommy Brain” all the time, which basically implies that you can’t remember anything anymore because you’re so exhausted and you have kids on the mind all the time now. I am definitely affected by this. I used to know when all my bills were due off the top of my head and I never used a calendar. Now, it’s a necessity, and I have to be reminded of tasks and due dates for bills quite a lot. I was even late on a credit card payment when my kids were very young, something completely unheard of for me. So, just know that even the most experienced personal finance experts have to make adjustments when adding a baby into a daily routine. Make lists, write things down, and most importantly, ask for help from your spouse or a family member if you feel overwhelmed.
5. Nothing Goes As Planned
You might plan to use a certain amount of diapers in a day to calculate your monthly costs, but inevitably you’ll need more. You might plan to breastfeed but be unable to continue after a few months. You might put you babies on formula from the start, but then they can develop an allergy and need to be put on a specialty formula. All of these unexpected events might cost more or less than you imagined, but they’re all unplanned. Essentially, you can’t predict how life is going to be when you’re a new mom. Just know that it will be different, crazy, beautiful, and more hectic than it was before. Still, if you can get your finances, your bills, and your emergency fund under control it will be one less thing you have to worry about so you can instead focus on your new baby.