Should I Have Kids or Pay Off Credit Card Debt First?

credit card debt

It’s no secret credit card debt is on the rise. But did you know the average American household carried almost $16,000 in credit card debt in 2017, according to Nerdwallet?

What’s even more startling is that the $16,000 debt figure doesn’t include other forms of debt, like student loans, auto loans, and mortgages.

And unfortunately, average American household debt is only expected to rise in the coming years, with economic forecasters predicting wages and the economy to stagnate.

Why does this matter?

Large amounts of credit card debt sometimes prevent people from taking life-changing steps like buying a house, starting a business, and in some cases, even starting a family.

If your credit card debt situation is keeping you from starting a family, you’re not alone.

According to the Pew Research Center, a decline in U.S. birth rates appears strongly linked to the 2008 recession, particularly its aftermath of personal debt and prolonged unemployment.

And now as millennials enter their peak child-bearing years, more people are choosing to delay parenthood due to pressing economic concerns like job instability, student loan debt, as well as the high cost of housing and childcare.

Should I Have Kids or Pay Off Credit Card Debt First?

While raising a family at the same time you’re dealing with debt is challenging, it doesn’t have to stop you. You may even find having children helps you reach your financial goals.

Financial Responsibility

You may be wondering: Can I still become a parent in spite of my debt?

The answer is a resounding “yes!”

Generally, it’s sound financial sense to eradicate your credit card debt before having a baby. But, unless you’ve consulted with financial experts who strongly advise against it, it’s perfectly acceptable to start a family even if you carry credit card debt.

If you haven’t yet taken steps to face your debt head-on, there is no better time to become financially aware than when you are about to start a family.  

Things to Consider and Keep in Mind

  • There is no “perfect” time to have a baby.

While addressing your debt before your baby comes along would undoubtedly make your path more comfortable, there just isn’t a moment in one’s life that is the absolute perfect time to have a child.

  • Your priorities will change, and children can help you focus.

There is something about being responsible for a tiny, fragile human that tends to kick people into high gear to achieve their goals. For many, this kind of responsibility is precisely the fuel they need to get focused.

  • If you wait too long to have children, you or your partner may face fertility or health issues.

While everyone is different, the truth is that there is a distinct window of time in people’s lives during which having a child is safe and possible.

  • Children don’t have to get expensive for a few years.

While you will be regularly bombarded by advertisements for fabulous “must-have” items for your baby, the truth is that they don’t need much at the beginning, especially if they can breastfeed.

It’s not until they’ve been exposed to commercialism, and peers, that they will have a sense of materialism.

Hopefully, by that time, your financial situation has improved, and you’ve had a chance to impart positive attitudes about money and materialism.

So How Do I Do This?

If you haven’t taken steps to address your credit card debt or figure out a repayment plan that will work for you as you get ready to start a family, it’s never too late to start doing that.

Here’s how:

  • If you are partnered, try living on one income.

It’s good practice, especially if the high cost of childcare means that it would be more economically sound for one of you to stay home with the child for the first few years.

  • Use half of the second income to attack your debt, while saving the other half.

Deposit the saved amount into a dedicated savings account that will help you pay off unexpected expenses, which seem to pop up consistently when a baby comes along. Getting into the habit now of paying for unforeseen costs out of pocket instead of putting them on a credit card will pay off.

  • Most first-time parents dramatically underestimate the cost of their first year of parenting.

Check out a baby calculator to get a clear idea of how much you can expect to spend in your baby’s first year of life. If it’s overwhelming, that’s ok! Better to see that now, instead one year from now, when you’re wondering why your financial situation has only seemed to worsen.

  • Earn more income.

This can be planning to ask for a raise at your job or earning income on the side while you prepare for your child’s arrival. Any additional income, including the percentage of pay increase if you successfully lobby for a raise, can be deployed to your debt, or put away for baby savings.

  • Consider credit counseling.

If you’ve taken a look at your situation and can’t see a way out, an accredited nonprofit credit counseling agency like DebtWave can help you work with your creditors to come up with a plan to get you out of debt in three to five years. They will also help you build a budget that will work for your growing family.

Don’t allow your less-than-ideal financial situation to stop you from having one of the most transformative experiences humans can have. Instead, let it inspire you to plan, to budget, and to prepare you to set a good example for your family.

Is your credit card debt preventing you from starting a family or have you started saving so you can start your family? Tell us in the comments below.