For about three years now we've been following several different FIRE blogs. Almost all of them are about cutting down spending, increasing savings, building a side hustle, and efficiently using the money we have in order to retire early. A few sites are run by people who already were parents, or became parents after they were already retired. Only one that I've seen seriously addresses how to have a family while building toward financial independence. None of these sites are focused on what it takes to raise children in the DC area while working toward FIRE. DC is the most expensive part of the country in which to raise children. We're on the FIRE path, but admittedly, this path is rife with expenses other FIRE folks may not have, or choose not to incur. This is the difference between us and most FIRE blogs: we're working toward COMFY, not strict frugal FIRE. Some financial bloggers may consider these the same thing, but in our view, they vary. We'd like to share with you how we're working toward a COMFY FIRE in the most expensive city in which to raise children in the country.
Our biggest expenses with kids so far have been Fertility Treatment, Adoption, and School. Only one of these, though, is related to where we live. The others are choices we made about the life we wanted to live.
We spent approximately $60,000 on Fertility Treatment (FT). We were very lucky to have a wonderful son through this process, so well worth it! Yet, the monetary factor was huge for us. We went into the process not knowing if we'd get anything out of it. The first time we tried we came up with Joshua. The 2nd and 3rd time we tried, nothing. We wanted a family, and FT started us on this path, but it wasn't enough.
We then started the adoption process. This will, in the end, cost around $40,000. Not as expensive as all of our FT, but more than each individual attempt, and far more of a sure thing. Yet, adoption is also far more of a risk and commitment. We are signed up through the China Waiting Child Program, which includes adopting a special needs child. We'll see what new experiences and challenges this process adds to our life.
Then, there is school. Virginia does not have free preschool, so we've had to shell out for preschool for Joshua. He's thrived in preschool, and we feel the investment has been well worth the $38,000 we've put toward it. I can't imagine him not having gone to preschool. When we were looking at schools we saw a wide-range of options. We ended up choosing a school at a local Synagogue with a long history, great references, and a strong community in which we wanted to be a part. We paid more for this option, but it was a choice we thought would be more COMFY than the other options we had available.
Beyond these huge outlays, we've also spent money on other items that make our Family life more COMFY, these include:
Life Insurance - Until we are COMFY FIREd we still need money coming in to take care of ourselves and our family. We each have a 20 year term life insurance policy to carry the family through if something happens to either (or both) of us before the children are old enough to be out on their own. Between us we pay about $2,000 a year for these policies. Yes, that 2k could be used in a million other ways, but honestly, I wouldn't be COMFY if we left our kids holding the bag if anyone gets hit by a bus. Insurance is often a scam, and I only recommend TERM Life for those who want it to cover a certain period, but it's also worth it if you don't want your kids destitute along with very sad if something happens to you.
Groceries - We're struggling with groceries. We want to feed ourselves and our kids healthy food without artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors; pesticides; or added processed sugars. These items end up costing us more than buying all that garbage in most grocery stores. Again, this is a choice we're making. We love the farmers market in our town, using it almost every weekend, but it's not as cheap as other options. We choose this COMFY rather than frugality because, in our case at least, it's an either or option. We don't buy more than we need, we don't waste (much) food, and we love the taste of fresh strawberries. We're willing to pay for that.
FUN – Between the three of us, we have a lot of things we really enjoy. I love learning about military history, Jan loves tea, and Joshua loves excavators! In order to be COMFY with our lives we're very keen on doing inexpensive (often FREE) things that meet these interests. Sometimes, though, we do indulge in paying for the stuff we like. In a couple of weeks we'll be doing this for everybody all in the same two days. We're taking the family to Diggerland, which isn't frugal in any sense of the word. We are getting a discount by buying our tickets through our hotel, the reservation for which we got for free with Travel Miles. The next day we'll be heading into Philadelphia where Joshua and I will tour a World War II submarine while Jan and her mom go sit someplace to drink tea. Again, not Frugal, but very COMFY for each of us. Joshua is fascinated by submarines sinking ships with torpedoes, I love military history, and Jan and her mom get to relax with some hot beverage. Not to mention, after we're done, we can hit Little Italy in Philadelphia for some fresh mozzarella cheese and other Mediterranean delights before heading home.
All-in-all, we choose to live more expensively than we have to, but that choice is built upon enjoying the things on which we choose to spend that money. We're not blowing money on a cable package, a new car, or other wasteful things. We blow it on memories, activities we love, and the delight of delicious food. We also blow it on community, education, and building the family we want to have. Yes, we could have been far more frugal, yet would we have been COMFY? Honestly, I don't know, but I can't imagine the answer would have been as resounding of a YES as our life is now.
What spending makes you more COMFY?
Is it ok for you to spend money if you're making life better for yourself?
Are there ways to minimize the spend while still making life better?
Do you use Personal Capital to track your spending? If not, may we recommend you do so. It's very handy, and free! Not to mention, you'd be helping us out by signing on. Check it out!