Motherhood And Money: Tips To Making It Work For You

mother's day

Becoming a mother is a huge life transformation. You may not only deal with physical and emotional changes, but financial ones too. So if you’re expecting your first child, it’s not unusual to experience a mix of excitement and dread!

But don’t worry. In honour of Mother’s Day, we’re exploring how being a mother can affect your finances – and what you can do to prepare.

You are now financially responsible for someone else

 If you don’t have parents or other relatives who rely on you, having a new child could mean being financially responsible for someone else for the first time. There might be a few lifestyle changes you’ll need to make:

  • Start budgeting. To start, you could try tracking your spending for a few months. This helps you visualise where your money is going, and how much you can afford to spend on child-related expenses. For example, do you spend more on eating out or on entertainment? Then, you could adjust your budget to make room for new expenses.
  • Find ways to save. To make room in your budget, you may need to increase your savings. This could mean spending less on non-essential things like entertainment and eating out. You could also find ways to cut down on living expenses, like using preloved baby items (good for your budget and the environment!), taking advantage of promotions and being a savvy cashback
  • Spend less on yourself. Unless you find ways to increase your income, you’ll now have to spend less on yourself to save more for your child’s future.

You have to set financial goals

There are many costs that come with having a child. As a new parent, it can get overwhelming. It’s easier to break down your financial responsibilities into short-term, medium-term and long-term financial goals.

Discuss these goals with your spouse, and consider how you will achieve them. Here are a few common ones you may need to plan for:

a) Short-term goals: cover maternity costs and toddler years

The costs of having a baby and early childcare in the Klang Valley can be as high as RM37,915 in the first year. While you can reduce some of these costs by opting for second-hand items and relying on relatives for childcare, you may still shell out a tidy sum – so if you’re expecting, it’s best to estimate how much you will need and start saving.

Then there’s the cost of childcare during the toddler years. Parents may spend around RM1,000 a month on childcare, while a live-in domestic helper can cost more than RM40,000 in the first year. To avoid these hefty costs, some parents choose to switch from full-time work to being a stay-at-home parent. But before making this major decision, consider if it actually makes more financial sense for your household.

b) Medium-term goals: cover everyday expenses during schooling years

As your child grows, so will your living costs. Primary and secondary school education in the public sector is free in Malaysia. However, if you plan to put your child in the private or international school system, you will need to spend up to RM100,000 a year on tuition fees alone.

It’s not just food or home-related expenses either. You may shell out for school supplies, holiday camps, tuition classes, field trips, family vacations, birthday gifts…the list goes on. You may need to adjust your budget to account for these growing expenses.

c) Long-term goals: cover the cost of university

Sending your child to university may be one of the biggest expenses you’ll have to cover. A public education at a university like University Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) can cost about RM12,000 for an entire course, while a private education can set you back up at least RM40,000 a year. These costs will skyrocket if you want to send your child overseas. An Australian education could cost up to AUD46,830 a year in tuition fees – not including living costs!

Covering these costs is no easy feat. But it’s a lot easier if you start planning earlier and start investing to grow your child’s education fund. For example, if you invest RM250 for 18 years at an average annual return of 7%, that could amount to around RM100,000. That would help cover a big chunk of these expenses when the time comes.

You need backup plan(s)

Now that you have another person who relies on you financially, you’ll want to make sure that they are taken care of in case anything happens. This means having a backup plan for unexpected costs, or even preparing a financial buffer if you’re unable or no longer around to support your family.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Build your emergency fund. Set aside an emergency fund that covers six months of your household’s living expenses, or more if you and your spouse are self-employed. This helps you cover unexpected expenses, such as a major car repair, a busted refrigerator or a doctor’s visit that isn’t covered by your insurance. You’ll be able to afford these costs, without taking out debt or dipping into savings earmarked for other expenses.
  • Review your insurance policies. You may need to review and expand your insurance coverage. For example, getting enough medical coverage is crucial to cover rising medical costs. Additionally, a life insurance policy will give your family a financial buffer if anything happens to you. As your family grows or your financial needs evolve, you’ll need to review your policy frequently (e.g. once a year) to make sure everyone has enough coverage.
  • Prepare a will. No matter how young you are, you’ll need a plan to pass down your assets to your kids, and to assign them a legal guardian. This makes sure that their financial and physical needs will be met in case anything happens to you and your spouse.

Tough but rewarding

Mother’s Day may be that one special day to show our love and affection for mothers everywhere, but it is also about remembering the sacrifices and challenges that comes with motherhood.

Being a mother can be financially stressful. But with some preparation, you can ease that transition and focus on the joy of welcoming a new child into the world. Besides, being able to start a family and raise a child is its own reward – and you can’t put a price tag on that.

This article has been updated on May 10, 2024.

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