My husband and I have three kids. The first two are 4.4 years apart, and the second two are 17 months apart. Our younger two get along great and are playmates most of the time, save for the occasional fight. Our oldest is so far apart in age from them that he doesn’t really have much to do with either of the younger ones.
If you’re just starting your family or planning to do so, you may wonder what the perfect age separation is between your children. That can vary wildly depending on your family, your kids, and their interests. However, if you’re looking at the best spacing of children for your finances, I’d recommend having children 4 to 5 years apart.
Why? There are several reasons:
My oldest got braces when he was 11.5, but they didn’t come off until he was 13.5. We paid in installments (interest free) almost that entire time. As soon as his braces were paid off, literally the next month, our middle child started the process of expanding her jaw to prepare for braces. I’m thankful that we didn’t have to pay for braces for two kids at once. I’m also thankful that it looks like our youngest won’t need braces, so I still won’t have to pay for braces for two kids at the same time.
I think our oldest is on a permanent growth spurt, and his appetite is no joke. It was nice, for a few years when his rapid growth and appetite were larger than my husband’s, to still have two smaller children who had much smaller appetites. I can’t imagine having three ravenous teenage children at once who are eating me out of house and home.
Day Care Costs
Our oldest attended day care and preschool while I continued to work. He had almost finished preschool and was nearly ready to go to a public kindergarten (read free!) when we had our second child. I did get ample maternity leave with my second, so we didn’t have to worry about paying for two kids in day care.
However, I was only back to work a short while before I became pregnant with #3. When I thought about returning to work and looked at the daycare costs for two children under two, I realized I would be working simply to pay for daycare. I quit my job and have been working as a freelance writer from home ever since.
This is probably the biggest reason to space your children four or five years apart. You can get one child through college before the next one starts. Sure, if you have more than one child in college you’ll likely qualify for more financial aid, but it will still cost you more than if you were paying for only one child in college.
Okay, this one doesn’t have much to do with finances, but when you space your children further apart, you become an empty nester much more slowly. When my oldest leaves home, I’ll likely still have several years at home with my younger two. I can’t imagine having all of my kids move out around the same time if they are closely spaced together.
Of course, there are many considerations, not just financial, when deciding how closely to have your children. However, the best spacing of children for your finances is four to five years apart.
If you have kids, did you decide on spacing based on finances or other factors? How far apart did you space your kids and why?
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in Arizona where she dislikes the summer heat but loves the natural beauty of the area.