Patti and Joseph were enjoying everything the eastern suburbs of Sydney offered until their beautiful baby Zali arrived in January 2020. With no family nearby and exorbitant childcare costs, the couple decided they needed to make big changes.
"I hadn’t thought about the true cost of having kids until about a week before Zali arrived," Patti says.
"I did a budget and was looking at the figures thinking, 'Holy sh*t!' I remember working out that daycare costs in the eastern suburbs of Sydney were almost as much as our weekly rent.
"I realised I couldn’t afford not to work and yet half of my pay packet would go on daycare fees."
It was partly because of this realisation that Patti started her finance Instagram account to connect and share with other parents who were interested in the financial impacts of raising children.
"I think it’s really interesting, as no one really tells you about all the costs before having kids. Other finance related issues I hadn’t understood before Zali arrived were how complex the Centrelink processes are for parental leave and childcare subsidies and how to coordinate everything with my employer’s maternity leave."
The shock of all these revelations made Patti a passionate advocate for kids and parents' rights. She became a member of The Parenthood to add her voice to their campaign to get a better deal for children, parents and women.
"There are all these men in power who make issues like expensive daycare or parental leave seem like a 'women’s issue', when it is clearly not. It affects us all, and it needs to change."
While Patti’s employer offered part-time hours or flexible working conditions after Zali was born, she wanted to go back to work full time for financial reasons.
"Once I was back at work, it was still hard to comprehend that daycare costs were our biggest weekly expense after rent. Then there were other financial and logistical worries on top. I had to dash out of the Sydney office at 4pm to drive to pick Zali up from daycare because I would get a fine, even if I was just five minutes late," she says.
"We thought if we stayed in Sydney living that life, we could not have any more kids. The fees were like birth control."
After crunching some numbers and really figuring out what they wanted and where they needed to be financially, the couple decided it was time to move.
"I had some family in Queensland and we knew the cost of living there was much cheaper compared to Sydney; especially rent and daycare costs. I did some research on places to live and quality childcare centres, and after speaking with our respective workplaces, we started to make arrangements."
The family made their move to Queensland in early March 2022.
"We drove through the floods and got stuck in Tamworth trying to reach our new home on the outskirts of Brisbane. We have now settled in and aside from the financial savings, it feels like we’re on holiday!
"The pace of life is more relaxed and we have already halved our living expenses. Our childcare costs have gone from $528 per week in Sydney to $276 per week in Brisbane. In one year, we will save $13,000 which we plan to put towards paying off our mortgage."
While Patti and Joseph are not sure if they will have another baby, they now have some long-term plans that they hope will future-proof their family financially.
"We’re already on the lookout for an investment property. We would love an old run-down house that Joseph can do up using his skills - a passion project for the whole family. We also hope to pay off our mortgage and as someone who loves to budget, I am always looking at more ways to save.
"We just want to enjoy our lives and give Zali as many choices and opportunities as possible in the future."
This first ran on Mamamia. You can find out more about Patti Lupari and her personal finance journey on Instagram @pattionthemoney.
If you would like to share your story please email Maddy at [email protected]