I told you yesterday that I’d been asked to comment on a media story about the USDA’s prediction that it costs $245,000 to raise a child.
Your comments and thoughts on this topic were so interesting. There were lots of differing viewpoints and perspectives!
The article I was interviewed for was posted today on TheStir.com for those who are interested in reading it. Here’s a snippet:
Before even becoming a mom, one of the most common warnings you’ll hear from other parents is how expensive it can be to raise children. As it turns out, they’re right.
Families who had a baby in 2013 can expect to spend on average $245,340 until the child is 18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s just-released annual report, Expenditures on Children by Families. That’s between $12,800 and $14,970 a year for a middle-income family with two parents, depending on the kids’ ages.
Angela Hawkins, 33, a mom of three in the suburbs of Houston, is living proof that the numbers don’t lie.
She shared her household budget with The Stir and estimated that she and her husband Shane will spend about $270,000 per child by the time they turn 18.
“The figures can be overwhelming,” Angela admits.
So where exactly does all that money go?
Read the full post here for the price breakdown details on how much this family is spending and some tips from other money-saving folks on how to cut costs (with one on cutting your food costs from yours truly!)
I found the figures she shared interesting and insightful. And, of course, my frugal brain came up with lots of suggestions and ideas for ways to possibly lower those costs. 🙂
My husband and I are frugal and have made frugal choices in raising our kids. This is obviously a very frugal-minded group of folks, too. Let’s keep in mind that not everyone has this mindset and try to be gracious in our comments. I read last week’s comments thread on this same topic and was stunned by some of the judgy posts. Just because we may choose to stay home, homeschool, coupon, etc. doesn’t mean it’s the right or practical choice for everyone else!
I’m a little bit bothered by their advice to buy the biggest and best house that they can afford as a means of saving money, especially if you listen to the bank to tell you what you can “afford”. There certainly is something to be said for paying a bit more to be in a part of town where resale is easier, but doing this if it stretches your budget may not be wise.
Also, I’m really not sure how living in a nice neighborhood will save you money on childcare. I would have to think that childcare rates go up in a richer area. I haven’t ever used childcare, but common sense says you aren’t likely to find a bargain when home (in-home) and building (day care) prices are higher than elsewhere.
I’d love to hear your comments about the article! All I could think was, “Um no. Not everyone spends $1200 per month on car payments!”. And, “NO! Not everyone spends $1500 per month on childcare!”. That’s $2700 per month that my family isn’t spending because I stay home with our kiddos (I completely understand this is our lifestyle choice), and we’d NEVER pay that kind of money per month for cars. We have one income, 4 kids, one paid cash for minivan, and one paid cash for truck. Our vehicles are nice too, not piles of junk! It’s possible. It’s hard to believe that the family represented in The Stir article is the average family? Is it really? Or did they just find a family who fit the USDA’s number?
Laura Vanderkam says
Staying home with kids is a huge cost – in foregone income. The USDA doesn’t count that, but it would dwarf what this family pays for childcare (and $1250 for 3 kids is cheap – I wonder what kind of situation they found for that).
It depends on how you look at it. When you’re thinking through whether you can afford to have more kids, or whether you can live on one income, you’re looking at how much money you need coming in so you can cover your expenses. From that perspective, it’s not accurate to consider the lost income as a cost, because the point is that it’s not money you’re spending.
Of course it’s true that the lost income, just like the childcare expenses, means less money in your pocket than if you didn’t have kids. But knowing that amount doesn’t seem to have any practical application, except maybe to remind your or your kids how much richer you’d be without them. 😉
I think this kind of thing would be much more interesting if they gave a range of what people are spending rather than a single number, and maybe some demographic data, including how much families with a SAH parent are spending on average, how that spending varies based on location, etc. A single number is sure to infuriate plenty of people. (“I would never spend so much!” “I could never spend so little in my situation!”)
Yes, good point. And some people don’t have an option to stay home, so childcare costs are a huge percentage of this monthly figure quoted by the USDA!
These numbers seem to be based on what many feel we must have these days. We have only had one new car in 36 years and would not do that again. We never paid for day care or babysitters. When all of our children were home and yes, food was cheaper then, my grocery budget for food only was $450 a month for seven and we did not eat out. We relied on hand me downs and clearance racks for clothing. My take on having children is that if there is room in your heart then there is room in your budget and your home.
One thing people always said to us about our five children was how would we afford college? The more kids you have in college at the same time the more financial aid you are eligible for!
Just as perspective, I am a very frugal shopper and our current monthly budget for a family of 4 (with two growing teens) is between $650-700/month.
I don’t know about the numbers – but I was talking with a mom the other day who, with her husband, are on the verge of adopting their fifth and sixth child, and I loved her comment “More children means more people to bring with you to heaven!” In the end, that’s what it really is all about, isn’t it?
I disagree with saying your entire food bill or your entire mortgage/rent payment, etc. are included in the cost of raising your children. You live in the house too. You also eat in that share of the food.
D Lamb says
Wow those are some serious expenses! The child care is more than their house payment!! And the car payments, holy moly. Clearly their idea of needs vs wants is different than some others. I would never spend the same amount on vehicles as my housing expense. Their mortgage, cars, child care and health expenses are almost $5K- that doesn’t even include many other monthly expenses like utilities, insurances, toiletries, gifts, entertainment, etc. I am going to guess that they both are fairly high wage earners to spend $4600/mo. on those items alone so I don’t consider what they would spend on their children a reflection of what many other families would spend, especially middle income. Also, they would have to pay for a home regardless of having children, now if they chose to live in a 5 bedroom home vs. a 3 bedroom home since they want each of their kids to have their own rooms, well then perhaps you could include housing in the cost of raising the kids, otherwise that’s ridiculous to even include that expense. Gotta love when the government calculates things, this is why they are so wasteful!
Considering that the average person will earn $900,000.00 in 18 years, it doesn’t sound like all that much to me. (Based on a median income of $50,000.00 pure year.)
I also think more people should be aware that three car seats CAN fit in the back of a sedan! For the price of ONE month of their car payments, you could buy three Diono Radian car seats, which will fit three across even in many compact sedans. (I have two of them with one Evenflo Amp booster seat in an ’06 Toyota Corolla.)
Three across isn’t always convenient, but it’s totally worth it when it keeps you from having a car payment! By doing it this way, we can save up to pay cash for a van.
Sorry, I meant to say three Radians for *each* car.
Exactly. We have 3 Radians in our Civic (paid for, only vehicle).
Oh! I was going to post the same thing! I bought two Diono Radians and put the infant seat base in the middle. My oldest was just 3.5 when my third came along. It doesn’t look sexy but it works. Currently, I have three across in a Honda Fit.
Yep Radians are great (and way cheaper than a new car!)- we can fit 2 Radians and a Graco infant seat in the back of our 2002 Corolla no problem.
Just the other day, before you posted the initial article on your blog yesterday, I was thinking about these types of articles that come out occasionally. I had just come home from our semi-annual consignment sale where I finished out my son’s winter wardrobe for $19. He gets a few clothes from an older cousin, but honestly probably less than 25% of his clothes are hand-me-downs. The others I buy frugally. For that $19 I managed to get a winter coat, snow pants, boots and enough other clothes to add to those that I spent $10 on at a great garage sale earlier this summer. So that’s $29 for a season’s worth of clothes.
I read through the article linked to in this post and once again I question the totals. Are they including all of their housing expenses in the cost to raise a child? If they didn’t have kids would they have no housing costs? Our son joining the family didn’t increase housing costs at all – we still have the exact same housing expenses we did when it was just my husband and I.
Almost every one of these articles I’ve seen has included daycare in the cost, or said that the second income that was being “given up” if one of the parents stayed home was considered an expense. What about those of us that don’t want to work when our children are at home? I don’t consider it an “expense” to stay home with my son.
I know lots of people who feel like as soon as they have kids they need a minivan – but yet one of my dear friends has three kids and drives a small, compact, fuel efficient car, and they survive just fine.
I also found her recommendation of “Lean on your parents for cost-effective child care help” a bit much. Asking retired grandparents to relocate just to help care for your children?!? If they offer and that’s really, really what they want to do in their retirement, great. But to expect that…oh my!
I guess this is just a long way of saying that the people who come up with those numbers are choosing to live a very different lifestyle than I am. They may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on each child they have. I choose not to.
I agree with you wholeheartedly!!
I didn’t even EARN 24,000 a year the last two years, and I have a 3 and a 2 year old…so those numbers are definitely bunk!
It is totally do-able to raise children on much, much less than that. Those numbers are just plain wasteful.
Tammy C says
Lean on your parents for cost-effective child care help” a bit much. Asking retired grandparents to relocate just to help care for your children?!? If they offer and that’s really, really what they want to do in their retirement, great. But to expect that…oh my! Years ago when our children were little i was at a park with a grandmother who was taking care of the grandchildren.She said I should ask my parents to watch them so I could go back to work.well she said this to the wrong person.I lost my when when I was 5 and my dad was gone before I had children.My mother in law was working.
Mrs. D says
I would love to get some tips on buying children’s clothing frugally. I can’t seem to find quality items at thrift stores (and in the big city they tend to be around $4 per item). I use consignment stores, but of course they don’t get below that same figure.
I buy some things online from second hand sites like Schoola and ThredUp, and I am ALWAYS (like, a few times a week), cruising the clearance section on websites of brands I like. Since I work full time outside the home, I can only hit up thrift stores about once a week, but I am always on the lookout for yard sales in neighborhoods I know are upscale. We also have consignment sales at our fairgrounds, which are a great resource for everything from strollers to snowsuits! Getting started with all this stuff can be a bit painful in our consumer-driven culture, but with a little work up front, it becomes second nature! Good luck to you!
Does it matter how much a child costs? I don’t have children because of the expense. I just have faith that we will always be able to take care of our family with the money that we have. And so far, it’s worked out just fine.
It drives me bonkers how the USDA calculates housing into the cost of raising a child. That’s what makes the number look so inflated. Most people will have a monthly housing payment regardless of whether they have kids. Unless you specifically buy a larger house to accommodate your children, why is that payment calculated into the cost of raising a child?
Jane Dow says
Yes, it drives me bonkers too! Since my children will be adopted these numbers will influence how many children an agency will think we should have.
This. I’m fine with there being an estimated difference that it costs to get a bigger house, but it should be noted you don’t need a bigger house every time you have a child — a family of four might not need a bigger house than a family of three, for instance.
So…what are your frugal ideas? 🙂
My first thought reading this was “why did your car payments quadruple when your car total only doubled???”
D Lamb says
Clearly they didn’t just need another set of wheels, they needed something a bit nicer ;0