I keep seeing the article from the USDA stating the new estimated cost of raising a child is $241,080 over 18 years. Some people are in shock, others say they are holding off on having more children because of it, and I imagine there are one or two more like me who think it is a little bit bullshit. First of all, some families making very little money are able to raising two, three, four or more children successfully without spending anywhere close to this amount. Secondly, the list of expenses that the USDA is including in this calculation is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.
This is the breakdown that the USDA uses to calculate the cost of raising a child from 0-18. While some of these costs are absolutely child related, many more seem like costs that average people will pay whether they have children or not! I certainly don’t believe that these costs should be counted for each child individually within a family. (They do recognize in the article that the cost of subsequent children is less.) I am including my family costs at the bottom of each category. I am only counting the change in our expenses since having a child.
Housing expenses consist of shelter (mortgage payments, property taxes, or rent; maintenance and repairs; and insurance), utilities (gas, electricity, fuel, cell/telephone, and water), and house furnishings and equipment (furniture, floor coverings, major appliances, and small appliances.)
My husband and I lived in the exact same price range for a home before and after we had children. We still paid rent, maintenance, insurance, utilities, and bought furnishings. In fact, we probably spent a little more on furnishings and household crap then because we weren’t concerned about children destroying everything. I am sure that utilities go up a little when children are older and using more water for showering, laundry and dishes. You could probably easily offset that cost by conserving in other areas, limiting electronics time, changing the thermostat and shortening shower times. I call this category a wash. I do not know of anyone who was forced to move to a larger home because they had a child. Most people already have an extra room in their home or have kids share a bedroom.
My Personal Calculator: $0.00
Food expenses consist of food and nonalcoholic beverages purchased at grocery, convenience, and specialty stores; dining at restaurants; and household expenditures on school meals.
This I can see when children are older, but not so much for the first five years. Formula costs can add up, but breastfeeding is free. That will definitely change the calculation for the first year of life depending on each family. My son eats a lot. He has a very healthy appetite and I still have not noticed any change in my grocery budget since his birth. He basically eats the same portion that we would otherwise throw away. As far as eating out, that is a luxury, not a necessity. School meals are also not a necessity. You can pack a child’s lunch for much less than buying it at school. So, I agree that older kids and teens can eat a lot, but I don’t think you can fairly calculate the same cost for every year of life.
My Personal Calculator: $200.00 (I’m being generous here. I buy very, very little additional food right now.)
Transportation expenses consist of the monthly payments on vehicle loans, down payments, gasoline and motor oil, maintenance and repairs, insurance, and public transportation (including airline fares).
Another category I don’t count. Most of us have been paying these expenses long before we had children. Even if you bought a larger vehicle after having a child, the cost of maintaining it would remain close to what you paid before. If you previously rode a bicycle everywhere, I would allow you to count this category, otherwise, no. Airfare is again, a luxury, not a necessity. Kids also fly for free for the first two years as a lap child.
My Personal Calculator: $0.00 (In fact, we are actually spending less than before because we went down to one vehicle instead of two.)
Clothing expenses consist of children’s apparel such as diapers, shirts, pants, dresses, and suits; footwear; and clothing services such as dry cleaning, alterations, and repair.
This one counts. I’m not sure what amount they are allotting for this category but you can get away with spending very, very little on young children for their clothes. Second hand stores, Mom-to-Mom sales and hand me downs go a long, long way. When kids are older and want designer clothing, they can always ask for these items for birthdays, holiday gifts and save their own money to help out. You will spend money, but the amount can vary widely. Diapers are expensive, but choosing cloth diapering can save a ton, especially for subsequent children.
My Personal Calculator: $350.00 (Largely diapers. I have spent between $20.00 and $50.00 on actual clothing and that was purely choice, not necessity.)
Health care expenses consist of medical and dental services not covered by insurance, prescription drugs and medical supplies not covered by insurance, and health insurance premiums not paid by an employer or other organization. Medical services include those related to physical and mental health.
Another category that counts. While premiums will be paid for single people or couples no matter what, copayments and non-covered services can add up if your children visit the doctor often.
My Personal Calculator: $1000.00 Additional premium.
Child care and education expenses consist of day care tuition and supplies; baby-sitting; and elementary and high school tuition, books, fees, and supplies. Books, fees, and supplies may be for private or public schools.
This is a big one that counts for many families, but not everyone. Child care is the largest expense we have incurred since having a child. It is also one that doesn’t go down much with subsequent children. If you are a family that is able to have one parent stay home, this will take a big huge bite out of that price tag for you. Also, these costs will go down drastically after children are in school full time and able to stay home alone, and help out with other siblings. Private school tuition is again, a matter of choice, not necessity.
My Personal Calculator: $8,840.00 Full time, infant daycare. Costs will go down after he is two, and/or part time.
Miscellaneous expenses consist of personal care items (haircuts, toothbrushes, etc.), entertainment (portable media players, sports equipment, televisions, computers, etc.), and reading materials (nonschool books, magazines, etc.)
This is a very minimal category. Considering that most personal care items are shared (shampoo, soap, toilet paper) or bought in packages containing multiple pieces, (toothbrushes) you may actually save money by buying in bulk. Entertainment costs are only what you create, many households have only one television (or none at all), and utilize free attractions in their community instead of paid activities.
My Personal Calculator: $0.00 I have yet to buy anything special for Truman’s entertainment. He has a ton of toys, books, and movies that have all been gifts from other people.
I am not arguing the fact that children cost money. They do. I just feel that the overall sticker price can vary so immensely depending on how you choose to raise them. I am also inclined to believe that being single ultimately costs just as much, if not more than having a child. Single people tend to spend much, much more on entertainment, vacations, going out to eat, and luxury items than parents do. It isn’t so much about spending more money, it is about where the money is being spent.
Total Personal Cost of my one child this year: $10,390.00
Now, allow me to figure in the stuff that I no longer spend money on (or spend much less on) now that I’m a parent.
Regular nail and hair appointments: $720.00
Clothing and shoes: $500.00
Going out regularly: $2000.00
Cigarettes and alcohol: $3640.00
Adjusted Cost of my one child: $3530.00
Figure in the tax deductions available to me for having a dependent…and I’m even.
While other people may have very different calculations than my family, I just want you to keep in mind that raising a child is as costly as you make it. There are always ways to save money if you work at it. Don’t let the USDA’s number scare you. Do the math for yourself, and you may be surprised!