I just read, on CNN Money, that the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18, for a middle-income, two-parent family, is now at $226,920. That’s $60,000 more than it cost 10 years ago to raise a child. (There’s inflation at work for you.) This sort of statistic is what makes many take a step back and wonder if having children is unaffordable.
However, do children really need to cost $13,830 a year? (Last year, I used a government calculator and discovered that, for my income, I should be spending $26,000 a year on my son. I’m not.) I’ve done the math, and my son really isn’t that unaffordable. My husband and I would probably have the same size house and pay the same utilities without him, and he really doesn’t add a whole lot to the food budget. And, since I switched to a high deductible health plan and HSA, his share of health care expenses are much lower, too. Taking all that into account, and considering what I spend in clothing, toys, activities/camps, music lessons, and college fund contributions, I see that I am on track to spend closer to $10,000 on my son in 2011.
It’s true that infants cost more than my son does right now (what with diapers and formula), and I’m sure he’ll be a little more costly as he ages, and I have to take into account extracurricular activities, and the increased amounts of food consumed by a growing teenager. However, I really don’t see any reason that my son needs to cost more than $14,000 a year — much less $26,000. And I can see several ways that I could save money on what I spend on my son right now, as a way to bring down what he costs me.
Saving Money When You Have Kids
There are a number of ways that you can save money when you have kids, even if you aren’t using food assistance. Indeed, I know families in my neighborhood with three to five children who are managing to raise happy, healthy kids on much less than $13,830 per child per year. Some of the strategies employed by these mostly one-income families include:
- Homecooked meals from scratch, including meals made from ingredients grown in a garden, rather than prepackaged foods and restaurant dining.
- The use of cloth diapers rather than disposable diapers.
- A focus on quality family time and frugal activities, such as family baseball games, bike riding, camping, and game nights, rather then expensive trips to the movies.
- Saving up for a great road trip every two or three years, rather than taking an expensive family vacation.
- Hand me downs and second-hand clothing.
- Understanding the difference between needs and wants.
- Renting sports and music equipment, rather than buying.
You might be surprised at what you can save, if that’s your lifestyle decision. Does this mean that children are for everyone? Of course not. Some of the changes that come with children aren’t for everyone. However, if you want kids, and you are willing to make some lifestyle changes so that you can afford them, there are ways to raise a family on a wide range of incomes.
What do you think? Have kids become too expensive?
Photo credit: hoyasmeg.