Whoever coined the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” probably wasn’t talking about money. But, setting aside the admirable merits of community involvement and moral support, with the costs of parenthood skyrocketing in recent years, the entire village’s combined wealth might not be enough. So, what do you do if you want to keep both your kids and your money? Here are a few tips to get the most out of your revenue when raising children.
Still Expensive by the Dozen
According to a recent government report, the cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 now exceeds $233,000 for a middle-income married couple. That’s nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise a single child. Food, clothing, medical, and other necessities are simply more expensive than ever before, to say nothing of the rising cost of housing. And, while it’s true that families with more children will experience an economies-of-scale effect (cheaper by the dozen), there’s no doubt that raising children is a pricey pursuit.
If you’re in the early stages of parenthood, and the cost of diapers and baby food seem extreme, you’re in for some sticker shock when you see how expensive it is to have a teenager. Like fine wine, kids only get more expensive with age. They eat more food, have higher transportation costs (including insurance costs), and generally get more expensive as time goes on. In fact, average annual expenses increase by roughly $900 for kids ages 15-17.
Bringing Home the Bacon
Next to housing, food expenses account for the largest share of the total cost of raising a child. The average family will spend about $42,000 (or 18% of the total child-rearing cost) just to feed a child through age 17, and that’s without taking inflation into account. That’s a hefty food bill, no matter your tastes. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about your nutrition, and make your food dollars stretch a little farther.
While it might be tempting to resort to take-out every night as your schedule gets more hectic, eating out is much more expensive than cooking at home. By planning out your meals and eating at home, you can save a lot of money, especially as your kids get older. The USDA’s Choose My Plate website is a great resource to better understand the expenses involved in feeding a family. It includes a food calculator to estimate your costs and help you stay on budget, as well as healthy meal planning tips for your entire family.
A Budget for Your Babies
Speaking of budgeting, a little financial planning can go a long way when it comes to parenthood. Remember, that $233,000 figure doesn’t include college expenses. So, if you plan to help with your kids’ education, you’re going to need to find a way to save some extra cash. Even if your kids are on their own to pay for college, working out a budget to save for your kids’ future expenses is always a good idea. Your budget will likely change over time, depending on your kids’ interests and activities, and that’s perfectly fine.
As long as you have a plan to keep on top of expected and emergency expenses that are coming down the pipeline, you’ll be all right. Simplify your budget so that you’ll actually use it. And, don’t be afraid to include a few of your own hopes and dreams, in addition to those of your kids, to give you a little extra motivation to stick to it.
The costs of raising children may be increasing at an alarming rate, but with a little budgetary planning and willingness to go the extra mile to save a little extra money, you can be ready for the expenses that parenting life throws at you.