Ask the Readers: How Much Does it Cost to Raise a Family? (Chance to Win!)

by Linsey Knerl on 12 October 2010 41 comments

Those of you with kids are probably feeling the recession the hardest.  In fact, many people are putting off having kids in the recession because of the "costs" involved with feeding, clothing, and gifting to a child. 

Our good friend, Kimberly Palmer, understands what those who want to be financially secure may not be aware of the expenses of raising a family.  She's addressed this issue (along with several other worhty topics) in her new book "Generation Earn"

In her new book, she addresses the following topics:

  • What should I be doing with my savings?
  • Should I take on freelance jobs?
  • Where should I invest my money?
  • Should I buy a house or keep renting?
  • Does it make sense to share a mortgage with my significant other?
  • Can I afford a baby?
  • Should I start a nonprofit?
  • How can I support the causes I believe in?

We want to know. What does it take to raise a family in a financially-secure way these days? If you share your tips or experiences, you'll be entered to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card and one copy of Kimberly's new book!  (And don't forget to join us this Thursday at 4pm CST for our weekly Tweet chat!  We'll have a chance to talk with Kimberly about the cost of raising kids.  You can ask your best questions for another chance to win!)

Win one of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards or a copy of "Generation Earn"

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

How to Enter:

  • Post your answer in the comments below,
  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, then "Like" the update mentioning this giveaway (you can comment, as well — but you don't have to for entry.)
  • Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, October 18th at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced after October 18th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)
  • Only those who have "Liked" both our Facebook page and the contest update will be entered.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Grandma Pom

My best guess is $250,000 per kid, maybe less if they go to community college?

Guest's picture
Laura D

We don't have kids yet, but we've already talked about keeping the baby purchases to an absolute minimum. I can see how easy it would be to go overboard on baby toys, clothes, and furniture, so I hope that by laying out our game plane ahead of time, I'll be able to resist the rows of adorable onesies at Target without feeling like a bad parent!

Guest's picture
Guest

My guess for a family of 5 is close to $800,000 (just to get them out of the house) -- not counting college.

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

More than we thought. We have two teens (15 & 17) and even though they did not get the latest & trendiest material goods, they still cost a lot of money. They're willing to work for the things they want (pay their own cellphones, saving for a used car, paying for driver's ed, etc.), which is a help to us. When a big expense is on the horizon (college is coming up in two years), we sit down to discuss finances and form a plan.

Wish we were more educated in finances earlier on. Still would have had kids, knowing they are costly, but they are worth it; just would have planned better.

Guest's picture
Betty

I can't give a $ amount, as I'm still paying! A better question would be when does the financial help stop?! My daughter is 19, living at college. I'm too scared to try to total the money spent so far!

Guest's picture
KelR1

I always see articles that say the average cost of raising a baby up until age 18 is $100-200k, but I think it can vary wildly since I see A LOT of parents overspending on non-necessities. Rapidly growing little ones who don't really care or understand what they're wearing do not need designer clothing and gold-plated strollers!

Guest's picture
Nicholas

More than a vasectomy, I bet.

Did I win?

Guest's picture
XJ

ha! So true. You win in my book. :D

Guest's picture
Carmen

I'd love to know the answer to this question. We're expecting our first in December.

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

Congratulations Carmen. =)

Hope this thread doesn't add to your stress.

Guest's picture
Marie

I don't have any children, but I have heard close to $200,000 through age 18. Whoa!!

Guest's picture
Orchid

Priceless! Each of mine has been the joy of my life....They've educated me more than my graduate degree in college. They've motivated me more than hundreds of seminars. They've enriched my life more that every annual raise that I've gotten. They've pushed me through the tough times in life when I didn't think I could succeed. How much could I have spent on those things? Honestly, their "cost" is a negative number. They are "income" valued much higher numbers on biweekly sheet of paper I take to the bank.
My Kindergartener knows that she EARNS her money for being polite/helpful/kind, a personal daily goal, keeping her bedroom tidy, and her work (school). At the end of the week, she decides how much of that should be donated (and to what cause), saved (for something special), and spent.
Raising financially secure, well brought up children is not a financial investment. It has little to do with a dollar figure. If you're looking to quantify any aspect, look at your watch....How much time did you spend with your little ones today?

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

Your Kindergartener sets aside money for charitable donations? Wow, I guess it's true--everything you need to know is learned in kindergarten. Congratulations on raising such a wonderful kid.

Guest's picture
Christie

It costs more than you can imagine, but just having them is priceless. You can rear them so that they understand the value of money and what things cost though. In my own experience with my two children, they look carefully at the prices of things and weigh that in their choices of necessity and wants, and they are only 10 and 8! While it does cost more money to have children than not, even with all the tax breaks you can get, there is nothing more "worth it" in the world than a tight hug of little arms around the neck and hearing "I love you, Mommy (or Daddy)". That alone is worth any dollar amount on the planet.

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

Dam it! Who's chopping onions in here!

Guest's picture
Lynda

it takes more than you expect because you can never be too prepared. never been too embaraseed to ask for help though.

Guest's picture
Theresa

I have 4 teenagers, and I'm still not sure when it will end. Fortunately, they don't have expensive tastes, but there are definitely some big costs involved.

Guest's picture
echomyst

A sum that I'm not able to fathom yet!

Our daughter's only seven months old and so far we've kept costs low with breastfeeding, cloth diapers, bed-sharing, used / gifted clothing and toys, etc. ... it will be much tougher as she grows older. So many expensive lessons, places to travel together as a family, toys, clothing, ... university. This last expense is the scariest, even with all our hopes for scholarships / bursaries / alternative schooling!

Guest's picture
Keith

So much that it forces you to weigh having more against any of your other life dreams. At north of $250,000 per child, plus college cost, that equates to a significant chunk of retirement, countless trips, debt freedom and list could go on. To raise a family well, family growth decisions must be considered just as any other of life's significant decisions, including opportunity cost, monetary cost, time cost, emotional cost and the like. Trying not to sound heartless, but rather reasonable.

Guest's picture
JJ

I'm nowhere near even considering a family of my own yet, but maybe about $165,630?

Guest's picture

Obviously, raising a family costs money. And the cost can be intimidaiting. However, our household was able to defray a lot of these costs by simply re-thinking your wants/needs list in life.

Obviously, the cost of providing for your family/children in a meaningful way should supercede a lot of your personal "wants".

I simply decided to do without a lot of the things that were "wants" for me personally, or simply delay them, or actually, just move them down the list.

Therfore, factoring in the costs for my family did not have as big an effect on our family's economy as I thought they would.

Guest's picture
Kayster

I don't know the amount, but always live below your means, save, invest and share your savy financial skills with your kids.

Guest's picture
coco

i don't know the cost, but we have 3 boys and provide all of the needs and some of the wants. it adds up, but we don't buy things that are "typical", like cell phones. our oldest are 10 and 12 and they don't have phones. to me that seems like a huge waste of $$$.

Guest's picture
Trina

Yes, raising kids introduces new financial challenges, but it can be done for less than you think. In fact, creating a quality lifestyle with our children is what first inspired my husband and me to discover home-cooking, creative frugality, free simple pastimes, and homeschooling (we've learned more than the kids!). Having kids has motivated us to really evaluate our priorities in life, financial and otherwise, and take conscious steps to achieve our goals. We've been raising kids for 22 years, and I doubt we would have the same degree of financial security now if we hadn't taken these important lifestyle steps along the way, specifically because of raising kids. How's that for a twist?

Guest's picture
Candice

It's a really hard question to answer, just because living expenses vary so widely from family to family, depending on where you live, how you spend, etc etc etc.

I actually did look at these numbers in a blog post last year: http://weeessentials.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/the-cost-of-raising-a-child/

At the time they were saying $212,000 (without inflation) to raise a child born in 2008 to age 18. Even including housing and electrical - which we'd pay with or without kids - I was calculating less than half that. I'd love to see where they got $212,000.

My best friend made a cheeky comment too, which kind of proved my point - kids don't need new clothes (my two sons both used the same wardrobe, much of which was given to us by other mothers with sons.) They don't need lots of toys, lessons in every extracurricular activity under the sun, trips to Disneyland every summer, etc. When you start adding the non-necessities in, especially a lot of them, that number goes up fast!

Guest's picture
Jared

my guess is about 1 million.

I say that cost I am factoring the money that could have been invested in the parents retirement, but instead used for buying new clothes,fancy toys, cellphones and unlimited calling and texting for the kids and teens. lol!

Guest's picture
Diane

Honestly, I can't put a dollar figure on that. But it's more than you ever imagined~ and they're worth every bit of it! At the moment it feels the financial drain will never end. I have 1 son (24) graduated from college & living at home while looking for a job. 2nd son (19) is attending community college to start & living at home to save money.

I'm just hoping I can hang in there until they are both financially independent!

Guest's picture
kerri

I'd say $550,000. But I would spend even more, I love my children. The money dosen't scare me, the reward of being a parent is so much more!!!!

Guest's picture
Laura

We have 9 kids. I have no idea how much it cost to raise them, but I do know what my husband's salary was, first as a Marine for 27 years, then as a computer guy in the IT industry. I stayed at home with the children, so we only had his wages to live on. We lived within our means. The babies were all breast-fed for the first year of life (some a bit longer). We used cloth diapers as much as possible. We were always grateful for hand-me-downs (for every member of the family) and usually only had to spend money on my husband's uniforms, underwear for everyone, and shoes. (Generally speaking, I only bought one new pair of shoes per child in spring and in fall, until their feet stopped growing.) We also shopped thrift stores and yard sales for clothes, and we made certain to find others to pass out-grown clothes to.

I shopped sales for groceries and made most of our meals from scratch. We rarely ate out, but often invited other families or college students to come eat with us. Our girls shared a room together, and our boys shared rooms. None of our children had his or her own car, but drove the family vehicle when necessary (a 15-passenger van - and yes, all the driving-age kids can parallel park it). If we buy a new car (or a used car) we keep it long after it's paid off and continue driving it, keeping it maintained, until it can no longer be driven.

We never had a "nursery." Infants and toddlers slept in the master bedroom or in the room with older siblings. Birthday parties were and are simple: cake, the birthday person's favorite meal, and friends and family members all together to celebrate the day. Usually we ask that there be no gifts. Christmas is bigger, because my husband loves to make a huge celebration for that day. We begin getting gifts for our children in June, and set them aside for Christmas. In recent years our daughters have wanted clothes for Christmas, so we look for good sales and spend $30 to $50 on clothing items for each girl. I save up points at PaperBackSwap and look for good prices on new books at Amazon, and get each child 4 to 10 books for Christmas. Usually we try to give one child a big item for Christmas, but we all pitch in for that. (Last Christmas we all went in together, kids and parents, to give our 30-year-old son an iTouch.)

We've home-schooled our children for the last 20 years and look forward to 10 more years before being done. Our 2 oldest sons served in the military and got education benefits that way. One other son and 2 daughters received academic scholarships for college. One daughter just beginning college has a loan and is working. The other three are still at home.

We lived in rental houses, base housing, and a house we bought. We looked for places we could afford, and made the space work for us. The children spent most of their time outside when not working on schoolwork. My oldest daughter says that growing up her toys were dirt and sticks (to be fair, there was also a very nice creek in the backyard of one of our homes), and it's true that we didn't spend money on swing sets or complicated play equipment. (We did have a couple of swing sets, some bikes, and a Little Tikes car given to us, however.)

So how much does it cost to raise a child? That's up to the parents, and the way they choose to live.

Guest's picture
pat

hmmm...i think it depends on where you live--i know lots of families that still have to support their college kids because there is no way that they could go to school and work enough to make rent. or adult kids have to come back to live at home because they can't support themselves.

Guest's picture
Deb

Well I didn't wait for having a child, I did the opposite. Two weeks after I lost my job, we received a phone call from the adoption agency we were working with. They had a 5 month old boy for us. We did not think twice about whether we could afford a child or not this was a dream come true for us. We don't regret adopting our son one bit and we don't believe it has been that much add financial burden. I either get his clothes free as hand me downs from friend or buy them at garage sales, same with toys. The most expensive stuff was the formula and diapers. We solved the diaper expense by using cloth. Children don't care about the material stuff they most care about the relationship and time they have with their parents and family.

Guest's picture
Danille

I think it cost's as much as you have :)

Guest's picture
P

Phew, if college tuition is already 30K for certain public schools, then by the time my kids reach that age, it'll probably be closer to 50K. For 4 years that is already 200K. I'm going to estimate 500K to raise a kid...sigh.

Guest's picture
Holly

If you are planning to have both parents work outside the home, the cost can be $100,000 per child before they hit first grade. I estimate I spent $100,000 per child on day care alone during the first six years of life alone. Be sure you can factor in the cost of child care when planning for a child, and if you are thinking about moving know what the cost of child care is in your new area. It can vary within region. I moved 45 miles and found my day care costs increased by several hundred dollars per month.

The (childless, or with a stay at home parent) pundits suggest timing your child's birth for the end of the year to take maximum advantage of tax benefits. However, if you will be a dual-income family it would be much savvier to plan for the birth shortly before the deadline to start school. That extra year of daycare for those who miss the deadline can be $15,000+.

Guest's picture
Michelle

It costs a lot to raise a family but the cost is offset in the feelings of reward and love that you get in return. I would do it all over again!

Guest's picture
Krister

I think the $200,000 average is way exaggerated. I have a two year old, and another on the way, and my daughter has only cost me about $5000 in two years (including hospital bills from her birth) We cloth diaper, and gladly accept hand me downs.

Also it seems the more children you have, the less expensive each child ends up being. With our next child there will be very little expenses... the diapers have already been purchased, as well as the gear (crib, swing, etc) and I'll breastfeed again so there's no huge expenses there.

Guest's picture
cwaltz

I don't think there really is much of a way to guarantee financial security while raising a family unless you start off ultra rich. I thank God everyday for what I have and know that even though we have a decent job and benefits that all it would take is one disaster and we'd have to start over.

There are millions of people who went to school worked hard and played by the rules and still ended up shafted this recession.

Christine
dazed1821@aol.com

Guest's picture
Lizzeh

I have enjoyed reading the various replies on here. It seems to me that the amount it costs to raise a child is as varied as there are lifestyles of people. You can raise your children frugally or you can lavish them in gifts, vacations etc. I think the biggest cost isn't monetary at all. Having children isn't for everyone - it's a big life decision. not everyone is meant to - or should!- have children, that's for sure. i think you have to weigh the cost to your self more then the monetary expense when making the decision to start a family. Have you got a nice amount of savings? have you completed that bucket list of places to go and things to do? are you financially stable? are you emotionally stable?
I think the price of the decision to have children is the loss of the individual. you will lose yourself, at least for the next 18+ years you will be mom or dad not jack or jill. you'll have someone else to put first instead of yourself.
the price of that is more then some people can bear or are willing to.

Guest's picture
Sarah

As a single mom, I have two beautiful kids. The oldest got a diagnosis of autism at age 4. Beautiful child and beloved but I spent a lot of time taking him to therapies and, when I got a PCA who was good, paying her extra in ways that were legal, like paying for her car insurance.
I cried when he could play soccer at age 7 instead of going to Occupational Therapy three times a week.
I had to pay a huge fee to get him extra insurance to cover Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy and social skills classes. I cannot even add this up. The cost of all the times at school meetings..the leave I had to take from my job..who knows what that is? But, he is a blessing, as is my younger child.

Guest's picture
Night Runner

It takes the same stuff it did in the past: Rational thinking, planning, common sense. Nothing fundamental has changed...

Guest's picture
cmdweb

We have three kids, all under the age of ten. Here in the UK, successive governments have said they support working families but they just don't. With three kids, your average small car just doesn't cut it, so we have a larger car to accomodate three kids safety seats in the back. With fuel taxed off the scale, we're considerably worse off as a result of running the larger car, which we can't operate without.
We also took the decision some years back that my wife wouldn't work and that we'd live on one wage and always be able to look after the kids without imposing on family or friends, paying out a fortune on childcare or burdening the state. I pay almost a full person's wage worth of tax and deductions every month but my wife's tax allowance goes begging and she gets only basic family allowance (aka child benefit) which is a universal benefit here in the UK, now due to be withdrawn in 2013 by the Tory/Lib government.
I'm well paid, I admit it, but even we find it hard to make ends meet. No guarantee of a holiday from one year to the next and no frills or nights out can be afforded most months.
As for the cost of raising kids? I couldn't honestly say what it has cost us. The nappy (diaper) bills have stopped thankfully but the weekly activity costs for the kids are well underway. Every month, the kids activities alone (dancing, swimming etc) cost us about GBP£200, and that's before we've bought any equipment or kit for them.
The cost of having kids in the UK if you are working and intent on not sponging off the state is insane, but you know, I wouldn't have it any other way.