What It Costs to Raise a Child
Raising children can be invaluable and something a parent will cherish forever. The cost of those memories, however, is much more than time spent, diapers changed, toys picked up, and tears shed. (See also: 7 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Stay-at-Home Parent)
As any parent will tell you, there are financial costs to raising children, though they probably don't closely track them. The federal government does, however.
Average Annual Cost Per Kid
The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture [PDF] put the annual cost of raising a child from $12,290 to $14,320 in a two-child, married couple, middle-income family.
Child-rearing costs through age 17 vary by family income level. The total costs range from $212,370 to $490,830, with the average middle-income family spending $295,560 to raise a child through age 17. These expenses don't include college.
The USDA also offers a child cost calculator, which can be a fun form of birth control for would-be parents who have a few seconds to spare online. The calculator asks for the number and age of children, how many parents live in the household, where you live, and before-tax annual household income.
Zip Code Influences Kid Cost...
Some areas of the country are more expensive to live in than others, which might be an incentive to move. Child-rearing expenses were highest in the urban Northeast, followed by the urban West and urban Midwest. They were lowest in the urban South and rural areas. The costs of housing, child care, and education had the most regional differences.
...and So Does Your Kid's Age
Expenses increased as children age, the report finds, with food, transportation, clothing, and health care expenses rising the most as a child eats more and starts driving.
Where Your Kid Money Goes
Where does the money go? About where you'd expect.
- Housing: 30%
- Child care and education: 18%
- Food: 16%
- Transportation: 14%
- Healthcare: 8%
- Clothing: 6%
Another 8% went to miscellaneous expenditures, which can quickly drain a parent's pockets. These include:
- Personal care items and services such as haircuts and toothbrushes
- Entertainment such as portable media players, sports equipment, and computers
- Reading materials such as nonschool books and magazines
- Admission fees such as paying to go to a movie, baseball game, or amusement park
Those costs seem to add up fast during summer when a child is bored.
College Is Extra
A big expense that isn't included is the cost of sending a kid to college, although parents might be taking on that expense if they're saving for a child's college education before the child turns 18.
The USDA report cites statistics from the College Board that in 2012 the annual average tuition and fees at a four-year public college with in-state tuition was $8,244, and was $28,500 at a four-year private college. Annual room and board was $8,887 at a public college and $10,089 at a private college. That adds up to about $33,000 to attend a public college for four years, or $114,000 for four years at a private college.
Maybe those priceless pieces of school-made art from kindergarten can be sold at auction.
Kids Cost Opportunity, Too
Along with the cost of raising children, the USDA had other bad news for parents — they're likely to earn less money as they spend their time with their children instead of in the workforce. Current earnings and future career opportunities may be diminished because of job choice or reduced time in the labor force for one or both parents. If a parent has to stay home and take care of children, that parent won't earn as much money as they would otherwise.
But at least the report gets to the point of child-rearing that only parents can understand and appreciate — the rewards are priceless, no matter what the cost.
Or, as the USDA bluntly puts it, "The direct and indirect costs of raising children are considerable, absorbing a major share of the household budget. On the other hand, these costs may be outweighed by the benefits of children."
Where do your child-rearing dollars seem to go? Are you getting your money's worth?