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Kids are expensive, but how much do they really cost?


Kids are expensive, but how much do they really cost?

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Kids are expensive, but how much do they really cost?

Considering having a baby? You’d better start saving money as soon as possible. The staggering financial expense associated with raising a single child is more than most people realize. CBS News reports the Department of Agriculture’s findings that claim the cost of raising a child to the age of 17 is about $233,610 in 2015 dollars. This is an average estimate for a middle-income family.

Of course, the cost will be higher in urban areas and less in rural ones. It is important to note that this figure does not include the expense of college or money spent after the age of 17 when parents often make the largest expenditures trying to help their children get established in the world as self-sufficient young adults.

Long after the last baby shower, this living breathing human being that came into the world as an innocent, sweet bundle of joy will become a thirsty consumer that expects to be clothed, fed and provided with the latest high-tech toys such as cell phones and laptops. Kids will expect you to keep them plugged in, no matter the cost.

It is one thing to make a personal decision to forego the latest fads yourself, but it is much more difficult to say “No” to your child when they want something that all the other kids have. After all, your offspring have those giant eyes and they learn quickly how to use them to get what they want as master manipulators. It’s a survival skill.

Raising a Family in the City Versus the Country

It is no surprise that location makes a big difference in how much it costs to raise a child. CBS reports that urban areas of the Northeast cost the most, averaging $253,770 per child, with the cheapest U.S. rural area parents averaging expenditures of $193,020. Comparatively, CBS also reports that The urban West figure is $235,140 and the urban South’s average layout to raise a child is about $221,730. To put these figures into perspective, it helps to identify how middle-class is defined. CBS published the income range for middle class as $59,200 to $107,400.

The Impact of Income Differences on Amount Spent on Children

Understandably, income levels strongly impact the amount of money spent on children. CBS reports that lower-income families spend considerably less than middle-income families, averaging about $174,690. Comparatively, higher-income families spend a staggering $372,210, according to CBS.

It is not surprising that children from families that earn less income are less likely to participate in extracurricular activities like sports. MarketWatch reports that the rising cost of sports has contributed to the fact that low-income children are much less likely to participate in these activities, with their richer counterparts three times more likely to be involved.

Costs Grow as Children Age

The older your kids get, the more you will spend. Your six-year old son may not care too much about the brand of sneakers he wears, but just wait until he becomes a teenager and begins to want a popular brand of sneakers that cost $200. As children become more sophisticated, their taste demands higher-quality clothes, shoes and technology.

When older kids start dating, you will pay the bill. You will do it because it is important for your child’s development. You’ll pay higher insurance rates so your teen driver can drive your car. In many cases, you will buy your teenager a car so that you can stop playing chauffeur. It happens. And, don’t forget the expensive concert tickets, summer camps and music lessons.

The Cost of Adoption and Fertility Treatments

When you combine new technology with the fact that couples are waiting longer to have children, then you have the perfect environment for fertility treatment. Many women wait too long to get pregnant and get the disheartening news that they can no longer conceive without some help.

USA Today reports that a single fertility treatment can cost about $15,000. Unfortunately, this in vitro fertilization expense grows with each try to make a baby. It can take several attempts before it works. Those figures add up fast and can easily reach $45,000 or more before success rewards a mother wannabe with pregnancy.

For some, adoption is the only route for couples who can’t conceive or who would rather give a home to a child who needs one. In some cases, adoption can actually cost more than fertility treatments, with average expenditures of $15,000 to $40,000 spent in the U.S. for related expenses as reported by USA Today. International adoptions cost even more.

Expense Breakdown

Once your baby is born, what can you expect to spend your money on? It sounds insane to think the average family spends about one-quarter of a million dollars to raise one child from a tiny, dependent creature to a fully-functioning adult who can survive on their own, but believe it. If you plan on sending your child to college or private school, it will cost you much more.

So, here’s the breakdown. Child care is one of the major expenses that parents should count on. Some people spend more on child care expenses than on rent. MarketWatch estimates that 16 percent of what is spent on your children will be for child care expenses. This cost can cripple lower-income families and makes it almost impossible for some mothers to work if their earnings are close to minimum wage.

MarketWatch estimates the top two costs to be housing and food with housing expenses taking 28 percent of the total expense paid to raise your offspring. Not surprisingly, MarketWatch estimates that food will cost a whopping 18 percent of your total expenditures. Transportation costs are 15 percent and health care for your son or daughter is nine percent. Finally, clothes average six percent of your overall payout per child. The last number needed to add up to 100 percent is seven percent attributed to miscellaneous expenses. All of these numbers were provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and published in MarketWatch.

Education Costs

One commonly-held belief about the American Dream has been that you send your kids to college. It is no secret that higher education often leads to better career prospects and to a better lifestyle. If CNN Money’s figures are accurate, then as of May 2017, parents could expect to pay $57,000 to send a child to college. Many college students are having to take out oppressive student loans so that they can attend college, since this price tag is more than many families can afford. Families with more than one child can find college tuition for all of their children to be out of reach.

CNN reports that a two-year college costs about $7,560 for enrollment as a full-time student for the school year 2016 through 2017. Public college tuition is $14,210. Finally, private non-profit universities are the most expensive, costing an average of $26,100 for that same school year.


While it may seem cold and calculating, conducting a cost benefit analysis before you have children might be the best birth control you will ever need. Granted, the idea of having a family is certainly appealing to many people, but the reality of the economic sacrifice required may make this dream fall short when it is time to pay for it. There is simply no way around the fact that kids are a luxury that many people feel they can’t afford.

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