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Becoming parents has been the biggest change we’ve experienced as a couple. When we found out we were going to having a baby, one of the first things we sat down and talked about -after celebrating about the news!- was making sure we had a financial cushion.

How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child?

We had heard and read about how expensive it could be, so we started tracking our baby expenses. We wanted to see for ourselves and to hopefully help others.

One of the most referenced sources about the costs of having a child is the USDA’s site where currently it’s estimated that it would cost $241,080 to raise a child to 18 years of age. Based on how many kids you have and how old they are, you can get national and regional averages for the costs associated with children.

Like last year, I decided to go ahead and review our expenses to see how we compare to the USDA’s estimates. It’s a fun exercise and gives us an opportunity to see where we did well and where we could improve.

I’m using the USDA’s categories and descriptions as a guide so it can be closer comparison. As always, please feel free to share your family’s own numbers below along with your region. I hope this information cane be useful for couples considering having children who want to get an idea of what expect in terms of their finances.

Housing Costs

According to the USDA,  housing includes mortgage, property taxes, utilities, furniture, and appliances, with the national average at $4,988 with the Southeast around $4,513. That means that on average having a child adds about $415.67/month to your housing bills.

Here is where I have a few questions. There are definitely costs to having a roof over your family’s head, whether it’s mortgage or rent. How much of that is that, though, directly tied to having children? Going from a one bed room apartment to a two bedroom is a change that is easy to quantify and track, but what if you already have a house?

We bought our home before we had our daughter, so there was no real change with the mortgage. We converted the guest room into her nursery before she arrived, but otherwise the general housing costs have been the same. To be fair, we have seen an increase with our utilities (electricity and gas), but not by much – in 2013 we spent $1,090. [For the purpose of this comparison I’m using this amount for housing costs.]

Food

toddler food costs

“Feed me!”

Besides groceries, the USDA includes eating out at restaurants, fast food joints, and school meals.  They estimated that nationally parents spent about $1,788 and this region matching that amount.

We love to eat. Looking back at 2013, we spent a total of $5,343.90 on groceries for the whole family. How much is this devoted for our baby girl? That’s hard to say in exact numbers, so I went back to our spending before we had a baby and found that we had spent $4626 in 2010, giving us an increase of $717.90.

Transportation

The USDA includes car loan, gas, insurance, and maintenance in transportation costs. The national average is $2,163 with the Southeast keeping pace with $2,113. We do not have a car loan as we bought the Accord with cash.

Reviewing all of transportation expenses in 2013 for both our car’s gasoline, insurance, and maintenance expenses came out to $3,431.28. My husband’s car is practically just for commuting to work so I could lower this number, but I’d hate to pour through and see which fill-ups were his and which were mine for the entire year.

Clothing

The USDA includes diapers, clothing, shoes, and dry cleaning under ‘clothing’. National average for clothing was $980 and the Southeast was $950 which mean parents are spending about $80/month. We spent $385.01 on our daughter in 2013.

Big savings here as we have enjoyed the wonderful combination of hand me downs and a lovely consignment boutique. We also buy new clothes to fill in gaps and growth spurts. The money saved is redirected towards other family financial goals and to build our daughter’s savings.

Health Care

The national average for health care insurance, co-pays, and deductibles) is $1,100 and the Southeast is just a smidge under with $1,038.

We have insurance through my husband’s job and the cost for the three of us in 2013 came out to be $6,932.16. Should we have another child the monthly premium cost remains the same.

As far as figuring out how much our daughter’s portion is we’re estimating about $180/month or $2,160.

Childcare/Education

Besides daycare, this also includes baby sitting. Looking at the national level, the average is $3,725 and the region is $3,525. For us we paid practically nothing as I watch our daughter and we’ve had friends and family generously offering to baby sit.

While I was pregnant my husband and I talked about what would work best for us . We decided that I would continue to work from home (with reduced hours) and watch her during the day and evaluate the situation every so often. I have to say it has been better than I expected, but of course some adjustments had to be made. I take on few projects and the ones I accept have to be flexible such as having weekly or monthly deadlines.

Misc

Ah, my favorite category, the one where (almost) everything else gets swept under. For USDA this nondescript label goes for expenses like personal care (toothbrushes, haircuts), entertainment, and reading material. For the country the average is $1,138 and the Southeast is $975.

As far as kids’ activities, we spent $236.57 for trips to the museums, bowling alley, baseball games, and more. Some of the expenses were because we paid for some friends to join us, which enhanced the experiences even more.

Thoughts on the Costs of Raising a Toddler

As you can see, even though the USDA’s study reflects some families’ annual expenses with raising their children, it can vary wildly from your own. For us we’re estimating that $5,827.85 was spent taking care of our daughter.

We shared our story and numbers, I’d love to hear from you about your expenses. What has been the biggest expense the past year with your toddler? Where have you managed to save money without sacrificing quality?

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

8 comments comments closed

  1. We haven’t crunched the numbers, but I may now… Anecdotally, we probably would have bought a smaller house if we didn’t have kids. In MA that would probably be about $100,000 to $200,000 difference, particularly because we likely would not have been as obsessed with the “good schools” towns, which add a premium on the housing.

    Preschool costs us a pretty penny these days, but that’s more of a “want” than a need, since our town offers part-time preschool for free. We pay up to get it full time.

    I’m with you. I suspect it’s overrated, particularly if you look for free alternatives to paid activities. Our library offers tons of free programs. We have paid a few bucks for sports, too.

    Aside from house, and school our biggest expense is probably milk and apple juice…

    • I’ve been surprised with how great the variance is with outside childcare costs. I have a generally idea of the Raleigh area, but even in the same area, it can be a huge difference between centers.

  2. I have to question some of the estimates as well. As you pointed out, how exactly is the housing component determined? If you have a large house before kids, does that really factor into the cost of raising them? In the one hand I could say yes since you need the house to raise the kids, but one the other hand no because maybe you wanted a big house regardless.

    • That’s my concern -It’s hard to determine the effect of having kids on some expenses. Hopefully, running the numbers can help parents see ways they could perhaps optimize them.

  3. I think that in general, young kids cost way more than those without kids would realize. From my experience anyway.

    I recall one example where I was talking to a younger colleague about daycare, and he asked how much it cost. I told him, and he was floored. He really thought it was like $100 or so per month for a kid for day care. Made me realize what a different worldview that guy had than me:)

    That being said, I think that some estimates can go overboard. I’m not sold on the numbers from that study.

    • And that’s why I wanted to run the numbers – I just didn’t believe the expenses would be that high. Studies like this can be helpful, but it doesn’t replace looking into things yourself.