Do You Really Need to Spend $14,000 a Year on Your Child?

by Miranda Marquit · 7 comments


Every year, the USDA updates the average cost of raising a child from birth to age 18. The latest figure is in line with recent years that you are likely to spend close to a quarter million dollars raising a child.

Breaking down the latest average and the figure is actually $14,000 per year. However, you can use the calculator provided by the USDA to get an idea of how your situation might impact what you are likely to spend. In my case, the calculator says that the number is a little more than $23,000 a year.

Luckily, I don’t spend $23,000 a year on my 14-year old son. How do I do it?

Can You Get Away with Spending Less?

In most cases, it’s probably possible to get away with spending less on your children than the government estimates.

Some of the ways you can spend less focus on food and clothing costs. You can also save money on housing, depending on your situation and where you live.

I know that I save money on my son’s clothing by shopping sales. My son also gets some hand-me-downs from his dad. If you have more than one child, you can cut costs by saving clothing in good shape and passing it down to your other children.

Food is another area where it’s possible to save money on what you spend on your children. You don’t want to starve your kids, but there are plenty of money-saving tricks that don’t involve depriving your children of nutrition.

Coupons, discounts, and other tricks, like buying in bulk and preparing meals ahead of time can save you money in the long run. There’s no reason to spend a ton of money on food when there are resources available to you. There are plenty of ways to save even if you shop at higher end grocery stores like Whole Foods.

Look for ways to save a little extra money, and you won’t need to spend as much as expected.

Planning for the Costs of Having Children

Spending less than the national average on children might only feel good for a short while though, since the reality is that having kids still costs quite a bit of money. Another kid always increases overall costs. After all, you are adding another human being to the equation.

So plan ahead in order to deal with the expenses more easily. Make sure to set money aside for different activities and needs before the funds are needed. I set aside money each month in a 529 plan for my son to help with college costs down the road. I also know that we will spend money on his fencing and on his band involvement.

Look ahead to the activities and costs you will pay for your children at different times in their lives. You know you will need to buy diapers and take care of other items when a child is born. Older children will also need food, clothes, and likely some money set aside of their friend’s birthdays and other outings. Childcare, extracurricular activities, and the cost of potentially moving into a larger place should all be considered.

Start a fund now so you will be prepared when the need arises. The earlier you start saving, the easier you can deal with all the expenses.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Desi Hisab says:

    I think you need to keep a tab on child’s impulse purchases. Buy whatever is required anything excess is obvious waste because unlike adult child outgrows after certain time period. Rather invest for his future. May be an insurance plan to cover his education expenses.

  • LL says:

    In my area full time, licensed, well rated daycare is $1600 a month for 1 kid. So we are already spending way more than 14k just on that.

  • A says:

    Yeah, I’ve looked into it before, and I’m pretty sure these studies factor in the extra cost for housing/utilities/transportation/food that you spend as a family rather than a couple, along with daycare costs. It’s not that people are out there spending $1K/month on toys and dance classes.

    • David Ning says:

      Yup the studies for sure add in basic living costs too. I actually think kids in my neck of the woods are even more expensive to raise because it seems like everybody is spending more than $1,000 a month on kids if you factor in housing costs here in California.

  • I think the thing that really helps me keep the costs down on both of my kids is not having them in daycare. Hopefully, my son will start when he’s around 2, but we are able to keep that down to 4k and under a year. Also, when people ask what your kids need for their birthdays, tell them things they need like clothes, underwear, socks, etc. I’ve done this every year since my daughter was born and she is 7 now. For Christmas and her birthdays I usually get her one or two toys or something else she’s been bugging out over. It costs me less to focus on her few occasional wants and leave the clothes to my mother (she enjoys shopping for her more than I do anyway).

    • David Ning says:

      Wow just $4k a year on childcare costs is unheard of in this part of the country. We are in southern California and pay $1400 a month!

      Good ideas about suggesting clothes for the kids. Aside from not needing to get them clothes, the kids also won’t be overwhelmed with toys and become ungrateful of their good fortunes!

    • David says:

      My better half goes to garage and church sales and it amazes me what she brings back, brand new with tags in a lot of cases. And she finds things that I can resell on Craigslist or eBay so I figure that her shopping is about break even so I don’t mind that she goes.

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