Life in the Baby Lane: The Real Cost of Raising a Family

Forbidden, discouraged or dismissed by proud parents-to-be, the financial burden of having a child has always been an afterthought, replaced or dismissed by exciting thoughts of cute onesies or that first proud “mama” moment. But as many parents have found out the hard way, children get expensive when those onesies later become a tween’s “has to have” wardrobe, or those first words lead to a pricey college English degree.

According to the recent United Sates Department of Agriculture report, raising a family is more expensive than ever. These results strive to raise important questions and issues about the respect paid to the financial cost of raising a child to adulthood. There is a good deal of ignorance in the American economy, and by deliberately targeting middle-income families, the annual report has opened up a dialogue that is quite useful.

The United States has always had a culture with a high regard for those able to raise a healthy and thriving family. It has strong family ethics and in turn has attracted ambitious generations of child-rearing citizens, many of whom are drawn by the novelty of miniature look-a-likes and the natural instinct to repopulate.

Considering the tangible costs of children makes many people uncomfortable, but to get an accurate gauge of the true cost is to save potential headaches later on.


From homeowner’s insurance to paying the mortgage, housing expenses associated with raising a child have climbed significantly over the past decade. The battered economy has also taken a toll on smaller household items, notable price increases ranging from cost of bedding, to children furniture, and other miscellaneous furnishings. While you know that buying or maintaining a home will likely amount to the largest purchase you will make in your life, it is easy to forget about the additional expenses that accompany a child’s needs. In the 2009 annual USDA report, the cost of housing for a middle-income family throughout 18 years was estimated to be $70,020. Though this number has since slightly decreased, it’d be best to first focus on home expenses when searching for ways to save.


Food prices, in particular, have weighed on parents’ budgets as rising demand and higher prices for goods like corn and wheat have made even a container of oatmeal a luxury purchase. In a child’s first year alone, think $100 for baby formula per month for the first six months, replaced by $50 monthly solid food expenses for the next six. Over the next 17 years, the cost of food will likely find itself in the $35,000 or above range. From these projections alone, one can see its these immediate needs that are often the most underestimated. Food is the main expense that increasingly changes as children age themselves.


From school to soccer practice to ballet before dinner, many parents find themselves playing chaffier to their busy little one. But at what degree are these constructive activities burning a hole in your expense tank? According to the AAA, 85% more per gallon than past decades. Rising gas prices matched with unfavorable gas mileage have parents spending more than $30,000 on child transportation. Given this amount, trimming vehicle costs can pay off with big savings.

Child care & Education

According to the USDA, child care and education are two of the most significant costs for average families. With student debt and college enrollment rising every year, education costs now stem much broader than the local daycare fee required in the first few years. In an effort to sacrifice elsewhere to promote academic excellence, parents spend an average of $40,000 on education costs alone- excluding costs of private or advanced schooling. Early child care can initially seem even more overwhelming. The cheapest public day care ranging in the $300s, personal nannies require staggering salaries reaching into the $3000s. Fewer behavioral problems- faster school acclimation- a brighter academic future- are all promising advantages of the educational variety. But the financial ramifications make them widely debated.

Clothing and Miscellaneous Costs

Shopping can be an emotional release for many people. Lots of individuals shop to reduce stress or just to pass the time with a little fun. But for those with a family in tow, big sprees will likely be replaced with bargain bins. On average, $13,000 is spent on clothing throughout a person’s first 18 years – not to mention the $19,000 for other miscellaneous items. There are many social and cultural factors that tend to determine the rate of shopping and spending. Children are among the most influential.

If one doesn’t have a child – and if they don’t have to provide for them in the present while preparing for the future – mortgage debt or credit card payments wouldn’t seem like such heavy burdens. Forget about kitchen renovations and elaborate vacations, just providing a child with the basic essentials has become more than many families can afford – over $200,000 more (according to the recent USDA poll). These kind of financial ramifications are something one needs to think about before deciding to raise a family. While the price of welcoming a new life into the world is intangible, the realistic expenses are quite concrete.

George Gallagher is a writer for all things finance and family related. He also works with private student loan consolidation credit unions.

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