I’m torn over whether I should sign my 6-year-old up for dance.
I know she would love it, but frankly, I find the $150 monthly price tag a tad overwhelming. Do I have an extra couple grand a year to commit, or can I just have her play at the park, for free?
It’s no surprise that the overall cost of raising kids is skyrocketing (we’ve noted this before, along with tips for easing the pain). The cost of raising a child from birth to 17 rose 25% from 2000 to 2010. According to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture, the average two-parent, middle-income family with a child born in 2011 could anticipate spending $234,900 to raise a child to 17 (not including the costs of pregnancy, childbirth or college).
Although LearnVest can’t personally help you stem the tide, we can help you prepare yourself for what’s ahead.
What can you expect as Junior grows? We spoke with parents around the country to find out which costs have surprised them most.
Infancy (0-12 months): Diapers
The USDA confirms what many of us already know; the urban Northeast is the most expensive place in the country to raise a kid. Amy in Manhattan would agree. She spends almost $33,000 a year to pay for full-time daycare for her 1-year-old daughter McKenna.
Of course, the knowledge that childcare in Manhattan is expensive is hardly a revelation. Which expense took her most by surprise? “I had no idea they use as many diapers as they do!” she says. The average baby will use upward of 2,700 diapers in the first year of life. At about $0.20 a pop for disposables, you’re looking at close to $550 (although cloth diapers will cost you less than half that … and you can skip the expense entirely if you’re like this mom whose kids went diaper-free).
Toddler (12-36 months): Daycare
More surprising than the costs of big-city daycare is the fact that it’s still expensive in less urban areas. “Daycare costs are ridiculous,” says Bridget in Laramie, WY. Most of what she spends on her 2-year-old son goes to daycare ($8,400 per year), with extracurricular activities such as Spanish and swimming lessons coming in second.
“The amount of money we spend on daycare in one year is almost enough to cover two years of tuition at the state university,” she says.
Preschool (Ages 3-5): Education and Health Care
Most of the parents we spoke to agreed that the cost of preschool itself was the most shocking. Michael in Washington, D.C., father of 5-year-old Skylar, says: “We did not expect to have to pay $15,000 per year to send our child to preschool. That was a shocker!” He warns parents that “the cost for after-school and extracurricular activities sneaks up on you very quickly.”
“Preschool costs surprised me,” agrees Simone in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s the mom of Imogen, 6, and Tom, 3. She calculates that when all is said and done, her family will have spent $70,000 sending both kids to three years of preschool.
Patrick, father of 5-year-old John in Philadelphia, notes that health care can also get expensive. While the average child will cost about $18,000 to keep healthy until age 17, many families are faced with unexpected costs not covered by insurance. “The cost of health care was surprising,” says Patrick. He estimates his family is looking at $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for an occupational therapist and a speech therapist for his son.