Every parent I know is struggling with the whopping costs of raising kids right now.
Not only are we grappling with the obvious like food, clothing and child care (when did teenagers start charging $15 an hour to babysit?), we’re also in competition to be Parent of the Year, whether that means affording the most expensive strollers, private dance lessons or birthday parties.
Let’s start with the basics: The current cost of raising a child is nearly $235,000 from birth to age 17 (add another $22,000 to $43,000 a year for public or private college). If that seems like a lot, it is. The Wall Street Journal says that number is closer to $900,000 when you factor in college and foregone wages for staying home to raise our children; others argue that it’s over a million.
Child-rearing has gotten pricier—it’s not your imagination. But it’s not all inflation’s fault.
“The cost that is actually required to raise a child has only gone up slightly, but the amount that people are spending has gone up significantly,” says Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University and author of “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.” Caplan says that parents today feel we must do more and more (translation: spend more and more) to give our kids the best possible future. After all, no one wants to be labeled the “bad parent.”
As a result, the mom market has become a $1.7 trillion industry, and the funny thing is, our kids are no better off today than they were 50 years ago, says Caplan. So maybe a wake-up call about this small fortune we’re spending is in order. Here are the leading ways that parenting is—sometimes unnecessarily—robbing our wallets, and what you can do about it.
Remember that $235,000 it costs to raise a kid? Housing accounts for roughly one third of that, according to the USDA. But what does that mean? Well, consider whether you’ve thought of moving to a bigger place to accommodate your growing clan. That wasn’t always the case, says Caplan. “If you look at the types of homes that people lived in during the 1950s, we’d consider them shacks,” he says. “Today people just live in nicer houses; standards have gone up.”