You’re Not Imagining It: Why Having Kids Is Getting More Expensive


The (Rising) Cost of Having Kids ... and What You're Spending the Most OnAs the parent of an only child, I get a lot of “suggestions” from family, friends and even strangers to have another kid. I’ve heard it all:

“He needs sisters and brothers.”
“He will always be lonely.”
“You need a daughter to care for you when you’re older.”

Still, no matter how much convincing they try to do, the decision to stick to only one child (or at least wait a while) stands.

The reason: Kids are expensive!

Although he’s only in first grade, my son, Darren, has already cost us quite a bit of dough. There’s medical insurance and co-pays, food, clothing, school supplies, field trips, his allowance and (the insanely high-priced) video games and entertainment. It seems the older he gets, the more he wants and needs—and the bigger the number on his kid “price tag.”

I’m worried that by the time he turns seven, his dad and I will both have to take on additional jobs just to handle the expenses. And new research shows it’s not just us—it’s the new reality of having kids.

What Does It Cost to Raise a Kid, Anyway?

The cost of raising a kid from birth to 17 rose a whopping 25% in the past decade, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In its most recent report, for a child born in 2010, a middle-income, two-parent family can expect to shell out almost $227,000 for the necessities needed to raise that child (not including the cost of the pregnancy, childbirth or college).

Factor in inflation and those parents are looking at a grand total of around $287,000.

Of course, housing, transportation, clothing, childcare and other miscellaneous expenses contribute to the large bill, but two major expenses associated with raising a child have climbed significantly.

Hint: They’re in your refrigerator and the medicine cabinet.

What We’re Spending the Most On

In 2000, the grocery bill for raising a child to age 17 was a little under $24,000. In 2010, it had skyrocketed to more than $36,000.

To keep that same child healthy until age 17, in 2000 the fee was almost $9,000. By 2010, parents could expect to cough up double that amount, more than $18,000. (In fact, recent data shows that annual premiums alone for typical family health coverage rose 9% in 2011 to $15,073. We talked more about the rising cost of health care, and what you can do about it, here.)

As for your grocery bill, “the price of staple foods has been steadily rising, particularly because of global warming, and it impacts everything we consume on a daily basis,” says Stephany Kirkpatrick, CFP®, LearnVest’s Director of Financial Planning. “Rather than officially raising prices, companies tend to make smaller packaging. So what was a 24-ounce package is smaller, and we go through it faster.”

While there’s not much we can do about rising prices or shrinking package sizes, what we can do is become more conscious consumers. “As moms are working to balance work and parenting, we often find ourselves buying pre-chopped vegetables or the ready-made chicken dinners at the store, because we’re looking for convenience, instead of sticking to a plan,” says Kirkpatrick. “What will make the biggest difference is coming up with a budget, and sticking to it.”

Now Take a Breath …

Although the news may sound bleak, having a child doesn’t have to be financially crippling. “If you’re reading this now and pregnant, or you just had a baby, don’t panic!” she adds. “And if you’re reading this and have grown kids, don’t panic either! Take a step back, and think about the smart things your own parents did to make it work when you were growing up. Cook dinner and eat leftovers the next day. Use coupons! It might be old-fashioned, but they’re there for a reason.”

There are plenty of other things you can do to help curb the costs of having kids, too. Here’s a handy list of LearnVest resources:

Tell us, how do you save more money on family costs? Share your comments below or in discussions!

  • Ash

    Great article and realistic look at how much it costs to raise a child. I also appreciated reading this from the standpoint of choosing to just have one child. I hear the same things about my daughter being lonely, or that I am selfish for only having one. However, I feel good about making a choice that means financially, we can do more for our child and continue to do things as a family (like travel) or pursue our own passions (my husband can continue his music lessons).

    • CleoBarker

       People actually say YOU’RE SELFISH for only having one kid?! The selfish ones are the ones that have children so that THEY THEMSELVES aren’t lonely. God forbid you didn’t birth a child you don’t want in the first place. Its been proven that only children are typically more successful and more mature. Tell em to shove it and put their rude nose back where it belongs.

  • Sjdemo

    i was an only child. it was an extremely lonely way to grow up. i had no family my age that i saw more than once a year; we moved a lot so i have no friends i grew up with. my father died a few years ago and my mother is a disabled medical nightmare. i have a huge burden placed upon me and when she goes i will be the only one to handle her affairs.
    kids don’t need video games. they need other kids.

    • Self Help

      Not everyone can afford a second child

  • Rockstar_chick87

    I don’t doubt that raising kids cost a lot of money, but since when are video games and an allowance a necessity? And as far as food goes, my own personal tip: cook in big batches, cook from scratch, and stay away from processed food! The processed food is what costs the most. Eating meat, rice, and fresh vegetables is a lot cheaper than what I see most Americans eating. And pasta can be really cheap too with coupons, and many times you can get it for free. And I would also argue that college shouldn’t be included in that either. Most of my peers that graduated from college don’t even have a real job. And I paid for college all by myself without the help of my parents. But having a brother and sister, I would NEVER want to have been an only child. That would have been the worst life ever. But that’s in my own experience. I say if you can barely afford one child, then why bother having one at all? If you are so concerned with finances then don’t have children!!! DUH! As long as the kids have clothes, food, and shelter, and a way to get to school, that’s all they need, and your love and support of course. None of this allowance, video game, entertainment crap. Shoot, I was entertained by a bush, a car mat, and a stick when I was a kid.And spoiling the kid will only leave them worse off in the future. They’ll end up just living with you until they are 30 or 40 and then you’ll really be racking up the price of having a kid. Most kids nowadays stay with their parents until they’re 25, so think about that as well.

  • Mea

    ” If you are so concerned with finances then don’t have children!!! DUH!”

    This is a very black and white statement. If you can’t bother to be concerned about finances, either you’re in the 1% or you shouldn’t be having kids. Looking at finances is a realistic reason for deciding to having additional children, or even 1 at all. My partner and I have 1 child and plan to only have him. We love our life. We can travel, go out on date nights, have my son enrolled in soccer, swim team, music/language lessons. He has a lot of friends and cousins in his age range. We are able to have a more well-rounded life because we have thoughtfully planned it out to where we live off 1 income, with one child and are still able to do all of this. Having a 2nd child would mean cutting out a lot of what we love about our lives and right now, we’re not willing to do that. Of course it’s not all about finances, it’s about sanity as well. The amount of friends of mine I see stressed out and in a constant need of a break all have 2 or more kids. And guess who always volunteers to baby sit so that the mom can have her own time-out? Me. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I never need a break from mine. 1 is easy. More than this is a challenge (for some). It’s not about being ‘mom enough’ for more, it’s just about personal preference in addition to finances.