Do Kids Ever Get Cheaper?

Each Friday, when my boys were toddlers, I’d dutifully hand over my check to our child care provider.

I’d do so while dreaming of the time that they’d reach kindergarten and these checks would no longer be needed.

Just imagine all the money I’ll have, right?  I picture myself as Uncle Scrooge in the DuckTales’ opening, swimming in piles of gold coins.

At that time, I’d dismiss the comments I’d hear from other parents with older children who claimed, “They only get more expensive – let me tell you!”

How could that be?

Ten years later, I now know.

Kids by the numbers

In January, the Washington Post provided the dollars and cents of raising children.  (Parents, you may want to sit down.)

The average, total bill from birth to age 17: $233,610 or $13,000 per year.

Families making over $107k annually, will spend just short of $450,000 in total.

Families making less than $59k annually, will spend $212,300 from birth to 17.

How is the money spent?

  • Housing: 29%
  • Food: 18%
  • Child Care and Education: 16%
  • Transportation: 15%
  • Health Care: 9%
  • Misc. : 7%
  • Clothing: 6%

A quote from the piece that confirms that which I’ve refused to believe:

“Teenagers are the most expensive,” said Mark Lino, an economist at the Agriculture Department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, and the report’s lead author. “They eat more, which means they have higher food costs, and they also have higher transportation costs. These are the years when they start to drive, so you add them to your insurance or even buy them a car.”

Adding in the cost of college

Just when you thought the numbers couldn’t get bigger, like me, you come to the realization that the figures above EXCLUDE the cost of a college education.  (Parents, please sit back down, and, if you’re so inclined, grab a drink.)

The cost of a private school for four years would add $181,480.

The cost of a public school for four years would add $80,360.

If you have little ones and the cost of tuition goes up 2% each year, that cost could be somewhere around 30% even higher!

All in, the total bill, on average, with a college education, now climbs to between $300k and $700k.


For my family, that means a whopping $1.5 million to $3.5 million to raise our beautiful, smart, funny, now-bankruptcy-inducing little ones.

What to do?

Big numbers, like those highlighted above, can be completely deflating or serve as motivation to prepare.

I must admit, as I write, I’m deflated.

When I pick myself back up, however, I need to make a real plan.  After all, no amount of cost will prevent me from enriching my children’s lives.

First, there are financial advisers that can help us find ways to build reserves to help with future expenses.  I’ll leave the topic of 529 plans, scholarships and grants for another day.

Additionally, though, there are some behavioral actions I can start now to help me face the daunting financial realities that will face my family.

  1. I should talk about money with my kids – even if they aren’t quite old enough to get it. I can center my conversations on how we have made ends meet as well as about how we evaluate financial decisions.
  2. I’ll start to prepare my children for us not being able to help with large, future expenses. With five kids, the reality may very well be that they will finance their own college education.  I can start to have those discussions now.
  3. Make sure my kids are thankful for what they have, and understand the hard work that goes into providing the relatively fulfilled lives they lead.
  4. Confirm that we will always work to provide everything we possibly can to make their lives better.  And, when we can’t, that does not mean that we don’t want to.

Yes, kids absolutely enrich our lives beyond measure.

But, yes, they are expensive and getting more costly each year.

No, raising children will never get cheaper.

Yes, I’m ready for another drink (and, possibly, a second job).


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