Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The High Cost of Child-rearing

Yet again, we are bombarded with another news story  that tells us how expensive it is to raise a child to adulthood.  I'm guessing 150 years ago, this wasn't even really a topic of discussion.  Of course parents worried about how to provide the basic needs for their children, but I seriously doubt they were freaking out about specific costs involved.

The advertisement I heard for this news story gave these statistics:  "$910 for diapers for a year" and "$13,000 for clothes for one child for 18 years". Those were the only two stats I heard in the ad.

I don't like it when news stories like this pop up.  Giving a huge figure that accumulates over the space of nearly two decades, most often a figure that isn't correct, scares people from having kids.  It makes them think that they can't ever afford them because the numbers are often huge.  I've heard anywhere between $100,000 and half a million to raise ONE child to adulthood. 

So I decided to do a little figuring of my own.  The news said $910 for diapers for one year.  I buy diapers at Costco, often using a coupon, so generally I spend about $35-$45 on a box of 175+ diapers (depending on size and brand of the diapers how many are in the box).  In the first year, I tend to buy about one of those boxes per month.  Given an average of about $40/box, I spend about $480 for diapers in the first year.  During the next two years, as they eat more solid food and have to eliminate less, they go through less diapers.  I tend to buy a box only once every two months, sometimes stretching into a third month.  That ends up amounting to between $160-$240/year for diapers.  Of course, in our family, we've often had more than one in diapers at once, but depending on the age and size of kid, generally, we still are able to get by in the second and third years with only buying 1 box a month, which is still only $480/year.  And if you do cloth diapers, which I've always felt I should but never been brave enough to try, you'd spend several hundred up front and then you'd re-use the same diapers for all your kids.

Clothes.  I don't know about you, but I don't see any point in spending full retail price to buy clothes that they will outgrow in two to three months.  I tend to buy most of my kids' clothes secondhand or at hugely discounted end-of-season clearance prices.  For one child, if I spend about $50-$100 twice a year on clothes to fit them and that aren't rags for each new season as they grow, that ends up being $3600 over the span of 18 years for the higher prices.  This does not double or triple with more kids because if you have kids of the same gender, anything not completely worn out can be passed down and worn again.  No need to be wasteful in a world that is always talking about "going green", right?

The news story also mentions housing.  For housing, you'd be living somewhere regardless of whether or not you had kids.  Many couples without children and single people live in a house close the size we have with five kids.  Our house is 1950 square feet with four bedrooms and two-and-a half bathrooms.  It's plenty of space to have five growing children.  Our daughter has her own room and so does our baby.  Our three older boys share a room.  There is so much space in their room that we could probably turn it into two smaller rooms if we needed to, and if we stay put, we just might.  I think a lot of people believe that each child has to have their own room.  That is simply not true.

The cost of food is also mentioned.  I'd like to explain that the cost of food doesn't multiply with each child.  It's not that hard to make a four-person meal into a six-person meal with a little manipulating.  Add an extra piece of chicken or some extra pasta, like in old times when they'd add more water to the soup.  I can make a three pound pot roast that I serve on Sunday last for two or three more meals with savvy planning and cooking.  So for four meals in one week for seven people, I will often only pay about $15 ($8 for the meat and $7 for the extra ingredients for all the meals).  All it takes is good budgeting skills and meal planning skills and taking the time to learn how to prepare meals from scratch (which taste better, cost less and are usually more healthy anyway). 

Raising a child to adulthood isn't as expensive as the news media wants you to think it is.  Sometimes I feel like this is media propaganda to convince people to limit family size.  All I know is that we live well on not a very large income with me staying at home even.  Our kids are even spoiled in a lot of ways where we give them too much and I feel like we need to cut back even more.  A friend of mine suggested I write a book about this--how to raise a family and not spend a fortune doing it--and I just might!


PC said...

"Giving a huge figure that accumulates over the space of nearly two decades, most often a figure that isn't correct, scares people from having kids."

I wonder, in the alternative, whether people see this more as justification for a decision already made.

swedemom said...

I'll be the first person to buy your book. You are awesome!

mcarrasco said...

Jenna please write that book. My husband and I were just talking today about how much it would cost to have a baby. Not that it will happen soon, just out of curiosity how much it might cost in a few years... ;)

Kristen said...

I TOTALLY AGREE!!!!! I love second hand stores and I love garage sales! I saw an article where Pres. Obama was saying his wife had to work (when the whole issue of Mitt Romney's wife staying at home was going around) because she made $300,000 and he ONLY made $150,000 when their kids were young. Yes she made more money - but goodness, I KNOW I could easily get by (with my family of 6) on 150K!!! It's all about perspective I guess.

Royalbird said...

Yeah, wow, $150K is more than twice what we live off of and we are a family of seven. I feel we live comfortably. Although, that trip to the Bahamas as a family won't ever happen, but I guess it's all about perspective. We live comfortably. All our needs are met. We have a lot of our wants. We just don't want a whole lot compared to a lot of the nation, I guess.

JesusFreakGurl said...

Hello there!

I just happened to stumble onto your blog through this article. I will definitely agree with you on pretty much everything you just said.

Now for the fun part.

May I be the (random) one to encourage you to try cloth diapers. It really isn't all that difficult, especially once you get the hang of it. is a great resource for TONS of info. is a great store to buy just about everything you need, including a rental program where you get 90%-95% of your money back on anything you don't like. is an online forum where moms buy, sell and trade old cloth diapers (a lot of the time, barely used for a good deal).

If you have any other questions, I would be more than happy to help in any way I can! Just send me a message on Diaper Swappers at MrsTippett or an email at JesusFreakGurl (AT) yahoo (DOT) com (make the obvious changes necessary).

Happy diapering, whatever your decision! *gentle nudge towards cloth* =)


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