Saturday, May 17, 2008

The price of a child

So many times I am asked "How can you AFFORD that many kids?" Or hear "Your husband must make DARN good money!". Many people are completely baffled and awestruck when they actually find out how much we live on. Folks, on average we raise 6 kids (soon to be 7) on $40,000 per year. That's right, $40,000 per year. Sure some years it might creep up to near $45,000, but that's the exception.

Now that you are as baffled as the average person, lets talk about that. Let's talk about how much money it costs to raise a child. This site by the Federal Government quotes me $7,580 per year for the first 2 years.

That's a lot of money. But does it have to cost that much? Can you take care of your infant on less without depriving them of anything? Let's find out how much it cost to get Nathan to his first birthday, shall we?

Diapers: We cloth diaper (disposable at night) His stash of cloth diapers cost me about $300 and we go through a 90 count package of diapers in about 3 months making for 4 of them his first year at $20 each (actually like $17. But lets throw in the extra few bucks for arguemants sake)........ $80. Since I use disposable wipes we'll include that here as well. I buy the box of parents choice wipes for $5 which lasts me about a month. So, $60 on wipes. So Diapers Grand total comes to $440. Using cloth adds some expense to our first year, but minimizes it in our second year.

Clothes: I have gotten nearly Nathan's entire wardrobe from freecycle, hand me downs, gifts, or the free garage sale. He wears nice clothes (brand names even) so don't get the impression these are dingy holey clothes. I have though picked up some cutesy things along the way when I've spotted a sale. Clothes: $25.00

Food: I breastfed exclusively until Nathan was approximately 8 months old when he started eating baby foods. He ate about 2 jars of food for lunch and dinner until about 11 months when he was solely on table food. So baby food in total ran us about $180. For breakfast he usually ate oatmeal. A large container of oatmeal cost me $2 at Aldi and lasted him about 3 weeks. So about $6 for the 3 months he ate baby foods. For the last month of his first year he ate table food, most of our family meals cost about $10 to make so his portion cost $0.80. Throwing in some snacks we'll say for that last month he ate about $3.00 in food per day or $90. So, In Nathan's first year he ate $276 worth of food.

Medical care: Nathan's doctor visits, immunizations, and medications are covered 100% with no co-pay, deductible, or premium so he had zero medical expenses in his first year. Wisconsin is a wonderful state that now offers this to EVERY CHILD IN THE STATE regardless of income (there may be some small co-pays for meds and services in higher income brackets averaging around $3.00) Medical expenses: $0

Transportation: Since we live an hour away from the doctor's office we often double up kids on appointment day (they get their own appt, but they are back to back) . Nathan had 8 well baby visits his first year. It cost us about $25 to get to these appointments so Nathan's half of each was $12.50, multiplied by the 8 visits is 100.00. Now, Nathan also had some visits for illness. His eye, colds, ear infections. So lets just go ahead and say he cost more like $150.00 in medical transportation. Remember we live an hour from the Pediatrician, most people will not pay this much.

What else...

Pictures: Who doesn't take a gazillion professional pictures that first year. Many of us cart these little dolls into the store in ($50 outfits no less) for these pictures every 3 months or so, to the tune of roughly $100 each time. I prefer my own pictures which cost me pennies to print into glorious 8x10 works of art for pennies. Anyone can learn to take beautiful pictures. Nathan's first year portraits... $15.00

Baby Gear: Carseat: $150.00. Stroller $100.00. Pack N Play $100.00. Bouncy chair $40.00. Swing $100.00. Sling $40.00. I already had a high chair and a his crib was a gift. Gear $530. Now I could have EASILY brought this price down by buying less expensive, and still great items. I was picky.

Miscellaneous: Let's throw the little things like pacifiers, toys, etc in here and call them about $75.00

Housing: Nathan's portion (1/8th) of our Mortgage and utilities is Approximately $1,000 for his first year. I debated adding this at all since we would have these bills with or without him but figured I would before someone emails me about it. This number is pretty tricky to accurately portray because it is dependant on how much house you have for how many people. If you have a big expensive house for a small family, each families portion is going to be much, much bigger. If one person in the family wastes electricity and water, the other members of the family will pay for that. Again, it comes back to choices.

So. I come up with a rough total of $2511 for Nathan's first year of life. Nowhere NEAR $7580 and if you compare the $2511 it cost to take care of him to our $40,000 income......... well, bringing a new baby into the family doesn't make much of a dent at all! In fact, for us it ended up costing less than $7.00 per day. SEVEN DOLLARS. And we didn't even live in a mud hut and dig for water with our bare calloused hands. My son spent his first year in brand name clothes, in great brand new baby gear eating Gerber baby food and lacking absolutely nothing.

And there are things I could have done to cut that expense even more. I purchased all my baby gear brand new and paid full price rather than shopping gently used resale shops or waiting for a sale, I used store bought baby food when I could have made my own. I use disposable diapers at night and have some pricey pocket diapers in my cloth diaper stash. I see a pediatrician an hour away instead of the one across town. Given the fact that I overdo some things and am frugal on others I think this estimate of $1511 is fairly accurate just making some simple choices to spend less. Breastfeeding and not putting my children in daycare save me extraordinary amounts of money. As do choosing to live in the state I do with the awesome medical care and cost of living.

All in all, Nathan consumed a very tiny portion of our modest income his first year, which from my eperience will likely be his most expensive year. Baby #8 will consume nearly nothing, since we have everything from Nathan still and if it's a girl, we will be using my neice's wardrobe. So if you are denying yourself another child based on the presumed expense of having one. Or if you think the income you live on is too small to reasonably allow for another child, think again. Think about what is important to you and make the choices needed to make that happen. These changes aren't huge, no one is asking you to live in a mud hut and dig for water with your bare, calloused hands.

From this you can also see that my 6 (soon to be 7!) kids are not the drain on the world's resources either. In fact, they use less than they are alloted by "average" standards!


K said...

I'm always amazed at how many believe that babyhood needs to be expensive. I love your breakdown.

My concern, as I prepare to adopt my daughter, is what happens after highschool. I am the 2nd oldest of five and make my way just fine, but can't even come close to buying a home in my area. Three of my siblings who own homes all had help from in-laws, father (I have a different father) or, in one case, my sister-in-law's company paid all closing costs on their home.

There is financial aid for college, but it must be paid back, too.

I believe that my education in certain areas was extremely lacking, such as how to buy a home, or prepare to. I could have saved tons of money in my early twenties and bought a home long, long ago for $120,000 that would now be worth half a million. A family friend suggested it, who was a mortgage broker, but I thought he was joking with me and brushed him aside. It's one of my big regrets.

Blair said...

Thank you for breaking it down. I have always wanted an answer to this question and never been provided with one. I only have two now and we don't think they are that expensive. I guess my husband worries more about when they are 18, 16, 14, and 12. I try to remind him that if we believe children are a blessing from God then how can we think that God wont provide for us to care for those blessings?

Sarah Blue said...

What a wonderful post!! I currently have four kids and have often heard, "How do you afford them?" I thought it was hilarious because I know families with many more children than I have and they are doing FINE!

Thanks so much for the breakdown. I was amazed when I first heard the $7000 statistic, because we've NEVER paid close to that for our children. Even on the year that all our kids got new bikes. It is wonderful that you broke it down. Wonderful to see how much a child actually costs! And isn't it funny that the Gov't calculates the costs so high...almost like they're trying to discourage more children. But then, I'm probably just reading too much into it.

Thanks again!!!

Joslyn said...

I realize I'm late posting a comment here - I just found the site by google searching cost of a child.
My husband and I are very frugal and are big savers. We are expecting our first child in January.
I find you post well researched - however this is solely for you and not everyone!
I realize this was/is the cost for your child in the first year of his life, however I find it short sited that you account no money for education. By the time our child reaches college a good public school will run about $30,000.00 per year. I think its short sited to not try and save money for that. I know some people say oh they'll get a scholarship or can get a loan, but if you (as we are) able to save money for this expense its doing the child a diservice not to put money away for this expense. It will take about $5000 per year for 18 years to pay for tuition alone.
Just my thoughts...

Dan said...


I loved your breakdown. I always thought that children aren't that expensive, especially in the early years. Our 8 now 9 month old costs us very little extra and many of the expenses we have incurred will not be incurred for additional children like strollers and car seats and the like. We choose to continue to work so we pay for daycare but tax benefits as well as my wife's large additional income.

I was raised as the youngest of five children in SE Wisconsin and I strongly disagree that WI is a family friendly state. The state legislature just passed a law, and was signed, that school districts are no longer allowed to teach, at all, abstinence to children. The property and state income taxes are ridiculous.

Erica said...

First of all, I agree with the person who said you left out college savings (unless you don't care to do that). I'm also curious to know how much you are able to save for your own retirement. Yes, $2500 doesn't sound like much when you compare it to $40K a year earnings. But when you have 6 kids, plus you and your husband, $2500 DOES make a dent. I make about $40K a year as a single individual, and I save about 30% of my income a year, and I STILL worry that I won't have enough for retirement.

Also, maybe it's cheap to have a child when they are young, but thinking about their future as adults is terrifying. This world is getting crazier and less reliable all the time. I wouldn't want to bring a child into all of that.