The average cost of raising a child through age 17 in the United States is $233,610. That’s $12,978 per year. Now, just like any other parent out there, I think my kids are priceless. I also know that raising them costs money. But not $12,978 per year kind of money. Especially since I have 3. So what are some ways to keep costs down?
1. Buy Diapers Strategically
In the first 2 years, diapers will be one of your most expensive costs. Keep your cost per diaper at the minimum. Skip Pampers and Huggies, and instead opt for store brands and other budget brands. Keep an eye out for sales and stock up when the price is right. Bonus: Use cloth diapers, which keep on giving!
2. Avoid the Baby Product Craze
When you first have a baby, you may be clueless about what you actually need. Advertisers and retailers know this and will bombard you with every imaginable baby product under the sun. Most of these products might kinda be convenient but aren’t really necessary. Don’t spend $10,000 on a phase that will last 6 months.
3. Cheaper by the Dozen
As your family size grows, you will find yourself buying more food. Leverage this in your favor. Especially with food, larger packaging is typically far cheaper. You may or may not go so far as to shop warehouse clubs. Do note, however, that while larger packaging is typically cheaper, it is not always cheaper. Sometimes the smaller packaged items go on dirt cheap sales (smaller packaged items have broader appeal and are therefore more likely to be run as a loss-leader). Sometimes the smaller packaged items are simply cheaper for other reasons. The bottom line: know your costs per unit.
4. Buy Second Hand
Kids grow up fast. Whether it’s clothes, toys, or anything else, they aren’t going to be using it forever. Which means that there’s a whole generation of kids a few years older that have outgrown whatever you’re looking for. Instead of shelling out full price on new, pick up used items at garage sales and thrift shops for a dime on the dollar.
5. Find Cheap or Free Fun Activities
Entertainment and amusement can be expensive, depending on where you go. It really gets expensive when you multiply the price of admission by 3, 4 5 or 6. $60 amusement tickets for a family of 4 comes to $240. Plus food, parking, gas etc. So while I’m not saying you never should shell out the big bucks for a family outing, I’d think twice before making it a regular occurrence. Instead, spend a day at the park or the library. Take a walk or a bike ride on local trails.
6. Cook at Home
Eating out a lot can bust anyone’s budget. But again, with a few extra mouths, the cost of eating out just multiplies. And yes, I get it, cooking meals at home with kids running around isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But find some meals that don’t take a ton of prep (check out our budget-friendly cookbook for some ideas). Experiment with large batch cooking so that you can prep once and freeze several dinners.
7. Learn to Be Efficient With Space
A significant chunk of the $233,610 quoted above came from housing. Because you do need a larger house to raise a family. And adding an extra two bedrooms to a house can significantly increase the price of housing. However, when you’re house hunting, don’t get swept into thinking that you’ll need a McMansion just because your family is growing. A 1600 sq ft, 3 bed, 1 bath would be quite large in many places around the world (including New York City).
8. Learn to Say No To ‘Things’
Your child will want things. There will be the latest toys, and random foods while grocery store shopping. When they get older it will be a cell phone and then a car. And society thinks your child needs everything too. Some of these are good things too. But learn when to say no. Teach your child that life isn’t all about stuff or spending money. Giving them an allowance and letting them pay for the bulk of their wants may be a good way to teach them about budgeting and money’s limits. And as they get older, they can replace the allowance by earning money on their own.
9. Decide How Many School and Extra Curricular Activities Your Child Will Participate In
Piano lessons, dance lessons, theater classes, sports, cheer-leading, etc all cost money (sometimes a lot) and time (sometimes a lot). Piano lessons can easily cost $50/class. Sports often come with extra equipment costs. Often sports will also take your child (and you) across the state(s) quite often. 3 and 4-year-olds are already participating in some of these activities. And as they get older, more of these activities will become available.
Again, none of these activities are inherently bad. But there is pressure on parents to give their children every opportunity under the sun. But often letting your child dabble in everything means they never take any single activity seriously. Participating in countless activities also ends up being at significant cost to family time and family finances. I strongly suggest deciding or at least discussing, before the issue arises, how many activities your children may participate in. And again, consider letting your child absorb some or all of the costs so they understand the cost and value the opportunity.
10. Don’t Bankrupt Yourself Paying for Your Kid’s College
I’m not going to get into the debate of whether parents should pay for their kid’s college education in this post. But I will say that it shouldn’t be your #1 priority. If you can afford it, then decide whether paying for your kid’s education is beneficial for them. But don’t take on debt or neglect retirement savings to pay their way through.
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- While I do strive to only write accurate information and dispense valuable advice, I am not a licensed financial adviser. All information is based solely on my personal experience and personal research and should be treated as such. Find out more.