Oddball costs of having kids
By one dad's account, the government's calculation of the cost to raise a child is absurdly low.
I usually hate writing guest posts for famous, bloggers because being a guest writer on somebody else's blog is the Internet equivalent of being a substitute teacher -- in junior high school. Even so, I wanted to make sure J. Money had plenty of time to enjoy that new baby of his. So here I am.
A while back, I noticed that J. began tracking every single expense his baby has cost him since conception.
Well, now that J. has finally become a dad -- and as the father of a 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter -- I want to make sure he knows what he's really in for, financially speaking.
Like a lot of you, I saw the latest government study that claims it now costs an average of $235,000 in today's dollars to raise one child to age 18. However, for a lot of folks, this number is absurdly low.
For example, while the study included food, shelter, child care, health care, clothing and K-12 education expenses, it failed to include college -- that is, assuming you're the type who thinks parents are responsible for that. The study also inexplicably failed to consider other key cost drivers that most parents have to deal with.
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Off the top of my head, here are just a few examples, some arguably more expensive than others:
Unexpected home maintenance
When my son Matthew was about 7, I made the mistake of giving him a kid-sized tool box with kid-sized tools. You know, a little saw, a small screwdriver or two, tiny pliers, a mini hammer -- stuff like that. One day I came home to find that Matthew had decided to use his tool set to do a little home remodeling. The renovations included making large gouges in his bedroom walls, and chipping off parts of the window frames and base boards.
Then there was the time he flushed his underwear down the toilet. Of course, we only discovered that little surprise after we spent a couple hundred bucks for a plumber to clear the hopelessly clogged line.
Good times. I've got about 100 other examples from the last 10 years I could share, but I think you get the point.
This year alone, I've easily shelled out at least a few thousand bucks to cover the fees and other costs for Matthew's travel baseball team and Nina's color guard team and weekly singing lessons.
Kids seem to have no trouble flipping on the light switch when they enter a room. In fact, I can't remember the last time my kids walked into a room and forgot to turn the lights on. But when it comes to turning them off, well . . . fuggedaboutit. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've walked into an empty room with a 100-watt light bulb or two burning, or a television set blaring, or a stereo playing. God knows, it would certainly help cover the money I've spent over the past 10 years in extra electricity.
And don't get me started about them standing in front of the open refrigerator for six minutes at a time while they debate what they want to eat or drink.
Think about it: Over the course of 18 years, the number of gifts we give our kids can really add up: Christmas, birthdays, graduation. I'm sure there are other occasions I'm missing.
Let's face it: Parents have to get away from their kids every once in a while if they want to keep their marriage healthy and vibrant. With few exceptions, the Honeybee and I have been fortunate enough to have two sets of grandparents available to watch our kids. Not everyone is so fortunate, though. And over time, let me tell you, those baby-sitter rates can really add up.
I'm sure you can think of scores of other examples of why kids can be so expensive to raise. That being said, it's an undeniable fact that having children makes our lives richer -- and that makes kids a bargain at any price.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the cost of raising our kids is largely dependent on us as parents: As long as we understand the concept of wants vs. needs -- and faithfully live within our means -- then everything is going to be just fine.
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The greatest costs aren't monetary... the stress, the lack of sleep, the loss of freedeom. Best bet is not to have them in the first place. It's not like there is a shortage of people anyway nor are things looking that great for the not too distant future of our nation or even the world.
When I was a new parent so many years ago I wasn't surprised at the cost of diapers -- it was the amount of money I spent on film developing for all those pictures. Now that three kids are in college (and of course living in three states!) what I didn't figure in for the cost of their education was the amount I spend on care packages!
Parents spend uneccessary money catering to their children's every whim. Also there is this obsessive need to involve children in every dance class, voice lesson and sport under the sun. You can create opportunities for your children but at some point you need to realize that the MAJORITY of children are not highly gifted and talented in athletics, the arts or intellectually. Biology may tell you otherwise but that is the truth...and you would be better served letting your children engage in FREE play.
$235,000? Most of us wish we had that much to spend on each kid. My two girls were involved in sports, band, choir, etc. We did the Disney thing twice.
They both made it through college on scholarships, grants, small student loans plus working part-time jobs.
Considering that our household income was around $40,000.00 a year when my first was born and hovered around that until they both graduated college,
I know for a fact that what I spent raising my kids came nowhere near $235,000.00.
Kids are expensive. What about private schools? What about the neighbor kid giving your kid a hammer and both of them knocking down her cement block wall. Clothes, medical, dental and your time off time. What about blue birds, campfire girls, drill teams, cheer leading, vacations, football and the sitters. What about emotional time. I worked two jobs to raise my three. Bigger house, higher utilities, food, larger cars bills - it goes on and on. Kids are not grown up at 18. I spent more than the government amount and after 18 it goes on some more. If you gave kids the bare minimum you could do it but with inflation today it would costs more. I agree with the author Len Penzo on expenses. Rearing kids is like going to high school. You only get to do it once, you can't go back and redo it after their grown.
Surprise. Do you actually expect the government to accurately evaluate the financial cost of children?
Parents do not mind or abhor the costs of children,anymore than they mind or abhor helping needier relatives or friends.
But, they do mind paying if the child,relative,or friends turns out to be ungrateful,worthless,and even more needy after the expenditures and sacrifices in time have been made.
However, parents make foolish investments in homes,cars,stocks,bonds,country club memberships,LasVegas trips,restaurants,churches,and beauty treatments.All you can say is this:
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Those who have lost jobs,spouses,or homes accept their fate.
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