Why it costs so much to raise a kid

The typical middle-income family will spend $235,000 raising a child to age 17. Here are some of the ways that cost adds up.

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Mar 29, 2013 9:47AM

I don't have children yet, but I don't see the point or necessity of having them in MULTIPLE extra-curricular activities. Two of my friends have their kids constantly going, going, going. Mom is with one kid, Dad is with the other. They're never home and they're all exhausted. One friend has her 10 year old daughter in all the same sports she was in as a child. Her daughter hates all of them but my friend won't let her be a quitter. So, she's really just wasting her money and the kid is miserable. And she keeps signing her up year after year. Sigh...

Back in my day (I'm 31) my brother and I each got ONE extra-curricular activity a year/season (football, cheerleading, etc..). If we were still bored after that we played in our room, read a book, or went to a friends house. A six year old taking chess, ballet, AND gymnastics?! That's insane. 

Mar 28, 2013 9:49PM
After all that we still get stuck supporting them after they achieve adult hood !!!
Mar 29, 2013 6:53AM
Do any parents know the word no exist?  Seriously most of the expenses here are a joke.  Almost none of them are required cost of rasing children.  I have two of my own and leave within my means.  They have everything they need and are perfectly happy
Mar 28, 2013 7:59PM

I don't understand the $275 cost of cloth diapers for a year listed. I priced cloth diapers and decided to go with disposables because the lowest retail price of new cloth diapers around here was $20 apiece. Since a child dirties at least 10/day, you're looking at $200 minimum for startup if you wash every day... not factoring in the additional cost of utilities and detergent. And that's only for the first size! You will need at least 3 sizes to get through the first year. $600/minimum plus utilities and detergents. Those special detergents aren't cheap, either.


Also, outside major cities, the price of preschool and child care are much, MUCH less. In NYS, all children can go to pre-K for free. I don't know anyone in my town who has spent more than $2500 on private preschool.


It seems like all the costs were figured for those from larger cities, actually. And the whole sports and extracurricular thing? They are optional. Let's face it, Joe Schmo is not paying this much money for his kids. MANY of us are raising children on $45,000 annual incomes or less... without going into debt.

Mar 29, 2013 9:30AM
I bet our Mennonite neighbors don't  spend that  much on their kids.
Mar 29, 2013 8:54AM
You forgot Summer Camp, the Ymca has a great program but it is $225.00 per week, we aren't all teachers with the Summer off. Your Preschool and daycare prices are way off base, we have a fabulous preschool full time for $5,500 in Northern NJ. Alot of people work independently or out of the house or Grandparents help out the first years so this daycare expense was not a concern of mine. Travel athletic teams and high competiitve sports are for the few, it seems everyone I know "believes" there kid is the next Mickey Mantle, Joe Nameth and Wayne Gretzky, the fact is only one in 67,000 kids will ever have the chance to try out to play professionally, with those odds skip it and save for college oh and you might want to tone down on parents pride. 
Mar 29, 2013 9:26AM
Except if you're on welfare, then you get a "pay raise" for every additional kid.  What could possibly go wrong with such a system?
Mar 30, 2013 5:34PM
This kind of study makes a child like just a costly expense. A study should be done on how much hobbies or  addiction costs. Kids bring joy and give meaning to life and I do not like the idea of seeing them an expensive commodities. If parents live within their  means and not try to keep up with the Jonasses, they will be fine.
Mar 28, 2013 8:33PM

Why in the hell would ANYbody want to deal with cloth diapers?

Get disposables and a diaper Genie

Apr 12, 2013 10:53AM
Whatever happened to the word "no"? When I was a kid, my parents told me they couldn't afford it, and that was the end of it. We had one TV that we periodically argued over (this diminished as the relative age gap shrank.) One phone. I had two bikes in my childhood. I had my pleasure with Star Wars and later Transformers that I received as gifts or bought with birthday and Christmas money. I never liked sports in general, much to my father's disappointment, but this whole crazy industry that exists to enslave yuppie parents on their corporate/ debt treadmills did not exist either. Food, clothing, shelter and guidance were what my parents provided. Not a three ring circus.
Apr 11, 2013 8:47PM

To say those costs look surreal is an understatement.  I was only educated in the public

school system after exiting the parochial school at age 6 because the nuns wouldn't

address me in English and I wasn't familiar with French. Public schools and their sports programs were free, except there were no sports programs in the early-Fifties in New

England where I grew up.  We played free baseball, got tennis rackets for our birthdays, bargained for skis, swam in the ponds or lakes or ocean and took it from there. 

Otherwise, we just pursued our academic lesson plans (most graduated at age 16 from

high school and entered a state or private university at standard college freshman level (no remedial courses offered for catching up).  If you couldn't cut the criteria for entry, one

sought factory work or commercial domestic service employment.  The military offered

one alternative avenue to an education if one completed a tour and would then apply

for GI benefits.  My Marine Corps sister did it that way and finally, well into here thirties,

finally received her MA. 


Few ever paid for an all-day baby sitter but many opted for relief to attend a leisure event.

Baby sitters were not nannies, that is, they offered no certified teaching or social skills but

instead watched the kids for a quarter an hour (plus or minus).  All diapers were recycled.

Since no one received welfare benefits and few had heard or were eligible for unemployment

benefits, kids walked to school and adults walked the pavement seeking job opportunities

or to their job. School buses were uncommon in U.S. until the mid-60s.  Dental care?

Take a good look now at most seniors dentures to grasp how decadent dental care programs

once were.  No money for security, education, services, training, eating, shelter or transport

resulted in non-delivery of goods BECAUSE there wasn't any credit prior to the Sixties.

One could grow their gardens, hunt for game, fish or barter; otherwise no 'sale'. 


I never had a paid baby sitter in my life, and summer camp was a few months off

with a distant grand parent. I used to walk home from my friend's home at 11PM alone

at age ten or so for about three blocks; no dangers except maybe a lost bobcat who

would appear from the cemetery and scare the heck out of me because they were much

bigger than the cat.


Medical insurance?  Not likely either THEN.  Cars for graduation?  Heck, there weren't

even cars for most newlyweds; women didn't drive, many (new comers who didn't speak

the language), didn't work outside the home, or hadn't graduated from elementary school.

SOME PEOPLE COULDN'T READ A MAP, others didn't understand the concept of a

democratic government and its responsibilities or privileges. People walked, shared or

bussed to jobs.  People didn't have money to 'spend' so they frequented churches or 

libraries, or READ BOOKS, pursued creative or craft arts or career journeyman skills.

$8,000 a year for a family of four today doesn't nearly deliver the same standard of living

as it did in the late-Fifties to my ancestors.      

Apr 12, 2013 3:19PM

Barring the misfortunate of having a sick or disabled child, I would say spoiling them to death is a big, big part of the expense. When our now-grown-with-kids-of-their-own kids were children, we couldn't afford to give them every thing their little old hearts desired, and felt no guilt about it. They were dearly loved, well fed, comfortably housed and dressed, educated, and got a few presents on the appropriate holidays. We did not try to keep up with the Joneses or anybody else. We were a family, and most of our activities were simple and inexpensive. In reading over some of these remarks, I am reminded of cloth diapers, of which I changed, washed, and dried many. Not that big a deal, and a lot cheaper and more sanitary than letting children wear these disposibles hanging to their knees with the weight of urine. Yuk.


And I don't believe most kids today know what NO means, because they're never told that. Just listen to them screaming in Walmart until Mom finally gives in and buys what they want.

Mar 28, 2013 8:15PM
I have 6 kids and manage on much much less than these yuppies do. forget preschool and daycare, my wife stays at home and we homeschool them, she would make less working than that stuff costs, and they get better education that way. cloth diapers saved us money cause we bought with number 2 kiddo and use em with number 6 kiddo. kids dont need that many sports either, all my kids go to a fight club and do boxing or mixed martial arts, family membership of 60 buks a month, bouts are optiional, each older kid does maybe one or 2 bouts a year. college aint hard ta save for either if you start early.
1. Why does it cost so much to divorce ?
(Because it's worth it)
2. Why does it cost so much to raise kids ?
(Because THEY'RE......uhhh, never mind)

Apr 11, 2013 8:55PM

Well, maybe my kid's pedigree wasn't storied enough to get into that private school that cost $14,995 per year...but...at least we dared to afford a stay at home parent and got to avoid the daycare into preschool fees from six weeks on.


And, I, rather than some other mother figure got to watch my kid. And, after reading this article, I know just how much my services were worth to our little family. The price of daycare.

Apr 18, 2013 8:21PM
I agree with some of the posts about telling kids no, and not having them in so many extracurricular activities.  My siblings and I were also limited to one activity each year.  Other than that, we had horses at home and other things to keep us occupied.  Sometimes I think parents try to live through their children.  I also think some parents force their kids into activities in which the kids have no interest.  It is expensive to have kids but can be done if a person makes sensible choices.  Also, my mom stayed home with us until we were all in school, so that saved daycare. Of course, that was in the 70s, and things are different now. :D
Apr 13, 2013 11:20AM
I identify with the author of this article. I worked 2 jobs and my 3 kids graduated from college debt free. I have no regrets. Motherhood is a small part of the life cycle. I had ample time to save for retirement after my kids graduated from college. the secret is to keep monthly living expenses as low as possible. Also, when I could retire, I elected to continue to work a few hours a week for mental stimulation. My monthly income equals the income I used to earn when I worked full time. I've come to believe the media with their doom and gloom about the economy is doing a disservice. What I would like to read/hear more about are ways to lower monthly expenses that I don't know.
Apr 5, 2013 6:49PM
control your mojo. only 1 kid per couple , see how that works. Look at China.
Apr 18, 2013 3:39PM
They havn't mentioned the cost of raising autistic kids yet.......easily 20-30K per year extra in therapies tution fees supplement sigh....
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