As rewarding as parenting can be, it’s undoubtedly an expensive endeavor. And while it’s unpleasant to discuss the financial aspects of having a child the same way you would before buying a car (or a bigger house), it’s still an incredibly important conversation.
The USDA puts the total cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 at around $233,610. Considering the increasing inflation that has pushed up the cost of schooling, child care, healthcare, and other basic needs, the total cost of a child for a middle-income family is expected to be around $284,570.
Let’s take a deeper look at how much becoming a parent really costs.
As a parent, working out how much childcare could cost you is important. Childcare costs usually fluctuate depending on your child’s individual needs and age. If you have a child who is still in preschool, you can expect a good amount of expenditure on childcare. This will fall as your child enters school.
You can expect to spend anywhere between $870 (in-home care center) and $2,450 (nanny) on childcare, depending on the type you choose.
Around 16% of a family’s spending goes to child care, which can amount up to $5,436 – $24,243 annually according to the 2020 figures from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Easily the largest expense related to raising a child is housing. Mortgage, taxes, rent, repairs, bills, insurance, and maintenance can all take up a sizable chunk of a parent’s budget.
In fact, the Consumer Expenditures Data for 2020 shows that the average housing cost for a typical household is around $21,409 per year.
Since the average household income in the U.S. was $67,521 in 2020 (according to the Census Bureau), a family spends roughly 32% of their income on housing alone.
While these numbers provide a rough estimate of how much families pay for housing, the cost can vary depending on several factors like:
- Geographical location
- Type of house — single-family home, townhouse, and so on
- Self-owned or rent
- How old is the house
Economic conditions can also affect the housing cost for families. Rising inflation can make purchasing a house more expensive and increase rents dramatically.
The good news is that several housing assistance programs provide money to help with housing costs for lower-income families.
Food is the second highest expense of raising a child. According to a USDA report, it makes up around 18% of a family’s total spending. Again, food costs can vary based on various factors, including:
- The total number of children in a family
- Geographical region
- Total income
- Preferred diet
You should know that the USDA has divided the monthly food cost for families into four categories based on the household size and the ages of children as follows:
- Thrifty plan
- Low-cost plan
- Moderate-cost plan
- Liberal plan
(An adult male and female aged 20-50, and two children aged 6-8 and 9-11 are taken as reference.)
According to the recent cost analysis from the USDA, the monthly food costs for a ‘thrifty plan’ range between $98 and $162 per child. For the liberal plan, you can expect to spend $182 to $327 per child per month. And a family on a “moderate plan” spends $233 per month on food for a single child.
You can cut down on food costs by opting for more home meals instead of take-outs and dine-ins at restaurants.
When it comes to the cost of raising a child, remember that transporting your child to places costs money too. You might need to invest in your first car to adjust to life as a parent or may need to upgrade to a larger one after having a child.
This means extra costs for gas, car maintenance, and insurance. All of this can account for 15% of your total spending per child.
According to the College Board, the average annual cost of an in-state, public, four-year college education will cost a student $21,950. This figure can increase to $36,420 for out-of-state students and $46,950 for private colleges.
If you don’t want your child drowning in student loans the minute they step out of college, consider a 529 college savings plan, which is the easiest way to save money for college.
Any amount you deposit as part of this plan will grow free from federal income tax. And you can make all sorts of withdrawals as long as they are for educational expenses. You should also check out these tips on how to plan for your child’s education fund.
Besides housing, food, childcare and transportation, you should also consider a few other costs of raising a child. These include:
- Extra-curricular school activities like field trips
- Goods and services (paying for personal stuff like sports equipment, media players, video games, reading materials, and haircuts)
Overall, these costs account for around 22% of an average family’s spending on one child.
If all of these costs sound too expensive to you and you want to keep them to a minimum, here’s how you can do that.