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Kids & Money: How Much Does It Cost to Raise Your Child?

Every year, it seems as though there is a story on the high cost of raising a child. This year, CNN Money [3] pointed out that experts expect the average child to cost $226,920 to raise from birth to age 18. That works out to right about $13,830 a year. Of course, that’s just for a middle-income, two-parent family. The numbers change if you have a different income, or live in certain areas.

You can go to the USDA web site and use their Cost of Raising a Child Calculator [4] to get a more personalized view of what it should cost to raise a child. According to my income and location, the USDA thinks I should be spending $26,463 a year on my son. I’m pretty sure I’m not spending that much. But I thought I’d work it out anyway.

How Much Am I Spending to Raise My Son?

Looking at the USDA numbers is kind of daunting. Costs listed include housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care and education and other. The biggest expense on the list is housing, which I think is kind of silly, since my husband and I would probably live in the same size house, regardless of whether we had our son or not. At any rate, here is how we stack up so far this year.

I used actual figures for the first three quarters of the year, and then estimated fourth quarter spending based on our current pace, assuming it stays the same (although I bet we actually cut back a little). The only exception is “other,” where I include toys, since my son’s birthday and Christmas are both coming up; I based this on last year’s spending. Also, since I work from home, and have no need of child care beyond babysitting when my husband and I go out, I include my son’s summer camps in that category, as well as sports activities [5] and music lessons. For food, health care, housing (I included utilities) and transportation, I took my family’s total costs and divided them by three to get the individual amount for my son.

USDA Actual
Housing $10,450 $6,560
Food $3,200 $4,371
Transportation $3,263 $1,096
Clothing $1,238 $574
Health Care $1,238 $1,368
Child Care & Education $4,450 $2,362
Other $2,625 $980
Total $26,463 $17,311

That’s more than I expected it to cost, and more than I spend last year on my son, but he is also involved in more activities this year. And we clearly spend a substantial amount of money eating out, which is why the average food cost [6] is higher. However, I am skeptical that my son is eating as much as my husband and myself at this point (and he doesn’t eat out with us each time, even though I included all our restaurant visits in food costs), and, as I mentioned before, my son really isn’t adding to our housing costs. Without housing costs added in for my son, the yearly spending on him drops to being on track for $10,751 this year.

It’s clear that spending on my son doesn’t have to be what the USDA and others expect. How much do you spend on your kids?