Ask the readers: How much do kids cost?

How much do kids cost?
A few months ago, my husband and I increased our weekly grocery budget from $120 to $160 to accommodate our growing toddler’s appetite. We also moved to a two-bedroom unit, bringing our rent up $200 more a month. And of course we bought all the little things that seem minor but surely add up: bath books and toys, garden supplies to grow carrots on our patio, and a child-sized table and chairs we recently purchased at the furniture store.

They don’t kid you when they say kids are expensive. Or are they?

I’ve read a few articles citing that raising one child from birth to 18 years old can cost upward of $143,790—and that’s on the low end. The more income parents make, the likelier they’ll spend on their children, and those who live in cities with higher cost of living tend to spend more as well. And I’m not one to argue. Just the year I was pregnant cost us thousands of dollars alone. Yikes.

My husband and I spend more now that we have a child than when we didn’t. In addition to the costs I mentioned earlier, we also spent on big-ticket items like strollers and car seats. Continuous expenditures like diapers and food have also eaten at our wallets, as have child-centered entertainment like going to the science center or the children’s museum. Child care is another new expense, and if we decide to enroll our toddler in a preschool or private school in the future, that number isn’t going down. We also opened a 529 college fund, and by far college savings is the biggest child-related expense in our budget.

But just as costs continue to rise, we’ve also managed to control or even remove previous expenses because we have a kid. The last movie my husband and I saw in the theaters was Harry Potter. Other non-kid-friendly entertainment—watching plays, going out to bars, attending sports events—are special treats, not a frequent occurrence. We tend to stay home or hang out in local spots nowadays. And because we have a third member in our family, we’re stricter with how we spend our money and time.

We also try to save money by going to free events or venues. We’ll happily go to an outdoor shopping center because they have an awesome children’s area—free. Or we’ll go to the library or the park. Thankfully toddlers aren’t too high-maintenance when it comes to entertainment; my little guy loves walking around the block and being outdoors. We’ve also kept some expenditures low by buying them occasionally. Most of our books, movies and CDs are borrowed free from the library, and clothes and toys for our toddler are purchased once in a while.

So while my husband and I have breathing room in our budget for our toddler, there’s no denying that LO has increased our expenses, from obvious costs like diaper cream to more subtle ones like a date night alone for my husband and me. We compensate by doing our best to minimize costs and increase savings as much as possible.

That’s how my family handles the costs of having a kid. How much do kids cost in YOUR family? Are kids as expensive as they’re made out to be? What are your biggest expenses after having kids? Have you been able to minimize some expenses *because* of having kids? Have finances determined whether or not you decided to expand your family?

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12 thoughts on “Ask the readers: How much do kids cost?

  1. I think the most expensive part of having a kid is yum-yums. Those yum-yums could eat you out of house and home.

    And medical bills, even if your child is never sick.

  2. It’s so hard to measure. We spend more in health insurance premiums, our grocery budget, etc. And I’ve chosen to stay-at-home so obviously we’re “losing” an income on that front. There are diapers, wipes, clothes and toys and the promise of future expenses.

    But, like you, we tend to minimize these expenses as much as possible. We rarely go out out to eat, we have no problem accepting hand me downs (and have been very blessed with secondhand clothes) and we keep a close eye on how much we spend.

  3. What we’ve sacrificed as a couple def goes to the kid. We’ve been lucky with toys and clothes. Only hand me downs or garage sales. But we spend money on swim lessons or little gym. And we do have a Disney pass. Diapers are really our main consistent expense.
    But I rarely buy clothes for myself. No more pedicures, etc. It’s all worth it!

  4. Yes, my husband and I also have cut way back on our own slurges. Date night, take-out, going to plays, etc. We’re lucky to be living close to the wonderful (seriously) in-laws so that cuts waaay back on baby sitting expenses. Baby clothes are definitely handmedowns. I think if we had tried to continue to live how we were, we would be living past our means, but cutting back on those things has made room for LO.

  5. Have no idea how much she’s costing us but I suppose we’re spending more on some things, less on others. We haven’t been out as a couple in months and last time we were a friend kindly offered to babysit for free.We haven’t holidayed as we used to but when we do we need to allow a budget for her entertainment. The same applies at home during school holidays..etc.
    I know that we’re paying more for plane tickets when we travel. I manage to keep clothes costs down by shopping in lower budget shops. She’s not a bother when it comes to food and I don’t buy a lot of extras for her. Toys? Always bought on sales.

    • Don’t you love how toddlers don’t really need expensive extras? I swear my kid is fine with the few things he has, and it’s almost like if we buy him too many things, he won’t really get to play with them as much. Even for the holidays or birthdays when he gets a ton of gifts from people, we try to space it out so that he doesn’t get a big ol’ pile all at once.

      • I totally agree and was thinking this morning that she’s actually playing with a few things almost every day. Her dollies, her pram, her play dough…she’s can’t get enough of them! Other things like crafts we can do with minimum expense.

  6. I am a SAhm We don’t do TV, we can get a show on the internet, if we really want ot watch. Friends and fam have videos that will entertain LO, if I really need them. I can create a baby gym in my own house, if I want. We CD so no disposables, actually, unless we go out, but it still saves money. I nurse and pump so still buy bottle bags. We takmegabus instead of flying or greyhound and public transportation is cheaper than cars. You can find a kid video on Youtube, sometimes, if necessary. Garage Sales are good. Second hand stores are good and Good Will. I’ve heard about http://www.gazel.com (maybe wrong spelling) but we don’t have any ipods and such to get money from. I’ve been toying with the idea of finding an ebay seller to post some of the things we aren’t using and maybe split the profits 60-40. Maybe. We do have our iphones, which is an expense, but lots of free apps. We read lots from the library. I don’t have to do a Mommy and Me class, b/c have internet friends and I can touch my baby’s nose w/o instructions from a supervisor…. just sayin’
    Couponing does not work for me, but any other money saving tips are welcome. it wdoesn’t work b/cAldis doesn’t take coupons and that is the store I shop at mostly — and sometimes Sam’s or Cosko, but to go to manuy different stores costs too must money on paratransit.

  7. Right from the time I became pregnant, my husband and I decided we would adopt a low-fuss parenting style, similar to how he and I were brought up by our respective parents. That meant we did not spend a lot of money in doing up the nursery which would have been the biggest drain. We picked up a lot of stuff for free from freecycle.org (people in our area who were giving away stuff). We picked up a cot, new mattress, baskets of toys, even breast milk storage bags! Outdoor free events, coupons,discount deals I love them all!

    • Absolutely agree! Some people do give a lot of priority to having the right stuff. Frankly I think it’s more important to teach kids not to be materialistic in this highly materialistic world we now live in..unfortunately a lot of good values are now being left by the wayside for material stuff.

  8. For us, having Charlotte has actually saved us money. We eat out a lot less, and I have way less time for things like shopping, reading (and buying) books, etc. And we’ve kept toys and fancy clothes to a minimum, even managed to save money on diapers by going cloth.
    The only thing that has recently given our bankbooks a bruising is having to buy Charlotte her own seat on flights now that she’s two!

  9. We co-sleep which saves us money. My mother found a basinet at a garage sale and dh got a pack&play from a coworker. We don’t have a nursery. I am just fine with that. Many libraries now have the option to have an electronic copy of a book (two week subscription and then the electronic book kind of expires) so that means that we don’t even have to find transportation… … or the book when we lose it. I have always wanted to travel, though, so like Taryn, I can see that being an expense for us. Hmmm, got to check out “freecycled.org”

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