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It costs HOW MUCH to raise a kid?

Is the official estimate for real? Some parents say it's not.

Posted by Donna_Freedman Friday, October 22, 2010 9:47:00 AM
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it costs about $222,360 to raise a child in this country.

Miranda Marquit, a staff writer at Moolanomy, doesn't believe that. She ran some numbers of her own for a post called "Does my son really cost me $26,000 a year?" Marquit figures it's costing less than $15,000 per year to raise her little guy.

Maybe a lot less.

After all, the tot doesn't eat nearly as much as Marquit and her husband. He doesn't have the same travel or entertainment needs. And even if he hadn't been born, his parents would probably be living in the house they're in now.

"If I take out the cost of utilities and housing, the number is $8,185.12 a year," Marquit concludes.

Other bloggers aren't buying it, either. In a post at Christian PF, Craig Ford estimates his three little blessings add about $6,300 total to the Fords' annual budget for things like diapers (cloth during the day, disposables at night), food, clothing and college savings plans.

"Remember, these numbers will vary greatly from person to person," Ford cautions -- especially since he and his wife are frugal, and none of the kids is in school yet.

His post includes a list of 10 ways to minimize the costs of raising children. Tip No. 1 applies before the baby is even born: "If you plan to have one of the parents stay home, adjust to one income now." (Good thinking.)

Many 'necessities' really aren't

A young mom and personal-finance blogger named Penny devotes an entire section of Penniless Parenting to the idea that "babies can be cheap." She thinks we spend way too much on products we don't need.

"Changing pads? Use a towel on the floor or a bed. Baby bath? The sink works fine. Baby towel? Adult towels will do the job. Baby soap, shampoo, and detergent? Liquid castile soap will work for all of them at very little cost," she writes.

"Baby blankets? Warm pajamas and or adult blankets eliminate the need for those. Swaddling blanket? I use an old sheet cut to size. Diaper pail? A bucket will do. Spit-up cloths? Clean rags, towels or cheesecloths are a good replacement."

I agree with all three parents. While some line-item costs (especially child care) can be stratospheric, we don't need to buy nearly as much as Madison Avenue would have us believe.

What we do need can often be obtained cheaply or free by trading with other parents, or from online swap sites, yard sales, the Freecycle Network, consignment stores and thrift shops.

Due to product safety recalls, you shouldn't get cribs or car seats from yard sales. Then again, Penny and other proponents of the family bed would suggest you don't need a crib at all.

Baby food is easy to make. Kids don't need a ton of toys. Rather than buy a pricey pram, why not make a no-sew baby wrap until the infant is old enough for a much cheaper umbrella stroller?

And seriously: Do you really need a Diaper Genie? Couldn't you just put the damp or dirty Huggies in a trashcan with a tight lid?

How about it, all you moms and dads: How much is it costing you to raise your kids? What money-saving tips can you share with parents-to-be?

And just for fun: What's the most useless piece of baby equipment you've ever heard of or received?

More from MSN Money:

Tags: childrenDonna Freedmanfamilyfrugalraising childrenspending
10/22/2010 12:42 PM

agree that they don't need a lot of toys.  Some blocks, paper, markers and a carboard box...let them be creative and actually use their minds.  They'll have fun.


The only challenge there's expensive to allow your child to go to those parties and spend all that money on 10 gifts per year...let alone attending 50 Bar/Bat Mitzvahs!

10/22/2010 12:41 PM

kidfreerunner is right - it's the school-age kids and especially the teenagers who kill the budget.  Especially watch out for that senior year in high school (which I just finished) - it requires it's own budget line item!  Also, be sure to factor in items you'll have to replace because your budding inventor thought of a great new way to use your favorite tools, kitchen utensils, etc.  Oh, and don't forget all the repairs because your "texting is more important than anything mom asked me to do" kid tried to short-cut the chore you asked him to do -- and now you have a repair bill for the washing machine, dishwasher, car, etc., etc. 


Babies are easy!  The real fun is ahead of you!!

10/22/2010 12:19 PM

Seriously, I don't know a lot of parents who have the TIME for all that home-made stuff. 

Most of this article talks about having BABIES.  CHILDREN & TEENAGERS ARE expensive.

Sports Equipment, new clothes every year (right, the thrift store...).  Sports teams, cheerleading, tutors, extra gas for the car to drive the devils around?  Everyone I know is always out buying stuff for their kids and complaining how much it costs.  Even buying a lawnmower for that house because you have to have a yard.  Thanks, I'll skip that purchase, and keep an apartment. 

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