Updated on 08.26.14

Do Children Really Cause Financial Burdens?

Trent Hamm

I was recently browsing a comment thread on Lifehacker when one particular comment stood out to me:

Having kids is one of the most expensive poverty-inducing things you can do right now. – kalibar

I understand completely where kalibar is coming from with this comment. Many estimates with regards to the cost of raising a child put that figure at $200,000-$250,000 per child over their lifetime – and that’s a serious chunk of change.

When I read these estimates, however, and I look at our own spending, something doesn’t quite add up. To put it simply, we’re not spending that much, even during these expensive years of the child’s life.

Let’s break down what we’re spending right now on our children.

For 2008, our biggest expense by far for our children was child care while we were working. Combined, we spent about $11,000 on child care for the two children this year. After that, costs went down quickly – we estimate that all other expenses combined (food, health care, toys, clothing, and so on) were roughly $7,000 for both children combined. Add onto that $1,200 per child put away for their college education (and I’ll ignore the tax benefits of this, as we don’t have to pay state taxes on contributions) and you have a total of $20,400 spent on both children this year – or $10,200 per child.

So, if those costs continued as they are over the next eighteen years, we would spend $183,600 per child during their childhood – not too far from those estimates.

But that $183,600 total is extremely naive.

A look at several elements that will save us money during our children’s lives

Child care is tax deductible

Realistically, about $6,000 of that $10,200 is. It’s our child care tax credit, and it knocks roughly $1,800 (assuming a 30% overall tax rate) off of our total tax bill – or $900 per child. So, boom, we’re quickly down to $9,300 per child.

We now have two more deductions on our tax returns

At $3,750 a pop, our two children shave $7,500 off of our taxable income. Assuming that same 30% tax rate, we quickly shave $2,250 off of our tax bill, so we’re down to $7,050 per child.

The mere presence of the children changes our entertainment structure

Instead of going out to the golf course with the guys, I’m much more content to toss the whiffle ball around in the back yard with my son. Instead of going out to the movies three times a week with my wife (as was once the case), we stay home, watch movies in the family room, and play with our kids while doing it. Instead of eating out all the time, we put our daughter in a high chair, cook a meal at home, and serve her some of that delicious home-cooked food.

In short, both our entertainment and food budgets went way down upon the birth of our children. We knew this change would happen – it was part of our decision-making process when it came to deciding whether to have children. We knew that many of the trivial aspects of our life would change. We chose to give up most of our social opportunities and entertainment opportunities in exchange for being able to raise children in an enriching environment.

How much did this actually save us? This is something that’s very difficult for me to estimate, as I didn’t actually do any sort of budgeting or number-crunching during the year prior to our having children. However, based on what I can estimate from that year, we cut our entertainment and food spending (from 2004 to 2008) by $6,500 a year. That’s a drop of $3,250 per child, bringing our per-child expenses down to $3,800 per child.

So, let’s use that for the first five years of the child’s life – $3,800 per kid. After that, we lose almost all of the child care costs – but we also lose our $900 tax deduction – a total reduction in cost of $4,200. What’s that? During the sixth year, our total child cost is actually a gain of $400!

Obviously, as the child grows, we’ll begin to accrue more non-child-care expenses for them: education costs, growing entertainment costs, and so on. I’ll actually increase our expense per child at $500 per year after age six.

So, for the first five years, we spend $3,800 a year. At year six, we actually gain $400. Each year after that, we spend $500 more per child than the year before, culminating with an overall after-tax and after-savings cost of $5,600 during their eighteenth year.

What does that total up to? $52,800

Now, you might quibble with my “back of the envelope” calculations described above and inflate some of the costs. You might even be able to double my estimated expenses by skewing the numbers around.

That doesn’t change the underlying point, however:

Children aren’t the enormous expense that they’re made out to be. I’m not claiming that they’re not expensive – not at all. Instead, I’m saying that the quoted expenses bandied about – $200,000 to $250,000 over the child’s lifetime – looks only at expenses. It does not look at some of the savings that will come your way naturally during the child-rearing process, nor does it take into account the tax benefits of children.

What’s the take-home lesson here?

Don’t be scared into not having children – or delaying having children for years – by the huge costs bandied about. Those costs only look at the “expense” part of the equation and don’t include the many ways that you actually save money once a child enters your life. For example, a single child, merely by existing, will save you thousands and thousands of dollars on your tax bill over their life.

So, do children cause financial burdens? Yes, they do – you’re going to be spending money on them. However, that expense is not as large as one might think at first glance, and when you consider the advantages of having children when you’re younger rather than when you’re older (if nothing else, you have much more energy to share with them), you shouldn’t choose to delay children without looking at the larger picture.

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  1. Adam says:

    Great post Trent! I’ve always wondered if they took the tax benefits into account when they came up with that number.

  2. Eric says:

    The $200,000 number always seemed huge to me as well. I assume they are adding in paying for college. That is the only thing which makes any sense.

  3. Miranda says:

    Another point is that a lot of people count some things as “needs” that are really wants. We don’t spend as much on our son because we are frugal, and we haven’t bought all those “must haves” that are recommended.

    And I totally agree that we save more in terms of entertainment spending and eating out now that we have our son. And, even with the expenses, we have grown richer by enjoying him in our lives.

    It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be about money.

  4. Ken says:

    I completely agree Trent. We had our first child 2 years into our marriage when my wife and I were both 24. People thought we were irresponsible having a child so young and while I was in grad school and working part time. Yes, you spend money on children, but it is nowhere near what people think you have to spend on them.

    My wife and I have never in our married life been working full time at the same time. I was able to watch our first child when I was in grad school full time and she worked part time. Now I’m working full time and she’s working part time. We both have flexible jobs, but it’s not that hard for us to do. We save every month, are taking the kids (two of ’em now) to Disney in March and don’t by $60 outfits for them. Yes, costs will go up, but if you are wise with your financial decisions you can definitely afford to have children.

  5. Amber says:

    I think these kinds of cost calculations are entirely personal. For instance, many of the lifestyle savings you mention don’t really affect my life — I already eat at home and go to movies infrequently.

    Also, many people feel the need to upgrade their homes to accommodate children. While I do think kids can share, adding some into our tiny one-bedroom New York apartment would be a really tight squeeze. A larger home would be a cost that adds up over time.

  6. dora says:

    hello- new-ish reader, first time commenter. I agree that you can have children and not spend too much money on things like food & clothes, but this blogpost totally glosses over the devastating cost of childcare in the United States. For most people I know– middle class, college educated people–, the cost of childcare is about equal to their take-home pay, thereby making it next to impossible for both parents to work in 2-parent households. My husband and I are considering having children in a few years. We both absolutely love our non-profit jobs, but we cannot survive on one of those tiny incomes, so we don’t know what we will do.

    Furthermore, we have health insurance and have still paid about $900 for each this year on health costs in addition to monthly premiums. I imagine a third member of our household would cost even more.

    The true financial burden of children is in childcare, healthcare costs, and higher education. For these reasons we don’t know how we will be able to have children. Were all three of these socialized, people like my husband and myself would be able to keep our beloved- but low-paying -jobs and have children and not panic about the future.

  7. Johanna says:

    Amber beat me to it: Trent, didn’t you move from a small apartment to a larger house because of your child(ren)? Why aren’t you including that cost as well?

  8. plonkee says:

    For most people reading this post, having kids at some point isn’t really about the money. I mean, people might want to alter their timing somewhat but it’s well known that there’s a limited amount of time in which women can have kids.

    Whatever you spend on kids, you would probably have spent that on something(s) else without them.

  9. eden says:

    I’m 90% sure those estimates include the entire cost of a 4 year college education, and I agree they are ridiculous.

    However, one thing I didn’t see in your estimate was the cost of the actual birth (probably varies with insurance) and lost wages for both you and your wife – if either of you took any time off before or after the birth.

    And for a general estimate you’d have to include the mother’s lost wage potential as mothers (on average) are paid the least of all (mothers, non-mothers, fathers, non-fathers)(and that statistic is corrected for time off of work as well as education – i.e. even if the four groups have the same senority and education and perform the same, the mothers still get paid less).

  10. cv says:

    You make a lot of good points, Trent, but keep in mind that people in other parts of the country may have to pay significantly more than $11,000/year for child care while the kids are young. Other costs are likely higher in other parts of the country as well.

    Also, as a childless couple we spend way less than $6,500 per year on entertainment and dining out – and most of my dining out expense is lunches at work, which would be likely to increase if I were a busy working parent, not decrease. You’re projecting savings of over $100k over the course of a child’s life, which is way more than I could expect to save. I think the fact that your financial turnaround and discovery of frugality coincided with becoming a parent is skewing your calculations pretty heavily. Those who are frugal already won’t realize these savings.

    That said, I agree that the financial side of things shouldn’t dictate when you have kids. The estimates are usually averages – meaning that many, many people manage to spend less.

  11. Jeremy says:

    It’s articles like these that sometimes make me wonder why I read this site.

    You’ve made up your mind in advance (probably because you love your kids and want to justify that they are also a financial benefit), and to prove your point, you use estimates/calculations that are sketchy at best but more likely simply dishonest.

    Your $6500/year estimate for food and entertainment savings is ridiculous. Do you think that everyone without kids is eating out 5 meals per week and catching broadway shows twice a week?

    You also forgot to include your additional housing costs (extra bedrooms, utilities, etc).

  12. Rob says:

    If someone is that concerned about cost for a child, I wouldnt want them for a parent.

  13. K says:

    I agree with Trent. I don’t think the costs are nearly as high as people estimate, but even if they were, there are many tax breaks and other “automatic” savings that go along with kids.

    And as a comparison, if you have cable TV, visit Starbucks every day, and spend $50 per week on entertainment (dinner and a movie, shopping, happy hour, etc), you would spend about $90,000 over the course of 18 years, so it’s all about choices.

    Jeremy does have a point that your entertainment costs might not decrease that much. You will go out less to dinners and movies, but when you do go, you will have to buy extra tickets or pay a babysitter. Also take into account the zoo, ball games, etc. you will take them to. But most people in the position to be having children are established in a place of residence where they don’t have to move just to accomodate the kids. We have been living in a 4 BR house for 4 years and are expecting a child next year. Electricity and costs will go up slightly because of the extra laundry (our water costs are mostly fixed), but we already have to heat the house and pay the mortgage, so there’s no increase there.

    We have started tracking all our baby-related costs so time will tell how close we come to these estimates.

  14. Chris says:

    I say kids are an investment.. If they want to go to college, they can join the military or peace corps and pay for it themselves. I will only dress them in jeans and various t-shirts throughout their childhood. And don’t forget child labor! Just think of all the lawn mowing a car washing money you’ll save! :)

  15. Dave says:

    The $250,000 figure I read about a few years ago added college in it too, and extra housing, try and find that many one bedroonm houses? then if you have more than one the costs go down per, total costs are higher, my cousin has 6 kids living on $40,000

  16. Jasmin says:

    @ Rob
    That’s a narrow way to look at it. Poverty is a huge burden on a child, because it takes away advantages and even severely compromises needs. I’m a nanny/babysitter for low-income parents (because I’m willing to work for below minimum wage), and I’ve seen what it does to kids when parents just have kids and damn the consequences. I wouldn’t want someone to be a parent who didn’t keep in mind whether or not they could afford to have a child, but you’re right in that I wouldn’t want someone to be a parent whose ONLY concern was the money either.
    You look at your options, you make the best choices you can, and you try to give your kids the best start in life. It isn’t about the money. It’s about not neglecting your kids because you were too selfish to do a little prep work.
    Flowers… @};-

  17. L says:

    I don’t think it is easy to put a cost on a relationship, whether it is a spouse, a child, or any other close relationship. I live in an area that is mainly comprised of the very wealthy, with a small minority of very poor. Very few middle class. I work with children, and hear many comments regarding the lower income families. One of the comments frequently heard is regarding the number of children that they choose to have. So, when I read the original quote, I wondered if the intent of the quote was that he felt that only wealthy people should have children, and not people of lesser means.

    My children are grown, and yes, I have more disposable income now, but I’m not as content day to day as I was when they lived with me. What is money for, but to help furnish our basic needs and bring some kind of contentment with life? For me, children did that. Nothing else, no amount of money spent on anything else, can bring me that.

  18. Paul Tevis says:

    I think there are a number of hidden costs at play here, but the big one may actually be real estate. As someone who just bought a house, I’m acutely aware how important school districts are to the price of a home. A lot of parents are willing to pay a premium to get their kids as much school as they can.

  19. Ali says:

    I don’t think we should put money values on human beings.

  20. liv says:

    technically, the quote is true…that is why having kids is a CHOICE.

    i will still have kids, don’t care how much it costs.

  21. Luk Arbuckle says:

    If I’m not mistaken, you have not considered the power of *compound interest*. For example, $5k a year over 18 years, at an annual interest rate of only 5%, will get you about $150k (which is $60k more than the $90k you put in, that is, without compound interest). Add the cost of saving for an education and this probably explains the seemingly high estimates you are describing. But, quite frankly, my daughter is worth even more.

  22. Zannie says:

    I’m not interested in having kids, regardless of how much they cost, but the omission of increased housing costs alone raises huge red flags for the accuracy of these estimates.

    And my boyfriend and I combined probably spend less than $1000 a year on entertainment–certainly less than $1500. The fact that your entertainment costs dropped that much is a testament to how much you were overspending before, not to how much money your kids “saved” you.

    And what about health insurance?

  23. ms says:

    Cheap or expensive, I don’t want them either way.

    I ran into one in Walgreen’s the other day. Running up and down the isles saying god knows what loudly as can be. He was like a miniature drunk person. My friend and I looked at each other and said “Man, I’m glad we don’t have any of these.”

    Look, kids are great and worth every penny if you want them. Unfortunately, most people “accidentally” have kids. Luckily, I’ve dodged that bullet for thirty years.

    I have a friend that wasn’t so lucky. I saw him over the holidays, and trust me, he didn’t look as if his life was any “richer”.

    I wouldn’t try to put a price on a human though. Way too many variables. I’m sure they’re much cheaper to raise in Iowa than it would be here in San Francisco.

    I defer to the late, great George Carlin:


  24. Faculties says:

    I’m here to say that the food costs per child go up a lot as the child gets older. My 7-year-old ate an entire loaf of raisin bread in one day last week. A loaf of raisin bread used to last me a week before kids, and three or four days when he was littler. I can see the teenage years coming on!

  25. Heidi says:

    Preach it, brother. You’re so right about this.

  26. Beth says:

    It’s awfully hard to do a cost-analysis on children. I didn’t realize fully until I had my own children that they are totally enriching – the very best investment that I’ve ever made. No amount of money could increase the value of my life they way they have.

    Not everyone wants to have children, but money should NOT be a reason to choose that path.

  27. Zannie says:

    Oh, and having been raised on welfare, let me tell you it’s not very fun.

  28. Cynthia says:

    I agree with you–children are not that big an expense. Some of the high costs come from calculating in housing expenses. Almost everyone moves to a larger house when they have a family and this is one reason, at least on some of the estimates I have read, for the high expense estimates.

  29. Pan says:

    The fatal flaw in your post is that the true cost to the planet and everything living here because of people is not addressed. The cost of making more humans is far more than a finacial one. Humans are actively raping the planet of its natural resources and polluting the enviornment at break neck speed. The last thing we need is more humans on earth. We’ve doubled our population since 1980. The more people that are here the faster we get things messed up. The only way for future generations of humans and other critters on Earth to have a good life is if begin to realized how much damage we do here as a group. We are the only species that is not an asset to the planet in some way.

  30. ceejay74 says:

    This is such a great article. It came on the same day as an article from “What to Expect When Expecting” that has the current wisdom of how much it will cost: “at least $242,000 each to raise those babies to age 18 — and that’s before you factor in college tuition (ouch!).” While I think some of the commenters have some good points about how it will cost more than your estimation–for instance, we barely ever eat out or do paid entertainment outside the home anyway, so that savings won’t apply–I think you make a really good case for it costing less than $242,000+.

    Plus, to the people that talk about a bigger home being part of the cost: That’s really a choice you make about where you want to live. You don’t need a bigger home to have kids. We have a 950-square-foot, 2-bedroom condo and we plan on having two kids and staying there for at least five years. We really could stay there forever, except we’ll probably be moving in a few years and we may look for a slightly bigger place (or we may look for one the same size–who knows?) I’ve been looking into small-space parenting and it’s completely doable, and not a negative thing at all.

    This article and the “What To Expect” one coming together like that makes me want to keep track along the way when I start trying to have kids, so I can pass along to other frugal wannabe moms what it will really cost.

    I hated the comment about not wanting a parent who was concerned about costs–I want to make sure my kid’s needs are covered and that I don’t ever become a burden to them; how is that a bad foundation for a parent?

  31. Christina says:

    The only thing I see that could change the number is a)college and b)your estimate, I don’t believe, doesn’t include the time value of money (aka infalation). Which these days, you know exist! =) Love the article though!!!

  32. Goalhunter says:

    Seems like this comes up every so often on the various blogs. I find the debate about cost of a kid to be a bit distasteful given the assumption that people are all equal. After all, we each were once kids and now we’re debating the cost of kids. It’s like we’re debating the cost of ourselves. Obviously most of us think we’re a bargain for whatever we get paid by our jobs, which is likely far more than $250K over our lives.

    Swallowing that distaste, the conclusions you can get from such a number are nonsense. For example, if you cost out the lifestyles of billionaires you find that they may “cost” millions to upkeep all their houses and cars, etc. If you use that to conclude whether you should become a billionaire you will find that you can’t afford it! Same with the cost of kids: Unless you are really at the poverty line and can’t even take care of yourself, you will find that kids cost what you can afford and things will naturally substitute. You are making a life and lifestyle choice more than a money choice. A life with kids, or one without.

  33. todo es bien says:

    I love my daughter, and quite literally wouldnt trader her a billion dollars, but unless you include opportunity cost you are not analyzing correctly. In my case, my wife is a full time mom for at least the first five years, and probably a part time worker after that. Good analysis should include the foregone income stream that you sacrifice.

  34. susan says:

    But they are worth it.

    And yeah, a teenager will eat your entire weekly food supply in one day. If friends come over too – God help you.

    We feed a garage band every weekend. Yipes.

    I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  35. Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet says:

    I find the 200,000 number that is tossed around to be pretty accurate, even without taking into account lost wages or college.

    There were a lot of things missing in your post, which I’m sure you were aware of since you called them “back of the envelope” calculations.

    Either way, kids are life as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t want to live my life without being a mom. Money isn’t a factor when it comes to this decision.

  36. Mike says:

    Since when are children about expenses? If folks are that worried about the cost of children perhaps parenthood isn’t for them all. Not to encourage irresponsible behavior but procreation is rarely only about the financial commitments incurred.

    After my son was adopted (talk about expenses!) it motivated me as a new parent to further my career in ways I’d previously overlooked. I wasn’t motivated prior- because as DINKS my wife and I had more than enough and life was more about having fun and lifestyle, not career. Parenthood gave me the nudge to live up to my potential in my career. Its also been an enriching experience thats made me ( IMHO at any rate) a much better person. How do you quantify that financially? You simply can’t do it.

    I think the financial costs are such a small part of the commitment of parenting- there are bigger issues such as emotional costs. Many children are raised by fantastic and loving parents on small incomes. I’d also wager many are raised by much wealthier parents doing a darn poor job of parenting in general.

    While finances are a fact of life for every aspect of living they certainly aren’t the final word on some subjects.

  37. Candi says:

    I am sorry Trent but your article did seem largely biased in favor of your kids. I do not agree with the 250K number but I do not agree with you either. Kids are a huge expense, especially initially. I agree that the total cost goes down with each subsequent child but at the start there are a number of expenses associated with a child. Certainly if having a child is going to put someone at or near the poverty line, I have to say that they probably should not have one. After that it becomes a personal question. And yes as harsh as it sounds finances SHOULD be a part of the equation. Not the whole equation but a piece. If waiting a year makes your finances better, that can’t be a bad idea. I think you love your kids and believe they are worth every penny. That does not mean that it’s a reasonalbe financial leap for others to make right now. . .

  38. Melinda says:

    I think a lot of the early cost of the child is because most people (yes, a generalisation!) use disposable nappies and formula feed. The calculations that I’ve seen also take into account that when you have children you ‘have’ to buy a big house, and a big car, and take them on holidays all the time, and have big birthday parties. The figures are based on a consumerist lifestyle, not frugality. I know there is no way our daughter has cost us anywhere near that amount, even taking into account that we’ve had to pay private school fees for the last six years!

  39. Golfing Girl says:

    Trent, your article should have been titled, “It’s POSSIBLE to raise a kid for less than $200,000.” However, your estimates are EXTREMELY low. I want you to write again when your kids are teenagers and you’re paying inflated car insurance rates and when they start organized sports that run $500 each…
    I agree with Candi–finances have to be considered at some point. We made the decision to have only one child so that we could provide more quality time as well as more resources for our child. We also dream of retiring early, which won’t happen with addtional children to support…

  40. typome says:

    Like Jeremy, it’s posts like this that remind me why I don’t check this site as often as I used to. Statistics and studies should be left to professors who study these things and can provide real information.

    I hate being critical, but maybe you can use it to your advantage. For instance, if you’re going to write about your personal situation, then make the writing style convey that, rather than write with authority. If you do personally, people will see your situation as a personal blog and will forgive the lack of information and thoroughness that other commentors have mentioned (i.e. housing, loss of opportunity, that not everyone was eating out 5 times a week, that some people are near the poverty line, etc.). I get tired of blogs with their “how to” tips and the “10 ways to do this and that” because, after a while, it just doesn’t have the same substance as someone else’s writing where months and years were devoted to studying these statistics (think economists, sociologists). I even told myself I wouldn’t read a book anymore that wasn’t written by someone with a PhD or wasn’t a professor.

    I’ve found that I enjoy your older blog posts more because they were more personal. I know these were unsolicited suggestions, but I hope you can go towards that style again.

  41. McKenna says:

    This poses some interesting points that I hadn’t thought of before, but this argument leaves something to be desired.

    I also think it’s worth mentioning that this post can’t help anyone else decide for or against having kids–that choice is way too personal, and I don’t think that’s the intent here.

    But Trent’s situation can’t apply to anyone else because everyone is different. Not everyone will come out ahead like this.

    The cost that increased most dramatically for us was childcare, which is double what Trent’s costs are.

    The other added expenditure is healthcare. Our premiums tripled from what we paid pre-kids (and continue to rise significantly every year). We also incurred a lot of medical costs for each child’s birth. Add in a few health scares (which were, thank god, nothing serious), and we have a LOT of medical expenses.

    Considering that the primary cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is due to health costs and mounting medical debt, this is a huge issue that can’t be ignored. And, like it or not, kids add to this issue.

    Between childcare and healthcare (and the lack of corresponding salary increases to cover these rising costs), we are spending significantly more than we did pre-kids.

    I’m guessing Trent is protected by *some* of these things because he has health insurance through his wife’s teaching job, which usually offers better coverage and lower costs than many other individual and employers’ plans.

    He is also blessed with healthy kids. One friend pays something like $25,000/year for therapy for her autistic son.

    Kids are definitely worth it, but there are serious financial risks associated with having them.

  42. jana says:

    Great Post-I’m so sick of people saying how expensive kids are. You proved them wrong :)

  43. GayleRN says:

    Everyone so far has assumed that a child will be normal and have normal expenses. A child with some sort of illness or other need for special attention or high medical bills will blow all of your estimates out of the water. It is far more common than most people think. Not to discourage people but it does happen. And when it does happen you not only have much higher expenses, but may have a much lower income related to being totally unable to find child care thus one parent is forced out of the work force. Personal experience talking here.

    On the other hand when you are old and unable to care for yourself, your children may save you vast amounts of money you would otherwise be spending on home care or nursing homes. Maybe there are some paybacks that can’t be quantified. Like grandchildren.

  44. Jimbo says:

    Jana – Trent hardly proved them wrong. A LOT of commenters have soundly criticized Trent for missing out on lots of expenses (opportunity costs for lost wages, costs associated with moving to bigger apartments/houses etc). I’ll add one more – health care costs can also increase substantially once kids come into the picture.

    Wonder if Trent will bother to address these comments and issue a mea-culpa – I haven’t seen Trent comment in the comments section for quite a while, so I would doubt it.

  45. Linda says:

    I have never written a comment, but had to on this one. I am the mother of 3 teenage girls(16,15,13) and 4 step children (1 teenage girl, 2 teenage boys and 1 elementary age girl). I love my children dearly, but don’t delude yourself!! Children are incredibly expensive!!! I have always been frugal and was a stay at home mom most of my 1st marriage. My girls have grown up with frugality and don’t ask for much. Yet, I have watched the expenses increase steadily as they have aged. We employ many cost-saving strategies, (for example, since they are girls, they can share clothes). I know we do very well in comparison to other families, but the fact remains. Their costs increase!! Unless you are living in poverty (and I am a teacher), you can use your fore-mentioned number as an accurate spending range for the cost of raising a child. Check back in in 10-15 years when you have teenagers!! And Good Luck! :)

  46. Griffin says:

    I agree, no one spends $15’000/yr on one child. I know plenty of great parents and none of them spend that amount. I am good friends with a woman who’s child has special needs and I would be amazed if she spent $15’000/yr including everything.

    The other day someone (without kids) quoted to me that parents spend over a million dollars to raise a child to 25 including college. Really? A million? So I asked her if she knew anyone who spends $40’000 per year on one child. She didn’t.

    No one spends this much on kids!

    You would have to spend at least a thousand dollars a month to reach the amounts that commonly get touted as the average. The simple truth is that there is nothing “average” about the costs listed.

  47. Mike says:

    Yes, my children cost money but I’m paying for one of life’s greatest blessings. It’s been a great investment so far!

  48. Ben says:

    In Australia, the estimated cost of raising children was in the $400,000 to $500,000 range the last I read a newspaper article about this.

    The new school year starts in a few weeks and I expect to read an article about the cost of raising children in the next couple of weeks. The main company that does the economic modeling of raising children also happens to be one of the main providers of education saving accounts.

    Being the father of young children, I can vouch for childcare expenses being the second highest cost after the mortgage. The Australian government is generous in lessening the costs of childcare.

    Ultimately though having children shouldn’t be reduced to dollars and cents.

  49. Stijn from Belgium says:

    Come one Trent, your calculation leaves out a lot of key components. You did not calculate for education (not college), transportation, higher costs for food and clothes for the kids, and so on. And as mentioned by others, you were bound to reduce your spending, kids or not.

    However, the tone of your post is correct: everyone should crunch their own numbers in stead of simply following general “advice”.

  50. Brandon says:

    Kids are money drains. So are pets. Girlfriends/wives are really expensive. No one should have any of those things because they cost money.

  51. SP says:

    “You’ve made up your mind in advance (probably because you love your kids and want to justify that they are also a financial benefit), and to prove your point, you use estimates/calculations that are sketchy at best but more likely simply dishonest.”
    Agree with this statmetent. If you are already frugal, kids won’t save you anything save the tax deduction, and they will cost a ton. Of course you can omit paying for college (and sports and other enrichment activities), refuse to buy them much for clothes, hand have them get jobs when they are 14. People raise kids this way, but that isn’t most parents goal.

    Not that you shouldn’t have kids because of cost… but get real.

  52. Scotty says:

    I actually had this discussion with my parents the other day (I’m long since married and moved out). It’s an interesting topic and raises lots of discussion. That said, all of the statistics I’ve read over the years always quantify the lifestyle you raise your kids in, such as ‘It costs X to raise a child in a middle-income home’.

    I would have to agree that I think Trent’s estimations are pretty conservative. When I discussed this with my parents they mentioned there’s a tons of things you don’t even think about which nickel-dime the number up and up. Heck, the cost of insuring your cars for 16 year old freshly-licensed young drivers can be a pretty big expense in and of itself. I think there’s a lot more to it. Throw in weddings, maybe a small car accident, birthday gifts, college, and it all adds up. Trent brings up a lot of good points, but it would be important to note that he’s obviously writing the article from a very fugal standpoint.

    I think Trent’s numbers showcase a good low/conservative case, but $250K I think is a perfectly reasonable median. I would think it’s entirely possible to raise a child with Trent’s numbers, but not everyone is going to do it in such a frugal manner.

  53. Krista says:

    “Obviously, as the child grows, we’ll begin to accrue more non-child-care expenses for them: education costs, growing entertainment costs, and so on. I’ll actually increase our expense per child at $500 per year after age six.”

    Only $500 per year more?

    Here are a few (I think) basic things that you’re not including:

    – Bigger house to hold your kids: you’ve already done that, and even after you pay the mortgage, you’ll still have the bigger property tax bill.
    – Allowances: $500 a year gives each kid a max of $4.80 each week with which to learn to manage money well – something I know you want to teach your kids
    – Any extracurricular activity: even if your kids ONLY do things through school, sports still require equipment, band requires an instrument, and it all comes out of your pocket
    – Any vacation you take (even if it’s a frugal one) will cost twice what you’d spend without kids
    – Transit: unless you want to drive teens everywhere, you’ll likely be getting them a bus pass and in my city that’s $700 a year each
    – Clothes and toiletries: judging by what you’ve said on here in the past (the post where you advised charging your kids for their extracurriculars comes to mind) I’m guessing you’ll make them responsible for much of this when they start working. But I really hope you won’t be making them buy their own underwear, shampoo, feminine hygiene products and toothpaste. $250 a year there.

    I really could go on… but I won’t. You’re just way off the mark on this one.

  54. Troy says:

    Our kids cost alot. The difference compared to when we first were married with no kids years ago to now:

    bigger house
    different vehicles (more room/more doors)
    more food
    more utilities
    higher health insurance
    higher life insurance
    toys toys toys
    clothes / shoes / coats /hats pajamas
    diapers / wipes
    plates / bottles / utensils
    bikes / swingsets
    baby gates / safety gear
    pre school
    swimming lessons.

    It has already cost me $250,000 (no joke) and it has only been 4 years.

  55. Eric says:

    College costs can range, so it’s worth asking whether that estimate was intended to be a boundary or an average. The school I’m attending costs about $42K per year, so that alone adds up to $168K without considering the interest that the money could earn. Tuition costs are inflating very quickly as well.

  56. Kim says:

    Not only lost wages but lost investment opportunity as well. Run those numbers – or maybe yet, better not – you’ll get nauseous.

  57. CPA Kevin says:

    Wow, this post really brought out the Trent-bashers! I think it’s pretty clear by these statements that Trent is talking about his own personal situation…not everybody’s experiences:

    “Let’s break down what we’re spending right now on our children.”


    “Let’s look at several elements that will save us money during our children’s lives.”

    Leaving out the additional housing costs was a big error – since Trent has previously stated they only moved because his former apartment was getting cramped.

    Did I miss the $1,000 each “child tax credit”, Trent? Don’t forget about that one.

  58. Stephanie says:

    Wow Scotty #38! I didn’t get the car, the insurance, the college education or a wedding fund from my parents! Does that mean that they shouldn’t of had me? I know they spent some of their money extremely foolishly and I can’t say that I have never had a bitter thought when I make my student loan payment every month… but parents aren’t responsible for all that!

    Let’s talk about ROI though! Think about your golden years without having any kids to help you out. There is no guarantee that they will but the chances are better if you have kids than if you don’t! I have seen nursing homes and I don’t want to end up there!

  59. Fred says:

    Your biggest “expense” is the money you don’t make!

    With that, if we consider that the time children will take away from your money producing activities, the cost of children is… …really depending on how productive you are…
    from negative (for government employees) to staggering for entrepreneurs…

    In consequence, only government employees have an incentive to have kids, and in all logic, should reproduce more…

    Over time, this “evolutionary pressure” bends the proportions towards more and more “government employment prone individuals”.

    No doubt the courage, energy, will and leadership of this nation is crumbling under the weight of more and more inbred functionaries.

  60. Fred says:

    From an investor’s angle, and with compounding in mind, kids drain the budgets of couples early in life. These non surplus to invest producing budgets are to be compared with the income producing and compounding interest collecting invested surplusses from non kid bearing couples…
    For an individual, the main expense originated with kids lays in the future in the form of dividend collecting deficits.
    Things are a little bit different viewed in aggregate and that is why a Nation and a government will ALWAYS incentive its subjects to reproduce en masse.

  61. Kim says:

    “I have seen nursing homes and I don’t want to end up there!”

    Stephanie, next time you are in a nursing home, find out how many of the residents have children -probably all of them. You’re not seriously arguing that a good reason to have kids is so someone can take care of you later?

    Chill, people! Trent’s presenting a cost analysis – not a cost/benefit analysis.

  62. Kim says:

    Good grief! This seems to have hit a sensitive nerve here. As for only having “experts” provide facts & figures, even if we do miss a few things here and there along the way, it is intellectually lazy not to do the figures yourself, to review what the “experts” say to determine whether they are in the ballpark or not, or if you are missing something in your own figuring.

    If I were to take everything “experts” say as gospel truth, then the world would be heading into an ice age (a commonly espoused theory in the 1970’s) only to turn into a global warming crisis merely 30-40 years later. Only a few experts predicted the current economic crisis, and I only heard a few people even discuss the possibility of a 9-11 type attack prior to that time. Alternately, experts have warned me that butter was bad and I should eat margarine instead, while experts now tell me that margarine is the worst. Caffeine is bad. Caffeine is good. Chocolate is bad. Chocolate is good. Nuclear energy is bad. Nuclear energy is good. Coal is bad. Coal is good. High gas prices are terrible for the economy. Low gas prices are terrible for the economy.

    So-called experts warn us that we shouldn’t have children due to the expense or due to overpopulation, only to have us lament that their is not a large enough working population to support the social security system of the baby boomers.

    I think it is a safe bet to be sceptical of experts and to do your own thinking and figuring. Several people have stated that a person should not have children if they will be close to the poverty line.

    Perhaps some of our thinking on this matter is because we listen to what society tells us we must have and that our children are entitled to. Our culture demands that children be in Little Leages or Park & Rec sports, dance classes, music lessons, karate, and more. The right clothing is demanded as are the right schools, appropriate vehicles, driving when the children turn 16, braces, Ipods, WIIs, DVDs, and the latest recreational sports equipment out there. Also included is the requirement that parents pay for their children’s education and provide allowances and private bedrooms complete with TV, computer, game machine, stereo, and cell phone.

    We joke that we intentionally kept my kids poor so they would be motivated to work. We did not gripe and moan about money being tight, nor did we tolerate them griping.

    We didn’t have fancy cars, but what we had was PAID FOR. We made decisions about what activities they could participate in. Sometimes only one child could participate in an activity at a time and the rest of us went along to support them and to cheer them on.

    We have not paid for our children’s college education. One received a full-ride scholarship to a very good university, the second joined the military and has the GI bill, and the third is completing a well-known engineering school on a mix of scholarships, grants, loans and frugality.

    It depends a lot on your expectations for what your own children should have. It is not to say that our children went without braces, just that when those were needed, other things were postponed.

    At times it is tempting to look at your children and feel like they should have more, but I look around the world and see how much my children have. My children have only gone barefoot when they wanted to feel the sand between their toes or the grass beneath their feet. Their longest trek for water has been from the back yard to the kitchen faucet. They may not have had lives filled with extracurricular activities, but they have developed their own imaginations and the ability to learn and to converse with others.

    So what is the cost of these children? I could not calculate. Less than the estimates because of our own choices, but the cost has also been more than we could have imagined. There are times when we would have given up except there were children depending on us. Sure there are trips we could have taken without having to meet their needs, but there is a wealth of love and interdependence that is incalculable.

  63. Scotty says:


    I never alluded to certain incomes not being allowed to have kids.

    And I didn’t get a car. I was raised upper-middle class, so I lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle. My parents have always had 2 cars, and when I turned 16, I was allowed to use one when needed. Insuring a 16 year old male driver, even as a second driver, aint cheap. I dont consider that a pampered lifestyle. I think I was raised in a pretty fair and average middle-class home.

    I also live in a country, your neighbor to the North (Canada) (one of the few in the world) with higher wages and standards of living than the U.S. By no means am I trying to bash the states ( love the states), but up here college educations are dramatically cheaper so having a parent being able to pay is more common. Tuition at a respected university up here for a full 4 years costs less than 1 year down there.

    Don’t get me wrong, my parents/family are by no means rich, but they were able to reasonably afford my upbringing. My childhood would have been substantially different had I been brought up in the states. My parents once considered a move, but the costs of healthcare alone were a show-stopper.

    The whole point of my post was to illuminate the point, which many others also did, that not everybody raises children in the same frugal manner as Trent. Not everyone lives below the poverty line. Can a minimum wage worker raise 2 or 3 kids? Sure! Should they be allowed to? Don’t see why not. That wasn’t the point of my comments. Trent’s figures were obviously at the very low/conservative end of things, though.

  64. queen stuss says:

    Children cost as much or as little as you want them to. You can buy them the best of everything, or just the basics. You can have a massive house with all the mod cons, or just an average size house. You can drop an income, or stay on two.

  65. Connie says:

    I liked this post, but I agree about the comments on necessaries like healthcare, housing, and other such things that add a lot to the cost of children. Plus, depending on the family, there are of course extras like music lessons, a car, and nice clothes; it just depends on the family’s values. I’m lucky enough that my parents are paying for college, but that is $200,000 right there not including travel expenses to school and study abroad locales or books.

    HOWEVER, children are also a kind of insurance. In my culture (Chinese), aside from the emotional aspect, parents also regard children as investments for their own future. If a retirement fund dries out or illness strikes, children are there to support and take care of their parents, and parents will often live with their children’s families regardless. Paying for a child’s college education in a way helps secure the parents’ future by giving their child a better chance at earning a good living. I just thought I’d mention that having children isn’t completely a one-way monetary relationship.

    I also strongly agree with those who mention that you can’t put a price on the emotional enrichment children provide. And in terms of my point about insurance, a child can provide much more loving and lasting attention than any health insurance company or retirement fund.

  66. Mom of expensive kids says:

    This is a funny thing to read as my daughter sits with her $80/hour reading tutor (who comes twice a week). It’s taken a few years of very expensive, specialized instruction, but it’s been worth it and I’m just grateful that we have the money to do it.
    I’d hate to add up everything I’ve spent on my kids, but then I’d also hate to add up what I’ve spent on dogs in my lifetime. As long as I can afford it, I’m glad to spend it.

  67. Fred says:

    Kim wrote:
    “…My children have only gone barefoot when they wanted to feel the sand between their toes or the grass beneath their feet. Their longest trek for water has been from the back yard to the kitchen faucet…”

    When the awareness of Americans about world’s problems is oftentimes limited to multiple choice tests that reward partial knowledge and never comprehensive understanding, it is a rare enlightenment to read Kim’s comment.

    Thank you Kim, you made my day!

  68. Jim says:

    I think some people are reading too much into this article and then being overly critical to the point of almost bashing.

    Trent is not saying his #’s apply to all of us, he’s not saying children are dirt cheap nor is he shoving pro parenthood propoganda on everyone or pretending having children is a cost saving scheme.

    Trents numbers are obviously only a representation of what his own family spent. He is not saying that the numbers he cites will apply to typical people or average Americans or any specific reader. He is just citing his expenses as an example. His point is that the $200-250k figures are higher than what he sees and they dont’ count tax breaks or other savings.
    Trent even refers to his numbers as “back of the envelope” and he notes that people will likely be able to double his numbers.


  69. Kathy says:

    I grew up one of 5 kids, very poor. We didn’t have a larger house, we shared rooms with bunk beds. No summer camp, few vacations, no health care when we were sick, no braces on my teeth (I don’t smile much as my teeth are so crooked), our clothes are hand me downs or from goodwill. No college funds. No wedding funds. Often no Christmas gifts. It was miserable at times. But not always.

    Still, I realize my Dad did the very best he could by us, working tremendously long hours, giving up so much for us kids. Obviously, he thought we were worth it.

    Despite everything, I am glad to be alive, and glad for what I have had in life. There are still wonderful moments, definitely life is worth living, even when you are dirt poor.

  70. Sam says:

    I agree with Jeremy that your $6500/year estimate for food and entertainment savings is ridiculous. My husband and I barely eat out at all because we have time to shop, cook, and plan.

    I also think that for this article to be accurate, you need to include loss of income for time off, lack of advancement potential, etc. And the cost of needing more space, etc. If I lost my sanity and decided to have a baby, I most likely wouldn’t be pulling in a six figure salary and we’d probably need a bigger house.

    Also to go off on a slight tangent…

    What’s up with tax deductions for having kids? I don’t think it’s fair that my husband and I who don’t have kids have to search high and low for tax deductions while people with kids get to take a deduction.

    I wouldn’t have kids if they paid quarterly dividends, but I don’t understand why the government financially rewards people for having kids. It’s not like we need to increase the population. In fact, with the way thing are going, there should be incentives not to have kids. Just sayin’…

  71. cv says:

    I agree with typome – I like posts like this better when they’re written from a personal point of view and not from a point of view of “authority”. “Here are some ways the calculation is different in my case” is a lot different than “All those estimates are totally misleading.”

    I love your posts that relate to your life – New Year’s Eve parties, cloth diapering, playing in the park with your son, cooking frugally, learning about investments and insurance, etc. You sometimes get into trouble when you try to generalize. It might help if you asked for contributions in the comments more often, i.e. “Here are some of the savings I’ve found. What has your experience been?” Then the response would be “My housing/healthcare costs went way up” and not as much “You’re totally wrong because you forgot about increased housing/healthcare costs.” You’ve got great commenters, and I’d love to see you ask for more discussion instead of presenting completed arguments, which can be tempting to try to pick apart.

  72. spaces says:

    Whether the #s work out similarly for me, or not, I’m pleased to see Trent and so many others questioning conventional wisdom that children have to be expensive. I’m pregnant with my first child, and sick to death of people and shops suggesting to me that I have to have certain things for my child or else she will suffer (with the implication, or else I will be a bad mother). For the most part, I am following what I call my great grandmother test: If she did not have it, then I need to think thrice about whether the thing is necessary or an enhancement to life. Of course there are obvious exceptions like car seats.

    Further, to the extent that the outlandish estimates include a college education fully funded as a gift from parents, they are misleading in that they consider the costs of college right now — costs that are (hopefully) at the peak of a dramatic spike that has occurred only very recently. There is no reason to believe that college costs will continue to rise, or that they will remain as high as they are, and many indicators that the costs must come down, as the cost of higher education is priced beyond the reach of many, if not most, students. College hasn’t always cost $100k+. It shouldn’t now, and it can’t forever.

  73. T says:

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    My husband and I have been doing a lot of these types of calculations ourselves lately. We’re expecting our first child in 2 months, and are in the middle of making career and housing decisions that are affected by how many kids we think we want to have and how much we expect them to cost us.

    I have to agree that our personal numbers still seem much, much higher than the ones here. We only live in an average size mid-american city, but our daycare (IF we get into the daycare associated with my work, and after the discount) will be nearly $1k/mo/child. Dependent health coverage through my husband’s job (mine doesn’t even offer it) is another $150/mo/child. In anticipation of the new baby, our roommate (we’ve been renting out the second bedroom in my condo to a former roommate from before marriage for years now) finally moved out, costing us $350/mo in lost rent money (and this is in a city where real estate is *cheap*).

    On top of it, I also agree with the commenter who said most of their dining out budget was food at work when they were too busy to bring it, and that this will only go up. My husband and I already spend <2k/yr on entertainment; I don’t think this will drop much, and a lot of the ways we trade time for money will have to be dropped.

    On another front, though – I think the people offended by the idea of doing these types of calculations are missing the points. Right now, we’re thinking “do we want to plan for 3 kids or 2?” And knowing what kinds of changes we’ll have to make in our lives to cover the basic costs of 3 kids rather than 2 seems like something that it would be bizarre NOT to start with!

    So, I still applaud the point of this post =)

  74. grapes says:

    I only read 1/3 of the comments. Sorry to be grouch, but isn’t it crass to be making a big deal out of the accounting that goes into a human being’s presence in this world?

    If people don’t want to have kids, that’s their right, and they should just leave it at that and not present big balance sheets for everyone else’s approval and sympathy. Similarly, put-upon-feeling parents should also save us the accounting. I am a little shocked that this post was made recently and that there are so many comments already. I appreciated the post but didn’t find it earth-shattering, and I’m surprised that people are so eager to quibble over costs revolving around… people. The care and maintenance of human beings. As someone else said, (approx. quote), “If someone is so focused on calculating the cost of a child…”

    Those who want to have children realize that some dollars are going to be spent but remember, even on money-centric blogs, that all of us have more important things to consider than costs. (And like Trent said, what about the benefit side? That’s not really quantifiable in dollar amounts, either, nor should it be attempted.)

  75. Don’t forget about how much you can bring the university costs down with an RESP.

  76. Well written. Amen to the thought that you will save money when you have a child. Here is the thing. You hit the nail on the head when you said that your life changes. No more is going to the golf course with your buddies a great thing when you have your source of entertainment right at home. Watching my son grow up has been the most entertaining thing that I have ever experienced.

    I find that a lot of activities that I used to spend a whole bunch of man hours working for really do not jive with kids. For instance, no more bars. (They frown upon toddlers for some reason.) While an investment in toys seems like a daunting thing, remember that you always have someone in the family who has had a kid. Hand me downs are not only wonderful, they are required.

    As for teens. Thing is folks, I believe in good, hard work. There will be no supporting the neighborhood. I did not have that, and neither will my kid. The most important thing right now is to teach my son the lessons about money that I learned the hard way. Again, entertainment at its best.

  77. Melody says:

    I agree with many of the points here. When I had my daughter, I was on Medicaid. We are self-employed and un-insured for childbirth. I was very glad, as well, because I ended-up having an emergency C-section instead of the birthing cottage/midwife experience I had been working towards. I estimate my hospital stay alone was about $10,000 or more since they kept *me* about a day or two longer because my fever kept spiking at night.
    I got most of her stuff consignment (crib, toys), participated in a program through the Sheriff’s office and got her carseat for $20. We also vowed to treat her as a ‘second child’ and not buy every blessed thing imaginable. Add into this that we have repeat customers that have known us for years that gave us hand-me-down toys and clothes from their own kids/grandkids, two sets of parents and three Aunts/Uncles on my husband’s side and I swear we probably bought 2 toys and maybe 4 outfits for her the entire first year of her life. She was also on Medicaid by default for her first year.
    Overconfidence caused me to lapse in renewing the Medicaid much to my later dismay. My daughter’s health started to be in question and at 18 months she was finally diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. We literally got her to the ER about 48 hours before death. Now, trying to get her on medicaid again has been, thus far, futile because we had a good year in 2006, which until recently was our last tax return. So I have thus far been paying out-of-pocket for all her testing supplies, medications and doctor’s appointments which are $300/visit. I’ve found ways to save money, but it’s still expensive. We are about to file bankruptcy partially because of this and partially because of defaults from our business.
    Everyone gave us the advice to just do it if we wanted kids because there will never be a ‘right’ time. They were right. But the potential financial burden of a second child (50% chance diabetic) definately means the money is a huge factor in our decision not to have another kid. How can it not be? Unless this thing takes-off (which of course we are working toward) before I am around 38 (four more years), our darling daughter will be an only child.

  78. Helen says:

    I agree that Trent’s analysis isn’t as deep as it could have been, but that’s okay. He’s just a guy writing a blog and he doesn’t need to have watertight arguments – he has never professed to be some kind of financial guru. What is more important is that he stirred up debate and got people thinking… He got me thinking anyway – we recently had a HUGE financial setback that was completely beyond our control and it has left me thinking that by the time we recover financially, we’ll be too old to have kids. And yet Trent’s post has made me question that assumption, not specifically because of his arguments, but by the mere fact of putting the debate on the table and making me think about our own circumstances. Who knows, maybe Trent will be responsible for a baby boom as people realize that they CAN afford to take the plunge and fulfill their dreams without already having $200,000 sitting in the bank!

  79. Lisa says:

    I’m amazed my the comments to this post. A lot of them are valid on both sides, but I think the point still stands that kids don’t have to cost 250k. This is afterall a site about frugaility. Obviously not everyone can live as cheaply as Trent, but he’s taking the right approach and checking the numbers. I’ve always wondered when people came up with the 250k number if they just added up the current cost of a 4 year school- whereas Trent is doing the frugal choice and planning ahead which saves huge amounts of money i.e he estimated $1200/year/child –> 21600 over 18 years, not 100k or more that it cost to attend college now because he’s using saving and investing and so planning ahead and compounding are working for him! That if nothing else is important key in the article that isn’t highlighted enough.

  80. M says:

    Great post, but…

    You’re failing to take into account lost interest. Compound your figures by “the stock market average” of 10% each year…

    Costs to raise a child raise *alongside* inflation. I bet your $500 increase is underbudgeting reality.

    There are also indirect costs. Elementary school is not free. Divide $50/day by the size of your community.

    Lastly, children exact an *enormous* toll on the environment and opportunities of future generations. While they may be paying your social security, they’re ringing up tomorrow’s financial and ecological tab (assuming our lifestyles persist).

    Financially, ethically, and biologically, the costs involved give little reason to have beyond one to three children (i.e. <= replacement rate).

  81. Stephanie says:

    Kim #47,

    I partially said that in jest but the more I think about it, the more I think that it isn’t such a far fetched statement. Yes, there may be many people in a nursing home that have children but I know plenty of people who have or have had their parents in their home to care for them.

    American culture seems to find it more acceptable to stick parents in homes. Other cultures would be horrified at the prospect of doing that to their parents. Their legacy is their children. Why is it so horrible that people would want to have kids in order for someone to take care of them as they age?

    Like I said, it is no guarantee that adult children will take on that responsibility but whether it is on the low end with Trent’s estimates or on the high end of estimation, it would be worth it to me and to many others. It was a SERIOUS reason for previous generations and still is for some people today. Elder abuse is rampant since US attitudes treat seniors like they are disposable.

    But good for you if that isn’t one of your reasons.

  82. Wonko Beeblebrox says:

    liv @ 2:53 pm January 6th, 2009 (comment #16) wrote:
    > technically, the quote is true…that is why having kids
    > is a CHOICE.
    > i will still have kids, don’t care how much it costs.

    That is where my perspective comes in… tax credits should be used to encourage you to do things you _would_not_otherwise_do_ and which _also_ have a social benefit.

    A subsidy for opening up a new workplace or business in a disadvantaged neighborhood, for example, is a good use of tax dollars….

  83. Melissa says:

    What Lisa said. The point here is not “Hey look! The experts are all wrong!” It’s “If you work on it, you can spend less than you think, especially if you’re frugal, so don’t let the experts decide for you.”

  84. CDG says:

    Well, Trent, at least you attracted some experts telling you how to write your blog better!

    Good grief, people, this wasn’t a scientific study, just an example from his own life that you don’t have to spend what “they” say you do. A previous commenter said it best: You’ll be spending your money on SOMETHING, regardless.
    So, if you don’t want to spend money on kids and care more about maximizing your two-income earning potential and all that jazz, awesome, don’t have kids.

    The point here is that people who want to be parents shouldn’t be scared off by the inflated numbers that get tossed around in newspaper articles.

  85. M says:

    Numbers can tell you anything you want to hear:

    *Save & defer that $10,200/yr in your 401(k).

    *Invested 18 yrs @ 8% then withdrawn as retiree @ 25% you have +$309,414

    *Alternatively, with children you would have -$52,800

    * Children “cost” $362,214…

    –> 18yrs @ 4% inflation: $278,054

  86. CDG says:

    Also, Stephanie, that’s not a crazy notion at all. All of my deceased grandparents were taken care of at a child’s home through terminal illnesses. Both sets of my husband’s grandparents lived with his family at different times as he was growing up. Obviously, it’s not always possible, and some relationships are not good, but it’s not out of the question whatsoever.

  87. Leslie says:

    I’m surprised that no one other than Wonko has mentioned the tax credit thing. I think it is preposterous that people get “credit” for having children, when those children are going to be using services (public schools…Medicaid for impoverished children…) for which TAXES PAY.

    I propose that people that voluntarily get sterilized should instead be the ones getting tax credits, as they will not be costing the government extra money for human beings brought into the world.

    I grew up with a single mother and two younger sisters in the ’70s and ’80s. We got reduced-fee lunches at school, “scholarships” to go to the YMCA and government cheese. I realize no one plans to be divorced and financially struggling, but one can choose not to have three, four or however many children.

    It seems that so very many parents don’t take into consideration what outcome their choices and actions will have on their children, and instead think that life with children is going to be rainbows and puppy dogs.

    Just have kids and worry about how to pay for them later! Nothing bad will ever happen; marriages never end, jobs are forever and life is magical, right? Right??

  88. Jude says:

    Children become more expensive as they age. I say that even though my chronically ill child has always been fairly expensive. But now we’re into high school, and there are fees for sports and band; they have braces; driving lessons cost $375 a boy; they eat a heck of a lot more. They’re expensive.

  89. rb says:

    Having kids was the best thing we ever did! And the most expensive.
    We both are from poor families and know how to raise a family for well below the 200K level. But we are lucky to be able to give to our kids all the things we dreamed of having…sports camps in the summer, regular trips to see family, and pets. These splurges will put us over the 250K limit, but I’d do it over and over for my kids. So what if they are expensive.

  90. Jason says:

    Is Trent even reading these comments or is he too busy penning another book? I agree with the posters above who said that Trent has used figures to support his contention having missed out a whole host of expenses (and lost earnings) attributable to having childres.

  91. Clare says:

    Both the comments and the post are really interesting reading. For our family, one of the biggest “hits” has definitely been, as others have mentioned, the temporary loss of 1 income, then 1/2 an income, while our children are young.

    This was a choice we were able to make (and that I don’t regret, at least thus far), and I realize that not everyone has that choice. That said, unlike many others commenting, I was not a particularly frugal person before kids. In fact, I was more of a spendthrift. No debt (besides mortgage), but someone for whom money burned a hole in the pocket. (My spouse was much more frugal.)

    Having kids, and deciding to try to make it on a a below-average income (in the SF Bay Area), was probably the catalyst that made me think about money, and security, and my family’s future in a way that I never had before. Amy Dacyczyn also writes of this transformation, though I think it may have been marriage that prompted it in her case. Children have forced us to make many different choices. In our case, we are grateful.

    Because of the area in which we live (and grew up), and because of college, I don’t think $250K will be far off the mark in the end … but I don’t think it has to be that much either. Trent has succeeded in making all of us think about “average” costs and estimates–and whether or not they really apply to everyone. He raises some important questions.

  92. Christine says:

    Keep in mind also that many people are opposed to putting kids into all day childcare and that while childcare may cost 11K a year, staying home with my child has cost me 65K in income we are not making now that I am home.

    I would not trade the experience at all but it has been expensive for us. Or rather, the life we once had is gone for now. So for some people the financial equation is not just in actual cost, but in income lost.

  93. V says:

    Lol, so are children a “need” or a “want”? :P

  94. Rosemary says:

    Excellent post. Excuse me, but I’ve got some voting to do. ;)

  95. oneofnine says:

    I am SO glad you wrote this post, Trent. I am squarely in your camp in regards to making a decision to have children based on the “experts” speculation about how much they cost. (I shudder just thinking about it.)

    BTW, I LOVE the reader comment about the grandmother rule: if grandma raised her kids without it, can I do the same? Totally!

    I have a 3 month old and a 3 year old and I’ve never owned a changing table, highchair, baby boppy, bouncy saucer, and whatever other crap they try to convince us we can’t live without. My crib is secondhand and we’ve used the same one for both kids. I purchase great quality items at a fraction of the retail price from goodwill or craigslist. Perhaps this is too lowbrow for some, but will kids ever know the difference? Of course not, unless WE’RE the ones teaching them to differentiate.

    I grew up with eight siblings on a farm in rural NC. We were DIRT poor but never knew it. We always had food on the table, even if we’d dug the potatoes ourselves. We not only shared a bedroom, I remember sleeping between my two sisters in a double bed. Horrifying? Hardly. On the contrary, I remember nights of giggling and tickling and telling secrets under the covers until my dad threatened to come upstairs with “the stick.” Those are some of the most precious memories of my life.

    I started babysitting when I was 13, thrilled beyond words to be making a little money, and saved my pennies to pay for MY OWN insurance when I was added to my parents’ policy. Not only that, I also had to earn the money for my own car! Horrifying? Not at all. I learned the value of hard work and good pay– lessons I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

    And I’m not that old, either– I’m only 31! What I don’t understand is how things have changed so quickly. Instead of training children for adulthood, it seems to me that we want to coddle and spoil them by paying for everything…which could be a greater disservice than we imagine. I know people who can’t believe my children are sharing a bedroom– of course their kids not only have their own rooms but their private bathrooms. Okaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy!

    As for the health expenses, let’s try to remember that very often good health starts with good food and preventative care. Multivitamins, holistic therapies, herbal remedies, sufficient sunshine and exercise…these will go far in helping your kids develop strong immune systems to ward off common childhood illnesses. (I work in nutrition.) Trent’s kids are not necessarily the random recipients of a lucky health lottery. Building healthy kids is also an investment that pays big dividends in the long run!

    Please, please, please people…remember just how BLESSED we are compared to the majority of the world and many in our own country, and if you love and appreciate your kids that will go far beyond any $$$ value– and they will know it too.

  96. Sarah says:

    Trent — thank you so much for this article. As a 29-year-old woman, my husband and I have been thinking more and more about when to start our family. Money is a big issue, and I don’t think it’s wrong to evaluate your financial situation before choosing to have a child.

    I would like to see an article about what kind of financial preparations that are smart for a person or couple to make prior to having a child, especially in relation to health care and childcare.

    Also, to the critics of the article — my single-parent mom wasn’t able to provide a wedding fund, college fund, car (+insurance) and expensive vacations. But me and my sibs still turned out fine. I earned scholarships, accepted the fact we couldn’t afford a second car and often rode with friends or rode the school bus or walked to where I needed to go, and we took many wonderful day-trips to state parks, museums and zoos. Yes, she had to tell us no sometimes to some school activities for financial reasons, but we survived and found other extracurricular activities that didn’t cost much or anything at all (yearbook, tennis, academic team, 4-H to name a few).

  97. I loved your math for spending and saving on our children, however I never thought of having my children with a price tag in mind. LOVE is priceless!!!!
    Children and grandchildren are not a financial burden, they are a special blessing. There are many people out with lots of money, who will never experience this special blessing.
    Also, there are a lot of children who have everything, but lack true love from their very busy parents, and are brought up by hired help. These same children will probably be just as busy, when their parents get old, and long to see them.
    Our children are our most precious investment, our future, and purpose for life.

  98. Jihan says:

    I think people who say this are kind of missing the point. I understand the financial changes, but if it was that awful, I wouldn’t plan to have 5 children. To me, living simple and easy is the best thing ever. Having them to help and learn and take responsibility is important. And I think my children would thank me later on for teaching them a simple lifestyle.

    Yeah I may be spending on diapers (if I don’t buy cloth ones) but for everything else like Child Care (as mentioned) it might not be such a burden. I will just teach my children simplicity and how not to be greedy. I just think SOME people who say kids are a financial meltdown are just being greedy with money. As of now, I spend about 30% on myself, 40% on bills and costs, and 30% on charity/yearly charity payment. I wouldn’t mind cutting my spendings once I have children…

  99. Jihan says:

    By the way, my college costs are $4,000 a year estimate. This excludes books that may cost another a few hundreds, but you can find an excellent deal on used books. I do not wish my parents to pay for it, I am trying to get on my own feet. I have a lot more stuff to learn :)

  100. Strick says:

    Yes, having children is hazardous to your financial health. Of course, so is retiring or living past 65, and I’m planning for those as well.

    We’ve found the tax credits & exemptions cover a large percentage of the kid expenses except for the loss of income/childcare and possibly healthcare. If you’re lucky enough to have fantastic insurance or healthy kids, its really just the loss of income/childcare (we still live in the same average size house driving the same average size cars as before, so though I could see that being a consideration for those living the condo life, it didn’t affect us).

    The loss of income/childcare costs can of course be huge. But the interesting part of that was, once we decided my wife could stay home and that hit on income was taken, the incremental cost of additional children was very small.

  101. Lynne says:

    I understand where you are coming from as far as children you love are not a burden to care for. We had two children, and 2 my husband was supporting from a previous marriage. Medical insurance was provided by my husband’s employer for many years, but as premiums rose, he discontinued his insurance. I work as a teaching assistant, but our medical is only covered proportionate to our working hours, unlike the teachers. Therefore, in my case, at 6 hours per day and 10 months employed in the year, I have my insurance pro-rated to reflect that. Then the district covers the cap at that percentage. I pay the rest, which depends on how many I am covering. Also, we learned the hard way that during hospitalization we were covered 80% of the “recognized cost”, which was substantially lower than the hospital actually charged, leaving us with thousands of dollars owing. Secondly, sports are a huge expense. I’m not talking high school sports, I’m talking Little League baseball, soccer, local Parks & Recreation basketball, bowling leagues for kids. These are costly, but at the same time vastly rewarding for the kids & families. Clothes can be bought at second hand when kids are young, but you have not been in a classroom & heard the comments, hurtful for sure, from other children regarding second hand clothes etc. Or YOU shop at Wal-Mart???? OMG! Am I saying you shouldn’t have kids because they cost alot? NO! I feel they are worth every penny and then some. I just celebrated tonight, my daughter’s 35 birthday! Yes we too had our lean years & that’s okay; we made up for it in other ways. I would never trade that in.

  102. You made some excellent points in this post. I’ve often wondered at the inflated figures many people give about the cost of kids, mostly because my parents had five kids, and at that cost/kid, they would have had to be pretty wealthy to afford us!

    The “cost of kids” is like your level of living — you decide at which level you want to live (and which level you can afford). And spending more isn’t always better either! Some of the closest, most loving families I know are quite poor.

  103. IRG says:

    It doesn’t matter what the final numbers are or how they will vary by lifestyle (and lifestyle choices) and income.

    Children cost money to raise. Sometimes far more money than a potential parent or parents are able to generate.

    Most of these comments address what the cost of kids means to the parents.

    But the real reason you need the money–for food, housing, education and healthcare–for children, is to better help them grow, learn and thrive as unique souls and human beings. So that they do not have to grow up worrying, literally, about whether they can eat or have a roof over their heads. Lots of that still exists, folks, albeit not for those commenting here.

    Poverty takes many forms and while there are families with decidedly low incomes that raise healthy, stable children (and homes where parents have money but no time or emotional investment in their children with resulting behavioral difficulties for their children), there are plenty of people at the poverty level, as well as the working poor, who would tell you that if they had known how much it cost and how difficult it would be–and the effects of the stress and strain they experienced and then put on their kids–they would not have had children. Because they do see their kids suffering, and not from a lack of the right clothes or toys.

    You have to think about how NOT having money for essentials (we’re not talking Wii here folks although someone rightly commented that in today’s society, your kids will have a totally different and not necessarily positive life experience if they can’t participate with their peers in entertainment, etc). and other things will affect any children you have.

    You have to think about how well you will/can handle the stress of NOT having enough for what your children need.

    Too many people are overly optimistic about having kids and being able to provide for them.

    As the child of a parent who worked hard but could not provide even the basics at times, I know firsthand how debilitating financial stress is for children.

    Look at the kids who are now homeless along with their parents (many of whom were formerly middle class) or kids of parents who never had the capacity to make enough to keep the family above water financially.

    Some of those kids go on to excel at life and in making the most of it. Far too many suffer permanent damage and lifelong issues related to the lack of monetary support as a child. (And if you’ve never been homeless as a child, as I was, you can’t comment cause you don’t know that it’s a feeling that NEVER leaves you, no how much money you go on to make or save.)

    No, folks. It’s not all about the money. But please, stop pretending that love is enough. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. THAT romantic view of parenthood needs to be put to rest.

    An honest assessment of costs is what responsible people do before having one or more children. I know tons of loving parents who only had one child, while desperately wanting more, but knowing full well that economically it just could not work. It cost them plenty emotionally but they were responsible. They did not delude themselves into thinking otherwise as some of your commentators clearly are.

    We also know people who just had as many kids as showed up (God will provide…) and ended up relying on other people to basically support the family they couldn’t. (Jon and Kate Plus 8, anyone? Except everyone doesn’t have a TV show to support their family.)

    Kids are not an investment, a portfolio item or your future caretakers. They are souls entrusted to you on a life journey. You “owe” them because you make the choice (they don’t).

    Some of you can “afford” them (emotionally and financially), some of you cannot. Deal with it.

    It’s about the kids. NOT YOU and what YOU want…or expect from them.

  104. Leslie says:

    oneofnine, I’m also from NC, and am “only” 34. I also began babysitting from age 12 and got my first job at 15. My mother made me buy my car (a ’77 Volkswagen Beetle) and pay for the insurance. It was a source of pride for me that I earned the money that paid for it.

    Conversely, my 18-year-old half-sister (“birth father’s” and his second former wife’s daughter) was just given a very barely used Jeep Laredo after having twice wrecked (second time totaled) the (not old) Honda Accord she was given at 16 (Accord was her mother’s). It nearly makes me physically ill how little that child is being taught a) the value of money, and b) the consequences of her actions.

    Obviously, my half-sister’s and my (full) sisters’ and my upbringings were verrrry different. I do believe it is a generational thing–the “Millennials” (in the U.S.) seem to have been taught that they are above reproach. Until the past couple years, they’ve been raised in a fairly affluent society.

    Now that we have the highest unemployment rate since 1982 (when I was a child), perhaps–just perhaps–some of the overwhelming sense of entitlement will start to fade. The kids that have been raised to have everything they desire are going to have a rude awakening when it’s not going to be easy to get college loans (I’m not making this up) and car loans, to name just a couple things.

    Granted, I don’t personally “get” (or apparently, have) the need/desire to procreate/reproduce; however, I take issue with the stick-your-head-in-the-sand method of family planning. I maintain that as educated a society as we are, it’s irresponsible (to say the least) to oneself, one’s future child(ren) and one’s society to reproduce and just “expect” the money (enough future earnings) and “the system” (governmental assistance, in whatever form) to be there.

  105. Leslie says:

    Damn straight, IRG! And don’t even get me STARTED on that freakshow Duggar family!!

    I’m shutting up now!

  106. Iris says:

    Many thanks for this post!!!! You are sooooo right.

  107. Erin says:

    I agree with a number of people above that some of those savings only occur if you’re not already living frugally.

    On a more practical note, though… it looks like Trent forgot to divide by 2 kids in the second money-saver (them being tax deductions). So that number should be $8,175 (not $7,050) per child… making the final number $4,925 per child. I don’t really have a good sense of how that $1,125 will add up over the years, but it really should have a noticeable effect on the final numbers.

  108. Martin says:

    I was surprised to see that -with the exception of comment # 34- nobody has mentioned that raising kids is a great experience. Tiring at times, but hugely rewarding. Our two children are the best things that have happened to my wife and me. It is vaguely disturbing to see most commenters treat their children merely as objects that cost money.

  109. conny says:

    many valid points here. So i just traverse a proverb “small children small cost, big children big cost”.

  110. Robin says:

    If someone isn’t concerned about the cost of a child, I wouldn’t want them for a parent.

    Should it be the only consideration? No. But if you’re not going to accept that there is financial responsibility in raising another life, you’re not ready to be a parent, and your child will suffer for your lack of planning and foresight.

  111. Lisa says:

    Ooh, touchy subject evidently. I have 7 so I have some experience in the kid:expense ratio. Generallly kids are as expensive or not as you choose. Our health insurance premium is higher than a couple, they do need a few clothes and a roof. Otherwise the costs are negotiable. Before someone makes an assumption, we don’t receive any aid, yet we comfortably live on dh’s salary. Lifestyles are expensive, not kids.

  112. Matt says:

    Trent, I think you should start reviewing posts before allowing them to be posted, like you originally did. Too many people are trolling on your site, trying to pick apart everything you say to make themselves feel better. I think it was pretty obvious that your post was just proving the point that $250K for a child is ridiculous, and you just gave your personal case for it. Everyone else accusing you of doing so-and-so wrong need to get a life. I mean, bringing medical expenses and retarded children with special needs into these calculations? Really?.. I mean, let’s just think of any off-the-wall contradiction to make yourselves feel better, OK?….

  113. Dave says:

    oneofnine in comment #65 sums it up very well, what does your child need, not what you want, they need a good loving supportive family, food, clothing, entertanment, can all be rather inexpensive for need, it’s all about need/want trade-off.
    would you have rather, your parents work 80+ hours a week, and have them buy you all the good stuff and never be there for you, or have just what you need, and have your parents

  114. kim says:

    Give the guy a break…he has a baby and a preschooler. Although he may be reasonably attuned to that stage of childhood, he still is clueless about the more than a decade to come. Remember when we were teenagers and thought we knew everything. Until you have experience, you can’t really look back and understand your ignorance. Someday he’ll sit up agonizing nights trying to decide how to pay for the super expensive kararte lessons (when he knows that they’ll destroy his budget – but his son reads karate magazines and books and has been pleading for two years). He’ll be picking up take out because with the activity schedule of his kids (he wants 3+ right)there is not time between monitoring everyone’s homework, sports, and scouts to actually cook and serve a meal. I think I’d rather read this article then.

    I can’t comment to the teen expenses. I don’t even want to think about those. That above is two eight year olds and a five year old…and my friends with teens say I have it easy!

  115. Rob says:

    The point I was trying to make was who cares what the cost is. If I have that much time on my hands to even worry about it, maybe I should put that focus into my child. I unexpectedly had my first 2 and a hlf years ago. At the age of 41. And if I have to drain every monetary asset, or sell every material asset to assure his well being then so be it. I wouldnt change anything for the world. There is no price on a 2 year olds smile, or hug when he sees you. If I become penniless to assure his education then so be it. My selfishness is done for the rest of my life.

  116. Sally says:

    Kids are money drains. So are pets. Girlfriends/wives are really expensive. No one should have any of those things because they cost money.
    Brandon @ – That made me laugh! Having been both a wife and girlfriend -the wife is more expensive!! :)

    When I think of my kids – I think more of RESPONSIBILITY than finances. I have two children and would have liked more – however – I felt that being personally responsible for two children was all that I could handle. It’s an awesome responsibility to raise a child into an ADULT. The financial part is an aside – albeit an important one.

  117. Battra92 says:

    Personally I don’t want kids but I agree that your estimates are way too conservative. I was the third of five kids and four of us are living at home still. I’m moving out this year but when the youngest in my family is 21 you realize that not everyone moves out at 18.

  118. LisaNewton says:

    If I’d waited to have children until I could afford it, I would have been childless.

    However, I have 4 grown children, all either graduated from college with advanced degrees or are in college.

    Being a parent teaches you to manage money, do things on a budget, and find ways to do some of those things a littler cheaper. To coin an old phrase: Necessity is the mother of invention.

  119. momof4 says:

    Like weddings, children do not have to be as expensive as the world would present. Yes, they are going to cost you some cash, but honestly, I’m spending my cash on exactly the life I wanted, one with children in it.

    And to Leslie, the government wants us to have families because they are our future. They are the future employees and taxpayers, soldiers, senators. There is no benefit to country that pays it’s citizens not to reproduce. Look at other countries where the birth rate is very low, below replacement level. It is a detriment to their culture.

  120. My child brings me joy and happiness, and as we know, money simply cannot buy that.

  121. reulte says:

    Brandon (#36) — If you think wives are expensive, you should have a husband! They want more expensive toys and housework doesn’t even get done! (somewhat tongue-in-cheek and somewhat bitter divorcee). But you are right; all of these things — shall we include cars, boats, and motorcycles? A passion for photography or travel? — can cost extra money.

    SP (#37) Frugal parents won’t save the costs mentioned by Trent (particularly his talley of outside entertainment), but by the very nature of being frugal — they will spend less than the average parent anyway. Kids don’t have to “cost a ton”.

    Fred (#45) I find your remarks somewhat bias against government employees. Perhaps I should point out that many (most?) entrepreneurs are not ‘staggeringly’ productive since so many go out of business.

    Lisa (#74) Yes — “Lifestyles are expensive”. I so agree!

    Trent is putting his figures into analysis and I agree with his comment that the experts’ figures of $200-$250K can lowered. After all, it’s an averge and by definition at least 49% of the statistical group will spend less than that. When intentional, voluntary frugality comes into the picture the amount spent on raising a child can be lowered tremendously; but trying to keep up with the Joneses will certainly have you spending upwards of $250,000 to raise a child. The point is not to keep up with anyone, but to give your child what is needed – security until they are able to maintain their own security. That includes fiscal security as well as emotional security.

  122. Sylvia says:

    Interesting post, but I’ll have to repeat what several others have mentioned. The costs can be staggering, and here’s why:

    1) Healthcare costs: One my my four kids (two of whom are adopted) has asthma, another has extremely bad feet and needs special $150 shoes with inserts (and he needs these twice a year at least because he’s 14 and growing like mad) , and one of the adopted ones still has some issues fitting in with our family and needs counseling services. And don’t even get me started on the orthodontia and corrective lenses…

    2) Food: Two 14-year olds, an eight-year old and a nine-year old. Grocery budget is $800 on average (and we don’t eat a lot of meat or processed foods)

    3) Decreased wages: I quit my job as a chemist to stay at home with the kids. Lost income–over 40 K.

    4) Car: A bigger family means a bigger vehicle to haul everyone around in. In most cases, this means both a higher-priced vehicle and higher fuel costs.

    5) Usual kid accessories: toys, computer (one computer that they all share), cell phones for the older two (and I consider all of these necessities since much of their homework has to be done on a computer and I like being able to keep tabs on them by phone)

    6) College: My adopted girls don’t seem to have much interest in college at this point, but our boys are another story. We started saving for them a long time ago, but those savings are only going to go so far. They’ll have to get scholarships to make up the difference, but we’re doing what we can for them and hoping our daughters decide to attend as well.

    7) Extracurricular activities: We have two kids taking piano lessons and one taking bassoon lessons. Is this a necessity? No, but our piano was handed down by my parents and music is important to us. Total monthly music cost: $300 I’m just grateful none of them are too interested in sports, because that gets even more expensive.

    8) Housing: Four bedroom house, 2500 sq. feet, and many days, it still feels too small.

    The tax breaks help, but they don’t come anywhere close to meeting our real costs. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we would be far, far, better off financially if not for the kids. But our lives would be far less fulfilling as well. Children are a blessing and a joy and an ENORMOUS responsibility. Everyone should have their eyes fully open to the financial aspect of that responsibility before they start a family.

  123. Nero says:

    Your forgot some major expenses.

    College – average about $40,000 per child (including financial aid).
    Medical Expenses and Insurance – average $1,000 per year (not including any mishaps or problems – just basic check-ups).
    The birth itself – anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 per birth in medical expenses (depending on complications, doctors, and duration of stay and your insurance).
    Moving into a bigger house to accommodate more people – anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000 (although a one-time fixed cost).
    Sports, activities, hobbies, summer camp, summer school, vacations – anywhere from $500 a year to $5,000 a year (per child).

    Also, the opportunity costs of missing work for birth, missing work for child sicknesses, leaving work to become a “stay at home parent”, and the time cost of raising children – how much of your time is spent raising the children now? Most of it?

    You missed, at a bare minimum, $160,000 of “opportunity costs”. Which puts the figure right back where it should be.

    It seemed you ONLY included entertainment and food (and minor education expenses), which may be all a child truly *needs* – but that is NOT the actual cost of raising a kid, by far.

    Anyone can skew information to make their point, but there will always be people who can see through the BS.

  124. J says:

    Having children is not a rational decision, like buying a car or a house, or investing in the stock market. It’s a personal choice. I’ve made the personal choice to have two children. As a rational financial decision, I have absolutely no way of justifying them. As an emotional decision, I have plenty of reasons.

    If I really wanted to be frugal and miserly, I’d not have gotten married, never had kids and lived in a box somewhere. But that would not have been a very rewarding decision.

    And overall, a re-analysis of a number that was about a half-step away from a wild guess isn’t going to produce a better number.

  125. Linda says:

    It all comes down to values and choices. People should have children because they want to –they want to nurture them, teach them, create a being who adds to society, brings joy to themselves and others. The choice to have a child is not a cost/benefit analysis! We should raise children using the resources we have, teaching them the value of money and not overspending to keep up with the Jones’. Oops, I think I am repeating what commenter 82 has said!

  126. Ken Deboy says:

    Wonko (#59) and Leslie (#62):
    I would argue that having children DOES have social benefits. For example, if EVERYONE quit having kids, within a generation our society would disappear.
    On a more practical level, if FEWER people have kids, then there are less future taxpayers to support government programs. That is one of the problems facing social security. I think the “cost” of the tax credits our government uses to encourage people to have children is a drop in the bucket compared to taxes that will be collected from the children when they become tax paying adults.
    I agree that if someone really can’t afford to have kids, they shouldn’t. However, the article Trent cited claimed that having children causes poverty, not that it is something to be avoided if one is already in (or close to) poverty.


  127. Noel says:

    To Zannie, a married couple with health insurance covering both should not see a raise in ins. costs. That coverage is either single or family in my experience.
    Housing costs are pretty much fixed, because although people with children often have big homes, so do people without them, because they have more disposable income to put into larger homes. Most of the childless couples I know have homes as large or larger than mine. Most people buy the house they can afford, not the house they need.
    The $200000-250000 numbers have to be high. If I take the $250,000 and divide it by 18, then multiply it by 3(# of children that I have) I get a number that is almost our entire income. No, we aren’t saving a lot for our children’s future education, but we’re also not living on less than $10,000 a year, and we wouldn’t be able to with out kids either.
    Trent’s entertainment numbers really aren’t off that much. He says that he and his wife went to the movies 3 times a week. At $8.00 per ticket that’s $48.00 without snacks. Plus a meal out before hand; that’s about $90 a week for food. 48+90=138 multiply by 52 weeks and you get $7176.00. Which leaves you still enough for a couple of movies a year and a couple of meals out a month. And that was only the movie night expenses, so I’m sure there were others also.
    That being said, when we decided to have children, we knew that our living expenses would go up. We also knew that we were somewhat responsible adults and that we would love our children and do what ever it takes to take good care of them. We’d find the money for their care. Like all other parents, we do what we need to do. When I think of the money that I spend on them I do realize how much it is and all of the money I could have saved if they weren’t here, but then I think about what I was spending money on before they were here and are 3 movies a week really equal to the amount of joy they’ve given me? No way!

  128. Angus says:

    I am continually surprised at the people mentioning college expenses. My parents didn’t pay for our schooling. They encouraged us to work hard in school and get good grades, so that we could qualify for these things called “scholarships” – that’s where your educational expenses are covered by another party at no obligation to you. Very nice.

  129. Jen says:

    I am totally offended by this post and may never read your blog again. It appears there is not a balanced approach to the material here.

    Did you consider including even one word about the intangible benefits of children. The post comes across to me as single minded and cold hearted.

  130. Noel says:

    I have to agree with some of the other posters, my family didn’t pay for all of my college expenses, I got loans,scholarships and part time jobs, I worked hard. Then of course there are cars and insurance, I footed the bills for that also. I got my first job at 14 and saved, saved, saved. When it came time for my first car, a 1977 rabbit(already 10 years old) I happily gave my father the $500.00 he paid for it. I also put all the gas in it that it required. My parents bought us each 2 pair of shoes, 2 pair of jeans and about 10 shirts each year, all others we paid for ourselves, and they weren’t the name brand ones either. I shop entirely in resale for my kids clothing and a good bit of their toys as well. They aren’t hurting. And yes, there probably are comments about their clothes at school, but my kids don’t even know their clothes are second hand, so I know that’s not what the comments are about. Kids are mean, and if they weren’t making fun of my kids because of a shirt they wore, they’d make fun of them for some other reason. Part of growing up is getting a thick skin. My daughter is almost 9, we have the cell phone debate often; I have told her many times that when she is driving, has a job and can pay for a phone, she can get one. I know I am not alone, because her best friend’s mom says the same thing. We stand united agaisnt them! What we spend on our children is our choice. Buying them everything is one choice, an expensive one. Teaching them to respect money, work hard for what they want, and be thankful for what they have is an entirely different one.

  131. Christine says:

    This is an interesting discussion. I have two kids, and have honestly no idea how much I have spent on them. For me, it boils down to the question of do I live only for myself, or do I live for others as well? I have chosen the latter, and don’t begrudge them one dime that I have spent on them. Would I have accumulated more money if they didn’t exist (or my husband, for that matter, since I’m the primary earner by a long shot)? Absolutely. Would I be happier? I really doubt it. Would I be lonelier? Absolutely.

    I see no point in the accumulation of piles of money. For me, money buys me stuff . . . not necessarily stuff like big screen t.v.’s and fancy cars (I drive a Scion), but stuff like independence, and a warm house and the memory of the incandescent delight on my daughter’s face the first time she saw Cinderella at Disneyland. Money in it’s rawest form isn’t worth anything to me if I don’t have someone to share it with. Not to say that I don’t understand the drive to accumulate wealth, but certainly that drive and children are not necessarily compatible with one another.

    So, ultimately, I agree with the person who said that having children cannot be justified if you only look at it from a financial perspective. But, if you broaden the cost/benefit analysis beyond dollars and cents, children are a breathtakingly great deal.

  132. Matthew Lampros says:

    Wonderful! Thank you. Too often we as a people rely on oft cited “facts” to make important decisions about our future. This is an excellent critique of one of those “facts.”


    I hold a personal and strong belief that having a family is a key reason we came to Earth. I’m grateful for any data that shows it’s not as bad as some would make it seem. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ve never been happier than I am now with my family and I’m always happiest when I am spending time with them. Worth every penny!!

  133. Mister E says:

    Having children is not a financial decision it’s a personal emotional one. I can understand delaying children for financial reasons but as a friend with 2 kids of her own (a relatively well off friend at that) once told me if you are going to wait until you can afford kids before you have kids then you’ll never have them, there’s always uncertainty.

    They cost money. So do girlfriends and wives* but I don’t stay single in the interest of saving money.

    *Boyfriends and husbands too maybe, but I can’t personally speak to that.

  134. Scott C says:

    Ok, so I admittedly didn’t read all the posts, but I have a response to the tax credit issue.

    While its true that children make use of services that we pay taxes for, I don’t think that changes the reasoning behind offering child tax credit. The reasoning behind the tax credit may be to reduce the burden on child rearing families, but, as some of you mentioned, it also provides an incentive to procreate.

    Treating a child as a burden on society clearly ignores the fact that in order to get productive, taxable adults, we must raise children. From a purely economic perspective, more people is a great thing as long as the population doesn’t exceed sustainable resource limits. The argument could be seen as a short term/long term perspective problem, in that the benefits of children only pay off to society in the long run. The personal benefits pay off immediately, of course.

  135. KoryO says:

    Leslie, perhaps people would take your points more seriously if you weren’t so incredibly shrill in your condemnation of other people who don’t agree with your viewpoint (procreation is bad).

    You don’t like the Duggars or Jon & Kate? Fine. Neither do I. But there is no reason to call them a “freakshow” or be insulting to others who think a little booger or two (or ten) isn’t a bad thing.

    And as for Fred….please advise me as to where I could find one of those really easy government jobs you speak of. Because in nearly a decade in the public sector, I still have yet to find such a cushy position anywhere other than the directors’ offices.

  136. guinness416 says:

    Does anyone have a link to any of the estimates of $200-$250k? A lot of people are assuming what is in there, it would be interesting to have a look at the original estimate.

    (Also, may I’m imagining it, but doesn’t it seem like that figure has been floating around for a long time?)

  137. guinness416 says:

    Okay I found an MSN story. It says:

    “This is no back-of-the-envelope guesstimate. The survey involves visits to, and interviews with, about 5,000 households, four times a year”


    “On the down side, the study doesn’t take into account certain expenses incurred by some families, such as heavy medical bills or pricey private schools. It’s a composite average and, by definition, that means your numbers either will be a little (or a lot) higher or lower. Even worse, since the survey ends at age 17, it doesn’t take into account the millions of college students who are supported in part or in full by their parents. That’s another $20,000 to $150,000 for a four-year education, depending on the school.

    It also doesn’t consider lost income that occurs when one parent decides to stop working or take off several years to raise their children during the early years — or take a lesser-paying job with more predictable hours. That’s money out of your pocket”

    So no college fees or lost income are included in there.

  138. Travis says:

    Great post. My wife and I have decided to start a family this year and one of my many worries was the cost. I wanted to have as many debts paid off before we had the little miracle. Your post has helped relieve some of that stress. Now all I have to worry about is changing diapers.

  139. Jim says:

    @Noel #87 said: “To Zannie, a married couple with health insurance covering both should not see a raise in ins. costs. That coverage is either single or family in my experience.”

    Health insurance plans and costs vary but I think it is usually the case for employee premium costs to increase if you have dependents. At my job our high end insurance without deductible is $900 a year for a single person, $3500 a year for a married couple no kids, $4400 for a couple with 1 kid, $5300 with 2 kids and up to $6000 a year for a couple with 3 or more kids. On the other hand our HSA high deductible plan that I’m in is $0 premium but you have to pay the full deductible which will end up higher with more kids.

    One way or the other most people are going to have higher medical insurance and/or medical out of pocket expenses for children. I’m sure there are exceptions for people with very good medical insurance that coveres everything for free, but its very rare nowadays to get that kind of coverage at work.


  140. Broken Crock says:

    The Social Security Administration is currently willing to pay my kids $10,008 each per year. They only pay up to age 18, but if you extrapolate this to age 20 it comes to $200,160.

  141. Cynthia says:

    this URL http://moneycentral.msn.com/articles/family/kids/tlkidscost.asp

    links to the table showing the estimated annual costs of raising a child, based on a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The table shows costs based on a family with two children on a per-child basis. The data comes from the Consumer Expenditure Survey by the U.S. Department of Labor, conducted from 1990-92.The figures have been updated to 2001 dollars using the Consumer Price Index.

  142. Johanna says:

    It seems like a lot of people here are under the impression that a cost analysis is also a moral proclamation. It’s not. Saying “X costs a lot of money” does not mean “Nobody should ever do X.” But if you choose to have children, I’m not sure why you WOULDN’T want to have an accurate estimate of how much you’ll be spending on them – including things like housing and health insurance that Trent left out.

    As others have said, children are expensive because lifestyles are expensive. How much your children cost and how much your own lifestyle costs can vary enormously, depending on how much money you make, among other things. But it seems to me that if you are not spending a good-sized chunk of your income on your kids – if there’s a huge imbalance between the money you spend on yourself and the money you spend on them – then something is wrong. For example, I once saw it suggested on another site that a poster could achieve his dreams of a luxurious early retirement by stiffing his kids’ college funds. That’s not cool. The decision to have kids should be a commitment to treat them as full members of your household, entitled to approximately the same quality of life as you have yourself.

    As long as we’re doing overly simplistic back-of-the-envelope calculations, here’s mine: Suppose a couple has two kids and earns $50,000 a year after taxes. Over 18 years, their total earnings are $900,000. Divide that up equally among the members of the family. There’s your $200-250k.

  143. jeff says:

    DON’T have more children. It is INSANE that the government will pay you to have kids with tax deductions, when overpopulation is the cause of nearly all of mankind’s current problems.

  144. EngineerMom says:

    I agree that the total costs being bandied about are not accurate, and I can believe that your own costs are decent estimates, too, but our expenses went up dramatically when our son was born.

    The major expenses we incurred as a result of procreating:
    – $316/week for daycare (I could not find a home daycare that offered flexible enough hours and with whom I was comfortable, so we ended up with a center)
    – $50/week for formula (I tried breastfeeding, but the plumbing doesn’t work well, so starting at 3 weeks old, he was exclusively bottle-fed.)
    – $10/week for diapers/wipes (Our daycare center won’t accept cloth diapers)
    – Our health insurance DOUBLED when it went from “student and spouse” to “family”, so we now pay around $275/month instead of the previous ~$150/month

    In total, we spend an extra $22,536/year, and that doesn’t include additional health care costs (he is in daycare), clothes, toys, a crib, a bassinet, or carseats (most of which aside from health care have been gifts, thankfully)

    Children are expensive, but how expensive will vary hugely from one family to the next, depending on a number of factors. If we could have breast-fed exlusively, used cloth diapers, and had one of us stay home, our additional child-incurred costs would have dropped to about $2000/year, as opposed to over $20,000.

    Even with the tax benefits, our additional expenses are still staggering. It will mean delaying buying a house. We did not plan to have a child quite this soon, but I do not regret it. If nothing else, being pregnant really pushed me into looking for a job in my field and pushed both me and my husband to thoroughly examine what was really important to us in terms of our financial and life goals.

  145. Otis says:


    X doesn’t cost a lot of money.

    But nobody should do X, not unless you’re willing to accept the consequences and potential run-ins with the law.

  146. ub says:


  147. Johanna says:

    Touche. :)

  148. Nero says:

    For the sake of argument, let’s say Trent’s number *are* accurate.

    $52,800 per child over the course of 18 years.
    $105,600 for both children, total.

    Now, in most cases, parents spend as much (usually more) on their children than they spend themselves. Most would agree on this assessment. So, let’s say you double that figure – including spending on you and your spouse.

    $211,200 in spending, for the whole family, for 18 years.

    Except I highly doubt Trent, or anyone posting here lives off of $11,733.33 per year for a family of four. More likely, it is 2-3 times that (or more) and I can guarantee that no one is putting 1/2 or 2/3 of their take home pay into savings – that just isn’t going to happen.

    I’m not arguing the moral ramifications or obligations with having or not having children – I’m arguing that his figures are wrong (and so are mine).

  149. Brandon says:

    At comment #82. I was being sarcastic about everyone acting like the only things in life anyone should do should involve only those things that are free.

    Kids are expensive, there’s no denying that.

    BTW: Trent, whats the max # of comments on a post?

  150. Sarah says:

    Not to mention that the more children you have, the less each subsequent one costs (to some degree)- you can reuse one-time items, pass things down, share childcare costs sometimes. Each added child won’t add exactly the same amount as the one before it.

  151. Johanna says:

    @Sarah: True, but for additional children, Trent’s not going to be able to include his reduced-entertainment-spending fudge factor. If he has two more children, he’s not going to be able to reduce his entertainment spending by another $6500, now is he?

  152. Great point Trent, it reminds me of your article from way back where you broke down the daily costs of having a baby. People hit you hard for “quantifying” children in terms of dollars, but it’s very enlightening to those of us who don’t have kids but plan to.

  153. Lacey says:

    My parents spent $7k per child (2 of us) per year on schooling ALONE, starting probably in kindergarten for each of us, not stopping until we were both married. Both of us married this year, myself being 22 and my sister being 25. Now, this doesn’t include added food, clothing, cell phones, cars, car insurance….etc. for each of these years (with bills increasing significantly during high school and college).

    Of course my parents made sacrifices, they had to. We never went on vacation, we never had nice things, and we at one point ended up in a small apartment. Certainly not “enjoyable” like playing “whiffle ball” with your kid in the backyard. Everything was sacrificed for our education so that we wouldn’t struggle when we “grew up.”

    I think your estimations are absurdly low.

    If you’re a good parent, your going to give everything you can to them, and this means giving them pretty much everything you have.

    Also, your thinking about the tax deductions is your “saving” $1,800 on the $10,000 is flawed. If you had no kids, you would have saved $10,000!!! That’s waaayyyy cheaper! Also, the whole “until age 18” thing is extremely naive. Every parent with grown children knows it DOES NOT STOP AT 18. My uncle moved back in with my grandparent’s at like 35 for 2 or 3 years. HELLO! You will always be there for your children if you are a good parent, which might mean paying for a few years even AFTER COLLEGE.

    A couple other parental expenses, my dad bought me a $9,000 car in high school, bought my sister two cars about $5,000 each. My mother-in-law bought me and my husband two appliances totalling over $800 (we were both in our 20’s), she also bought a bed for my husband at $500, and the list goes on. Not to mention paying for weddings, Christmas presents, graduation gifts.

    Talk to me in like 20 years, and we’ll see what your “52,800” really turned out to be. HA!

  154. oneofnine says:

    Hi Lyn (comment #67):

    I like to think I’ll raise my kids without being ashamed of being frugal or purchasing their clothes at Wal-Mart or goodwill. There is no shame in it, after all! This whole blog is about the importance of being frugal without being made to feel as if frugality is an inferior choice.

    I remember being extremely proud to boast that my very stylish teenage outfit had cost $11 at the thrift shop when my peers were talking about spending $100 on a pair of jeans. I was raised to be a strong, confident young woman in my own right– and I was more than happy to make some of my aquaintances feel silly for being so concerned about the price or name tage on their sweater.

    In my opinion, we should be helping our kids challenge the train of thought that the only way to be cool or accepted is to be judged by frivolous, overpriced fashion duds, not teaching them that the point of life is to keep up with the Jones’ clothes.

    Just my opinion!

  155. oneofnine says:

    Noel (#89), I really appreciate your post. I sometimes feel like I am swimming against a very strong tide in my beliefs about what I will and won’t provide my kids. I believe strongly that what is EARNED is more appreciated. And (LOL) my first car was also a 1977 VW Rabbit which I paid $500 for!!! How ironic.

    Having said that, I am truly and sincerely amazed at how many people have brought up recreational expenses for their kids (summer camp, sports, rec leagues, etc) as a major source of money drain. I think that this generation of children are totally OVER-ENTERTAINED. Doesn’t anyone remember our moms sending us outside and saying, “I don’t care what you do, just don’t come back until dinertime!” And what did we do? We built forts, skipped rocks, climbed trees, played baseball, shot hoops, and during the summer we ALWAYS found endless entertaiment by catching June bugs, tying strings around their legs and flying them around until their legs fell off. (I apologize to any major insect lovers reading this.) Sometimes we just laid in the grass and watched the clouds roll by. IMAGINE THAT!

    Send a modern kid into the woods nowadays and what is he going to do? Freak out about axe muderers or complain about how bored he is? Parents aren’t any better. For four years I have been a nanny for two upper-middle class kids, and their parents RARELY make them read books or spend time ourdoors. If its 80 degrees, it’s too hot. 40 degrees is too cold. No wonder kids have to be involved with all the sports and recreation. I think we’ve created a bunch of activity-addicted children.

    Just my opinion, once again!

  156. Josh Hatcher says:

    I’m raising four kids.
    And I’ll tell you what. It makes me quite angry when people boil parenting down to money issues.

    The truth is, they are people. And my kids are people worth bringing into the world.

    I think that it’s not about the money you save or the money you spend, it’s about bringing people into the world.

  157. Tracy says:

    Trent, I don’t even disagree with the crux of your argument (children dont have to be as expensive as some estimates) – but honestly you do yourself such a disservice by arguing that children save you money by keeping you from going to the movies 3 times a week.

    There’s no way in the world that the average married couple is doing that – I work in the entertainment industry with lots of (FREE, even!) screenings and even no one I know is doing that. That statement is not evidence of how much money kids saved you, but how incredibly out of control you were before.

    (Where you REALLY going out to the movies three times a week? Some part of me has a hard time even believing that. What on earth did you even SEE? Didn’t you run out of films that you hadn’t seen before?)

  158. Anitra Smith says:

    My daughter is important enough to me that I quit work rather than go back full-time (I asked to come back part-time, but couldn’t get approval to do so). That’s been our only big “expense” – but it’s a doozy!

    I’m not sure we can cut more from our budget than we are already trying to do – so I need to find a part-time job. (I really can’t “work from home” unless I hired someone else to watch her – and wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?)

  159. Todd says:

    I just spent $4,000 on braces the same day I read this column, so I’d better not comment…

    I do remember an early post of Trent’s about whether or not we should pay for our kids’ college education. That too brought out some really interesting opinions about what we owe our kids. Some would say we only owe our kids food, shelter, and love. Others would say we owe them a much better life than that. It is so difficult to figure out what is a basic “right” and what’s not when it comes to kids. Do I owe my kids braces? Is fixing their teeth a basic human need in the same way food is? If I don’t want to pay for braces, should I not have a child?

    I don’t have any answers, I’m just trying to think this all through.

  160. Kathleen says:

    Your kids might be cheap now, and they might come with (small) tax benefits for the next 18 years or so, but I think you might not be anticipating all the upcoming expenses as they get older.

    College alone can easily cost $200k now. You also need to consider the positive, pre-college investments in your kids: science camps, cello lessons, ballet lessons, etc.

    And wait until your kids are older and start wanting more STUFF – the iPod, the cell phone, the money for the movies and mall, etc. Not that that all those wants should be indulged, but you’ll end up spending a whole lot more on your kids as they get older.

  161. “In short, both our entertainment and food budgets went way down upon the birth of our children. We knew this change would happen – it was part of our decision-making process when it came to deciding whether to have children.”

    Does that apply to everyone? Or is ‘Think twice before having sprogs’ good advice for people without that much self-control?

    What would costs amount to for folk who couldn’t constrain themselves that way?

  162. Reading some of the posts, maybe ‘get good skills and apply for nationality in a country with socialized medicine’ might be a consideration too.

    God bless the NHS. How much do Brits love the NHS? Whatever Republicans may tell you, the answer is ‘A whole big lot’.

  163. StephanieG says:

    Having children can be very expensive if a couple is not able to conceive naturally. Our first child arrived with just a little medical help. After that, we spent about $5,000 on failed medical treatments for another one, followed by $24,000 on the foreign adoption of our second child. That adoption is offset by an $11,650 tax credit, which can be claimed after the finalization (and for many years if your annual tax liability isn’t that high).

    I had been reading The Simple Dollar regularly, but when the adoption referral finally arrived (4 years after we started the process) and we traveled abroad, I had to stop because to complete the adoption, our savings drained out like there was a fire hose attached to the account, and I couldn’t stand to even think about saving money when it was just impossible to staunch the flow.

    Our new son will now cost us far less now that he’s arrived than he has previously been costing us when he wasn’t even here!

  164. Leah S says:

    I think you forgot to cover some stuff that becomes required when you keep having kids. For my parents, they needed a larger house. If they had stayed childless, they probably could be owning their first house outright. Or vehicles. It’s one thing to replace a vehicle every 10 years due to wear and tear, it’s another thing to replace a vehicle due to the family being too big for the standard 5-seater.

    But none of that scares ME. It’s the medical expenses that does. My brother’s been in the ER more often that years he’s been alive. He’s walking the puppy, he prefers having the leash around his waist instead of holding it… he trips, cuts his head and it’s off to the doctors for stitches. He’s riding his bike, loses control for a second, smashes into a car and the handlebars twist and hit his collar bone – and breaks it. He’s a teenage boy, he’s playing with his rocket launcher stuff, lights the rocket fuel without the rocket and seriously burns his hands. He’s an adult, he’s cutting some drywall on the job and his hand slips and slices his wrist. Thankfully my parents have great medical coverage and haven’t had to spend too much out of pocket.

    But not everybody’s that lucky, including me. My husband and I are in no position to add me on his insurance, much less any kids.

  165. Carmen says:

    So the latest frugal advice is to have children, since they could save you money, just by their mere presence. A very interesting and highly unusual concept!

  166. shadox says:

    We have three kids between 3 and 6 and we spend about $3500 a month on them – the vast majority is day care. It’s all about where you live and what the cost of day care actually is…

  167. reulte says:

    Nero (#148) I and my 7 year old son are living on a little less than 1/2 my take home pay – which, I’ll admit is just over $20K. I’ll also agree that Trent’s figures are not applicable to everyone (rather than saying his figures are wrong).

    The point is having kids doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be spending $250,000 on them from birth until they are 17.

  168. Leah says:

    If Pan thinks humans are the only species which is not an asset to the planet in someway, he doesn’t know much about biology. A large % of greenhouse gases are made up of methane- a vast majority of which comes from cows, horses and goats.

    Also, it’s not the number of humans which contributes to the destruction of the planet. America, which accounts for 4.6% of the world’s population, produces 22% of the world’s carbon emissions. This is NOT representative of an assumption that people = greenhouse gases. India, which accounts for 17.1% of the world’s population, produces 4.9% of the world’s carbon emissions.

    These figures alone prove that the number of people in a given country does NOT contribute to its carbon emissions (largely recognised to be the most significant contributor to global warming today).

    Also re: kids specifically; depending on where you live and how much you’d be earning in your given career, mothers who stay at home rather than work can actually get MORE money in government allowances than they’d earn in their job (once childcare fees are taken into account). I know of stay at home mothers here in Australia (who would normally be teachers) who receive more from the government for NOT working, and staying home with their children, than they would take home at the end of the day if they were working and had their kids in childcare.

    Also, the figures in the article are further subsidised by government family allowances, youth allowances etc. This greatly differs depending on where you live. For example, Australia has next to no maternity leave/allowances compared to a lot of other countries, but we have far better family allowances than many other countries.

    Regarding what Kathleen said about kids’ wants: Just say no. Seriously. Me and my siblings were never bought those types of gadgets growing up. (And I’m only 21, with my youngest sibling being 15). Sure we get birthday and Christmas presents, but never anything as expensive as an iPod with any decent capacity.

    Also, why do parents have to pay for college? My parents paid for as much of mine as they could, with the factor that I’d pay them back afterwards. And that’s in Australia, at a cheaper uni, where my entire degree cost less than 20k. (Tertiary education in Australia is FAR cheaper than in the US). Most people I know don’t have their parents paying for the tertiary education. That said, Australia has a far easier method of handling tertiary finances than the US does.

    Other commenters have mentioned parents paying for kids’ cars and car insurance… hello? Make the kids pay for that themselves! By the time they’re old enough to drive, they’re old enough to have a job and pay for that stuff themselves! It’s not like they’ve got a million other important expenses (like you do). Their biggest financial concern is whether to buy the $30 or $50 jeans or whether to pay the extra $60 to get a mobile phone with a camera and bluetooth.

    Nero (comment 148)- Trent’s figures aren’t wrong, your manipulation of them is. The figures he spends on children would be much more than doubled to get the family cost, because the family cost is not just what kids cost + the equivalent for their parents. You also have the cost of maintaining and running 1 or 2 cars, mortgage repayments or rent, older people (ie. parents) generally incur more medical bills than kids, (I say this from the experience in my family and friends’ families), maintaining the house, holidays, etc etc. These do not come under the cost of an individual child, or an individual parent. They are added on top of those individual-person costs.

  169. Tanith says:

    Take the long view. Not that you want to put this on your kids but . . .
    I’ve been a great investment for my mom, now that I am an adult. She was a custodial parent, not tons of help from my Dad. She had pretty low cost child care and didn’t make a lot. During my teen years we were on welfare so she gave me no money toward college, I had to work and borrow my way through. And for the last 15 years or so, I’ve been giving her money every month and paying her major unplanned expenses like root canals and expensive veterinary bills for her dogs. When you add it up, with many years yet to come when I am sure I will step up dealing with nursing care etc. — having me was the best investment she ever made cus I’m betting in the end I spend more on her than she ever did on me.

  170. Susan says:

    I’m not sure if these figures are accurate, but I can attest to the fact that as children get older they do have more expenses than when they were little. We have four boys 21, 17, 13 and 5. Here are some expenses to think about as the kids get older: car insurance, car, yearbooks, prom, class trips, orthodontics, wisdom teeth, sports, music lessons, band instruments, class rings, graduation costs, FOOD!!!, clothing which they don’t want from garage sales anymore, summer camps, spending money to go with friends,cell phones, more expensive Christmas gifts, etc. We don’t succumb to the wants, just the needs and we are frugal, but these costs totally changed our budget as the boys got older.Some of these items we don’t do but other parents do and oh the guilt associated with that. It was a breeze when they were younger. Just food for thought on where the numbers might come from.

  171. Vicki, Albuquerque, NM says:

    Dear Trent, I’m jealous…there’s no way I can run the numbers for my situation and have them come out as rosy as yours did for your situation—even taking into account tax credits. Semi-decent childcare for 1 child will cost $11K a year–not even a dream for 2 kids. There is already no extra money for things like movies (haven’t been to one in years) or going out to eat every week so there would be none of those savings in my scenario. Not eligible for Medicaid, but priced out of insurance—so would have to pay all medical expenses related to having a child out of pocket (prenatal, birth, etc…). Nope, a child would be 100% extra cost in my case, would love to have one, but can’t see how that can realistically happen. No real extras to cut—no cable, no entertainment costs, internet access needed for my 2nd job—at least I got the student loans paid off before I got into the current financial squeeze. 36 now and really can’t see how it will ever be possible to afford to have a child–so, following your arguement, should I just have one anyways?

  172. lovebeingfree says:

    No Matter what all you child lovers say. I will never have kids because they are a burden. They are a burden 50% emotional, and 50% financial. And whoever doesn’t agree it won’t cost 200000 is nuts. It WILL cost way more when you factor in LOST WAGES, and most likely the sucker will have to say at home past 20 to get a decent education so he/she can be set free. So i’m guessing it probably costs more like 500000. Ha! I am sooo not envious of any families or women!! I’m laughing on my next vacation!

  173. Danielle says:

    I don’t care about the cost of raising children. There are always things that can be cut or stretched in a budget, especially if your income is a good one (and we’re fortunate that my husband’s income is good enough that I can stay home). We made the decision once that we’d rather have children than money. We want a large family and are willing to trade several other opportunities for that one.

  174. WilliamB says:

    If you went out a lot before and stay home a lot fater, you’re going to show a lot of savings. If you didn’t go out a lot before, or you continue to go out a lot after, you’re not going to get those savings. Trent went out a lot before and stays home a lot after.

    Even if his calcs are different than yours would be, the exercise is instructive.

    The additional cost that is most often forgotten is heat & electric. If both worked before and they used their programmable thermostat, the change with someone always home is going to be startling. “Bloody hell” is how my friend put it, actually.

    #172lovebeingfree: there’s room for a lot of different views on this subject. What works for you won’t always work for the next guy. The important thing is for each person to realize what works for him/her and go with that.

  175. cynthia says:

    I haven’t read through all of the comments, so this may already have been mentioned. some of the costs in the higher calculatinos are (i believe) associated with purchasing a larger home. if i didn’t have a child i would have a smaller home and also wouldn’t mind living in a less desirable school district. i am fairly frugal, but if i included childcare, travel, school expenses and housing i would expect that 10,000/per year or so is fairly accurate.

  176. Megan says:

    Our children certainly don’t cost us much money. I don’t have to buy clothes for our second one, as I trade with a friend, and I have friends who have loaned me the necessary baby gear for the second one, as well–you know, the stuff you use for 6 months max. I buy $50-$75 worth of clothes 3-4 times a year for my oldest, and he only gets toys from thrift shops or for his birthday and christmas. He loves the thrift shop toys b/c they’re so cheap he can basically pick whatever he wants. I also don’t understand how, in this age of craigslist and freecycle, anyone would spend more than a few hundred a year on their children. We live in a junk culture–might as well take advantage of that. Oh, yeah, and walks to the playground are free–and that’s both of my children’s favorite thing. Sure, we’re saving for college, but the tax credits definitely cover that and then some.

    I think the most expensive thing about childrearing is childcare. And fortunately we don’t have to worry about that b/c we budget our money so one of us can stay at home.

  177. zoranian says:

    Despite the cost of having kids, which is a very personal calculation, I plan on have several because I absolutely love them. My personal “back of the envelope” calculations are quite the opposite of yours, as I live a very frugal life already and thus “have” to spend more. For example, I expect my housing costs to go up $100-$150 a month for now, and more with multiple kids (I have a 1-Bedroom apartment now).

    Entertainment costs will be about the same as we only go out once or twice a month. Daycare won’t factor in, because I plan to be a SAHM – based on my net income this will be about $20,000 per year through the first 10 years or so that I plan to homeschool and be home with my kids. Oh my, I’m already well above the “average” aren’t I? And I haven’t even factored in groceries (currently only spend $250 a month for two people), toys, clothing, etc. With a home purchase, housing costs will likely go up another $100-$200 at some point.

    Yes, I would have wanted a home at some point anyway, so we could negate that if you wanted to. Regardless, having a child “can” be expensive depending on your personal plan and what you want out of life. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child myself, and because of my desires and lack of passion for “regular” work, I have a very entry-level, low-paying job despite a college degree and 4 years of work experience. Some things are more important than the financial costs. Also, if you wait until you are ready to have kids, you’ll never be ready. And if cost is your biggest concern, I agree with previous commenters that having kids may not be the thing for you to do.

  178. Teresa says:

    I only read a few of the comments, but many of seem to be thinking the same thing…Trent’s point is that people do not take into account tax benefits of children or the residual stay at home more mentality. BUT, Trent doesn’t take into account the larger house in a better school district, or the costs that go with that like furniture, utilities, etc. I also do not see increased insurance expenses (medical, dental, life, etc) or the larger, safer vehicle and its related expenses (insurance, gas, registration, etc). I also don’t see the preteen and teenage years being taken into account. As our girls have gotten older their extra curricular activities have become more and more costly. We are a very musical family and encouraged the girls to enter chorus because we saw it as the more frugal choice, but group trips, uniforms, transportation and the such add up quickly and only gets worse as the child grows and is put in the position of larger gigs further away from home. Our local public high school Jazz Choir is going to China this summer. Would you deny that opportunity to your child? No, its a once in a life time thing and comes at a cost far exceeding Trent’s estimates. Little League can come with similar pit falls of success. Not many extra curricular activities (especially group related) do. One last thing I don’t think Trent took into account…earning ability. When your number one goal is to improve and build your career without the time constraints and dedication of children your earning potential is much higher. Yes, you can sacrifice family for earning potential but I don’t and neither does Trent. Remember, the loss of your wife’s income for the time period she will be staying at home could be considered a child rearing expense. Just food for thought.

  179. Sam says:

    To #6, Dora,
    Do you really want a govt employee in charge of your small child’s care? The more govt is involved in our daily lives the more freedom we loose.
    While yes, childcare is expensive – especially before they start school. That said, I am glad I had the freedom to switch when my son got a mean spirited caretaker – many day cares rotate “teachers” and also, they have high turn over, which means the gal you love who does a great job, might up & quite next week. Handing childcare over to the govt is NOT the solution. Networking with other parents, family and so on to have your child with someone who sincerely cares will do your child tons more good then any socialized daycare scenario. Paid for childcare screwed up my son’s perspective, emotions, social skills, etc to the point that I’m still dealing with the repercussions of it 4yrs later. I jump at the chance of free childcare with friends because I know if the person is offering do it for free then they care & will look after him better then someone who views him as a burden and a paycheck.

    Health care – why not just get rid of the insurance companies? Or require them to cover all non-elective or cosmetic procedures? That will do more good then your socialized medicine that will ration out care. Obama only requires coverage – there’s no catch of what that coverage covers or what percentage of your annual salary the medical bills can be. My kid was severely injured in January and in the end of it all I have over 10k in bills that Blue Cross won’t cover.
    But Obama says I’m lucky and according to that health care legislation, I have to start paying a $900 a year tax for those who don’t have coverage? At least with no coverage you can apply for hardship and make some pymt arrangements. Many of the specialists won’t take payments if you have insurance – you have to pay it all at once or you go to collections. Yeah, the govt is really gonna fix that by implementing mandatory coverage.

    Higher education is not a government responsibility – it is a personal choice.

    You want the government to make your decisions for you & your family and you want government to spend significant chunks of your income for you then go to countries that do that.

    As far as other commenters go –
    One thing that has to get figured in too is general damage – kid’s break stuff. Not just Grandma’s crystal vase up on the shelf but, they drop things into the plumbing (no matter how often you ask/demand them to be careful) and they get hair brained ideas that don’t go well – like trying to jump from their bunk bed to the dresser on a snowy January morning. Kid’s are very expensive, worth it but, expensive.
    And I agree housing should be figured in. If I didn’t have my kiddo I’d have a 1 bedroom apartment in a more “unique” part of town. And, OH MY would the grocery, electric, water, insurance, bills be smaller! Oh and it would be clean! No surprise messes – oh, yeah gotta figure cleanings supplies into the numbers too. When my little angel goes on a paternity visit I miss ‘em so much – the house is too quite and lonely. Can’t put a price tag on family – speculating the cost is interesting/good intellectual exercise but at the end of the day kid’s are family and our own little pieces of immortality. I see my Grandparents in facial expressions, personality traits, etc and I know they live on…

    Oh for those complaining about the tax credit – you only get it if you make over a certain amount. For my household it’s 35k. Under that, we don’t get it. There are other credits you can get is your low income but none that are for kids – the earned income credit looks at household/dependents but that could be counting a stay at home Mom or disabled parent or dead beat sibling.

    #14 Chris – I like your style!

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