Are You Ready To Be A Parent? Know The Cost Of Having Kids

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-08-2119

It’s a small amount to pay.

It’s time for our baby to move from his crib to a big boy’s bed. When kids start to make these transitions, you know that it’s time to prepare for some outlay. Precious they may be, they have a cost. We always knew that having kids would be expensive, but for the most part we thought of it in vague terms: food, shelter, clothing and tuition expenses folded into a general budget. But when I think of the actual details that are involved, my eyes bug out from how much it all amounts to. So I’m always impressed by how those people who have kids early in their lives are able to make things work.

For those who already have kids, this discussion will be familiar terrain. For those who don’t, then maybe you’ll see what could be in store for you. Hopefully this inspires you further to save your heart out for times like these.

We already know that life stages are prime for spending. The money spigot opens when you attend college (for those of you who’ve taken out student loans), get your first apartment and car, get married, pay for your own wedding and so forth. But the big bucks don’t really hit you till later on, as these examples will show you. Let me try to illustrate the finer details of spending that is in store for every parent (though each family may handle expenditures differently).

The Costs of Having A Baby came up with a report with these results:

  • The cost of raising a child varies by location and economic class, but on average, it’s estimated to run around a quarter of a million dollars (that’s $250,000).
  • You’re expected to spend around $10,000 to cover expenses for the first year of your child’s life.
  • The typical baby registry contains merchandise that costs a total of $950 to $1,000.
  • Most moms are learning to conserve, thanks to the recession — 83% of moms are improving their spending habits due to changes in the economy.

Interesting huh? Well, let’s go through each stage of your child’s life to get a realistic picture of costs.

Crazy Mean BabyCool Baby

Baby is born.

Break out the all the new baby stuff! The diapers, bottles, crib, toys and all! Hospital bills too. Even if you’re covered by insurance, you still need to cover a portion of your hospital stay, and it’s a big expense — in the thousands — especially if you’re not used to spending like this. You’ll begin a new relationship with a pediatrician or just your luck, the emergency room for those unexpected visits. They all add up! But those baby showers should help a little with the cute stuff.

Women: To prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a pillowcase filled with beans down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months, take out 10% of the beans.
Men: To prepare for paternity, go to the local drug store, tip the contents of your wallet on the counter, and tell the pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the paper. Read it for the last time.

Baby begins to crawl.

Time to baby-proof the house. Have you tried all those safety gates and drawer locks already? These have been a source of frustration for me. My experience hasn’t been that great with many of these little tools that just don’t work. There’s nothing more annoying than a safety knob that fails on the first try or that gets busted upon installation. Try to fight it out with the Lullaby Lane clerk to see if they’ll accept returns for open packages. You may have to do some heavy research or buy a few of these safety gadgets to see if anything sticks or works.

Hollow out a melon. Make a small hole in the side. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure a lot of it falls on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12-month-old baby.

Insane BabyWild BabyFunny Baby

Baby moves from crib to kid’s bed.

Crib moves out, toddler bed moves in. Then not long later, you’ll need the older kid’s bed. I’m trying to “invest” in this process by buying and equipping one bed to “grow” with the child. When you consider bunk beds, trundles and all that for future sleepovers, it can be hefty. You may want to think about hitting the used furniture sources (try the Craigslist “baby stuff” section) for this.

Baby goes to day care.

Services for infants and toddlers can be a huge expense. If you have some kind of day care reimbursement account or similar benefit at work, take it. It could give you a tax break. Over in the SF Bay Area, day care can easily cost $1,000 a month even for partial sitting services. It’s insane. If you have extended family, getting along with them could save you a bundle…

Babies are destructive creatures.

Yes, they are cute and cuddly, but stuff won’t last long in their hands. New toys grow boring quickly. Or they break. So used things are great for kids, and being creative also works. Hopefully you’ll be able to get hand-me-downs from friends, family, neighbors. You can also entertain kids with makeshift creations from empty boxes or sock puppets. Get or buy used stuff wherever you can get it. Keep the valuable vases and decor out of their way or risk major heartache. A funny store about this: I have some best friends who have the most exquisite furniture in their home and they *say* they want kids. But I snicker under my breath when I think of how they’ll baby proof that home.

Can you stand the mess children make? To find out, first smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer. Stick your fingers in the flower beds, then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

The Costs of Raising A Child

Child goes to preschool.

We don’t have public preschool so we’ll have to pay for it. Again, the cost of preschool is typically in the thousands of dollars. Depending on where you live, the cost is comparable to day care. But seeing your child blossom is always worth every penny.

Take an egg carton, using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint, turn it into an alligator. Now take the tube from a roll of toilet paper. Using only Scotch tape and a piece of foil, turn it into an attractive Christmas candle. Last, take a milk carton, a ping pong ball, and an empty packet of Cocoa Pops and make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. Congratulations! You have just qualified for a place on the play group committee.

Child has extracurricular activities.

Everywhere around me, I’m seeing school age kids with very busy schedules. Sometimes, busier than my own! They are signed up for swimming lessons, karate, art, music, ballet, piano and guitar learning sessions. Then there are the group sports activities with soccer, football, baseball, cricket and all that. What about summer camp. Or travels with your family that now include a couple of kids in tow, right? Oh, they’ll want to have some pets to play with too.

Forget the BMW and buy a station wagon. And don’t think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don’t look like that. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it in the cassette player. Take a family-size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There. Perfect.

Child has social events, school activities.

School days open a whole new world that involves socializing and keeping up with peers. It shocks me to see how much prom can now cost. What about some kids who get fancy cars when they turn 16? Thank you mom and dad!

Child goes to college.

Before long, you’ll be hitting up your 529 plan which you hope grows to cover the inflated tuitions of the future. Say bye to your kid (for now) but hello to the biggest expenses of your child’s lives. You’re probably going to foot all, if not most of it but if you’re smart, you’ll encourage your kid to step up and help.


Having Kids Later In Life

In my case, we married fairly late and thus had children late in life in order to ensure that we had our financial foundation in place before embarking on growing our family. We wanted to make sure we could handle the obligations that would come our way when it happened. In terms of finances, we were quite ready to meet the expected expenses head on.

I hope you had a grin or two reserved even while reading some of these hard facts. Sure, the facts can be sobering, but the reality of raising kids doesn’t usually deter most couples. Preparation is key. The point here is that if or when you have your children, it’ll be the start of a new period in your life. As I mentioned a few times, our frugal lives took quite a hit after kids, but we’re working hard to manage the budget. Parenthood can be expensive — still I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

Credit for Humorous Quotes: I interspersed the lists above with snippets from an article called Preparation For Parenthood (note: can’t find the original list anymore though!). I had too much of a laugh not to work some if it in here!

Image Credit: The photoshopped baby photos you see here can be found everywhere in the internet so I’m not really sure whom I should credit for them. If you know who the original source of these images are, please let me know so I can give them due credit. Thank you!

Created August 21, 2007. Updated August 21, 2007. Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Brip Blap August 22, 2007 at 7:40 pm

Great pictures and I loved the asides. The expense that killed us was our son’s unexpected reaction to breast milk that forced us to buy hypoallergenic formula. I was in NO way prepared to be spending $25 per can (a can lasts 2-3 days) on formula for the last year. I never pictured being the bottle-and-formula parents that we are now.

Day care and preschool are giving me shudders even now, two years in advance of when we plan to start our Little Buddy. I’m hoping for the French to invade and socialize early child care sometime between now and then, because otherwise our budget will take a pounding.

But, in the end, babies are priceless…

Daniel August 23, 2007 at 8:44 am

You are absolutely right about how expensive it is to raise a child. However, the stats shouldn’t scare off wannabee parents. No matter how hard one tries, there are always going to be unexpected expenses, but when a new parent is already expecting or having a child, that parent usually figures out a way to cope financially; especially if he and/or she has all the information that you have just provided!

Silicon Valley Blogger August 23, 2007 at 7:19 pm

@Brip Blap
I’ve had some difficult times nursing my child as well. I ended up having to rent those thing-a-majigs to help provide breast milk for my children. Anything for mom’s milk huh? Then it turns out my first child has a variety of food allergies as well, including milk. So we needed to supplement using a very expensive, nasty smelling formula (the hypoallergenic kind). Yes, that was $25 a can, I remember! Okay too much information for a finance blog perhaps, but we were hurting from day one (monetarily speaking). What alternatives could we have had? I am still not sure what we would have done differently given some of these medical issues.

Very true that people somehow manage when they have kids. Whether it means finding support from outside of the family or just making ends meet somehow, it works out well for many people who didn’t expect to be able to do so. It’s all about setting priorities and making sacrifices and continuing to do so for those 18 years… 🙂 I agree it’s well worth it. I never realized it would be this much fun.

kitty August 27, 2007 at 3:54 pm

“In our case, we married fairly late and thus had children late in life in order to ensure that we had our financial foundation in place…”

You are lucky in that you were still able to have children late. Unfortunately, so many os us are not that lucky. So many women nowadays are waiting until they are financially secure only to find out that having a child at 35 is not as easy as at 25. Think about the regret these women feel as they try fertility treatments (really painful, and very expensive) or wait for an adoption – not as easy as well. Think about watching other women have kids when you are unable to conceive. A little “XXX just had a baby” note received at work hits an infertile woman very hard. Think about having to care for a baby with Dawn the risk of which goes exponentially with mother’s age. Are these health reasons any less important than financial security?

“For those who don’t, then maybe you’ll see what could be in store for you. Hopefully this inspires you further to save your heart out for times like these.”

And while waiting keep in mind that woman is born with all of her eggs; she looses many before she ever reaches puberty, the fertility goes down a little bit after 30 and starts to drop significantly after 35. In addition, as eggs get older, the number of mistakes in DNA goes up, and consequently the probability of having a child with Down goes up as well. Sure the chances may still be with you at 30 or 32, but risk of not being able to have a child is still much higher later in life as is risk of complications of pregnancy.

So many people on these financial blogs write about financial aspects and the adventages of waiting and forget about basic bilogy.

GaryV August 29, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Our family had our baby boom with four kids in five years. Not looking for that to happen again anytime soon.

Matt L. August 31, 2007 at 8:02 pm

I’m going to be outnumbered soon when my family ends up with more girls than guys. Will there be a difference in how much it costs between a daughter and a son? Would like to see the comparison.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 28, 2007 at 8:04 pm

I would love to have more kids, but given our circumstances, it’s going to be tough to manage and given our ages, I’m not sure it’s a good idea. But congratulations to all those who are experiencing baby booms!

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