Paycheck Chronicles

Babies Aren't Expensive, But Older Children Are


I'm always confused when people say that "babies are expensive."  That wasn't my experience.  Our babies were pretty cheap.  Tricare covered the cost of maternity care, and we bought almost everything used or got hand-me-downs.  A new carseat, for safety, and new stroller, because strollers get gross fast, were our biggest expenses.  I estimate our first child cost us less than $1,000 in her first year.  I remember thinking, "why does everyone complain about how expensive babies are?"

She's now 19, and I have an entirely different perspective.

In January, the Department of Agriculture reported that a middle class family spends approximately $233,61o to raise a child through age 18.  As much as I hate to admit it, I think that they're probably close to right.

If you're thinking about starting a family, or have small children and wonder why everyone thinks kids are so expensive, here are a list of expenses you may encounter as your children get older:

  • rapidly growing through clothing,
  • orthodontia,
  • toiletries,
  • school lunches,
  • technology, especially as required for school,
  • sports equipment,
  • hair cuts,
  • musical instruments and lessons,
  • eyeglasses and contact lenses,
  • larger vehicles,
  • SAT and ACT exam fees,
  • cast fees and costume parts for being in plays,
  • field trips,
  • required contributions to group activities, such as providing snacks for a sports team,
  • summer camps,
  • enrichment classes,
  • school supplies,
  • AP exam fees,
  • more expensive travel costs.
It is notable that this study does not include college costs, which might include trips to visit schools before attending, application fees, plus tuition, room & board, books, and other expenses of attendance.

Obviously, every family makes their own choices, and no child needs any of these things (except for maybe eye glasses.)  Most families will spend in at least a handful of these categories.

This is one of those situations where awareness is the important thing.  I'm pretty sure I had no idea that those sweet, inexpensive little babies were going to cost me so much over time.  I wouldn't have changed my decisions, but I wouldn't have been so surprised when it happened.

I'm sure I've missed some costs.  Please tell me in the comments!

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