Photo Credit: Luhaney Photography
// Kids Cost What? (The Real Cost of Raising a Child) //
Author: Taylor Haney
I have three children at home–need I say more?
Thank goodness for Megan. My wife is a full-time caregiver, life giver. She manages our home. I manage our finances. Her job is way more difficult. While I’m at work interacting with business owners, peers, clients, she’s at home in drawn out negotiations with our five-year old son on how much lunch he needs to eat to warrant 30 minutes of tablet time to play Minecraft, potty training our two-year old, and making sure the seven-year old doesn’t shoot the neighborhood squirrels with his BB gun. All at the same time. Did I mention she homeschools?
We had children early compared to our friends. So, we often get asked, “How much do kids cost?” My answer: “Your life.” I say that tongue in cheek. More on that later.
I recently followed a rabbit trail of articles online that eventually led to USDA.gov. Here, I found the USDA Cost of Raising a Child Calculator. Out of curiosity, I gave it a go. Based on the number of children, number of working parents, income, and location, the calculator informed me of our number: $47,315/year.
Yep, your life.
Now, before you have a heart attack, this is an estimated cost and is actually lower than the national average. In reality, ours is a little bit lower than this, but high nonetheless.
For those of you that do not have children, this revelation is probably very discouraging. “I see why he said it costs your life, but he didn’t mention all your money!” When Megan and I first got married, we lived off $75 a week of groceries, never went out to eat, had no cable, and loved it. Most of that statement remains true today, except the $75 bit. It’s a little higher now. Ok, a lot higher.
A friend recently told me that he and his wife want to start a family soon. Seeing as I have three children, he thought I could give some advice. Before I could respond, I had two thoughts:
First, Jim Gaffigan’s brutally honest quote, “Most of the time, I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent. I call these times being awake.” Second, one of our pastors recently said, “I started to understand how selfish I was when I got married. Now that we have children, I realize how irredeemably selfish I am.”
I told my friend in all seriousness, “Having children is a BIG decision. There is so much to consider beyond finances. But, practically speaking, you should consider your costs.”
- Will you need a bigger house?
- Will you both continue to work?
- How much does day care cost?
- What kind of baby brand snob will you be?
Our conversation moved away from just the numbers. I shared with my friend a handful of tips that have guided me the last several years as a husband and father. Here’s my SparkNotes advice to those considering children:
- Get on the same page as your significant other.
- Find a way to make it work.
- Be prepared to be unprepared.
- Get used to change. Diapers need a lot of that.
- It’s just money, be diligent, but not obsessive.
- They will have dreams. They don’t have to be your dreams.
- Do for your kids what couldn’t be done for you.
I’m worried too many young couples have to navigate big changes in their lives without a solid plan (or think they can’t afford to hire a good advisor). These discussions are important to have when you do on-going planning. Not accounting for these types of variations can skew your numbers greatly. The cost of raising a child calculator is a starting point. But creating a holistic plan will help you move past the numbers. As with any plan, you have to be flexible and adapt to changes. You may be able to save $X today, but only $Y once you have two children (or a third unplanned, no, not us!).
Having children costs you your life. You will lose your current life. A new life will begin–a better life! As a father of three sons, I gladly give my old life away, everyday. I don’t consider having three sons an accomplishment; rather, an honor.
Need help making a plan? We’d be honored to help you get clarity around your finances and investments.