Saving money on raising a baby

by andrewodom on October 6, 2011 · 12 comments


When we first started talking about having a baby we said the very same thing that so many hopeful parents say. Even just thinking it now sounds ridiculous.

Let’s hold off another ______________ when we can afford it a little more.

Afford it a little more? And when might that be? Over two years after we first talked about having a baby and I don’t think we can anymore afford it now than we could then. Face it, it can be very expensive to raise a child in the United States. For example, according to Parenting Magazine, it costs almost $200,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. Notice that doesn’t count from conception. We won’t even go into the costs of 9-months of medical expenses plus labor/delivery costs. Other sources estimate the cost at $250,000 USD or more. For parents who agree to pay for their children to attend a public college, tuition can add as much as $10,000 USD or more to that estimate (and that is being generous, in my opinion).

Unaffordable, right? Seemingly so. But keep in mind that the cost of raising children is spread out over almost two decades. Divided equally by 18 years, to raise a child will cost you roughly $11,000/year. If you have two children, it will theoretically cost you about $22,000/year to raise them, and so on. However, keep in mind that the first 11 or 12 years of each child’s life will most likely be more expensive than the teen years, because daycare expenses usually go away at age 12. I am already seeing a savings, are you?

Fortunately, many of these expenses are ones that smart families can avoid, dramatically lowering what it costs to raise a child. For example, the online calculator estimates an expense of $2,900 USD per year for a bigger home. That is with a 0% interest rate and using the Southeast region real estate market guide. If you can find a bigger home that suits your needs for only $700 USD more a year, it will drop the total expense down to $150,000. If you raise a child in the same size home you have now (or less), you’ll spend nothing additional.

Likewise, the calculator includes an annual cost of $1,250 for a bigger car. In our case we did need a bigger car as we originally drove a 2-seat Ford Ranger extended cab. Even shopping for a new car we used Craigslist to find something we could afford and then negotiated a finance plan with a high down payment and low monthly payments with no penalty for additional payments or payoff prior to the 5-years of the loan. Most families can raise a child using the cars they already have, which saves around $15,000 over a period of 18 years.

Other costs of raising a child are negotiable, too. For instance, breastfeeding for the first year of your baby’s life could save you a thousand dollars or more in groceries. (And yes, I fully understand that this is subject to the mother’s ability to produce milk and the child’s willingness to accept). Making your own baby food — which is actually quite simple — can also save you hundreds of dollars. Savvy shoppers (read: those who accept hand-me-downs and who don’t over-purchase) should also be able to clothe their child for well under the allotted $600 per year.

And the list goes on. In fact, here are 5 solid ways to save money raising a child.

  • Ignore registry advice. Store registries are heavily influenced by the baby product industry itself,. Babies only need a few things. Once you have a crib, a car seat, diapers and either breast milk or formula, everything else is more about making your parenting experience easier. Before giving birth or signing up for a registry talking to other mothers about what they found helpful and what they could have done without.
  • Skimp on toys. Save the spoiling of your kids until they’re old enough to appreciate (and truly benefit from) a toy. Most babies and even toddlers are as happy with wrapping paper, bows, and even dirt, as they are the latest, greatest, gift in the Christmas wish book! Look for a few simple toys with bright colors and interesting sounds that will stimulate baby and let you play, too.
  • Network. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But in this age of Facebook and “Follow us on Twitter” a number of companies offer daily sales, freebies, and other promotionals. Follow them. Like them on Facebook. Sign up for their exclusive newsletters. Contests are also great ways to get something for nothing!
  • Make your own baby food. It’s healthier. It’s cheaper. Need I say more? Making your own baby food is so cost effective. Take for instance the baby banana chewie thingees. In the grocery store they cost roughly $0.55 for a 2.5 ounce jar. But a pound (16 ounces) of fresh, ripe, bananas, costs just about $0.89.
  • Teach your child to play outside. It sounds so elementary and even condescending. But the art of playing outside is lost on many children. Make them turn the TV off. Don’t buy a Wii. Teach them to play outside and use their imagination. It is free and it is so educational!

So although at first glance it seems very expensive to raise a child in the United States, in reality, many of the costs are unnecessary. Many can even be avoided by cost-minded parents and parents who are eager to raise happy, healthy, babies far from the arms of the marketers and mass media conglomerates. By following the tips above, you should be able to cut the cost of raising a child nearly in half!

  • http://www.careercollegelibrary.wordpress.com ConsiderJennifer

    I have actually found it to be more expensive to have a 6 year old than a 6 month old.  As they get older children like to be involved in activities, for us it’s ballet and Girl Scouts.  Rick and I have decided to limit the amount of activities the kids can participate in for two reasons.  First $$$ and second (and I think more important) so they can truly enjoy what they are signing on to do.  Our daughter wanted ballet, I said “great” but we put a bar up in her room and she practices every day.  It teaches her commitment and it isn’t something she does as “busy work” she likes it then she should work at getting better at it.  If she doesn’t want to spend the time on it she can chose something else.  

    What has become more expensive is therapy for our son, who has autism.  Families that have children with special needs and/or medical concerns spend tons of money to be sure their children have what they need.  I would encourage anyone in that situation to explore services that are offered through grants/scholarships, etc.  And keep the faith…  :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1477820463 Wendy Everett

      So true. Our autistic 19 year old costs us a fortune. Insurance & government programs do not cover what he needs. We cut corners where we can to make up the difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1477820463 Wendy Everett

    We have bought no new baby gear. Infant gear is used for a short period of time & people are eager to be rid of it. Freecycle, yard sales & networking with other families has provided us with more than we needed. We also have decided to cloth diaper. We asked for diapers in lieu of other gifts we didn’t need. The new cloth diapers are much more user friendly than most people would think.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You are so right Wendy. We use gDiapers. What have y’all settled on?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Heather-Phillips-Paul/1412694976 Heather Phillips Paul

    *had to throw this in here…although I am sure you all know this info already. PLEASE make sure ANY baby cribs/toys/etc. are up to safety codes before you buy used off of craigslist etc. We found out the hard way that a hand me down crib’s slots were to far apart and out infant daughter almost got her head stuck *shudder*

    • anotherkindofdrew

      I don’t think we can ever be reminded enough Heather. Oftentimes because of deals or savings we forget the truly important things; quality and safety!

  • http://desertverde.com nan

    My kids were raised on second-hand everything. There is so much kid stuff at yard sales, second hand stores and flea markets, there’s no need to buy anything new. Both girls slept with us in the family bed. We never had cribs. When they were old enough, my mother happened to be downsizing and gave us two beds.

    My main expenses have been food. When they got to be pre-teens, it was clothes (‘I can’t wear clothes from the thrift store!’) then gadgets. That’s when Christmas came in handy as well as their dad and allowances.

    When they were growing up, I made about 25K/yr and had nothing to show at the end of the year, so I’m guessing that’s a good number to estimate for raising them. I can’t imagine having bought all new stuff all those years and not shopping sales for food – it would have cost way more than that! My kids had everything they needed, though. They won’t tell you that, but it’s true. lol

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You make a great point Nan. Show me a kid that will admit to having everything they needed. HAHAHAHAHA. You sound like you did awesome as a mom. I am sure you did!

  • web design London

    I have actually found it to be more expensive to have a 6 year old than a 6 month old.  As they get older children like to be involved in activities, for us it’s ballet and Girl Scouts.  Rick and I have decided to limit the amount of activities the kids can participate in for two reasons.

  • MelD

    Goodness, if this is the way people think and calculate, no wonder the birth rate is dropping in so much of  the western world! To me, it is completely alien to think of being “able to afford” having children. You have no money = kids get better quality of life!! But seriously, what does a child need? Apart from parents, food and warmth/shelter, practically nothing. Oh, some intelligence on the parents’ side helps! Love, attention and humour have no price.
    Our 3 girls are mostly grown, now (and we get to see the fruits of our labours as grandparents, natch!) and we have never stressed or gone into debt about it. We started young and just did what we had to do. I breastfed all three, diapered as conveniently as possible, they didn’t have “baby” toys or pacifiers, they had us… In fact, back then, the eldest didn’t have car seats or any other gadgets, either (and it’s not soooo long ago, they were born ’84, ’91, ’95…). We either carried them or used a classic pram loaned by my in-laws. They didn’t have special baby bedclothes or fancy beds, we made do just fine, later we were given two antique beds we stripped down to the bare wood. I knitted and sewed for pleasure as much as for dressing them or making toys or blankets. And yes, I didn’t have to work outside the home! They got no special foods – they ate and drank whatever we did, i.e. from breastfeeding they transitioned gradually and by 12 mths ate everything the same as us and I cooked everything at home, is that no longer normal?! When they were tiny we just pureed everything accordingly. 
    As they got older, our income did rise enough to afford extra-curricular lessons if they wanted it or the grandparents offered to cover them. If they wanted. There was no pressure to do anything and in fact, they got more out of a local youth group for free than out of most paid activities. Their sports gear was 2nd hand, mainly because they grew so fast rather than that we couldn’t afford new! We read, we roller and ice skated, biked, gardened, skied (later snowboards), sledged, swam in our village pool, walked in the woods with the dog, climbed trees, picked fruit, helped make hay, visited many places all over Europe, cuddled our cat, drove to the seaside annually, played in parks and on playgrounds in town and country… most of it cost no more than time or effort and the will to enjoy our kids. At a very late date, we got a computer; they always knew when they’d had enough TV or rather, they had better things to do, and we used the screens constructively – for fun and entertainment together, communication, learning. Not a problem. 
    If we’d waited till we could “afford” kids, we would be like my husband’s coworkers, with young kids at 45, divorced and concentrating on their flashy cars and house building/renovations, with silly young girlfriends hung on their arms and complaining they have to pay child support, buy DSs and never see the kids… who’s happier??!! 

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you so my Me1D for speaking up on the r(E)volution! You are so right. There never is a time when we can afford to have children. I agree with you. Some intelligence on the part of parents is often quite helpful. HAHAHAH 

      Unfortunately, what you are describing is not so normal at all. Well, it is normal to folks like us but is not so normal to others. In fact, to many it seems antiquated or even abnormal. 

  • Ashley J

    (2 years after the most recent comments…)

    I have lived in fairly small places all my life. My first room of my own (when I was too old to share with my two older brothers) was about 50 sq ft — my twin bed had to be trimmed so it could fit! When we moved to a different place, I thought I had the bedroom of a queen — a whole 90 sq feet! My favorite clothes were usually hand-me-downs from older friends. Christmases were awesome when I was a kid, though they were usually quite humble.

    My upbringing has taught me to not want to spoil my own child and therefore avoid many costs (I’m torn on what to get my baby for his first Christmas since I know he won’t remember it). And, aside from all those extras, I saved so much money by choosing to breastfeed, make baby food for him (albeit, my grocery bill has increased a little, but not as much as with pre-packaged food), and for my baby shower, I had asked for diapers and wipes. Six months later, and I have yet to purchase a package!

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