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!