How Much Does It Really Cost to Raise a Child?

costs of having kids

We’ve all read those reports about how it costs almost a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child to age 18. That makes each year of life around $13,611 for middle income families. I have no idea about the rest of the world, but thought it might be fun to share average expenses for our kiddo. She will be nine in a few months, making us half way to adulthood. Here is a breakdown of our costs to raise a child.

Keep in mind that we only have one kid, are upper middle class earners, and live in a low cost of living area. Where you live can be a huge influence on how much you spend. Also, as an only child, our daughter probably has the benefit of many more splurges that would be possible with multiple children.

Necessary Expenses


This is a hard category to break down because I don’t track grocery spending into kid vs adult.  Most of the time, we all eat the same things. Having a child means buying a little more. The two notable exceptions are the gallon of organic milk I buy every ten days at $5-$6 a pop and the $10-$15 we spend per month on school cafeteria lunches. I would estimate spending about $20 extra per week on food with an extra person in the house.

Average Food Costs per year: $1400


We’ve had two major clothes shopping trips this year plus some purchases from eBay and consignment stores. It would be nice to have a source of hand me downs, but being an only child and the oldest female grandchild limits this steam of clothing. Buying expensive items like coats and boots used or on clearance is how we try to save in this area. I sign up for email coupons from our favorite retailers that we stack on store sales, usually saving 50% or more.

We also resell any clothing that isn’t demolished. Often, we make money or break even on ski and winter clothing.

Average Clothes Spending: $200 (-$150 for resold items) Net $50


Again, very hard to track how much electricity and water a kid uses. Our electric bill has gone down over the years due to more efficient lighting, setting our thermostat lower in winter, and not using the A/C until the temperature is above 90 degrees. I don’t think having a child contributes to an overall increase in electricity or heat except during the first few months with a new baby when you want the temperature to be perfect.  Our water bill is about $5 a month higher post child.

Average Yearly Utility Cost: $60


Since we have a very high deductible health plan and most dental insurance is a rip off, we pay out of pocket for medical and dental spending. This year, we had one visit to urgent care, a scheduled doctor visit to renew our daughter’s allergy prescription, two dental visits, and a couple of prescription medicines. Orthodontic treatment starts later this month, so this cost is going to be much higher in 2016.

Total medical spending: $411

School Costs

Yes, there is a cost for attending public school. Field trips, planners, school supplies; all that costs money. There are charities and programs to help out low income families with these costs, but thankfully, we don’t qualify.

School annual costs: $200


We do spend a fair amount of time hauling our kid around to where she needs to be. We do carpool, but there are usually at least three round trips per week to school plus getting to after school programs and activities. Although we haven’t bought a bigger car due to having a child, I bet we add about 50 miles a month in kid related transportation.

At an average of 25 miles per gallon of gas costing around $2.25/gallon, that makes kid transport cost about $54 a year.


The really big necessary cost of having a child is time. I used to think I was busy before being a Mom, but I look back now at all the time I wasted. I think having a child has made me a better multi-tasker, and I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff as much. Sometimes I wish for more time to myself, but I’m sure I’ll miss all the craziness once it’s gone.

Total Essential Child Spending= $2175

 Non-Essential Costs

We choose to spend a portion of our income on things that are certainly non-essential to raising a child. Our hope is by offering travel, sports, art, and other experiences, we’ll get a well rounded, self-confident child who carries those same traits into adulthood. These are things we choose to spend money on.


Although we try to use points and miles to fund the majority of our trips, there are some extra costs for taking a kid on vacation. You’ll often have to book larger rooms or pay for roll away beds. Childrean over two need their own airline ticket, and kids don’t eat free at most restaurants. We have also bought tickets for Disneyland Paris, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Phoenix Zoo this year. I am fairly certain Jim and I would not have visited any of those attractions on our own.

We had an epic travel year, and I’m only ball parking how much of  our travel expenses were kid related. I don’t expect vacation costs to be this high in 2016.

Kid Travel Expenses: $1,000

Activities and Sports

I don’t like the idea of over scheduling kids to death, but we do participate in several activities. Our daughter has taken dance lessons since she was three. Classes are for 9 months at $40 a month plus $130 for shoes and recital costume.

We entered a $25 triathlon this summer. In the fall, we did Girls on the Run which cost $60. Ice skating lessons start next week at $40 for a five week session plus $25 for used skates. Our family also enjoys winter activities. We are using last year’s gear except for a pair of second hand cross country boots purchased for $25, but a kid’s ski pass to Telluride costs $279.

This past summer, we also did a week of golf camp at $50 and six playground days for $25 each. The playground days were our only daycare expense, even though it was more like camp that babysitting. Up until kindergarten, we were paying $600 a month for daycare, and I know child care is even more expensive in many parts of the country. Looking back at that expense, our activity total doesn’t seem bad at all!

Total annual cost of Activities: $1083

Gifts and Holidays

Parents can get carried away with birthday, Christmas, and other holiday presents, especially with an only child. We spent about $200 on Christmas this year and $60 for ear piercing as a birthday gift. She also got a Kindle as as reward for getting the most reading points in second grade, and I’m sure we caved and bought some other crap gifts for various things.

For our daughter’s 8th birthday party, we set $50 budget and she got to decide how to spend it. I like that idea going forward. It takes having to say no off the table.

Don’t be afraid to ask grandparents and family members for things your child needs. They are going to buy a gift anyway, so why not ask for something useful instead of another plastic item that plays “Let it Go.”

Gift Expenses: $400


Perhaps the most important money we spent last year was investing in our child’s future. Two hundred dollars a month is automatically invested into her 529 account, and we usually put in a larger sum toward the end of the year. My government job hasn’t paid since October, so we weren’t able to do that in 2015, but there is always next year.

There is no requirement that parents have to pay for a kids’s college education. In fact, I’d say don’t if you haven’t taken care of your own retirement needs. As I’ve said many times, your kid will appreciate you much more if they don’t have to take care of you as a senior.

College Savings in 2015: $2400

Total Non-Essential Kid Spending= $4883

Good Kid Phase

I think we are in a very good kid phase. Daycare, diapers, and formula are over. Data plans, car insurance, and trendy clothes are a few years down the road. Eight-year-olds really don’t need that much. The huge majority of our cost to raise a child at this point is on wants rather than needs.

Parents, what is your most expensive kid related item? What stage of childhood/adolescence is the most expensive?





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Snipon is owned and run by a small team who love to find deals on a dime along with the best sweepstakes and giveaways out there. We’re always scrolling the internet for the latest offers to share them with our community. Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss another freebie!
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