Monday, April 14, 2008

Money Makes The World Go 'Round

If you don't live in a cave, you have already read about this study showing us how incredibly expensive children are to raise. Supposedly, it will cost Larry and I 250,000 dollars per kid to get through to age 18. Aside from the dubious assumptions employed in a costs/benefit analysis of raising children (let's face it, folks, nice as that child tax credit is, we're not doing this for the money), I have a slight quibble with these numbers.

Food - they claim it costs me 2000 dollars per year per child. Well, no wonder the little rugrats are always whining that they are hungry - I'm only spending about 1200.

Housing - 14,000 dollars a year per child? When we lived in a house perfectly adequate for up to 4 kids (and we fit in 5 and could have stayed there with 6 if we wanted to), we were paying approximately 30K a year for housing, for all of us. That comes to 5000 dollars per person. But this study has each child costing us 14,000 a year? You know, there is no law that says each kid needs his own bedroom. And, really, the broom closet can be quite cosy for a tot. (Ha! Ha! Joke! All you Anonymous-es, calm down!)

Transportation - We spend a max of 6000 dollars a year on transportation, including maintenance, insurance, and gas (and even less if I can convince Larry to stop making us drive up to Maine every year - relatives, shmelatives...). Amortize the value of our minivans over 10 years, if you like, and that doesn't even get the total up to 10,000 dollars. So I cannot even begin to figure out where they get their figure of over 13,000 dollars a year per child. Does each child get a personal chauffeur, perhaps? The only thing really expensive about children and transportation is when they learn to drive. But I'd rather not think about that.

I don't have time to look at the figures for clothing, miscellaneous, education closely right now - but judging how far off the other estimates were, I don't have too much faith in them. Just trust me - it needn't cost you a quarter million dollars a year to raise each child. I mean, unless you want it to...

How To Raise Kids on the Cheap

1. Expensive birthday parties for elementary-aged children are not only unnecessary, but foolish. Remember, child expenditures only increase with age. If you spend 300 dollars on an 8-year-old's birthday party, you are doomed to spend at least double that amount on that same child's 13th birthday.

2. Do not spend good money on ballet/ice skating/tap dance/soccer/ice hockey lessons when the child is little. There's nothing quite so disheartening as taking out a second mortgage on the house to finance dance class just to watch your precious princess pick her nose and wipe the boogers on the ballet barre. Whatever they can learn at 5, they can learn way more quickly at 10 or 11, no matter what the money-hungry ballet school tries to tell you.

3. Don't buy them Happy Meals (gasp!) - you can get them a dollar double cheeseburger and a small fry (and water, because you are mean) for less money. Isn't that great? Even we penny pinchers can poison our children like the rich folk do. If the kid cries, eat half his fries. He won't try that again.

4. Don't buy stupid toys. And nearly all toys are stupid. Duplos, Legos, and some stuffed bears or dolls are plenty. Actually, you need buy only one stuffed animal; as we all know, these things multiply on their own. Any other toy you buy will end up sitting around unused, while your little darlings roll around on the floor and whine that they are bored.

5. Keep those expectations low. Remind your children, for years in advance, about how they are going to receive a brand-new bicycle when they turn 16. Repeat the words, "I'm not made of money, you know," ad nauseam. (You can vary that with an occasional "Money doesn't grow on trees!") Scatter community college and public university brochures about the house as they enter their teens. And, for heaven's sakes, encourage them to elope.


  1. I'm getting a business idea...we take in rich peoples children and show them this article when we are discussing fees, then we raise them "on the cheap" and keep the balance. What do you think?

  2. But do you feel guilty about going to all those insane elementary school age birthday parties and reaping all the Build-a-Bears and what not?

    I don't (not even close).

  3. Hey! I'm back. Have your husband take the kids to the Eric Carle Museum while you're at Webs. Google them and check out their website.

    I don't stop to add up. Why would I do that? Somewhere in our heads we know we'd have more money without kids, obviously, but clearly we don't care.

  4. You had me at "cave."

    I'm laughing out loud!!! All by myself in the house!!!

    Here's one that I used when my two oldest wanted cars in college:

    Kid: "But all of my friends have cars."

    Me: "Good. You'll have plenty of people to drive you around."

  5. If it truly cost that much to raise a child, we would have had to sell ours.

  6. And, invest in a DVR/Tivo so that you never have to watch a commercial again and the children will never see the toys that they don't have.

  7. Excellent advice.

    Honestly, I think those numbers were created by the wall street exec who quit her job to stay at home and justify it.


  8. Maybe it costs that much to raise a child in some pricey burbs, but those are crazy numbers.

    I'm with Mrs. G.

    I like this list. Maybe I'll have it laminated and attached to my keyring.

  9. Awesome tips. I run continuous video of third world conditions and convince them that we must live close to the same in order to appreciate their suffering

  10. I am going to print this and use it as our bible. (the part from you) thanks hehe.

  11. Ha! My mother called and wanted to know what my soon-to-be 5 yr. old son wanted. I told her to just send him a package of Ziploc bags and he'd be happy. She sent that and one toy. Guess what he likes the most? Sheesh. My boys make airplanes from cheese-they don't need expensive toys. Plus, as I keep telling myself, they are developing their imaginations. Cheaper is better!

  12. I liked your tips!
    We have one child that won't eat when they are mad at us. If we keep irritating this child, it saves us $$$ on food.
    Even if a child has a huge room of their own, they will still curl up on the floor of the closet to sleep, because it's "fun". They also spend a ton of time just playing in the closet. You're right, kids don't need much space.
    I take my kids to restaurants with dollar menus, and tell them they have $2.00 each to get whatever they want. Fries are not allowed. If they whine, we have pb&j at home.
    We also frequently mention to our children that they will not be living with us forever. They get to move out when they are adults. We have also explained that they don't get to come live with us after they get married (bringing a spouse and multiple children too)

  13. These words sound familiar, O Sage! You are talking my language!

  14. Ok, I haven't made $250,000 in my ENTIRE life, and I have 7 kids. Isnt that crazy?

    1. Expensive birthday parties for elementary-aged children are foolish- why stop at elementary aged children? Birthday parties are best had at the local park, or even better yet - McDonalds - in the middle of the afternoon, when it isnt eating time. For $10 you get cake and drink and gift bags for up to 16 people. And if you go to the one with a play area, well thats even better. Plus the birthday child gets a free happy meal (for after everyone leaves, and you can feed him/her dinner)

    2. Make them mow lawns/sell lemonade to earn enough money to pay for their own stuff. Or at least half of it.

    3. Don't buy them Happy Meals (gasp!) - you can get them a dollar double cheeseburger and a small fry (and water, because you are mean) for less money. - heard not to long ago in our car "mom, wheres the toys?" The dollar menu doesn't come with toys sorry. Now when we pass McD's even the little ones (3 and up) say who has dollars for the dollar menu?

    4. And nearly all toys are stupid. Agreed. And no toys with noise. I will say though, the best toys my kids have gotten was a pack of paint rollers (3 pack of the fuzzy parts from the dollar store).

    5. Keep those expectations low. Oh yeah. I am right there with you :)

    Want to save even more money? Move to a 3rd world country where the exchange rate is 19 of their dollars for every USD. And the monthly fee for electric is $8 or so.


  15. Excellent advice. And for the toys, all you really need is the box it came in.

    Perhaps the people doing this study were rounding WAY up?

    Oh wait. What Angie said!

  16. I think that's the price quote for raising an obnoxious, over-privileged child with an inflated sense of entitlement.

  17. jenn - Oh. Why didn't they say so, then?

    jennifer - "no toys with noise" - that will be on my "how to keep your sanity" list

    jill - I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

    solus puella - My kids like duct tape and craft sticks.

    ve - I'm still looking for some sort of summer program where I can send my kids to Haiti for 2 months.

    dan - Me, neither.

    mrs. smith - I'm ordering the business cards now.

  18. As someone who has raised 4.99 children to relative maturity, I'll add my own "amen". Thank you for a much-needed guffaw or three.

    Crisis + time = humor. I'll let you know when today seems funny.

  19. You are a riot with your tips.

    But this was my favorite from this post, "All you Anonymous-es, calm down!)"

  20. Aha! So THAT'S why I'm not driving a Jag.

  21. This is pretty funny, but honestly, with ballet classes, the earlier, the better. Being really good at ballet requires a certain type of musculature that is best developed early. That said, screw fancy birthday parties.

  22. Great post. My mom asked "So you're not having a third child in the house you live in, right?" I asked her why. "You don't have a bedroom for it". Since when can't kids sleep in the same room?

  23. Of course, it's important to share. Play dates are great for allowing them to fight over another child's toys, exhausting them for a good sleep back home - and a finer appreciation of playing with their own stuff ON THEIR OWN. He he.

  24. I hate it when the media makes the raising of children all about finances. Sheesh.

    And where do they come up with these ridicluous figures?

    I am totally with you on the birthday parties (we always have ours at home with a small number of friends as opposed to the entire class) and we don't buy Happy Meals, either! The dollar menu offers an excellent selection of items!

    Now, I'm going to go get some college brochures to scatter around the home.

    God bless.

  25. Too True, My husband wants to move eldest daughter into her own room...we have one, but I refuse. She has to learn to live with daughter #2 first. They spend all their time in the bedroom closet anyway! Pax, EJT

  26. Wow. am in shock. cannot imagine spending $540 a year on a 0-2 year old on clothing. cannot imagine spending that a year on myself. They do eat a lot, but really, kids are cheap when they labor in the fields and help grow the food, right?

  27. You crack me up! So true, so true.

  28. I paid for ballet lessons and my five year old did not ONCE wipe her boogers on the barre. She was too busy pulling her leotard out of her little butt-crack.

  29. Your right! I just figured out that according to that I should be spending $154/week on groceries just for the kids! I spend $100 on the kids plus my husband and I. I'm glad to know you can't always believe what you read!

  30. You mean you're not supposed to leave them in the broom closet?

  31. you've done it again - I'm rolling in the aisles - though not quite sure, as we've fallen in most of the traps you mentioned....whoops, but not any more - and especially not with you on hand to advise!

    Do you think it's still permissable to send the little darlings up chimneys? Hehe!

  32. I always find those figures about the cost of raising children ridiculous! Honestly - if I have 4 cildren I will have to come up with an EXTRA $1 million?! Rubbish.

  33. I always find those figures about the cost of raising children ridiculous! Honestly - if I have 4 cildren I will have to come up with an EXTRA $1 million?! Rubbish.

  34. So funny and so true!! Thanks for your wit and common sense.

  35. I've never understood how they can say it costs that much--and don't get me started on paying for college and things like that.

  36. Birthday parties... what's that? OH, you mean when the relatives come over and eat burgers in the backyard while the neighbor kids are allowed to come in the house for once to see the kids' room (notice I said room without an "s").

  37. Great advice!

    Thanks for shooting some holes in the child rearing expenses data. :)

  38. My husband might want to leave me now just so he can marry this post. All of your tips are oh so true... except that I have to disagree with the part about ballet lessons. I teach ballet, and not only do the little ones have a blast, but it really does help to start developing some of those kinds of skills earlier. The studio I teach for does a cool class though that combines ballet, tap, and musical theatre for kids from 3-5. Perfect for those itsy bitsy attention spans.

  39. That study is the craziest thing I've read in a long time. $14,000 a year for housing? Per kid? We pay less than that per year for housing for all 5 of us, and my dad is moving in next winter. And we could fit another kid if we wanted to.

    I've heard people comment about room-sharing too. If my kids have a problem with it they can talk to their dad, who shared a room with his three older brothers until he moved out. I doubt they'll get much sympathy. :)

  40. You do realize that the items quoted are AVERAGES. Compare where you live to the cost of living in a major city. My husband and I pay $24,000/year for a 1 bedroom apartment with a den in Boston - that's just rent, not a mortgage, not taxes or insurance, just rent. If we were to have 2 children and wanted to buy a 2 bedroom apartment in Boston, I'm pretty certain $14K/year/child would be accurate, if not low.

    I agree that you can have children on the cheap, but I'm pretty certain that the study is correct in the AVERAGE spent across the country and varying levels of income.

  41. I live in an equally expensive area of the country. Think about it. Why would each additional child cost 14K a year to house? Once you moved to a 2-BR apartment, you could fit an additional child or two in there if you wanted. Or you would move out of the city where rents are cheaper. It's lifestyle choices that drive the costs, of course. But my cousin raised 2 children in a 2-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, because she'd rather die than leave the city. And living in a city can cut transportation costs (one car instead of two, walking instead of driving) that can help even out the exorbitant housing costs.

    And really, that den? It would fit a first child just fine, if you chose. I can understand wanting more space, but it's not necessary.

  42. It's a quarter of a million over 17 years, not over one. You're frugal and you don't send your kids to private school, and you're still not that far from that number in your own estimation. I agree that the number's inflated, but it's not by as much as you're saying.

  43. yes, cost of living in Boston is crazy.. it's why I moved to OK. And yes, the report is for the average family and while this is the first itme i've read this blog, I gotta agree.. sounds like a better-than-average family to me ;)

    Birthday parties! Oh I learned my lesson there! They now consist of family members ONLY! And if we have neighbor kids... they can come over.. it's cheaper that way ;)

  44. I agree with Anonymous, it is $250,000 from birth-18 years. That is about $13,889/year or $1157/month. I do not think that is too far off. It is an average. There are many ways to increase the cost and many ways to decrease it.

    Additional thoughts-
    Birthday parties for just family at home are all well and good, if you live near family. We don't, never have. I also think my time/sanity is worth something. So, I CHOOSE to do parties outside the home, trading cost for sanity in prepping my home for company. We do not go crazy, we have a budget and stick to it. We also try to do joint parties for our kids that have close birthdays.

    The cost for each additional child should raise only a fraction of the first child for some things. They can share a room, toys and clothes, stroller etc. The first child is more expensive, even if you buy used and use cloth diapers and make your own food and breastfeed.

    Just saying!