Save Up, Parents: The Cost Of Raising A Child Is $233K

by Jerriann Sullivan
Image via Shutterstock.

A child costs a family between $12,350 and $13,900 a year

Instead of the latest breast pump, you might want to put “cash” on your baby shower registry because the cost of raising a kid in the United States is higher than ever and you’re going to need every penny. On average, a family will spend between $12,350 and $13,900 every year caring for their mini-me. From birth to their 17th birthday that averages out to be about $233,610. Yep, you read that right, almost a quarter of a million dollars for the privilege of having offspring. And that doesn’t even count the cost of college or pregnancy.

The jarring numbers come from the “The Cost of Raising a Child” report that the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts together. Every year, economists at the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion crunch the numbers for housing, food, health care, clothing, child care and other miscellaneous costs stemming from raising a child. The report, which was released this week, uses data from 2015 — which means it’s already outdated and even more expensive now. Still, it gives us a good idea of what families have and will be spending on their kids.

That number range – $12,350 to $13,900 – is for a middle-income married-couple. The researchers explained: “For the purposes of this report, a middle-income family is defined as the middle third of the income distribution.” That translates to families who make less will likely spend less and families who earn more annually will on average spend more on their kids. The total cost per kid for lower income households is still $174,690, which is still a lot of money. Parents who make more money spend on average $372,210 from birth through age 17. “This report … gives families a greater awareness of the expenses they are likely to face, and serves as a valuable tool for financial planning and educational programs,” explained Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.

Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Who has an extra $200,000? And that only takes them to 17-years-old. What if my kids don’t move out until they’re 20? Excuse me while I take deep breathes and text my therapist.

Let’s break down the numbers to see where all our hard-earned cash ends up. The majority of the costs come from housing – 29 percent to be exact, which means if you live in an urban area you will pay more for housing than your friends who live in rural communities. Food is the next biggest expense at 18 percent. Child care and education account for 16 percent of child-rearing costs and transportation takes up 15 percent. Health care only accounts for nine percent (thanks, Obama!) and clothing was the least expensive resource at six percent of the total annual costs. The last piece of the puzzle is miscellaneous necessities at seven percent of the child-rearing expenses. Piano lessons, movie tickets, and other recreational and entertainment expenses make up the miscellaneous kids’ fees.

Researchers found that where you live also plays a role. Parents residing in the urban Northeast, urban West, and urban South are all dealing with higher costs. Rural areas and the urban Midwest folks can expect to spend less. “Overall, child-rearing expenses in rural areas were 24 percent lower than those in the region with the highest fees, the urban Northeast,” the economists shared. And there’s more good, okay, decent, news — you won’t be punished financially for having more kids and can probably reduce your overall cost per child.

“As families increase in size, children may share a bedroom, clothing and toys can be reused, and food can be purchased in larger, more economical packages,” explained Mark Lino, the report’s lead author. He’s essentially saying that Costco membership will pay for itself and the shouting matches over a shared bedroom are worth it. On average, families with just one child will spend 27 percent more. And parents who have three or more kids spend about 24 percent less per kid. So if clipping coupons doesn’t sound fun, just move to the countryside, buy everything in bulk, and force your kids to wear hand-me-downs.