Raising a Child: Frequently Asked Questions

How much will it cost me to raise a child?

We can't tell you exactly what your child will cost, but we can provide you with estimates. Knowing what to expect will allow you to plan for the future. Here is a breakdown of the items you'll need, and an estimate of their costs.

Note: These estimates are for a first child. Bear in mind that second or third children will cost less than the first since you will already have purchased many of the items you need. Typically parents with 3 or more children spend 22 percent less per child than those with just two children.

Government estimates say that a middle-income family in 2015, defined as having an annual income between $59,350 and $107,400, will spend a total of $233,610 to raise a child to age 17. This figure represents a 3.0 percent increase from the four-year period 2010-2014 to the four-year period 2011 to 2015 and does not include expenses incurred beyond the age of 18. If you include the cost of college, whether public or private, that cost goes up significantly. And, families that earn more generally can expect to spend more on their children.

According to the USDA report, Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,350 to $13,900. The age of the child accounted for the annual variations. For example, child care expenses are greater in the first 6 years of a child's life, but transportation costs are likely to be higher when a child hits her teen years.

About 30 percent of the amount spent in the government estimates goes to cover housing expenses relating to the new member of your household. Child care and education expenses account for the second highest percent. Other costs taken into account include transportation, food, clothing, health care, and miscellaneous expenses.

Married-couple families in the urban Northeast had the highest child-rearing expenses, followed by similar families in the urban West and urban South. Married-couple families in the urban Midwest and rural areas had the lowest child-rearing expenses.

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What costs can I expect during the first year?

Here are the costs you can expect up to birth and during the first year.

  • Hospital Costs. According to 2015 report by the International Federation of Health Plans, an uneventful hospital delivery in the United States costs, on average $10,808 and $16,106 for a cesarean section birth. The actual costs you pay, of course, vary depending on your health care coverage.

  • Layette. Before you bring the baby home, you'll buy a crib, a changing table, and a swing or bouncy seat. The moderately priced versions of these three things will cost you about $1,200. You'll also need at least one stroller that you can expect to pay about $400 for. A full-size infant car seat will cost you about $150-$200, and a full-size high chair will cost $150. Finally, you will spend several hundred dollars on washcloths, sheets, blankets, towels, undershirts, onesies, and other baby clothes. Also, think about whether you plan to use a diaper service, cloth diapers, or use disposable ones.

  • Feeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby for at least 6 months. Many women, of course, choose to breastfeed longer than that. Nursing mothers will have to invest in several good nursing bras and nursing pads (about $50) as well as a nursing pillow (about $25). If you plant to return to work after 3 months, consider investing in a hospital grade breast pump, which will run you about $400.

    In comparison, a year's worth of ready-mix powder formula costs about $1,350. If you buy the ready-to-serve type of formula, the cost is, even more, running well over $2,000. You'll also need a year's supply of bottles, at about $90, and you'll have to add another $40 to replace the nipples at least twice in a year.

    When your baby is ready for solid foods, you will also need to account for the cost of rice cereal and baby food.

  • Diapers and Gear. Diapers are another expense you need to consider. Cloth diapers are the least expensive option. Disposable diaper costs for the first year run about $850, and a diaper genie costs about $40.

  • Child Care. Child care in a day care center costs much less than a live-in nanny. A mid-priced day care center charges on average $975 per month for your infant's care, or close to $12,000 per year.

  • Health Care. Your infant will visit the doctor about six times during his or her first year, including well-baby check-ups as well as the inevitable colds and fevers of infancy. How much you will spend for doctor visits during the first year depends on your health insurance.

  • Toys and Clothes. You'll spend about $500 on toys and clothing during the first year.

  • Total for the First Year. Your total expenses for the first year run about $15,000-$18,000. The biggest variable is the cost of health care.

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How much will I spend on my child during ages one through six?

During these years, you'll spend about $1,000 on toys and clothes, and about $2,200 a year on food. If your child attends daycare or pre-school, add in the cost of these services. Daycare will cost you an average of $12,000 per year, while pre-school costs vary widely. Again, health care costs depend on your health coverage.

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How much will I spend on my child during ages six through twelve?

This is the time when the overall expenses of child-rearing drop and families can save more. During these years, your child care expenses will drop drastically. Health care costs generally stabilize unless of course, your child begins orthodontia during this stage. Then, you'll have to pay more.

You are likely to spend more than in the previous stage on clothing, toys, and entertainment, but your kids won't be demanding the high-ticket clothing and other items of adolescence. The bill for food will be just slightly more than what it was in the previous stage.

On the negative side, now that your kids are in school, you'll want to pay for all those extras that middle-class kids have: dancing and music lessons, sports participation, and so on. And, if you decide to send your kids to private school or to summer camp, these expenses will have to be added in.

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How much will I spend on my child during ages thirteen through eighteen?

During this stage, you can expect your child's food, clothing, and entertainment bill to greatly exceed what it was during the previous stage. For instance, food costs will increase as a result of growth spurts in your adolescent and clothing costs are likely to rise as well as your teen takes more of an interest in his or her appearance.

Once your teen starts driving, your auto insurance will go up. The extra cost could be anywhere from $300 to $1,000, depending on your state of residence and whether your child is a boy or girl. If you intend to buy your child a car, add this expense in as well.

How can I teach my kids good financial skills?

Once they reach school age, children should start learning rudimentary financial skills.

You might start to teach your kids in the following areas:

The Allowance. Giving your child an allowance is a good start. Whether you pay your child a quarter or one dollar to perform weekly household chores, you are instilling a work ethic and a giving them an opportunity to learn how to save and spend their money wisely. You can make suggestions to them about what they should do with it, but allow them the final say on what happens to the money. Let them see the consequences of both wise and foolish behavior with regard to money. A child who spends all of his money on the first day of the week is more likely to learn to budget if he is not provided with extras to tide him over.

Savings and Investment. Beyond the basics of budgeting and saving, you'll want to get your child involved in saving and investing. The easiest way to do this is to have the child open his or her own savings account. If you want your child to become familiar with investing, there are a number of child-friendly mutual funds and individual stocks available.

Taxes. Many teens today have part-time jobs. Although they might not make enough to need to file a tax return, encouraging them to fill out a practice tax form is a good way to have them participate in the process--and get them used to the idea of submitting yearly tax forms.

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