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How Much Does It Really Cost To Raise a Child?

Editor's Note: This article was originally featured on the blog. I was so impressed by the analysis that I inquired if we could reprint it. Graciously, the webmaster and the author agreed.

According to a calculator at, it will cost you $190,000 to raise a child to age 18. Multipy that number by the number of children I have (8) and you get the insane figure of a MILLION AND A HALF dollars to raise my family to adulthood. Hoobaby. NO wonder people assume that my hubby must make bucket loads of money.

I found that number so outtasight crazy that I spent some time looking at it carefully. Here are the numbers it cites.

  • Childcare: $300/yr between birth and 11.
  • Groceries: $1525/yr
  • Clothing: $606/yr
  • Gift giving: $303/yr
  • Bigger home: $2900/yr
  • Bigger car: $1250/between ages 5 and 18
  • Education: $600/yr
  • Recreation: $330/yr
  • Additional insurance: $330/yr
  • Health care: $300/yr
  • Misc: $330/yr
Now, Im not claiming this is a complete list, and certainly different families spend different amounts of money. Some large families MAY very well spend that much over 18 years to raise each and every one of their children. But we don't. I thought it might be encouraging to some to see how costs break down at my house, using the same categories suggested by Bankrate.

Remember, the numbers in bold are PER CHILD per year.

Childcare: $2/yr/child
I am a homemaker, so no day care. The rare babysitter is usually grandma or, more recently, an older sibling. Weve probably paid a sitter 20 times total. At $15 a time, thats $300 total for all 8 children, or divided, $2/child/year.

Groceries: $840/yr/child
I cook most food from scratch and we eat lots of food from our garden. The garden alone probably saves us $100 a month on groceries, year round. We pay $700/mo for groceries for 10 people. That $700 breaks down to $70 per person per month, or $840/yr per child.

Clothing: $200/yr/child
I shop at thrift shops, yard sales and dept store clearance racks. I also happily accept hand-me-downs and pass down our clothes from child to child. (And the kids always look well dressed, thankyouverymuch!)

Gift giving: $200/yr/child
I shop carefully for Christmas and do homemade or clearance items for gifts for kids birthday parties, etc.

Bigger home: $900/yr/child
We built our current home when we had only 3 kids and with 5 bedrooms it is still adequate. The difference between our first home and our current home was $130,000 including interest. Dividing that cost over 18 years gives you $900/yr/child.

Bigger car: $139/yr/child
We paid $20,000 for our current van, which we hope to make last during the largest years of our family. Already our oldest is off at college. Most likely by the time the bigger vehicle is retired, our family will have shrunk enough to fit into a more affordable standard sized car.

Education: $60/yr/child
We homeschool, visit our local library for many resources, and use reusable textbooks for most subjects past 3rd grade.

Recreation: $150/yr/child
Kids do 1-2 extracurricular activities per year each, such as baseball, swimming, piano and choir. We go to dollar movies. We go to the water park on the free day sponsored by hubbys work. We camp at state parks. Fun does not have to break the bank or involve large black mouse ears.

Additional insurance: $75/yr/child
Family plan at hubbys work charges $50 extra per month to cover the family, no matter how big.

Health care: $200/yr/child
We have excellent health and dental insurance. Preventative care is free. The maximum family out-of-pocket is $2000 per year.

Misc: $100/yr/child
Because Im sure Im forgetting something.

1 child for 1 year: $2866
1 child for 18 yrs : $51,588

As you can see, this total of almost $52,000 to raise one child to age 18 is a far cry from the expert estimate of $190,000.

I think what many people forget, finance-wise with a large family is that we do not need to rebuy everything for each new child. A minivan that works for 2 will also work for 5. Baby strollers and cribs and bunk beds can all be reused. Ditto for clothes. Yeah, you will probably have to buy a bigger house, but not for every. single. child.

Granted, the numbers for a family as big as mine STILL sound a little staggering. To raise 8 children for 18 years, even on 'Marys Economy Plan', will be around $413,000 total. However, divide $413,000 by 18 years, and it averages to a mere $23,000 per year.

And that doesnt even take into consideration that a large family does not have the whole clan at home at once. My hubby and I had a decade of parenting four or fewer kids at the beginning, exactly ONE year of parenting the full 8 children all at once, and most likely we have at least another decade of 4 or fewer children in the home still in our future.

All this goes to show that if you are willing to be frugal, you do not have to be RICH to have a big family. And let me tell ya, my kids are very worth a little frugality.

**Mary is the mother of 8 children ranging in age from 1 to 18, including 2 from Korea and 2 from Ethiopia. You can find her regularly at Owlhaven.**

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Article by Mary @ Owlhaven
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Posted 322 days ago
I like to read " A Little Princess " for kids whom I babysit. They are raelly very interest in it. Sometimes we do scenes for each chapter, so they have fun usually. That book is my favorite from my childhood too. So If you would like to read it, it will be Cool =) April 05, 2011
Posted 754 days ago
@buckly's comment:

If you read the fine line, Mary has 8 kids. 4 are probably adopt as 2 came from Korea and 2 from etheopia and the numbers for her is a bit high because where she lives and it's her lifestyle. Just because we can't all live like her, doesn't make her a scum and if she wants to keep her legs open for her husband, hooray for her :)
Posted 847 days ago
This woman is right you can live with that kind of a spending cost per child, to us normal people that make around $60k a year that sounds about right, but to all of you rich folks that don't know when to shut your wallet of coarse you need to spend $100k + a year on a child- not everyone needs that much money on kids you know, and to tell you the truth I'm very happy that my kids will grow up knowing how to use money wisely and not spend it left and right like their parents.
Pedo Bear
Posted 848 days ago
Kids are easy to raise and at my house they eat for free
Posted 865 days ago
Your on crack if you think the cost is that low our kids could eat $70 worth of food in 4 days and thats two of them. And also your the scum of the earth for subjecting 8 children too that kind of lifestyle because you can't close your legs.
Julie Peck
Posted 913 days ago
Hey people follow me on Twitter at @j_05smith! My goal is to reach a total of 232 followers by next Tuesday! Please. I post about child care, fan accounts, what my life is like and pregnancy. I enjoy hearing about your issues and look forward to answering them!

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Thanks! Hope to have a follow soon!
Posted 1030 days ago
Wow, I must live in a very different world. I used one of these online calculators and came up with over $876,000, and we have one child. ( and that's just till age 18, my son is looking to got to NYU film school for $240,000)

Childcare: my wife worked full time; so we needed full time help at $20,000/ year.
Groceries: I can't imagine how one can feed child on less than $15/day (and that's if all meals are at home) ok, let's figure $5,000/ year.
Clothes cost us at least $1,000/ a year till age 12, but now that cost is much higher. His school sent home a note that we should send him to a Model UN conference with 3 suits, 4 dress shirts, 4 ties. I would guess that even carefully shopping sales, we will spend $2,500 this year.
Let me forget bigger home and car and count those as zero.
Recreation: I have never added this up but summer camps and programs are expensive. Last summer he went to a 3 week film camp in New York, it was $ 5,500 not including air fair or spending money. $4,000 per summer is average.
From age 7-15 he fenced, between lessons, coaching,equipment and travel, we were spending over $10,000 per year.(He has friends that compete worldwide who are spending $20.000 per year)
His filmmaking costs money, the camera, lenses, lights sound equipment was over $7,000, and films have production costs.
Health insurance for him is about $275/month and his meds are another $300/ month we have a $5,000 deductible so his health costs are about $10,000/ year.

Now well get to the BIG MONEY, education!
My son's high school is over $30,000/ year, not including books, fees, lunch, extra curricular activities, and "Annual giving."

In truth, the $850,000 figure is lower than what we spent, and I have child that asks for nothing. If I ask him what he wants for him birthday, he says "Nothing, I have all I need." he does not want a car, he says "Why, I can just take a city bus." I sent him to NYC with the recommended $600, he came home with $520.
As for "keeping up with the Jones," it's not something I think about, in part because I cant. My son has friends who's father's have their own jets and live in $20+ million dollar homes. He has a friend that doesn't just go on a cruise, they own a fleet of cruise ships (as a side business). These people make more a month than I will in my lifetime; so no, I'm not pretending to keep up with them, my wife and I work hard to provide every opportunity we can for our child. A child I Love and spend over 40 hours/week with enjoying each moment. A child that "Gets" how hard we work for him, and repays us by doing 5 hours a night of homework, getting amazing grades in an extremely competitive school, winning awards and being the most empathetic child I've ever met.
##article## costchild How Much Does It Cost to Raise A Child? 48 Article A insightful look at the media's perception of how much raising a child costs compared to a real-life large family mom's estimates. 20 17 September 16, 2010 September 16, 2010 0