How much do you spend on your kids?

It always amuses me when people with no children ask people with children questions about having children. It amuses because it’s sort of  an exercise in futility and you’ll only understand that once you have kids.

Simply put, there is no way to wrap your head around what life will be like when you have children. Don’t try and argue with it. It doesn’t matter if you teach a daycare. It doesn’t matter if you were the one that raised your younger siblings. It doesn’t matter at all what life has brought you, you will never be the same once you’ve had a child.

This isn’t a bad thing so I don’t know why people sort of panic when you say that. Yes there are certainly circumstances where people lose their sense of identity but we all go through identity crises and most of us go through them at multiple points in our life.

I can’t tell you what it will be like when you have a child. I can’t tell you how things will change. And besides, even if I did sit and list the millions of ways I have changed after having children, you will undoubtedly say “That will never happen to me” regarding all of the not fun stuff.

I was poking around at GRS wondering what the hell happened to JD since his personal blog was alerting me it was an “Attack Site!” with a big red scary banner. I don’t read GRS anymore because I felt the site got stale. I mean seriously how many ways can you talk about investments and cutting expenses and increasing income?

It was whilst poking around I came across the post Ask the Readers: How much do you spend on kids? I like these types of questions because I track my expenses and this sort of question gives my tracking purpose. I should note that because of my divorce, I diligently track my kid-related expenses separately from mine as much as I can.

I was curious about my own spending and looked into it. This year, I have spent $3,000 on my kids. That breaks down to $1000 a month, at roughly $333 each child. I wasn’t sure how I was doing compared to last year so I looked. Last year, I spent $12,331 on my kids so I’m right on track. Now, here’s the thing. This number isn’t a complete picture and it can’t be a complete picture to a certain degree.

Why? It doesn’t include all of my child-related expenses.

What the amount covers

  • Private school registration (My folks help with the tuition)
  • School-related expenses (field trips, yearbook pictures, teachers gift pools, fundraisers, activities, etc.)
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Summer Camp
  • Clothing
  • Uninsured medical costs
  • Personal care
  • Allowance
  • Gifts

What the amount doesn’t cover

  • Health insurance. My insurance would be free if it was just me but I have children to cover and I pay $222 a month for that plus another $32 for dental.
  • Food. I am not so particular as to try and break out the cost of food for the children from my own but for the purpose of this post, we’ll do some averages. I spent $8200 on food last year. We were a family of four. They are three and I am one. Their portion of that is $6150 ($512.50 a month). Obviously, this is a rough rough number because of portions and food out and all of that but I bet it sort of averages out in the end.
  • Rent. I live in a big house because I have three children. This one is tough for me to adjust because I pay very cheap rent for the type of house I rent. $1500 is the average for many apartments so for me to rent a 3 bedroom house at that price is spectacular. I’m not sure I’d be saving much money if I was on my own especially as I’d probably be living in a more expensive part of town like the beach. Where I would save on housing costs would be in the stuff that goes into houses. I’d have less rooms to furnish for instance and I’d also most likely have lower utilities.
  • Auto. Ok this one I know I can blame on the kids. I hate big cars. I love small cars. I had the cutest most awesome little tiny Mitsubishi and it’s loan was ending the same month Daughter was born. We couldn’t fit in the car with her infant car seat in the back. Well I could but no other adult. No it wasn’t a sports car, it was just a tiny little Mirage. That thing was awesome and would’ve lasted me years. It was stick and had no-frills and I took care of it. But I had to trade it in for something bigger. Larger car = larger car payment + larger insurance payment + larger gas payments. Funny enough, my current car is ending its loan this year and its giving me problems. The car is a 2003 Nissan Murano and apparently the previous owner didn’t do a great job maintaining it because it has a bunch of problems in the engine. And as much as I am pining for something tiny again I know it’s not feasible (I would totally drive a Smart Car or a Prius or a Yaris or whatever else is micro). We are now a family of five with Boyfriend living with us and when his daughter comes to visit, we’re a family of six who don’t fit in the Murano. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m looking at minivans. They don’t retain their value which is great for buyers (me) and they’re roomy which is great for families (us). I am trying to deal with the identity crisis this is bringing on, trust me.

So there you go. This is how much I spend on my kids. And I don’t think the amount spent fluctuates as the ages change, I believe everything sort of evens itself out with certain expenses fitting right in and compensating for the other. Yeah the big ones don’t wear diapers but they wreck their clothes and shoes. They don’t have daycare but they have school and extra-curriculars and summer camps. When they’re babies, they outgrow toys and things quickly but when they’re older their tastes and the tastes of their friends change just as fast.

That being said, I have a feeling this year will see an uptick in how much I’m spending on the kids because I’m receiving consistent child support payments. Last year, I had gone several months in the beginning of the year receiving either very little or nothing at all. We simply went without a lot of things.

One last thing I’d like to say is I’m not arguing the point that having children is expensive. The bottom line is money earned is money spent. What does happen when you have kids is you have way more restrictions on how your money is spent. More of your money is going into resources leaving less of your money free for you to manage as you wish. That is the important thing to think about if you’re thinking about the cost of having kids.

Amounts are pointless. They simply vary way too much by way too many factors. The important thing to consider is how much of your money is allocated to essentials and how much is left over for you to direct as you wish– into accelerated debt repayment, travel, investments, retirement, hobbies, self-improvement, etc. If you are having a very hard time covering the essentials, you are going to be in for a rough ride when children come into your life. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but you’d better be ready to cut expenses and raise income. If you can’t do that, you might want to hold off on children. If you are not having a hard time covering the essentials but you and your partner can’t envision yourselves letting go of a lot of the non-essentials you might want to have a serious talk about children or at least be prepared for a series of identity crises. A lot of those non-essentials are going to disappear. I can’t tell you which ones, I don’t think you can either for what it’s worth, and I can’t tell you how many. For some people, it’s been hardly any. For other people, it’s been practically all of them.

Those are the kinds of things to think about if you’re considering children. Forget amounts, fixed or ranges, and just think about your financially dependent life experiences.

For other parents: Have you ever figured out how much you spend on your kids? Did you notice a pattern in spending increase or decrease with age? I haven’t but my three are in pre-school and elementary so I haven’t experienced the full range of child-rearing yet. How many times do you find yourself thinking, “I would totally spend money on that if I didn’t have kids”?

For non-parents: What’s the biggest thing that freaks you out about having kids? Or are you super gung-ho to have them?


11 thoughts on “How much do you spend on your kids?

  1. I’m very much looking forward to having kids, and I don’t have a lot of concerns from the “what do I do?” standpoint. I know if I have questions that my mom, sister, and any one of my close friends with kids can offer their perspective on the subject. That and there’s something to be said for mother’s instinct. So, I’m not worried about that. My biggest concern will be whether or not I’ll run into problems conceiving when that time actually comes. It runs in my family, so that causes me more concern than anything else. Some of my smaller concerns include how having kids will impact my career and what day care will end up costing me, but those are minor concerns at the moment. If I can have kids and they’re healthy, I’ll be happy.

  2. No idea how much we spend on children. I do know that daycare/private school is around 10K/year. And travel is a lot more expensive because we have to buy a third ticket. But other than that, not really sure.

    • I didn’t really know either until I was dealing with the divorce. In our state when you do the child support worksheet you have to break it all out and my lawyer said if I track expenses already that I should tweak it to break out the kids’ stuff too just in case something came up and I had to justify things. Travel is definitely more expensive with kids. I’m actually dealing with the hotel room problem. Not many hotels like big families like mine.

  3. I have no kids and I never will. (Thank goodness for elective sterilization surgery! In these days where a woman’s ability to secure non-surgical birth control is under attack I’m thankful I took care of this years ago.) I just…never really wanted any. The whole pregnancy and giving birth thing freaked me out, not to mention having to devote myself to keeping them fed and clothed, etc. I’ve had no interest in this at all. I’m glad that there are other people like you that do want them, though. If everyone felt like me our species would go extinct. 🙂

    • Funny enough I actually didn’t want them but the universe had other plans for me and now I’m uber happy they’re here. Go figure. That being said, I’d love to get some major sterilization going because I don’t want anymore. I know for a fact my family is the PERFECT size.

  4. I have no idea what we spend. I know Summer camp is about $1000. Other programs we send them to…a few hundred more. Activities, and such…. Plus we have all the medical expenses.

    But yes, you are absolutely right. Nothing truly prepares you for becoming a parent.

  5. Leaving further education out of the equation, I’ve projected that once my kids are both adults – sort of 😉 (in 6 years), what I currently spend on them will be offset by spending on things that are more “me” oriented. More travel, eating out more (the youngest doesn’t like eating out), more expensive hobbies…

    But I’d like to always be able to help them out too – only the oldest is so independent I have to do it in subversive ways (eg. I sold my Yaris to him for 1/2 book value since he had no concept of its value and didn’t want to just take it as a gift).

    Excluding daycare / camp fees (and what a relief it is to not have to pay that!), IME costs are really pretty stable it seems, it’s just some things you stop spending as much on (ie. clothing they grow out of so quickly) which is replaced by other things appropriate to the age (ie. electronics). It just all seems to be a wash somehow.

    • “It just all seems to be a wash somehow.”

      That’s been my impression too.

      And yeah I know if I didn’t have kids, I’d still be spending the money just in different ways. Sometimes it’s fun to play pretend and think about what that would look like. Like you, I’m very interested in being able to help them into adulthood as well because my parents do it for me. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to be educated and financially competent individuals but I also want to keep giving to them. I like your subversive Yaris tactic. That’s perfect.


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