You may have heard that the cost to raise a child to the age of 18 has surged to a staggering $233,610. This is actually a average base case cost of raising a child in the United States, per United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
One way to start budgeting is to list what you earn, spend money on and owe. It can help to look at past salary statements, benefit statements, bills, bank statements and credit card statements. If you spend or earn money any other way, be sure to look at this too.
LoanTodayUSA has some 7 budgeting tips for families raising kids:
Jim, who blogs at Route to Retire and has a seven-year-old daughter, says one of the biggest money pitfalls he sees in his area is too many people trying to keep up with the spendy habits of their neighbors.
“Parents want their kids to be happy, but a good majority of them thinks that money is the way to make that happen,” he says. “Spending big money on toys and gadgets, big birthday extravaganzas, and exorbitant Christmas presents is the norm around here.” He and his wife try to keep things simple and avoid spending to keep up with others, he says.
It’s easy to overspend on fancy outings with the kids, says Rosemarie Groner, the blogger behind The Busy Budgeter. Groner, who lives with her husband and kids — ages 2 and 5 – in North Carolina, says they keep it simple and look for free stuff to do. They buy a year-round family membership to their local aquarium for $80, for example, frequently have play dates with friends, and take turns hosting dinners with other families rather than paying for everyone to eat out. And when it comes to babysitters, they “swap” babysitting nights with other families instead of hiring someone.
When it comes to housing, Groner says they thought long-term and bought a house that was well under their budget but offered room to grow. “For us, that meant moving to a cheaper neighborhood with better schools,” she says.
Blogger Chelsea Brennan of Mama Fish Saves says one of the biggest ways she and her husband have saved on their 22-month-old son and baby on the way is by not buying every last gizmo and gadget.
“We keep the costs of parenthood down by never buying anything as soon as we perceive our son might need it,” says Brennan. “For instance, with teethers, when he was popping a tooth we would try to give him cold washcloths or a carrot from the fridge for a few days. If he still seemed like he needed something after that, we would look on local giveaway groups or give in to Amazon.”
Brennan says that, over the past two years, they’ve realized most “needs” dissipate after a few days and their son is generally happy with Tupperware, spoons, sticks, and books for toys.
Fearon and her husband have adopted the French model of feeding by only allowing her kids one snack time per day. While the change was hard to implement, she feels it’s worth it. “The issue we had been having was that our children wouldn’t eat all their dinner, but then would be hungry come bedtime. But once we switched to only one snack time a day, they actually started eating all of their dinner.” As an added bonus, this change also led to less food waste at dinner time (saving money) and lower snack spending overall.
“Hands down, toys are the biggest thing that I see parents overspend on,” Fearon says. Fearon says she gives her kids money for savings instead of toys on their birthdays, and they only get one toy for Christmas. “This saves us a ton of money and saves our sanity when it comes to managing all of the toy chaos.”
As kids get older, everything they want tends to cost more. Nowadays it seems like every kid has a smartphone or an iPad or a brand new video game system – or perhaps all of these things and more. AM says limiting these big splurge purchases is one way they’ve kept their spending under control as their kids have gotten older.
“We have conversations about how when you wait, these things drop in price and more games become available,” she says. Their eldest child is old enough to understand that and has learned patience and delayed gratification. “These are skills that will serve him well as an adult.”