How Expensive Are Your Kids?

The average family spends $11,650 to $13,530 a year to raise a child. How do you raise your kids within your means?

I remember when our first child was born. I thought we were headed for immediate bankruptcy with all the child care costs, doctor visits, food, and diapers. But we kept budgeting, tracking our expenses, and figuring out ways to live within our means. As our kids got older, we breathed easier as the child care costs began to go down, but then other expenses began to go up, such as clothing, school, and activity costs. Now that I have one child in college and in one high school, I’m again in that scary place of “how are we going to pay for this all?” while continuing to budget our money the best that I can. I am not alone. There isn’t a single parent I talk to who feels they can truly “afford” a child. But if we decided to become parents because we could “afford to,” no one would ever have a child. The truth is,: Raising a child is expensive—but so is living in general. What matters is to budget, live within our means, and celebrate the richness that each of our kids brings to our lives.

Here are some interesting facts about the cost of raising kids:

1. The more money families earn, the more they spend on their children. Families with before-tax incomes of less than $56,670 spend between $8,330 to $9,450 a year on a child compared with families with before-tax incomes of more than $98,120, who spend $19,380 to $23,180 a year on a child.

2. The lower your income, the higher the percentage of your before-tax income is spent on kids. The lowest-income families spend 25 percent of their before-tax income on a child. Those from middle-income families spend 16 percent, and those in high-income families spend 12 percent.

3. Expenses go up as children grow older. While it typically costs $11,700 a year to raise a child 2 years old or younger, the costs increase as kids get older so that it costs about $13,530 a year to raise a 15- to 17-year-old.

4. The biggest expenses for raising children include housing (31% of the total costs), child care and education (17%), food (16%), transportation (13%), miscellaneous (9%), health care (8%), and clothing (6%).

5. Every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases how much it costs to raise a child in the United States. This year, experts say it will cost a family $222,360 to raise a child from birth to age 18.


1. United States Department of Agriculture, “A Child Born in 2009 Will Cost $222,360 to Raise According to USDA Report,” news release, June 9, 2010.

2. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Expenditures on Children by Families, 2009, June 2010, 10.

3. United States Department of Agriculture, “A Child Born in 2009 Will Cost $222,360 to Raise According to USDA Report”.

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