According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child up until the age of 18 for a middle-income family in the U.S. is approximately $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation). To reach that number, various factors were considered like the costs of housing, clothing, education, health care and child care along with extras like toys, activities, school fees etc.
Is this number really valid or realistic? If so, I would be spending $12,800 to $14,970 per year to raise my child, but I’m not. There are several ways to cut the costs of raising your children and still give them a great life.
Keep Your Housing Modest
It’s tempting to want to buy a large home once you have kids, but you should really stick to what you can afford. A good rule of thumb is to keep all housing expenses lower than 30% of your income.
If you live in pricey area of the country like the East Coast or California, it may be extremely hard to cut housing expenses and you may have to work on other areas of your budget. For everyone else though, it’s best to steer clear of large cities because that’s where high housing costs come into play.
If you choose to live a few miles outside of a large city or in the suburbs, you could save a ton.
Don’t Spend Much on Clothes
Believe me when I say, young children don’t care much for the clothes they wear. My son is more interested in toys and cartoons and with good reason. As long as the clothes are clean, colorful and have a familiar character of some sort on them, kids will be content.
In my opinion, it’s the parents who go overboard with purchasing pricey name brand clothes too often that their kids will grow out of in a few months. Let resale shops like Goodwill become your best friend and accept clothes from friends and family members who have growing children who used to wear your child’s size.
My favorite place to shop is Once Upon a Child because they sell gently-used clothes, shoes, toys and other gadgets for kids and allow you to sell your gently used children’s items back to them for cash. Once Upon a Child has multiple locations throughout the country and it’s the perfect store to find the clothes, items and brands you love at a great low price.
Matter of Fact, Don’t Spend Much on Anything Else When Kids Are Young
When you have a young child under the age of six, it’s so easy to get by without spending a ton of money on extra items like toys, games, gadgets and so on. Stick to buying gently-used toys and games throughout the year so you can afford to purchase a few new items around the holidays.
Kids often don’t appreciate new things because they don’t understand the value of certain items and they get bored with stuff pretty quick. This explains why my son would play with a cardboard box at times when he had tons of toys to play with in his room.
My son’s room consists of lots of used items including his dresser, DVD player, toys, toy box and book shelf.
Get Discounts on Food
Feeding a child is another area of your budget that can be costly if you don’t use your resources. You can minimize food costs by maintaining a strict budget and not letting your kids fill the cart with junk they may or may not eat. Stick to only a few snacks per shopping trip, avoid boxed processed foods, and focus mainly on healthy, fresh food.
You can also use digital and paper coupons to save money on the items your kids like to eat. If you don’t have the patience to find coupons for the entire family, just stick to the kid’s food and save money on things like waffles, fruit snacks, cheese, baby formula etc. It only takes a few seconds to find and utilize a coupon and savings will really go a long way.
Aside from coupons and maintaining a strict budget, you can save by shopping in bulk at stores like Sam’s Club, Costco, and Woodman’s. These stores all have great deals on tons of bulk items. That way, you can stock up on your kid’s favorite foods for less.
When it comes to dining out, the bill can get high pretty quick when it includes meals for 3 or 4+ people. When you want to dine out as a family, do it strategically by picking a restaurant that offers free or discounted meals for children. There are tons of restaurants that offer ‘kids eat free’ specials on certain nights of the week or offer coupons for kids to eat certain things the next time you return.
Find Free Entertainment
As an adult, I find it hard to find free and affordable things to do, but with kids, there’s so much more opportunity. Most places won’t charge admission for children who are under 2 and there’s always Groupons and discounts available for kids who are older.
From museums and zoos, to the library and local events and festivals, there’s always free and low cost ways for kids to have fun. Even something as simple as going to the park or playing outside with friends can make your child’s day.
With entertainment, you can be as creative as you want and without having to spend a ton of money.
Learn How to Say No
Saying ‘no’ to your kids is hard when you want them to be happy and have the best, but sometimes it’s necessary. Giving your child everything he or she wants when they ask is never a good idea. At the same time, saving no to everything will not help them either.
It’s important to say no from time to time and prioritize your spending by taking care of needs before wants. Telling your child ‘no’ sometimes and ‘yes’ other times helps you stick to your budget better and allows your kids to learn how be grateful for what they do have.
This way they don’t grow up feeling entitled and always wanting more.
How expensive do you think it is to raise a child? What do you do to cut the costs?
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