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How Much Does It Really Cost to Raise a Child?

If you knew the true cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood, would you do it? Or would you see it as a goal: to raise a healthy, loved child who shares your values without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process?

Let’s start by looking at the estimated price tag: According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study released in August 2013, the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 is $241,080. This, by the way, is the base cost, not including any extras like pricey summer camps or new cars. It also doesn’t include the cost of a college education, which is becoming more and more expensive every year.

It can cost a lot to raise a childThe estimated $241,080 comes out to roughly $13,393 per year, although in truth it doesn’t really spread out that way. Here’s a look at childcare costs, throughout your child’s lifetime, as well as how you can save money on the major expenses.

Birth

A significant portion of childcare costs come right at the moment of birth. As this site has reported previously, the cost of giving birth is higher than ever before. A generation ago, our parents could give birth without a single hospital bill; now, even patients with insurance can pay $22,000 in hospital-related costs.

How can you save money? It is possible to have a home birth with a mid-wife or a birth at a birthing center, Better Birth for instance offers packages for between $2400 – $3500 and local independent mid-wives may be less, but the cost of a hospital birth comes down to two things: good insurance and good luck. With good insurance, you pay less out of pocket for medical expenses. Good luck means that you have a safe, healthy birth without complications for either the mother or the baby, although proper prenatal care through good nutrition and avoidance of cigarettes, drugs and alcohol plays a part as well.

Infancy

Not surprisingly, you don’t really need all of those fancy infant products you see advertised; the biggest investment you need to make in your new infant is purchasing a brand-new, safe carseat.

However, costs in infancy stack up in two areas: doctor’s visits and daycare. Good insurance helps lower the cost of pediatrician visits. Daycare, on the other hand, is a toss-up; daycare costs are higher than rent in many cities, and many parents choose to eliminate the daycare bill entirely by having one parent stay home or staggering work schedules.

Preschool and Elementary School

Once the school years begin, parents are faced with a choice: free public options or expensive private options? Many parents believe their children will get a better education in private schools or through homeschooling, but even if you choose outside education the true indicator of educational success comes at home: reading to children, working with them on homework, instilling values and an appreciation of knowledge.

Middle School

By middle school, children are starting to want new, more expensive opportunities. Whether your child wants to play tuba in the school band or go to Space Camp with friends, expect to pay a bit more in middle school than you did in earlier years. Children also become more fashion-conscious, but you can combat costs by teaching them the value of money, such as not needing the latest cell phone and how to scour thrift stores for designer items.

High School

After birth expenses, high school is the second most costly period for parents. Adolescents want the same fashions, music, and social experiences as their peers, and these clothes and concert tickets — not to mention SAT prep and college tours — add up.

Even if parents choose not to buy a new car, teens still need some kind of reliable vehicle with which to learn how to drive and practice independence — and unfortunately teens are the most likely to become injured in a car accident, due to their inexperience in driving, lack of maturity and distractions of other teens in the car. This can result in unexpected medical bills that no teen summer job can pay off.

The best way to save money in adolescence is to ensure your teens share your family’s values. This, in turn, helps your teenagers grow up to be financially responsible adults, ready to raise the next generation.

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