When I was first wrestling with the concept behind this blog (several years back), I kept coming back to the idea of what the real costs were in raising a child. Not so much the bottom line cash amount needed to be dispensed in order to get your child from diapers to diploma, but the larger social, environmental, and consumer expense that went hand in hand with bringing an additional life into this world. How, as conscientious consumers could we justify the impact one person has on the limited resources of the planet with our breeding imperative? Maybe love conquers all, and maybe there is just a little switch in our brains that conveniently moves to the “standby” position long enough for us to do what needs to be done to facilitate the arrival of another human to walk the earth and breathe the air. It is hard to know, and maybe it is not the most important questions to be asking ourselves.
But I have a number for you: $221,190. This is the most recent estimate from the US Department of Agriculture outlining a definitive price or expenditure required to raise a child through high school (it is actually $291,570 when adjusted for inflation). Mind you, this is very much an average, if not a conservative, approximation and doesn’t take into account your dedication to organic food, non-toxic toys, and violin lessons. This is the sort of figure that reveals what sort of cash you will need for the basics: food, shelter, safety, clothes, education, transportation, health care, entertainment, etc.
This particular cost, because of its relatively conservative estimate, doesn’t wholly reflect a relatively new recession era trend that has seen formerly consumer intensive parents (especially new parents) scale back to a more frugal and pragmatic reality. Gone are the days of proving your love (or your personal shopper savvy) with imported $1000 European strollers, and designer baby gear, and here we have arrived in the days of second hand items and Craigslist finds. “The recession has liberated us from a lot of the consumer expectations so that we can have a big enough space to feel really comfortable just giving our kids a pot and a spoon,” said Robbie Blinkoff in a New York Times article from July, who works as a cultural anthropologist at Context-Based Research Group, an ethnographic marketing research firm in Baltimore.
This is undoubtedly leveling the playing field for many, otherwise, competitive parents as well as confounding and severely frustrating retailers who depend upon that keeping up with the Joneses attitude that had been pervasive for so long.
So are the limitations and confines of a tight budget freeing you up to not care about some of the things you may have poured over two years ago? Is this assuredly a good thing that we have become a parental society able to detach from rampant consumerism and able to embrace the sensibility of penny pinchers? Is raising a child just too much money, no matter how you look at it?
I would love to hear your thoughts, and please feel free to put in your two-cents (or maybe just a penny – times are tight). Does the lump sum serve as a deterrent, or is money a non-issue when it comes to the rewards of parenthood?