How Much For the Kid?

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?


Tammy Baxter
Tammy B5 years ago

children are definitely worth whatever the cost to raise them is

Victoria Pitchford
Vicky P6 years ago

who cares how much it is to raise a child, you are raising a human being, raise them right and don't spoil them and it will be fine

Laura S.
Past Member 6 years ago

It varies with everyone how they were raised before they became parents, I think. Me, I grew up in middle income level, my parents gave us a lot of presents for Xmas and took us out to eat often. But what they gave us weren't expensive, just average priced gifts. As adult, I buy non expensive things so I do same to my son.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Thanks Eric.

Isabel Ramirez
Isabel Ramirez6 years ago

Infants don't care if their diaper bags are gucci or that their shoes are nikes or louis vuitton. It's just what we give them. We teach them that the brands are what matter, not the fact that their parents love them and were there for them. I know some snotty kids that are getting playstations for any occasion and they break them and expect new ones. Or parents complaining that their kids are always playing video games, they weren't taught anything else. There's a girl I know that talks back to her parents and always asks them for money or the lastest ipod because she "lost" it at the mall when really she just left it at the table and forgot it. And yes she always has it her way. She's spoiled and knows it and doesn't change and neither will anyone else. Raising a child won't cost a dime unless you look at it that way. Spend money on the things that benefit your child take a bike over a playstation.