Are you thinking of having a child? Perhaps the waning of the pandemic and current low unemployment has you feeling ready to fulfill your biological destiny and add another mouth to the world? Before you do, you should know how much it’s likely to set you back.
According to research from the Brookings Institute, the cost of raising a middle class kid from birth through their 17th year is likely to be around $310,605. This is up from $233,610 projected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture back in 2015, and the culprit is higher inflation. Back in 2015, the projected inflation rate was 2.2%; the new figure is based on data from the years between 1980 and 1997, the last time inflation was relatively high. And yes, it takes into account the likely lowering of inflation from Fed interest rate hikes.
Here’s the breakdown on what percentage of your $300,000 will be spent on what:
- Housing: 29%
- Food: 18%
- Childcare and education: 16%
- Transportation: 15%
- Healthcare: 9%
- Miscellaneous 7%
- Clothing 6%
Before you throw in the towel at these bleak numbers, I think there’s a lot that’s not reflected in the Agriculture Department’s numbers. The Brookings math seems solid—I mean, solid for a prediction based on future interest rates—but the Agriculture Department’s report doesn’t put the cost of raising a child into the full picture of a family’s finances.
G/O Media may get a commission
As you can see from the Department of Agriculture’s slightly terrifying graphic, 18% of your total expenditure for your child will be wasted on food. (Fun fact: Kids have to eat every day.) That sounds about right, but if you consider your entire budget, you might save money on food by having a child. My wife and I did.
When we were a carefree, childless couple, we went out to eat at interesting restaurants a few times a week and maybe had a leisurely brunch on Sunday. But once the baby came, we started eating out no times a week and forgot what “brunch” means. Mealtime isolation saved us a significant amount of money on total food costs. Having a child even saved on at-home food costs, as many of our grown-up meals consist of half-eaten chicken nuggets that were dropped on the floor.
The same general rule applies to money we saved by not taking vacations to exciting places. And never going to the movies. Oh, and not going out to bars with friends, or to see concerts. And ball games, too! We even spent less on clothing because we preferred baby vomit to land on inexpensive shirts. The cost of buying birthday gifts went down, too, as we no longer had any friends. These savings are slightly offset by the increased amount we started spending on marijuana, the modern parent’s best friend.
The Department of Agriculture’s numbers are based on a single child, but in its press release, it acknowledges the “cheaper by the dozen effect.” Mark Lino, the author of the report said in a statement, “There are significant economies of scale, with regards to children…As families increase in size, children may share a bedroom, clothing and toys can be reused, and food can be purchased in larger, more economical packages.”
Two children are cheaper. Three cheaper still. By the time you have a fourth child, it’s practically free—clothes, toys, books, etc., are all hand-me-downs, and you don’t have to even worry about raising them too much. That’s what the older brothers and sisters are for.
Your responsibility for your child doesn’t really end when they turn 18: You have to think about sending them to college. Like all reasonable parents, my wife and I made a plan for college as soon as our son was born. That plan was that he would be a genius and earn a full scholarship to Brown. It doesn’t seem to be working out, but there’s still time. This is why I have never looked into the annual estimated cost of college when he turns 18 until this very second. Hold on. Let me just—what the actual FUCK? Are you shitting me? $43,370 per year for a private school? So he can study dance? And $20,000 for a state school? Is too late to move to a socialist utopia? Can we just show up to Belgium or something?
You know, the world will always need plumbers and electricians.