Do I Really Spend US$27,288 Each Year on My Child?

Little Girl Holding a Piggy BankEvery year in the United States, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases a report on how much the average person spends to raise a child from birth to age 18. For babies born in 2012, this number is $241,080.

But you don’t have to look at this number, divide it by 18, and assume that the average cost is $20,090 per year. In fact, the USDA assumes that you will spend different amounts each year, depending on where your child is at in terms of needs and activities. The USDA offers you a handy calculator you can use to get a more nuanced picture of where you stand with regard to your potential expenses depending on the the following factors:

  • Where you live.
  • How much you make.
  • How many parents are in the household.
  • The number of children you have.
  • Ages of your children.


New this year is a handy tool that allows you to adjust the numbers in the calculation. You can put in your actual numbers, and the USDA calculator will re-adjust the outcome so that you can compare where you stand with the national average.

(I’m sorry I don’t know how this stacks up in Canada, but some of the assumptions might be similar.)

Here are my numbers:


As you can see, my $17,815 cost is almost $10,000 less than what the USDA says is the national average ($27,388) for a 10-year-old child. It’s also less than what the USDA says should be my total cost of $29,088. I think that the USDA’s number is a little higher because California is included in my region, and that ups the average, even though I live in a semi-rural area with a lower cost of living. Additionally, my family’s numbers are probably lower than average because we don’t live the lifestyle we’re “supposed” to live at our income level.

I do like that the calculator offers you the chance to see how your expenses can expect to be influenced by certain factors. Here are some of the items that go into the actual cost of raising children:

Where You Live

This is probably one of the biggest determinants of how much you will spend on your child. Since where you live matters when it comes to your own costs, it stands to reason that how much you spend on your child will also be influenced by where you live. If you live in an expensive urban area, you will spend more on everything, from housing and food to child care and transportation.

How Much You Make

Certain expectations come with your income. If you are considered “wealthy”, the assumption is that you are living in a bigger house, driving a more expensive car, and sending your children to private school (at least they have extra lessons or attend special summer camps). The idea is that you should be spending up to your income, and that if you make more, you should spend more on your children.

Number of Parents in the Household

Again, I think there are assumptions being made here. In many cases, the assumption is that two parents = two incomes. I don’t know the formula used by the USDA calculator, so I don’t know whether or not it takes into account the social norms (such as one parent being more likely to stay at home in certain regions of the country). At any rate, usually two-parent households mean more spending on children.

Number and Ages of Your Children

When you run the numbers, you find that the more children you have, the less you spend each year per-child. I think this is because the calculator assumes that housing and transportation costs are spread out amongst more children, and that clothing costs might decrease because of the possibility of hand-me-down clothing.

The ages of your children matter as well. There are certain costs associated with newborns that you don’t see with elementary-aged children. Additionally, as your children move to secondary school and participate in more (and more expensive) extracurricular activities, you end up paying more.

In the end, though, it’s possible for you to avoid spending what you’re expected to spend. With a little planning, you can spend less than the average, and your children will still thrive.

How much do you spend each year on your children?


Do I Really Spend US$27,288 Each Year on My Child? — 14 Comments

  1. I have no idea how much I spend…but it’s nowhere near that amount! I had been very lucky that our kids are healthy and I only buy them what they need.

  2. I wonder if anyone has ever (or could figure it out from their financial records) just how much they really spend on a child during a year. I just cant imagine it comes out to anywhere near that much (over $2000 a month?). If someone is thinking of having a child, and they budget to spend that much each month, they’d be just fine. 🙂

  3. I have no idea what we spend on our 12-year old each year. I have never broken out the costs. I know he now eats more than myself or my wife, and he’s smaller and thinner than either of us. The USDA calculator estimates that we currently spend $21,756 per year on him. Only change I made is for our house being paid for, so used property tax and insurance costs divided by 3. Thanks for pointing the calculator out.

  4. We just came up with a bold patch figure of about $9,000 – and we live in a really nice part of town (moderately expensive one), pay for hobbies and sports training and go on two holidays per year. Admitedly, in the UK we still have some decent non-paid school. Expensiture will go up when our son goes to university.

  5. What I don’t agree with on these calculators is the “housing costs.” Whether or not a child is living with me, I still pay just as much for my mortgage and taxes. Those don’t increase when I have kids. That drops the national average by $9,000 per year right there.

  6. I had never thought about including part of the housing costs in the cost of raising a child, but it makes sense since you probably have a bigger house because of them. In this case you should also consider housing price appreciation in your area for the past 18 years and deduce it from your mortgage costs if you bought. I went to private school, had horse riding, piano and tennis lessons, trips abroad etc so must have been pretty expensive to bring up, although $27000 seems way over the top.

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