Every 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?