Financially, you’re better off getting that Ferrari
Image via Flickr/John Althouse Cohen
Planning on having a kid? If so, you may want to plan on going back to a college ramen diet as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child from birth to the age of 17 now adds up to an average cost $233,610. That average spans a wide range of tax brackets and family structures, but the typical middle-income, married-couple family can expect to spend roughly $13,000 to $14,000 per year on “child-rearing expenses.” With its annual report, the USDA aims to help families with financial planning.
But how do those estimated expenses break down exactly? According to the report, parents can expect living expenses (i.e., rent) to take up a third of the cost of raising a child. Researchers came to this conclusion after calculating the average cost of adding an additional bedroom to a family’s living space. The department admits this estimate likely doesn’t reflect the real costs of moving, which vary widely depending on where you live. It’s worth noting, too, that the USDA based its most recent numbers on 2015 statistics. Average costs will almost certainly be higher for those planning to have a baby this year—especially in terms of housing costs.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]The fact that the USDA leaves college tuition out of its estimate creates an unrealistic portrait of the true cost of raising a child.[/quote]
For those living in an expensive city like Los Angeles, for example, these numbers seem laughably conservative. Anyone searching for an apartment in West Hollywood knows that moving from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom can easily cost you an extra $1,000 in rent. That’s an added $12,000 right there to make room for baby, taking a massive chunk out of the nearly $14,000 the USDA expects you to spend per year on a child.
Using Baby Center’s Cost of Raising a Child Calculator—which adjusts estimates based on your location and income bracket—it costs more than half a million dollars to raise a child from birth until age 18 in the western region of the United States if you include college tuition. The fact that the USDA leaves college tuition out of its estimate creates an unrealistic portrait of the true cost of raising a child, considering it’s difficult enough to get a job with a college degree and near impossible without one. Taking into account current inflation rates, you can also expect the costs presented today to increase by the time your kid is ready to apply to college. According to The Wall Street Journal, it costs an average of $214,000 to raise a child born in 1990. However, since then, the cost of going to college has nearly tripled, something the parents of millennials likely didn’t anticipate.
[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]Educational institutions don’t recognize this 'cheaper by the dozen' effect.[/quote]
Leaving the cost of college out of its estimates is misleading, but the message used to end the USDA’s report is borderline dangerous. “There are significant economies of scale, with regards to children, sometimes referred to as the ‘cheaper by the dozen effect,’” says Dr. Mark Lino, an economist at the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “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.” To suggest that it’s somehow cheaper to have multiple children belies the fact that educational institutions don’t recognize this “cheaper by the dozen” effect. As far as I know, colleges don’t operate like Costco. There are no “buy one, get one free” discounts for bachelor’s degrees.
Condoms, on the other hand, which do double duty by preventing the spread of STDs, cost $15 for a pack of 24. You don’t need to be a math whiz to know that costs far less than the roughly $1 million it will take to send five kids to college.