This is a subject that comes up pretty often in the financial media. It drives me nuts every time I see it. Almost every site you see or article on the subject will talk about the incredible cost of kids. They cost $500,000 over their lifetime!!! no $1,000,000! no $1,000,000,000,000!!!! j/k. But that is the impression I always get from sites. Kids are so ridiculously expensive, you are a fool to have any of them, they are going to really cramp your style with all the expenses.
So here is the thing with those numbers, they usually include the average child care cost which can be $10,000’s in some places. It includes the cost of the extra room in your house PER kid, so maybe $50,000 – 100,000. It also includes a substantial college bill at the end. So, can it cost $500,000 to raise a kid? Absolutely! Does it need to cost $500,000 to raise a kid? My lord no!
There is this weird rat race with parents, especially upper middle class and upper class parents. If Timmy and Sally aren’t in the VERY BEST… [fill in the blank with random activity], then it reflects poorly on them as parents and on their failure ridden children. So the result is having interviews for preschool, and spending $10,000’s on private schools and tutors. I guess in the end, when you’re desperate, bribing people to get your kids into the best colleges… Honestly it’s absolutely nuts! Part of it is that these people are naturally competitive, that’s why they are where they are, but get over yourselves!
I guess the idea is that somehow if your kid isn’t getting the best of everything they will somehow fail and it will be your fault, I kind of subscribe to the completely opposite philosophy. I want my kids to struggle a little, I don’t want everything laid out for them, it’s okay if they don’t attend the best school ever. Now, if they are talented enough and have the desire I will do my best (within legal means 🙂 ) to get them into whatever that best thing is. But let’s face it, our kids are individuals and we do not have full control over them. We need to let them be the people they are going to be, and I don’t mean in some Hippy Dippy whatever the heck they feel like in the moment way. I mean, if you have a kid that’s mechanically talented be proud when they are the best diesel mechanic around (they’ll probably be making more than most “college educated” jobs).
I’m off on a bit of a tangent here, my point is that kids can be way less expensive if you check your ego at the door and realize that in the end they will probably be grateful that you loved them and supported them. Their lives may not be perfect but I’m sure, unless they are spoiled brats, they will be happy just to be alive.
What does that mean from a practical level? Well kids can share a room, that’s not child abuse. Your kid does not have some unalienable right to privacy all the time. Your kid does not need to have all the most expensive equipment for their chosen hobby, in fact you don’t need to indulge every whim of a hobby a kid has (though I don’t think that’s a bad thing), your kid can go to a state college (gasp!), Ohhh here is one step better, you don’t need to pay for your kids’ college… WHAT?!?! I know I looked it up, it’s not a legal requirement of being a parent (well not yet anyway) though you might think otherwise. Your kid does not need to eat all organic stuff that costs three times as much because it’s “better” according to the latest health guru on Instagram. This next one will be more controversial. If one parent has a job that pays under $40K a year and the other makes enough for everyone to get by on (even if its not a luxury lifestyle), having someone at home can mean huge savings in child care and stress so the person with the lower paying job might be of more value taking on that childcare themselves.
In the end it isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be. Kids need to eat, sleep and be healthy. They have expenses related to those things. They need to go to the dentist and the doctor. But if you’re not paying for child care and your kids go to a state college, and even share a room with a sibling (or two) you are probably talking about $5000 a year per kid, maybe $100,000 total over their life with you, not $500,000. Each situation is different, if you have the money and want to buy Timmy and Sally the latest and greatest, that’s your thing (I can’t say too much given we have several video game systems in our house, you know “for the kids” 😉 ). But don’t let the overwhelming numbers you hear stop you from having kids, and don’t go broke trying to obtain some ideal forced upon you by rich people. I personally believe and I think the research would back me up that in the end what your kids need most is your love, not your money (though sometimes those can go together ha, ha).