Often, you'll see a news report about the absurdly high cost of rearing children in America.
The most recent estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is about $300,000 per child (not counting college) from age 1 to 17. This assumes a child born to a middle-income married couple, and obviously the number fluctuates by family income.
No matter how you slice it, though, kids are expensive.
When our oldest son, now 21, was born in 2001, I tried not to think about the cost. When I did, my mind drifted to small-ticket items like diapers, cribs and car seats.
Boy, was I blindsided. The big expense for most families is child care. Assuming that both parents work and the child needs 40-hour-a-week care, the cost can be overwhelming. (Hint: Consider living near grandma.)
A 2022 report for Tennesseans for Quality Early Education by Zogby Analytics revealed that day care often costs more than college tuition — a fact that hits a lot of new parents like a bucket of ice water.
For example, yearly in-state tuition at my old school, Middle Tennessee State University, is about $9,000, according to the report. Meanwhile, the cost of day care for a toddler in Tennessee is about $10,000 — and it's pushing $11,000 for an infant.
According to the federal government, the cost of rearing kids breaks down like this: housing (29%), food (18%), child care and education (16%), transportation (15%), health care (9%) and miscellaneous (7%).
I set out to make a list of some of the hidden costs of raising kids that we learned the hard way.
— If your kids happen to be teenage boys, double the food cost. My back-of-the-napkin estimate is that we spend about $1,000 a year on frozen pizza. I kid you not.
— Random fact: The cost of summer camps can be surprisingly high. A sleep-away camp for an adolescent can easily cost $1,000 a week. Be sure you check the prices before automatically saying "yes" to a camp request.
— Do yourself a favor and don't think too much in advance about the cost of auto insurance for teenage boys. And before you get mad at the price, look up the probability that a 16-year-old boy will have an auto accident. Then you'll understand.
— Auto insurance rates for girls aren't too bad, but parents need to stash those savings for weddings — which increasingly involve special venues. Church weddings are out of fashion with Gen Z. Rustic venue weddings with open bars are in.
— Travel sports. If your child has athletic ability, there is a chance they'll want to try out for a travel team. It's a fun lifestyle filled with competition, travel and "free" breakfasts at the Hampton Inn. But it's also extremely expensive; like up to $1,000-a-month expensive. Tread carefully.
— Pets. Lots of childless people have pets, you say. Which is 100% true. But if you are a petless couple — or single person — having kids will multiply the odds that you'll give in to pet requests. According to money.com, the annual cost of owning a dog is $500 to $1,000 a year, even if you adopt a pup.
Even with all these "hidden" expenses, having kids is still a value proposition. Whatever is subtracted from your checking account to support your small human is an investment in their happiness — and yours, too.