Really, Are Children that Expensive?


When Bean was born, it was completely unexpected. I mean, completely, but that is another story for another day. I recently read the statistics that raising children will cost between $250K-$300K in the United States, from birth until 18. Everyone says that children are very expensive. I would like to share my thoughts on that as a minimalist single parent. In fact, I will just say it: I don’t think that children have to be expensive.

From the time that Bean was born, until now, I have worked at the same job in the same position. It is a social service job and as most people know, it isn’t a profession that you work in for the pay. Especially in my state which is nearing bankruptcy. However, I enjoy what I do and I know how to manage my money.

When Bean was born, because of the speed at which she arrived, I had to do some quick thinking. How was my life going to change as a result of her birth? Thankfully, I had already chosen to live in an apartment that met my needs. It was not stretching my income, in fact, it was beneath my income allotment. But I was happy with it. It was larger than a common studio and smaller than a one bedroom. At the end of the block was the lake, the park district facilities with lots of activities and a couple of parks, biking and walking paths. I was within walking distance of several restaurants, three forms of public transportation and my job was close enough that I could walk there if necessary.

I decided that it was simply easier to find Bean a babysitter that would come to the house rather than find a day care center. I preferred that for her first year of life because I chose not to give her shots. I wanted to make sure that her immune system was nice and strong, even though we didn’t stay indoors, we were mixing with loads of people all of the time. It is just day care centers seemed to always have lots of sick, snotty nosed kids around. Not only that, day care was more expensive and I was told that I didn’t qualify for so many things, like WIC, that I just stopped asking. It was simpler to find a babysitter. The ladies who worked with Bean for the first years of her life, before she began nursery school were lovely women who I am blessed to have had help me take care of my child. They did not do the job to get rich, because they never would have working for me alone. They did it out of kindness and because they could use the extra income. The money that we spent on a babysitter and Bean’s schooling has been consistent since the time of her birth. I have been determined to keep my expenses the same and my determination has paid off.

I know that not every woman is able to breastfeed, but I am fortunate that I was. In the hospital where Bean spent her first week of life, the nurses were adamant that the mothers try to breastfeed. Most people knew the benefits of breastfeeding but if you didn’t, they were there to educate and encourage you. I decided that even if I needed to hide out in the bathroom at lunchtime at my job, I would do it. I do my best to be natural and breastfeeding was as natural as I could be. Bean took to it with no problem and we continued for the next year and a half.

The biggest issue that I faced with her surprise birth was amazingly, diapers. I have a hard time with the thought of trash, much less dirty diapers filling landfills for countless years, so I immediately knew that we would use cloth diapers. My aunt sent me a humongous box of really old fashioned cloth diapers…the kind that fastened with a safety pin! It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but they were free, so I couldn’t complain. But everyone else could. The sitters, Bean’s father, my friends were all aghast that I would be using cloth diapers in this advanced age in which we lived. It really was not much extra work versus disposable. It added a few more items into the laundry, but that was about it.

I suppose another source of expense for many parents comes in the form of toy purchases. Most people purchase toys on a whim, toys for birthdays and holidays. They have toys covering every corner of the house. I have a low tolerance for a houseful of plastic things, so from the beginning, I just said no. As I have written before, most of the toys that Bean has were given to her by someone else. I have given her a few quality toys, and the total cost in her five years of life is probably less than $50.

Clothes could increase the household budget. We were blessed with friends who had the time to go to clothing swaps for kids and thought of us. Also, there were other friends who had girls close to Bean’s age. She has been the constant recipient of hand me downs. We use the thrift store on half price days for some things, in addition to off season sales for items she really needs. The key, I think, is need. There are so many beautiful children’s clothes available for purchase I have had to talk to myself. There is just no way that Bean can wear all of the things I would buy for her if I didn’t realize that she is always going to be growing faster than she could wear all of them. I had to be honest with myself. I have bought her some truly beautiful dresses that we both love. There have been a few that I feel she has gotten enough wear out of. The others, I just pass them along with the hope that someone else will love wearing them as much as we loved owning them.

Because we lived in a small place and took public transportation, I chose not to own a baby carriage/ stroller. I decided that I would wear Bean. That is what I did for many years. People often told me that Bean had the best seat in the house (or train). She road in a sling the first year and a half of her life. She road on my back in my homemade Moby wrap for the next year and a half. She did walk, but during the times when other parents were pushing the baby stroller and carrying their child, Bean was riding on my back. It just made sense to me.

When it came time for Bean to eat, I did it the old fashioned way and just mashed up simple foods like bananas, rice, potatoes, carrots and other veggies. She simply transitioned into eating solid foods from there. I didn’t stress out about going completely organic, buying special baby food or anything like that. I figured if I kept things simple, she would turn out to be healthy as I have.

In my next post, I will share a few more things that I have or will be doing in the future with Bean to make the high cost of raising a child just a myth. I truly feel that often times, we get swept along in the mania of mainstream culture. People often forget to think for themselves and question the way that things are being done. I feel that often, today’s parent is overwhelmed because they are forgetting that the way many people are living now is NOT the way that things have always been done. We can take back our time, our lives and live life on our own terms, not what television or social media tells us is the normal way to live and parent today. I would love to hear your thoughts. Is raising a child expensive for you? What do you do to minimize costs?

3 Comments on “Really, Are Children that Expensive?

  1. I love hand me downs! We also had a clothing swap in our city where you got points for bringing things in and then could shop with your points- you got 13 free points to start. I was actually excited when my son finally needed socks, and I couldn’t find hand me downs because I got to buy something! Ha! Ha! However, with a six year old boy, I have found that second hand pants don’t last longer than a month or two before they get holes in the knees. I do buy him pants on sale at a store now, but with his growth pattern, they last a year.

    I get to stay home, so no child care costs, but our son was adopted, so I did formula. Formula and diapers cost me $110/month. I don’t spend that much now, maybe if you count EVERYTHING – sports, food, health insurance, etc. it comes to that. So with that generous calculation of $110/month, it will still cost less than $25,000 to raise him to 18. I plan to have him work and save for college and get scholarships and work through college to pay for it- and in state tuition in my state is $5,000/year, so I think it is reasonable, so none of this saving hundreds of thousands of dollars to party through college- if he wants to go, he can work for it like his father and I did for ourselves- and my husband is an MIT Ph.D., with no student loans, so trying to say better schools means more money isn’t true. My best friend went to Harvard for grad school because they offered her a full tuition scholarship. She lived as a part time nanny for a family for board. Her first choice, a good school in her field, but not the top, only offered her half tuition scholarship, so of course she picked Harvard. Good schools often have more money for scholarships if you feel the need to go to those kinds of schools. I agree- kids are as expensive as you want to make them- and it’s usually about what the parent wants and then teaches their kids to want.

    • Thank you so much for sharing in such depth. I truly believe higher learning doesn’t have to
      be expensive. I worked my way through too and graduated with no debt. It can be done.

  2. I think it is when they get older, the teenage years, that is when it gets expensive! It costs more when they are older to send them to school, more for textbooks, they want better brand clothes and they want to go out with their friends on outings to the movies and so forth and they want technology or need it for school etc etc. With part time jobs they can contribute to their own outings and clothes but it is still so much more expensive than when they were young! I didn’t find my children expensive at all until they hit the teenage years!

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