Have you ever heard some well-meaning knucklehead (usually with young children) say, “Children aren’t Expensive, Lifestyles are!”?
You may have even heard this knucklehead say that.
Yeah, me. I used to say stupid things like that.
There’s quite a bit that I used to say and write about that I now look at and think, “I’m such an idiot.”There's quite a bit that I used to say and write about that I now look at and think, I'm such… Click To Tweet
I clearly thought I knew a thing or two when my kids were preschool aged. Now that I have five kids in their late teens and early twenties, not so much.
Actually, Raising Kids Will Cost You
Newsflash: Yes, it does cost money to raise kids.Newsflash: Yes, it does cost money to raise kids. Totally worth it, but count the cost first. Click To Tweet
I’d say it’s totally worth it, of course. I’m happy to have raised my five amazing kids (now all young adults).
But I think we do people a disservice by acting as though the only expenses you get with having kids comes from buying fancy nursery decor and enrolling your kids in Little Snobbe Preschool Academy. Expenses do go up when you have a larger family, even if you’re crazy frugal.
When you have five preschool-aged kids, it’s easy to view most expenses as a lifestyle choice. When they get older, not so much.
The Expense of Having Kids Isn’t What You Think
Now, usually, when you see some newsy article that lists off the “cost of having children” it includes all of the young child expenses like fancy nursery swag, outfits, daycare, preschool, and college.
I’ve not done any of that with my five, and yet I’d still deem having kids expensive. Hear me out.
Nursery items can be found at yard sales or as hand-me-downs if you didn’t get a baby shower (just check for safety on those items of course). The major items like cribs, later beds, and car seats I always bought new because safety is important.
There’s a ridiculous number of barely used or not used baby or child outfits at thrift stores and yard sales. Kids grow out of clothes faster than they get the opportunity to wear them.
Diapers are expensive. I did cloth with my first two, but then while in bed rest with subsequent pregnancies, I had to use disposable. You can only realistically do so much.
Breastfeeding saves a huge chunk of change, but not everyone can, so the expense of formula also can eat into your family budget.
Child-Rearing Expenses No One Mentions
When talking about how “Child-Rearing” expenses are all about the lifestyle you choose, I’m inclined to believe those saying this never experienced these expenses:
- Buying groceries with five teens in the house
- Buying groceries when there are food allergies at play (and five teenagers in the house)
- Buying high-quality, healthy groceries and not just junk food with five teens in the house.
- Paying for car insurance when you have teenagers. Mine went up by considerably this year after the car accident and adding new drivers. They help pay for the insurance, but still. Cha-Ching. Better have your house paid off by then, because PLPD car insurance with 5 teens looks like another mortgage payment.
- Medical bills (such as co-pays, deductibles, etc.)
- Dental bills. We actually paid our kids half of the cavity co-pay as a reward every time they didn’t have cavities, which they are prone to due to a genetic deformity on my end.
- Medical insurance (ours went up from $25 per pay period to $300 per pay period since the “affordable” care act, with less coverage)
- Finding a house to rent if you ever need to do that while having a large family.
- If you have more than three kids, you are limited by what kind of vehicle you need for the whole family to go places together, and those vehicles usually cost more and guzzle gas. Yippee.
- As with the last point, if you have a huge vehicle that holds more than 3 kids, you probably get a second car for everyday driving to and from work, so as to not waste gas (unless you live somewhere with public transport, which we don’t). So either way, you are spending money either on the second vehicle with insurance and maintenance or paying loads of extra cash for gas.
Child-Rearing Expenses You Can Control, But Should Invest In
In raising my kids, one of the things we decided to invest whatever we could in, included lessons or resources to help each child with their natural bent or talents.
Younger me and other frugal young moms might call these kinds of expenses lifestyle choices. Maybe they are.
However, the way I look at things now, we weren’t just raising kids. We were raising future adults. We wanted to provide our kids each with some experiences and tools to explore their interests and talents more, or to grow as individuals.
These things included music lessons, first with a teenager from our church, then with someone else after she went to college.
Art classes, summer camp, various youth group activities, and so forth were also investments and sacrifices we made. I know that more than once I paid for art class by shaking out the piggy bank. With several creative and artsy kids, it was an investment well worth it, both for the skills learned that were reinforcing things I was teaching them as an artist myself, but also the friendships made.
My personal opinion is that it’s good to slow down and take time as a family to just be. That is, to not just fill up our kids’ schedules with all kinds of twaddle to keep us busier than we really need to be. We said no to far more things than we said yes to. However, as my husband pointed out (thank God for him balancing out my extremist views. :-)), they are only kids once, and it’s good to explore the talents God poured into them in different ways.
We said no to far more things than we said yes to. However, as my husband pointed out (thank God for him balancing out my extremist views. :-)), they are only kids once, and it’s good to explore the talents God poured into them in different ways.
The Personal Expense of Raising Kids
Finally, there’s the personal expense of raising kids. It’s not something that can be measured in monetary amounts, but rather that is found in the time and emotional energy invested in the task at hand.
I think the best way to describe it is using a different analogy, with puppies.
I recently adopted a new older puppy after my 12-year-old dog passed away in January. Puppies are totally fun, of course, and most people don’t realize the investment you have to make in them. There’s, of course, the vet appointments and dog food, and even obedience classes. I was cheap last time I had a puppy and didn’t do the obedience classes ($75), and it made a huge negative difference. The dog was a brat, mostly because we got her to replace our first dog we were grieving at a time when we were too busy, broke, and distracted to really invest the time and money. This one, hopefully, will not be.
Of course, a dog is not a cat. You get a kitten and it just does its thing. A dog needs a ridiculous investment of time at first, for you to still like the dog next year. I’ve had many dogs over the years, so I know what I’m getting into. A large number of dogs dropped off at shelters indicate that most people don’t.
This mirrors one of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever got. A friend told me to raise my kids in such a way that I still like them when they’re 14. I’m glad I took that advice.
As I type this, the puppy is tethered to my belt so that it cannot wander off and lay cow pies or create rivers in other parts of the house. Doorways are blocked with baby gates, and I have several large packages of paper toweling handy. I spend a few hours a day working with her on obedience commands or on just playing with her to help her resist the urge to continue to gnaw on the table leg in the dining room or terrorize the cat. Some days I’m loving it. Other days…ugh. Dog. Knock it off. These are the realities of doggie ownership. Lots of investment of time (and some cash) at the start pays off later.
In the same way, having children means investing a great deal of time that you’d rather spend doing other things. Children are a blessing…if raised well.
The Bottom Line on the Expenses of Raising Kids
None of this should be interpreted as being “anti-child”, though I’m sure in today’s easily offended, knee-jerk reaction social media society, it will be.
I love being a mom. It was the best thing I ever did.
However, as with my puppy analogy, I think too many people seem to have a misguided view of having kids, perhaps due to people like me (in my earlier years) implying that the expenses are not real. Puppies are cute, and so are babies, but they are also a lot of work and bring new bills into your family budget too. It helps to know this ahead of time so you can prepare. Right?Babies are cute, but they are also work + bring new bills into your family budget Click To Tweet Anything worth doing in life, including child rearing, is going to cost you. Click To Tweet
Darlin, anything worth doing in life, including child rearing, is going to cost you. The question is, are you willing to invest in the expenses of time and money child rearing brings, or invest it somewhere else?