How Expensive are Children, Really?

My wife recently had a conversation which we’ve had many, many times before. A near-40 year old married man commented that he hadn’t had children yet because they are “too expensive”. Really?

This tired argument is perpetuated by ridiculous studies with little merit, like this one at MSN Money which states that families making $70,200 a year or more will “spend a whopping $269,520 to raise a child from birth to age 17″.

Now, anyone who would bother to take two seconds to think about this would wonder two things (at least): Where did they get that extra $200 after the 70K? And why didn’t they round up the $269,520 to at least $270,000? Are these numbers supposed to look more like real money by using these averages?

Other studies will add the looming cost of college for an extra thrilling $100,000 to scare away even more unthinking men from having children. Apparently, only Ivy League education is appropriate for potential children. I always like to say that potential children have it all. Real children, quite thankfully, get a more realistic dose of education. And shockingly, they all don’t have their parents pay for their education. Some of them have to earn it.

I have six children. So pay close attention. Buying everything for your children is not a birthright for them, or a duty for you.

But, most good parents know this. And most kids know that they won’t be wearing $100 sneakers to school - unless they mow a lawn or two. And not my lawn - you don’t get paid to do your chores. Not in the real world. Maybe I’ll reconsider when employers start paying employees to brush their teeth, iron their clothes, and drive to work.

But here’s where I get kind of mashed up. I never hear a person complain about the cost of children when they are making $25,000 to $30,000 a year. It’s always the people bringing in $60,000 or more. Let me blunt (and maybe rude??). These people think nothing of paying $120 a month for digital cable, $420 a month for their two-door car payment, and twenty to fifty percent more for a nice condo or gated apartment complex. But a child? Gasp!! Even though health insurance covers the majority of the costs of the birth, they run from children using money as an excuse.

They’ll blame poor people for “foolishly” pumping out children they can’t afford. Nice justification, I suppose, for their own excesses which, due to their higher income, social status, and education, get to go unquestioned. At least unquestioned by most. I suppose driving around in a $30,000 car (which they overpaid for) requires a suspension of disbelief for them.

Quite seriously, how many have actually gone to Walmart and priced children’s clothes, baby items, a few soccer balls, and figure a little extra into their food budget? Probably none.

Well, to be fair, I’ve gone to PetSmart and priced dog food, dog collars, dog nutrition bones, and, well, dogs. I’ve talked to vets about their charges. And I’ve realized that dogs are really expensive. So are some other pets. But, a lot of the “children are too expensive” crowd owns a pet. Or two.

And yet, that dog still has to be fed every day of its life. It never learns a thing. It never provides any real sense of family in the long run. It will never dress itself, learn a word, or become a research scientist, fight in a war, or build a bridge. Even out of Legos. And that dog will die within 20 years and you will still be all alone. I guess you can get another dog. And feed that one for 20 more years. And spend thousands of dollars a year on dog food. I don’t see the point.

I don’t want to elevate children over dogs (although I’m ashamed that it would actually shock some people if I did), but if I’m going to put time, money, and effort into something, I would like it to be worthwhile and lasting. So, maybe I’m more selfish than the guy with 600 channels of digital cable, because I want a reward for my time and effort. And I hope that reward is children who become great adults and are part of a loving family where we all help and support each other through life.

The real expense of raising children (if in fact you raise them - not just “have” them) is your time. And I often think that when people remark that children are expensive, especially when I consider their income, that they are subconsciously running from giving up control of their time.

Maybe they think a better time will come down the road. I’m not the Lord so I don’t know what time he has set aside for you (if ever) to have children. But I would definitely challenge you to rethink your thinking on this, no matter how old you are, and see if you aren’t looking at the costs correctly. There are some real costs to not having children which you might want to consider.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader. If you don't have a feed reader, I recommend using Google Reader to start. It's free and easy. Otherwise, you can always have these articles delivered to your email inbox every day. Click here to sign up.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

No trackbacks/pingbacks yet.


ridiculous article. Kids ARE expensive, do you live in 1959? Why dont YOU do some research and actually add it up?

Thats what I thought

Bleeding heart liberal

You are an idiot! Kids are expensive as hell and even though my wife and I love our children to death, we wish we had waited a few more years before starting a family. Daycare and medical bills alone will put you into a finacial nightmare. Back when a family of four could easily survive on a single income then things were a lot easier, but today it takes two incomes just to support a family of four, and when both parents are working someone has to keep the kids so now we got daycare.

Hi Lawrence. I am not happy with the commenters so far, so let’s make it 2:2. garthas and AState: Yes, kids are expensive. But you do earn something, right? And from there it’s just your personality. Some buy themselves alcohol, some buy kids new books. As for the devastating medical bills and daycare - sorry to hear that, I am in Canada. And anyway, kids are wonderful, how can you measure them in money?

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>