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What is the Average Cost to Raise a Child?

written by: AlexisW•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 6/29/2011

If you are planning to conceive a child for the first time, you’re probably anticipating finally having a family of your own. A growing family is a very gratifying and fulfilling experience you can share with your partner; however, the financial aspects can be quite daunting.

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    Costs of Raising a Child

    Children are frequently the largest expense in any household since having a child requires outlays for food, education, clothing, and other basic needs. In the US, the Department of Agriculture estimates the average cost of raising a child from the time of birth until the age of 17. The department adjusts its estimates every year, basing its results on inflation rates, and trends all throughout the US. In studies conducted to determine the cost, the department looks into several key areas that comprise the biggest financial load for most families. These areas include: food, housing, health care, transportation, education, and childcare.

    The Department of Agriculture released its latest report on “Expenditures on Children by Families," indicating that a child born into a middle-income family in 2008 will result in expenses up to $221,190 covering food, housing, and other essentials needed to raise the child over the course of the seventeen years that the parents are responsible for the child's care.

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    Housing or Shelter

    Housing or shelter is the largest expense involved in raising a child. These expenses may include mortgage payments, rent payments, insurance, furniture and utilities. Specific projections for the costs associated with housing a child will also depend on how much money is brought in and the location of the residence. Generally, however, parents should expect to shell out between $200 to $400 per child monthly, just for housing. These costs can add up significantly by the time a child reaches the age of 17 and goes out on his or her own.

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    Food

    Expenses for food include the cost of meals, beverages, groceries, dining out and convenience foods. The cost for feeding a child hits its peak when the child is between ages 12 and 17 years of age. Parents will pay approximately $70 to $260 per child, monthly, for food, depending on the type of meals provided and the child's appetites. Collectively, this will cost $40,000 over 17 years.

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    Transportation

    Transportation is very important in a child’s life. Children must be brought to school, to doctor's appointments and dentists appointments, and to their everyday activities. Expenses include buying a vehicle, purchasing gas, oil, plus car maintenance and insurance. Depending on the type of vehicle and number of children, parents may spend up to $200 per child monthly or about $30,000 over a 17-year period. These costs don't even factor in the purchase of a first car for a child, a cost many parents assume or help with when the child turns 16.

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    Other Expenses

    Other major expenses include clothing, childcare, healthcare and education. Clothing costs include diapers, pants, shirts, and seasonal clothing. Including dry cleaning, laundry and alterations, clothing can cost $30 to $100 monthly for the basics. If your child wants the latest fashions, this cost may be much more.

    For healthcare, the average expenditure is $15,000 for a 17-year period. Basic childcare, such as preschool services and babysitting, can cost as much as $20,000 for the same timeframe.

    Education becomes the largest expense once children attend college. Although some children receive no college help from their parents, many kids are lucky enough to get some family aid. If parents wish to pay for their kids to get an undergraduate education, parents may need to spend as much as $100,000 to $200,000 for each child’s education.