10 Ways to Overspend on Your Children

Raising a child to the age of 18 costs an average of nearly $250,000. Here are 10 ways you overspend, and tips to save money without curbing the fun.


In a report released last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the average cost of raising a child to age 18 is more than $245,000. And that doesn’t include college.

Some of those average total costs from 2013 from the USDA’s report include:

  • Housing — $73,260
  • Transportation — $34,710
  • Child care and education — $44,400
  • Food — $39,060
  • Health care — $20,130

This may be a tough pill to swallow, but there are ways to soften the financial blow. Here are some areas where you may be overspending — and how to curb those costs:

1. Paying too much for child care

Child care is an expense that catches many parents off guard. If you don’t properly research options, you could end up paying hundreds more per month than you have to for the same level of care.

Don’t know where to start? Take a look at “13 Simple Ways to Save on Child Care” for a comprehensive list of alternatives worth considering.

2. Taking lavish vacations

If you can afford splashy vacations without compromising your budget, go for it. But if not, find less costly options now and save the big trips for later, when the kids are older and can appreciate the experience.

Does it make sense to dole out $1,000 or more on a Disney vacation, only to spend much of the time wrestling with a stubborn child who throws tantrums at the thought of going anywhere near the Dumbo ride? The long lines and exorbitantly priced cuisine only add insult to injury.

Instead, take your little ones to a cheaper attraction closer to home, such as the local zoo. That way, you won’t be disappointed if they don’t enjoy their stay.

3. Buying everything at full price

From diapers to sneakers, it is a mistake if you never give the clearance or sales racks a chance, or if you forget to check for coupons.

In truth, it is not even necessary to clip coupons to save money. Instead, stick to a simple rule: If it is not on clearance or on sale, don’t buy it.

This practice should result in funds left over to indulge in the little pleasures your children desire — but only if there is a deal out there.

4. Going overboard on birthday parties

This is a touchy topic for many parents, but is it really necessary to spend well into the hundreds of dollars on a single birthday party? Most children are more interested in the company of friends than the pricey décor. So plan wisely, and your wallet will thank you.

To help you get started, The Huffington Post offers a list of six budget-friendly birthday party ideas.

5. Leaving home to entertain your kids

Visiting a movie theater or theme park isn’t the only way to entertain your children. Try having a family game night or renting a movie from Redbox instead. This will drastically curb your costs.

If you feel a strong need to escape the confines of your home, visit the neighborhood park or recreation center, or search for free local events taking place in the community.

6. Overspending on summer camps

Some children are more athletically or artistically inclined than others, but that doesn’t mean you have to sign them up for every camp you can find. If they’re young, there’s plenty of time for them to sharpen skills and develop talents.

In other words, a talented 6-year-old need not attend six football camps in a two-month window if it’s going to set you back $3,000. (See: “How to Find a Summer Camp Your Kid Will Be Crazy About.”)

7. Preparing meals your children despise

Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Spending hours in the kitchen whipping up a meal your child won’t eat isn’t doing your pocketbook any justice.

Some children will eat whatever you place in front of them, and others only like a handful of items. There is no point in preparing a large or exotic dish of a vegetable or meat a child despises. Stick to cheaper, healthy basics the child loves.

8. Never buying secondhand

Ditch Toys R Us and search for toys at yard sales and local thrift stores. Many times, you will find items that are in good shape and offered at a fraction of retail cost. Consider shopping secondhand stores for children’s books.

Also, give Walmart’s used electronics inventory a shot, or head to Amazon, eBay or a store clearance aisle.

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