How to Slash the Cost of Raising Kids

Periodically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announces the average cost to raise a child, and every year that estimate raises eyebrows. Or at least it should. Most recently, the number was more than $233,000.

I’ve read this report for years, and I’ve concluded that it is hogwash. There are plenty of ways to cut the cost of raising a kid that can keep your grand total far below that $233,000 mark.

Housing

According to the USDA, housing is nearly one-third of the cost of raising a child. In this category, they include rent, mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, repairs, utilities, furnishings and appliances.

Here are some ways to cut these costs:

  • Utilities. There are lots of ways to save, from energy-efficient light bulbs to programmable thermostats.
  • Property taxes. Too high? Fight ’em! Call your county and ask how.
  • Insurance. The simplest ways to save are higher deductibles and shopping your policies. But there’s more: See “How to Save on Every Type of Insurance.”
  • Furnishings and appliances. Careful shopping, buying scratch and dent, and simple negotiating can radically reduce the cost.
  • Repairs. When it comes to things like changing air conditioner and furnace filters, caulking and other simple maintenance and repairs, do it yourself.

Child care and education

For this category, the USDA included day care, baby-sitting and school costs, including books and supplies. As with other categories, the higher their income, the more parents spent.

Looking for ways to trim child care costs? Check out “9 Ways to Pay Less for Baby-Sitting.” There, we offer tips such as the following:

Combine forces with a friend and hire one sitter to watch both families’ kids for a certain period of time. You don’t necessarily have to go on a double date, but you can certainly plan your date nights for the same evening.

Food

This includes food and nonalcoholic beverages purchased at grocery, convenience and specialty stores, dining out and school meals.

How do you save? We count the ways in articles like “The 27 Absolute Best Ways to Save on Food,” but here are some quick ideas:

  • Stop paying for names. Generics can reduce prices by 30 percent or more. (See “20 Products You Should Always Buy Generic.”)
  • Bulk up. If you know you’ll use all of it, buy it in bulk. Can’t begin to use it all? That’s what friends and freezers are for.
  • Shop salvage grocery stores. You can save 30 percent to 50 percent shopping salvage — stores that specialize in things like dented cans and odd lots.
  • Use coupons everywhere. Always use an online coupon search engine to find deals before you shop. Another good source is manufacturers’ websites. But the simplest thing to do is to plug the names of the items on your list into your favorite search engine along with the word “coupon” and see what comes up.
  • Price match. Some retailers will price match any store’s weekly ad. See if yours does. This not only saves on food, but on the cost of driving from store to store.
  • Substitute cheaper ingredients for expensive ones. Just because a recipe calls for the fancy cheese doesn’t mean you have to use it. You can substitute cheaper ingredients in most dishes — or use substitutions for an ingredient you don’t have on hand.
  • Make your own. Homemade is not just cheaper than premade and prepackaged, it tastes better and is typically healthier.
  • Extend meat. Use less of it in a dish or add another ingredient to it, like canned tuna stretched with chopped hard-boiled egg.

Transportation

This category includes vehicle costs and payments, along with gas, motor oil, maintenance and insurance.

The simplest way to save on a new car is not to buy one. Buying used can save you a lot of cash. Check out “7 Steps to Buying a Reliable Used Car.”

Some additional quick tips:

  • Use a cash-back gas credit card.
  • Buy at a warehouse club like Costco.
  • Shop around on your phone with a free app like GasBuddy.
  • Keep up on vehicle maintenance for the best gas mileage.

Conclusion: It costs what it costs

My parents both came from large families and grew up in the Great Depression. Think their parents spent the 1930s equivalent of $241,000 to raise their kids? Not a chance.

The fact is when it comes to family, we find a way.

What do you think of the government estimate? Offer up your opinion, experience or tips on our Facebook page.

Angela Brandt and Chris Kissell contributed to this post.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
The 13 Worst Types of Tickets for Your Car Insurance Rate
The 13 Worst Types of Tickets for Your Car Insurance Rate

Some types of traffic violations can drive your car insurance rate dramatically higher.

11 Signs That You Chose the Wrong Place to Retire
11 Signs That You Chose the Wrong Place to Retire

Health and happiness in retirement rely on some key factors.

17 Home Maintenance Tasks That Save You Money
17 Home Maintenance Tasks That Save You Money

Here’s how to cut household costs and maintain your property’s value.

12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income
12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

These simple ways of earning income without a lot of active, ongoing effort can stretch your retirement dollars.

It’s Worth Paying Extra for These 14 Items
It’s Worth Paying Extra for These 14 Items

Here’s where to find the sweet spot at the intersection of price and quality.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

6 Great Gifts on Sale at Amazon Today
6 Great Gifts on Sale at Amazon Today

As the holidays near, we’re highlighting some of the best deals on gift ideas.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home
15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home

These free movie streaming sites offer thousands of movies and TV shows, including recent releases and beloved classics. If you love free movies, online sites are where you need to look for the best list of features that are just one easy click away.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

Study Shows This Supplement Could Lengthen Your Life
Study Shows This Supplement Could Lengthen Your Life

If you take glucosamine and chondroitin, researchers have some good news for you.

4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021
4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021

If you are eligible for these tax breaks, they will slash your federal income tax bill — dollar for dollar.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

The Worst Day of the Year to Buy a Used Car
The Worst Day of the Year to Buy a Used Car

If you need a new set of wheels, avoid shopping on this day.

7 Stores That Match — or Beat — Amazon Prices
7 Stores That Match — or Beat — Amazon Prices

These retailers offer some of the most consumer-friendly price-match policies anywhere.

Boomer With $100,000 Saved? Here’s How You Rank Among Peers
Boomer With $100,000 Saved? Here’s How You Rank Among Peers

For many, $100,000 is the foundation that leads to a much higher net worth, a survey finds.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.