First Person: How We Keep Kid Costs Below the National Average

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According to USA Today, "Parents with a baby born in 2012 will spend $217,000 to half a million to raise the child to 18." It goes on to note that, "Parents with before-tax annual incomes of $60,640 to $105,000, considered the middle-range income group for this analysis, will spend about $301,970."

Being a parent of two youngsters myself, and having an interest in personal finance, I found these numbers somewhat astounding. As a family, we're pretty good at keeping costs low, so half a million to raise a child to age 18 seemed a bit high. Therefore, I began to run our own numbers, which came in well below the $500,000 or even the $300,000 mark.

Here is how we tend to keep our kid costs below the norm.

Housing

According to the USA Today article, the average spent on kids for housing is 30 percent of total costs. This would be about $90,000 from that $301,970 total cost. For many families, having kids means a bigger home; but for us, we actually found that downsizing worked when it came to the cost of kids. In fact, by selling our previous single-family home and moving to a smaller condo -- even with two kids -- that we can afford without a mortgage, we've cut our housing-related costs dramatically. From about $2,300 a month in our previous home, our housing-related costs have now fallen to about $800 a month.

Sure, a little more space would be nice, but our small living environment also helps us cut costs on stuff like toys and clothing since we are continually forced to downsize to make things fit in our smaller home.

Food and clothing

There's little doubt that food and clothing costs for kids can add up. USA Today notes that 16 percent (or about $48,000) goes for food, while clothing costs make up about 6 percent (or about $18,000). However, such costs don't have to consume as much as you might think, and clothing definitely doesn't have to consume nearly $1,000 a year.

We keep our entire family clothing budget between $300 and $400 a year for all four of us by shopping resale and utilizing hand-me-downs for the kids. Resale shops, garage sales, and leftovers from friends and family can put a huge dent in overall clothing costs. And by taking the kids along with us -- whether to the store or shopping for clothes -- we ensure that we aren't buying products that they kids won't utilize or consume. This keeps our food and entertainment budget to only about $300 a month for the entire family by minimizing food waste.

Transportation

USA Today reports that 14 percent (or about $42,000) of total costs go toward transportation. In an effort to minimize this portion of our kid costs we've done several things. First off, rather than buying another vehicle, we downsized our fleet from two to one. In this way, we've reduced not only our family transportation costs by cutting insurance, maintenance, and fuel costs, but also, it pushed us to move to a location where there is plenty to do all within walking distance. Finding things to do close to home rather than having to drive to them not only reduces our travel costs, but it serves as a great excuse for not needing extra vehicles as the kids get older.

And in these ways, we minimize our kid costs and do our best to keep them below the average while still providing our kids with some semblance of a normal life. It's important to bear in mind that some of the most effective kids cost cutting can come in ways and forms that they never even realize are occurring.

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Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial or parenting professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.


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