First Person: Keeping Up with the Kid Costs

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A middle-income couple can expect to spend $241,080 to raise a child to age 18, according to the latest report on the cost of raising a child cited by CNNMoney. It's sobering to consider the costs reported by the Department of Agriculture don't include college. With two children in college, I know we are spending more now than we did when the children were under age 18. Thinking back, I can think of several ways we made raising a child more affordable. According to the report, the cost for child care, healthcare, clothing, food, housing and other expenses are higher or lower depending what region a person lives in and whether they have a low, middle or high household income. Ultimately, we had to live below our means and earn extra money when our children were younger so we could afford college.

Saving during the pre-school years

One of the ways we reduced our expenses when our children were preschoolers was by living in the country. We could grow some of our own vegetables and "live off the land." We used cloth diapers. We shopped garage sales. According to the study, people who live in a rural part of the country are expected to spend about $190,290 raising their child, which is about $50,000 less than the average costs. A family in the urban Northeast will spend $277,170 raising their child for 18 years. I think a lot of the cost differences are related to childcare costs. Most of the people we knew in the country were more likely to depend on grandparents or extended relatives to care for their children.

Embracing 'staycations'

We moved to Florida when my children were in elementary school. We saved money by living in communities that offered amenities so we didn't have to go on vacations or pay for extracurricular activities. We started out by renting an apartment which offered free tennis lessons, complimentary socials and pool parties and a fitness room. We then purchased a condo in a master-planned community with even more amenities. Even though we had to pay the dues or fees for the amenities such as pool with water slides, I figured out it cost less than outside activities for the children. Plus, I didn't have to drive my children to anything. They could walk.

Finding ways to make more

When my children were in high school, my husband and I had more time to devote to work. I made an effort to be as productive as possible while my children were studying or in classes. I picked up freelance work. I made money participating in paid research studies. I started a dieting and butterfly blog as well as opened an account with an online auction site so I could sell things we no longer needed. I wanted to be ready for the more expensive college years ahead of us.

After easily spending more than $400,000 to raise two children, we now are dealing with college costs. According to an article by Savingforcollege.com, the cost for four years of tuition now ranges from $73,700 to $127,100, but in 18 years from now, it will range from $210,400 to $362,800. Those figures don't include room, board, food, transportation or books and supplies. If we hadn't lived below our means when our children were younger, we wouldn't be able the even higher cost of raising a child from 18 to 22.

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More from this contributor:

We Stopped Paying the Grandparents Debt

I Raised One Saver, One Spender

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