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The Real Cost Of Raising Children Isn’t $245,000


Kids are expensive, or at least they have been ever since child labor was outlawed. So much for breaking even on the tiny freeloaders. According to one estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs about $245,000 to raise a kid to the age of 18. I double-checked, and the Department of Agriculture meant human children, not baby goats.

The four-legged variety is actually much cheaper, since dairy goats seldom go to expensive out-of-state colleges. In fact, that big, scary number doesn’t even factor in higher education. When the researchers added in the cost of a bachelor’s degree, the final result changed from a six-figure number to an evil laugh.

I’m sure the Department of Agriculture is good at whatever it normally does (I’m guessing something with agriculture), but it doesn’t know much about kids. Raising children and raising livestock have nothing in common, other than the noises and smells, which are exactly the same. Contrary to what those researchers want parents to think, it doesn’t cost $245,000 to raise a kid. Call me an optimist. Scratch that. Call me an extremely cheap pessimist. But my parents didn’t spend anywhere near that on me and my six siblings, and we all turned out.

Okay, that’s a bad example. I now have four daughters of my own, and there’s no way I’ll ever spend a quarter of a million dollars on each of them, mostly because I’ll never have that kind of money. Thanks, English degree. Raising my kids on a budget doesn’t make me a bad father. I’m a bad father for hundreds of other reasons that have nothing to do with money.

Food Is Cheap If Daycare Provides It

I don’t know exactly how much I’ve spent on my kids so far, but it isn’t a lot. For starters, my daughters don’t eat food. During my oldest daughter’s toddler years, I thought she was eating at daycare, and the staff at daycare thought she was eating at home. It turned out she refused all forms of sustenance at both places, yet she somehow still hit her target weight and is now on pace to be taller than my wife.

So far the $1 a month it costs to feed them fits nicely into my budget.

The law of conservation of energy and mass simply doesn’t apply to children under the age of six. It’s possible all four of my daughters will start eating food when they’re older, but so far the $1 a month it costs to feed them fits nicely into my budget. Parents with all boys are extremely bitter about these savings. That’s why the father of the bride gets stuck paying for the wedding.

The Department of Agriculture’s $245,000 figure also doesn’t take into account the economy of scale for raising multiple kids. I don’t have to clothe four children; I have to clothe one. My other three daughters are doomed to a childhood of stained, threadbare hand-me-downs that still meet the basic requirement of preventing nudity.

The key to good parenting is neglecting all my children equally. My wife buys all clothes second-hand, so even our firstborn is dressed in someone else’s fashion rejects. If we keep this up, our daughters will be perpetually uncool in their teenage years, which should keep the boys away. I’ve put a lot of thought into this scheme. I’m not a dad; I’m a supervillain.

House and Healthcare Cost the Same for Big and Small Families

Providing my kids with shelter costs money, too, but I would have needed a house even if I didn’t have children. It’s not like I was going to live under a bridge unless I procreated. The price would have been right, but the Wi-Fi reception down there is terrible. I bought a slightly larger home because I planned to start a family eventually, but I would have found an excuse to splurge on the extra space even if I hated children. I could have used the additional bedrooms for Star Wars action figures or a colony of cats. I would have made one sexy bachelor.

It’s not like I was going to live under a bridge unless I procreated.

Kids have expenses beyond food, clothing, and shelter, but not enough to bring my final bill up to $245,000. My health insurance has a set family rate no matter how many children I have, so there’s no downside to reproducing like rabbits. My wife might disagree on that point.

Toys are equally affordable. Like most little girls, my daughters are into princesses, zombies, dinosaurs, Jedi, and tea parties—often at the same time. My neighbors make a lot of noise complaints.

Some parents save money by crafting homemade toys from wood. These people are communists hell-bent on wrecking our consumption-based economy. I won’t stand for that kind of treason. That’s why I do the right thing and buy my kids cheap plastic toys made in China like a real American.

I buy my kids cheap plastic toys made in China like a real American.

I realize my kids will become more expensive as they get older, but I’ve prepared for that just like I have for every other doomsday scenario. The zombie apocalypse doesn’t scare me half as much as the fact that someday all four of my daughters will be teenagers at the same time. In hindsight, I should have spaced them out by another decade or two.

When they hit puberty, it will probably give me a heart attack, but it won’t bankrupt me. I just have to earmark half of my retirement savings for toilet paper and tampons. The good news is everyone’s cycles should sync, so I’ll know exactly which days of the month to hide in a bomb shelter.

You Can Do Cars, Weddings, and College on the Cheap

I’ve kept my daily costs low, but I’m also ready for the big, one-time expenses that weren’t even included in that $245,000 estimate, like cars, weddings, or college. I’ll eventually buy my kids cheap, used vehicles I can afford outright with cash. That way I won’t have to worry too much when a fence or mailbox jumps out in front of them. Teenage drivers always have the right of way, even against inanimate objects. For weddings, I’ll pay for two kegs and some pizzas. Anything more than that is just showing off.

For weddings, I’ll pay for two kegs and some pizzas. Anything more than that is just showing off.

As for college, my kids are on their own. Saving for higher education is pointless, since tuition goes up faster than inflation and my stock portfolio. My biggest hope is my kids will get scholarships like I did. My second biggest hope is the entire system will implode and we’ll be reduced to a society of hunters and gatherers, thereby making an expensive degree unnecessary. I know that’s unlikely, but I scoped out some good berry bushes just in case.

My thriftiness saves me money today, but it will also save my kids money in the long run. When they’re finally adults, they’ll hate me so much they’ll throw me in the cheapest nursing home they can find. I know it’s coming, which is why I don’t feel bad about not seeing them all day. My biggest expense right now is daycare, since my wife and I both work. I can’t put a price on the time I spend with my kids, but I can put a price on the time I don’t spend with them, and it’s worth every penny.