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Ways Kids Are Expensive That I Never Thought Of (Until I Had Them…)

March 2, 2011 · 46 comments

in Life, Personal Finance

Quite often, I hear of people saying that are waiting to have kids until they can ‘afford them’.

Well, I kind of did the opposite.

My husband and I both graduated from college at 23, got married a week later, and I had my first child at 26.   I had a ton of student loan debt, we had 2 car payments, a house payment and were not saving nearly as much as I would have liked.  (At least we did not have credit card debt.)  I didn’t care though, I wanted kids young (by today’s standards) and that was that.  By the age of 30, I had 3 kids, and quit my job.

Throughout the early years, the expenses were pretty standard.  Diapers, clothes, doctor visits, etc.  But as the kids got older, so did their expenses.  I recently revealed they attend private school, but I am not talking about that kind of expense.  I am talking more about how the ‘maintenance’ of my kids nickel and dime (and quarter) me.  Here are some examples:

Sports:

  1. Travel Soccer. I am such a liar.  When my kids were little I said “they will not play travel soccer.  I don’t want to sit out in the cold and the rain, and it just seems like a waste of money”.  Well, both of those may be true to a degree, but my kids loved soccer, and almost had to play travel soccer if they wanted to play competitively.  (All the decent kids usually leave the rec leagues by the age of 8 or 9, so if your child has skill, it can be hard to stay in the rec environment.)  Needless to say, travel soccer is not cheap.
  2. Sports ‘gear’. I had no idea basketball shoes cost so much money.  After the debacle with my daughter’s recent sprained ankle, I also have invested in ankle guards too.  A recent trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods resulted in a $220.00 expenditure as I bought ankle guards for all the kids and new shoes for my daughter (that fit).
  3. Medical Tests/Exams. My kids have had some sports-related injuries (but fortunately not too many).  My daughter broke her arm in gymnastics, needed an MRI for her knee from basketball, and my son recently suffered a stress fracture in his spine (although I think a lot of the cause of that was a go-cart incident at a birthday party) and got a bone scan, to the tune of $600.00.
  4. Sports Camps. I did not know that when kids get to high school, they are forced to go to several sports camps that are usually out of town and require overnight fees.  Between my two high schoolers, I probably spend about $1500.00 on summer camps each year.

Non-Sports:

  1. General Medical/Dental. Our insurance has covered less and less over the years.  The copays have increased dramatically, and barely any prescriptions are covered in the formulary.   Our dental insurance covers next to nothing, and also has a hefty deductible.  We spend way more on medical expenses than we did when the kids were little, and they aren’t sick nearly as much.
  2. Gas. I drive my kids to many places (yes, much of this is because they are in private school and their friends are not in the neighborhood, and there is no bus to take them to school).  Regardless, gasoline has gotten quite expensive, and I put a lot of miles on my car every year.
  3. Food. I knew that kids would increase my food bill.  However, 3 teens eat a lot more than I expected.  Not only that, but I really try to feed them as healthy as possible, so buying enough fresh fruits/vegetables and such has really inflated my grocery bill.  Not to mention the extra cost at restaurants.
  4. School expenses. This is not tied to tuition, but various expenses I  have to pay for occasionally.  For instance, I recently had to provide dinner for the boys and girls high school basketball teams.  That set me back  a couple hundred dollars.  (No way was I going to cook for 40 teenagers.)  The kids need money for supplies for projects all the time, it goes on and on.
  5. College. OK, everyone knows that college is a possible future expense for their child.  However, I had no idea how ridiculously high college tuition would be by the time my kids were old enough to attend college.  I gave up a long time ago thinking I would have enough money saved in the kid’s 529 accounts to fully fund college.  (Not to mention their funds took quite a hit when the stock market tanked.)

I am sure there are many more unexpected kid-related expenses we pay for each year that I am forgetting.  However, now that I look at what I wrote, I never really thought about how much it costs overall  for my kids to play sports.  Well, maybe I knew what it cost, but I didn’t realize how much I would actually save if my kids didn’t play sports.   I do feel that for my kids, it has been worth it to play sports.  We have had a lot of great times together traveling and going to different games.  I also feel that sports can teach valuable life lessons, and also (hopefully) helps keep kids out of trouble.  Or, maybe I am just justifying how much I have spent on sports…

I often wonder how old I would have been when I had my first child if I had waited until we could ‘afford’ them.  The thing is, I could not have planned for many of the expenses we have had, as I had not learned yet how to predict the future back in my 20s (or 40s). On the other hand, many of our expenses are made by choice.  If we didn’t have the money, they wouldn’t be participating in all the activities they are.   One thing I am grateful for is that my kids are into ‘trendy’ anything.  Clothes are bought on sale, and the kids really don’t care about what store they are bought from.  (At least for now.)

If you have children, did you wait until you were financially secure?  If you plan on having children, are you waiting until you have enough money saved up?

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneycone March 2, 2011 at 7:40 am

I’m mentally making a note having had my first kid recently! :)
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 10:06 pm

MC- Enjoy that little one, and remember, babies can’t read labels! :)

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101 Centavos March 2, 2011 at 8:14 am

One more: having to pay for other people’s property that they break, spill on or damage. My own parents would have a few choice words to say on that topic.

Glad your kids are not trend-followers, because it sure can get expensive. We make exceptions to this at Christmas time, but still, the one shopping visit at Abercrombie and Fitch in December just about melted the credit card.

I’m keeping a tally of all the expenses that our two rascals are costing us. When they get rich and famous, they’ll also get a bill from Mom and Dad. Just (half) kidding!
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm

That’s funny about replacing other people’s property!

I am hoping my kids continue to not care about clothes. Obviously they want to be presentable, but Levis and T shirts are fine for the boys, and my daughter is very cost-conscious and can’t stand to see me spend much money on clothes.

Let us know what that bill adds up to when the time comes! :)

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Nicole March 2, 2011 at 8:26 am

We did not have children in graduate school. That would have been difficult from both an expense-view and from a time/stress-view. It is much easier now to be able to throw money at things, whereas before we would have had to throw time at them or go into debt. Still, I had my first kid 4-6 years before anybody I know had their first kids. There’s a big baby boom going on right now with people we went to graduate school with and professors who were hired when I was hired.

Financial stability wasn’t really the main thing though… infertility runs on both sides of my family and I figured I ought to start trying by age 26 or 27 if I wanted to get a kid in without worrying about POF (which an aunt had, and basically means if you want kids you’ll have to use donor eggs). That definitely gave a push for me to finish grad school on time, but not the other way around. And baby fever hit around the right time and reason flew out the window. In the end DC took a long time to come and we both had real salaries by the time he was born.
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Nicole, you definitely did not have an easy road, that is for sure! In the end, it all worked out, but it must have been incredibly stressful!

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Niki March 2, 2011 at 8:26 am

Kids are like little money pits, I know I have three. They can be expensive, but like you said, it is 100% worth it. I was never involved in sports or anything until I went to school and it was free and I would never want that for my children. I know my kids enjoy being involved. I wish my parents had gotten me involved in sports when I was younger.

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Kris March 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Niki, I agree in that I feel that the money spent has been worth the results. I don’t mean that my investment has created gifted athletes. I am talking more about how it added a different aspect to their lives.

Sorry you didn’t get to do the sports when you were younger. I think part of the reason I have encouraged sports so much for my kids is because I personally gained so much from them when I was growing up.

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The Biz of Life March 2, 2011 at 8:44 am

The I-wants just go on and on without end. I love my kids but you have to learn to say no and condition them to expect less and demand less.
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Dr Dean March 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Amen! Well said!
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Biz, luckily, my kids don’t have many material wants and don’t ask for much. However, school sports and such do end up costly a lot indirectly, that is for sure. I do not regret spending money on sports at all though as it is healthy, and they have had a lot of great experiences and have learned so much.

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Jacq March 2, 2011 at 9:26 am

My oldest wasn’t into sports at all. But I spent quite a lot on books and art classes. The youngest doesn’t like team sports either, but the individual ones – we went x-c skiing the other day, racket sports, and the only expensive one – golf. Well, downhill skiing is pricy, but I’m hoping to convert him to cross country (more because of my age than anything). :-)

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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Jacq- books and art can both be very expensive too, as you know! I have always been a sucker for buying books!

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krantcents March 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Are you saying, you would have done things differently? We had our first child at a young (I was 27 & wife 26) age too. The difference was no debt except for a small mortgage. My kids went to private school too (preschool-high school). At age 31, I started my plan to be financially independent. I accomplished it by 38. While the kids were small. my wife did not stop working, but went part time. No regrets! They turned out great.
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Krantcents, I definitely would NOT have done things differently. I absolutely love how things have worked out so far. I didn’t get to travel when I was young or anything, but my time will come. I didn’t have a huge desire to travel in my mid 20s anyway.

You have done a great job Krant!

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Squirrelers March 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Kids are the greatest thing, I love mine more than anything. When my daughter was born (oldest) it seemed like the world’s greatest blessing. Still feels that way, even moreso.

That said…you have to be ready to spend quite a bit of money on kids. There’s no way around it.

Though I was in my early 30′s before being a parent, I think that one doesn’t neccessarily need to wait. Really, if people are mentally and emotionally mature, it can be done without waiting that long. They key is being unified on income and expenses. If one person wants to stay home while the other doesn’t want all the pressure of being a sole provider, then compromise needs to happen that works for both. If one person is frugal while the other spends endlessly then that will be problematic. The key is to be aligned in expecatations and then subsequent behavior, and operate as a team. Then just about anything is possible, including having kids at a young age while less established financially.
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Very good points Squirrel! We were lucky in that my husband and I both had very similar goals. I did work a few years in the beginning, but quit the minute we could afford it.

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Jenna March 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm

My mom always tells me, “Even if you are thinking about having kids – start saving money for college.” I was definitely bless to have parents that helped me pay for school, but I’m pretty sure I blew through my college fund and my brothers…

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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Jenna- so did your brothers get to go to college?

I know I will not have enough for college for all 3 kids ahead of time. We will help where we can, but I think they will be absorbing some of the cost.

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Jenna March 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm

@Kris – Yeah, he stayed in state though and had good grades and plays a sport. My parents definitely lucked out there.

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First Gen American March 2, 2011 at 1:25 pm

My decision to wait until my 30′s was as much an emotional decision as a financial one. I knew a lot of young parents who were resentful that they gave up their own lives to raise their kids. “I never got to go anywhere or see anything.”

I didn’t like the idea of resenting my kids, so I was selfish and waited, and traveled and paid off debt and built a career. Although our life has majorly changed and it will be a few more years before our kids can start doing all the things we used to do, I definitely have no regrets. I’ve already checked off a bunch of things off the bucket list before the little whipper snappers came along so now I don’t feel like I have to make the choice between them and me. I’m happy to give my time to them.

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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm

First Gen, sounds like you found the perfect balance for yourself! Before you know it, they will be old enough to do the things you want to do, believe me!

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Lindy Mint March 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I had my first at 27, unplanned, we were in grad school, so totally were not financially ready. With our second we waited until the finances had stabilized a bit. So really, I experienced both scenarios. I’m actually glad we had #1 when we weren’t ready because it forced us to grow up and become real responsible adults.

Geez, I better open up a savings account for those teen years!
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Some of the best things in life are unplanned surprises, that is for sure!!

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Dr Dean March 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Kids can never be “afforded”. They can, however, break the bank. Finding the balance between the two is the key.

After school activities should be limited, not on financial grounds, but on family health grounds.

I have seen too many Moms in my office with emotional breakdowns trying to keep up with all the activities their kids had scheduled. No time for meals together, or husband wife down time.

Kids can be well adjusted without 4 hours of paid for structured activities everyday….
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Dr. Dean, balance is definitely key. I am not sure if I struck a balance or not. What is so time consuming for us is the school sports right now. High school basketball is a killer! With 2 playing, it is definitely hard to get family meal times together during the week as they both have 2 games a week. However, the rest of the year, dinner is a priority.

I too have seen those moms that are so frazzled because of over committing. Not just for their kids, but for themselves too.

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Money Reasons March 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm

We waited until we had a house. It was still tight, but we wanted out child to grow up in a house so that they could have a nice stable childhood (something I didn’t have).

I hear you on expensive! My son just got braces yesterday which cost over $1,000! My daughter wants to take advanced gymnastic lessons, and learn to play the piano and horseback lessons, and soccer, and… Did I mention that she’s now 7… The funny thing is she’s pretty good at everything she has tried so far!
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm

MR – it is nice to have a house for the kids, that is for sure.

How did you get away with braces for only a thousand dollars? Or, is it just phase 1?

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Sandy H @ Journey To Our Home March 2, 2011 at 7:18 pm

We did not decide to have children, it just happened with #1. What a happy accident, that we rushed into #2. But we were in no way financially ready to have either one of them! And we’re doing just fine. They haven’t made my husband grow up at all either!

Quick story- a friend of mine was trying to have a baby. After three months she has decided she doesn’t want another child because of the financial ramifications. But now she thinks she IS pregnant- I told her, it doesn’t matter if you are financially ready to have a baby, when you have one you figure it out.

I elected to double my drive time for private school this year. I had never thought about how paying for gas for my kids to go to school would really affect our budget before I had kids!
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Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Sandy, you are very right. When the baby comes along, you just adjust since you just don’t have a choice.

Gas prices have really hurt our budget, that is for sure!

So glad things are working out for you and your two kiddos!

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Evan March 2, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Mine is 3 months as of yesterday…and I have actually saved a lot of money since he was born lol
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Kris March 3, 2011 at 9:29 am

Keep on saving Evan, you will need it! :)

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Little House March 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

I’ve put off having kids for over a decade now and now I’m getting to the point where I think I might have pushed the age-limit too far. Now, instead of the cost of children frightening me, I’m now terrified that because my husband and I are right on the cusp of 40, something will be medically wrong with our baby if we decided to have one. We’re discussing adopting, but that again gives me an excuse to put having kids off a couple of more years. I’m beginning to think I’m just full of excuses.
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MoneyIsTheRoot March 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Great article…and something for me to think about considering that time in my life is approaching ever so closer. Thought I must admit, this article scares me a tad lol. I posted a recent article on my new personal finance blog regarding money and relationships, definitely a good thing to get into, cause like you said, kids are expensive.

http://www.moneyistheroot.com

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Yakezie March 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Thank you for your perspective! I’ve been wondering about the costs, b/c studies have shown that lower income families have many more kids than higher income families. So perhaps, kids aren’t actually that expensive, otherwise, one wouldn’t have so many kids? I donno. I plan to write a post about this.

Thanks again for your insights. I wonder if college makes things more expensive.

Sam
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Monroe on a Budget March 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm

The nickle and dime gets worse in high school. Wait until you are discussing class rings, yearbooks, charity projects adopted by the student clubs, varsity jackets and prom dresses.

In my experience, the financial logistics ease up when they start college. One has a better idea at that point of what expenses to expect on a per semester basis, and you can discuss in advance what is the kids’ responsibility vs. what is the parents.

That being said …

Did I wait until I could “afford” a kid? Define “afford.” I was married, working full time, her dad was PT work and attending college, we were renting. Technically we could not afford everything that some parents expect to be able to provide.

But at that point our finances were stable and the future had good prospects. So we thought it was good timing.

That being said … I soon ended up divorced and spent a few years as a single mom. Lesson: you can’t plan everything.
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retirebyforty March 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I’m 37 and just had our first (and only) child. Thanks for outlining what we’ve got to look forward to. :)
Wow, sports cost so much money. It’s kind of ridiculous. I don’t think I will pay a lot of money for sports unless the kid is a prodigy at something. I guess we’ll see. Both of us are terrible at sports so I don’t have high hope there. Maybe golf…
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Kris March 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

RB40, sports costs can be ridiculous that is for sure. But whatever a child is interested in usually ends up costing money, be it horseback riding, art, piano, whatever. Oh, and golf… :)

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Invest It Wisely March 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Hope your son is doing ok, now. I agree that it seems that expenses mainly build up as time goes on. I’m not there yet, but definitely a lot to think about!
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Kris March 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for the well wishes. Unfortunately, my son relapsed over the weekend so he has to go through the whole thing over again. Hopefully this round of meds will work. Poor guy.

Start saving Kevin!!

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