Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's the cost?

I have read so many articles saying it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to raise a child to age 18 (not including college costs) and I have to admit that large number scared me.  What if I couldn't come up with that much money?  Would I be a bad mom if I couldn't buy everything my child wanted?  I wonder if the huge cost associated with raising a child deters people from having any kids at all.  Then on the other side of the coin...

I have known people who add it up like this:  diapers + wipes = $100/mo.  Hey, I can afford a child!  Boy do they have a suprise coming their way :)

Anyway, I sat down to try to unravel this mystery (to me at least) of how much it is actually going to cost me to raise Will, and any other children we may have.  These are some of the thoughts I came up with.

These things are the obvious categories, cost of the birth, diapers, wipes, formula, clothes, baby supplies, extra food, baby-sitters, and day care costs, which can be huge.  I think we keep our expenses minimal, but these costs can be $2000 a month or more for some families!  That number is scary and I don't even know how we would begin to find that much extra in our budget every month.  Chris and I both would have to donate plasma and work nights. 

Will cost way more then planned just to enter the world.  Being a premie he required a 2 week NICU stay and lots of interventions (feeding tube, ventilator to breath, tubes in his belly for blood access, etc...) and ended up costing more then $130,000.  Of course, we didn't pay that much because of insurance, but we still ended up paying $8500 when I had only planned for $1500, so that was a shock to say the least.  Next time, I'm planning for the maximum out of pocket just in case something like this happens again.

Anyway, we do several things to keep our costs down.  One of them being, use store brand diapers (we us Target's Up&Ups).  Instead of paying $39.99/box for an expensive brand that will remain nameless, we pay $14.69 for the same number of diapers that work just as well.  We (meaning me, because this was not a good idea to Chris) also looked into cloth diapering to save money.  For us, it ended up not being worth it.  We spend less then $20/mo on diapers, so for 3 years (36 months) @ $20/mo we figured we'll spend roughly $720 in diapers.  Cloth would have been between $400-$600 over the same period, but not nearly as convenient, so we choose sposies.  Some also use cloth washable wipes - I couldn't even convince myself to look into that one, but if it works for you more power to you.  You definitely save more then I do.  I have recently learned that not all wipes are created equal, and in the never-ending journey to find ways to save money we bought a different store-brand of wipes (in bulk) and I hate them.  Now we have several containers of wipes that I can't wait to go through to go back and get some more from Target. 

As far as formalu goes, I nursed Will so that was not a cost for us, but I understand some people can't or don't want to breastfeed their babies, so they can expect to pay $80-$100 a month for formula.  If you are nursing your baby and haven't found this wonderful website, do yourself a favor and check out kellymom.

Once they hit 6 months or so they also start eating "solid" foods which only adds to the grocery budget.  Here is helpful hint I got when Will started eating solids - make them yourself.  What a novel idea that was for me.  You can make your own baby food!?!  It was so easy and inexpensive that I couldn't imagine doing it any differently now.  A great website for information is http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/.  There is so much information on types of food, how to prepare it, how much your child will eat... Can you tell I loved this website?

Clothes can be a HUGE expense for kids for two main reasons.  One, they grown so fast that they can only wear the clothes a few times before they need the next size, and two, baby clothes are so cute they all are just begging to be bought by me.  Um, I mean... well I guess you now know one of my weaknesses. (blush)  But really, Will grows so fast that we need something it seems like every other week.  We have found a great children's consignment shop called Once Upon a Child near us that sells gently used, name-brand clothing for a fraction of the price of new.  They will even buy back the clothes once your child outgrows them and either give you cash or credit for "new" clothing in bigger sizes.  They also sell baby gear such as highchairs, cribs, matresses, etc... but I didn't find them to be that good of a deal.  I found some things cheaper at Walmart with a coupon.  Also, they don't buy back or sell onesies at all, but those you can find for next to nothing if you don't go the designer onesie route.

We got really lucky with baby supplies because of all of the baby shower love we were shown.  We received Will's crib, carseat and stroller system, highchair, bath supplies, and all almost all clothes through 9 months as gifts, so that helped a ton.  On a side note, we have a bunch of stuff for our daughter Elyona (if we ever have her) because when we had our first baby shower we thought Will was going to be a girl.  Who knew?!?  Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  I have found during this first year of Will's life that our best friend - besides Target - is the Baby Depot at Burlington Coat Factory.  We got Will's crib matress, canopy stroller, some clothes, bath stuff and bedding here for fabulous prices.  They also send out coupons routinely and have repeat customer incentives.  If you haven't been before you should go check them out.

We are extremely blessed by the fact that we have no daycare costs (financially anyway).  I work 7 days in a row, but then I'm off for 7 days, so Chris and I are able to juggle our work schedules around so one of us can always be with Will.  It has worked out great so far, but for those of you who have to pay for daycare, I am so sorry.  Not that I don't think daycare can't be a great thing: your child is getting structure and socialization, but I have friends paying $1300/month and that just makes me ill inside.  No wonder so many people only have one child, or have them 5-6 years apart.  That daycare bill (for 1 child) is twice as much as my mortgage!

Whew!  Kids are expensive!  Well, at least we have every - little - thing covered.  NOT!  I have learned there are all kinds of hidden costs as well; not all of them necessarily financial.  My health insurance almost doubled adding in a child.  I didn't even think about that before I got pregnant.  At least it is now employee + family, so it won't go up just by adding more kids now, so we may as well have a bunch right?
Are you planning on paying for college?  Some of it?  All of it?  Public universty or Private Christian College?  These are things, unless you make WAY more then I do, that you have to start planning for when kids are young.  I don't see anyway possible, aside from an act of God, that Chris and I will be able to pay 100% for Will's college, and I am ok with that.  Don't get me wrong; I spent several months freaking out about student loans and how we were going to be able to afford to send Will + ? to school, but then I realized we needed to get our retirement on track first.  We made the decision, as a couple, that it is more important for us not to be a financial burden on our kids in our retirement years, then it is to fully pay for their college.  They can take out loans for college, we can't for retirement.  So, with that thought in mind, I have relaxed a little and come to terms with the fact that there is only so much we can do, and we are going to do 100% of that.

Another thing to think about is your career track.  Before having Will I always thought I was on the management track.  I was going that direction for school; I was working my way up at work by always being early, taking any and all extra days offered, staying late if asked, taking on extra assignments, etc...  Now that I'm Will's mom it is hard for me to stay a minute past 5pm, working extra days is out for the most part - mainly because Chris works when I'm off so it wouldn't be fair for me to take a bunch of extra days and give him less time to work, but also because I want to be with my family as much as possible and don't want to work more then I already do.  Actually, I'd love to go part-time if it were a possibility for me.  So, I think for now anyways, I'm safely off the straight to management path.  That doesn't really cost me anything right this minute, but my long term earning potential is probably suffering.

Another cost is time.  Time for yourself, time for your spouse, time for anything really.  It is so so SO important to make time for your spouse and for yourself.  It doesn't have to be much, but being a parent can't be your whole identity.  It took a while but I finally learned this one.  Chris and I now have a monthly date night, and Will's bedtime is 7:30pm so we are also able to have some alone time almost every day.  I don't have much "me-time" but I do make sure that every once in a while I am able to sleep in, or just spend an extra 30 minutes getting ready while Chris keeps Will entertained downstairs... these things help alot.

After sitting down and adding up what Will is going to cost over the course of his life I came to one conclusion... He is worth every penny and so much more.  Thank you God for my little man.

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