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How Much does It Cost to Raise a Child in the United States?

Raising a child in the United States is a significant financial commitment, with costs averaging $233,610 until age 17, excluding college. This includes housing, food, healthcare, and education. However, expenses vary widely based on location, lifestyle, and personal choices. Curious about how these costs break down and ways to manage them? Let's delve deeper into the economics of parenting.
Katharine Swan
Katharine Swan

It can be very expensive to raise a child in the United States. For example, according to one online calculator, it costs almost $200,000 US Dollars (USD) to raise a child from birth to age 18. Other sources estimate the cost at $250,000 USD or more. For parents who put their kids through college, tuition can add as much as $10,000 USD or more to that estimate.

Although this may seem like an unaffordable amount of money, keep in mind that the cost of raising children is spread out over almost two decades. Divided equally by 18 years, raising child will cost you roughly $11,000 USD per year. If you have two children, it will theoretically cost you about $22,000 USD per year to raise them, and so on. However, keep in mind that the first 11 or 12 years of each child’s life will most likely be more expensive than the teen years, because daycare expenses usually go away at age 12.

Buying or renting a larger home can add to the expense of raising a child.
Buying or renting a larger home can add to the expense of raising a child.

Fortunately, many of these expenses are ones that smart families can avoid, dramatically lowering what it costs to raise a child. For example, the online calculator estimates an expense of $2,900 USD per year for a bigger home. If you can find a bigger home that suits your needs for only $700 USD more a year, it will drop the total expense down to $150,000 USD. If you parent a child in the same size home you have now, you’ll spend under $140,000 USD.

Likewise, the calculator includes an annual cost of $1,250 USD for a bigger car. However, many families can raise a child using the cars they already have, which saves around $15,000 USD over a period of 18 years.

In many jurisdictions, car seats are required for babies and small children, representing an additional expense.
In many jurisdictions, car seats are required for babies and small children, representing an additional expense.

Other costs of raising children are negotiable, too. For instance, breastfeeding for the first year of your baby’s life could save you a thousand dollars or more in groceries. Making your own baby food — which is actually quite simple — can also save you hundreds of dollars. Savvy shoppers should also be able to clothe their child for well under the allotted $600 per year.

Buying a family car, like a minivan, can add to the annual costs of child rearing.
Buying a family car, like a minivan, can add to the annual costs of child rearing.

The recreation category provides another way you can save money while raising children. There are many free or low-cost ways to entertain your kids. Trips to the library and the park, picnics, and school and community events are all great free or low-cost outings for you and your child. Also, don’t forget that children have great imaginations, and can easily entertain themselves with the toys they already have.

Making baby food at home can save money.
Making baby food at home can save money.

Although at first glance it seems very expensive to raise a child in the United States, in reality, many of the costs are unnecessary, and can be avoided by financially savvy parents. By cutting or eliminating some of the expenses as described here, you should be able to cut the cost of raising children nearly in half.

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Discussion Comments


Post 7. you don't need more help. You might need more money, but you don't need more help. There's a big difference.

Here are a few ways anyone can cut costs: Use cloth diapers instead of disposables, use cloths instead of disposable wipes, napkins, tissues and rags. Don't buy changing tables, play mats, sippy cups and so on. When I was growing up, we had none of those things and we didn't need them.

Allow your child to take part in paying for things. A high school kid or a college student is plenty old enough to work part time and buy their own clothes, car, gas, extracurricular activities, etc., and part of their tuition, if not all of it. It gives them a sense of responsibility and self confidence.

If you spend an enormous amount of money on your kids, you're doing them and yourself an great injustice.

You don't need a bigger house and you certainly don't need to buy baby food. Children don't eat much so you should see your grocery budget increase slowly -- certainly not $15 a day, as Poster 18 said. Where do you live, anyway? Or maybe you feed them steak and lobster for breakfast.

Anyway, raising kids isn't nearly as expensive as they say, so don't compare your income to that outgo and feel sorry for yourself.


I'm thinking most of you either cannot perform basic math or you don't have children. Children do not cost anywhere near $200,000. More like $5,000 over 12 years.

Where do the crazy high numbers come from? People who are factoring in the cost of college, private school K-12, a brand new BMW at age 16, vacations in the Bahamas, sit-down restaurant meals twice a day, etc.

Think about it. Who has the most children? Poor people. How do poor people making $15 an hour or less afford children if they cost $200k - $500k to raise?

People who are waiting to "save money" to have children, are too stupid to have children and should probably just sterilize themselves to save us all from their lack of common sense.


Wow post 19. I hope you don't plan on having any children with disabilities. That wasn't in my plan either. I went from a full time hard working adult with substantial savings, to a broke single mom relying on the system with an autistic son in tow. Good luck to you! And I hope your odds are better than mine!


There is a difference between a hand out and assistance. I am 24 yrs old. I work a full time job 8-5 mon - fri and work a second job waitressing on the weekends. I have a one and a half year old son. He is enrolled in daycare mon-fri and the state helps pay for his childcare so I pay a discounted rate. I also receive 165 a month for food. But I am in a program so I will be completely independent by the time my son is 4.

There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help when it is needed. I wouldn't call it a hand out when I have been working full time since the age of 15 and have definitely paid my fair share of taxes. And like my mother told me "if you haven't put enough money into taxes, I have." There's a difference in someone who works hard every day but just doesn't make enough who needs some assistance until they make it to the next level and someone who waits on a check and makes excuses. But me not making tons of money does not make me any less of a parent or made me less "ready" to have a child.

I believe being ready for a child is a mind set, not a financial situation. When there's a will, there's a way. And children watching you struggle and work hard for what you provide them teaches them *way* more *values* than spoiling them and giving them everything they want because you waited to save all of your money to have kids.

It may be easier to be completely well off before having children, but it is nowhere near as rewarding. My son will have everything I never had and will respect me for it because he will see the work that goes in to it.

There's no actual price on how much it takes to raise a child. Throughout your child's life you will identify their wants and needs and find a way to go get it accordingly.


This may sound cruel, but if you can't afford to have kids and are going to rely on the government for help, maybe you should think twice about having kids.

My wife and I are just now starting to try to conceive and the reason we waited until we were in our thirties is we knew we couldn't give our children a decent life on our income at the time. We don't believe in handouts and government help, as this is why our government and economy are so screwed up today. There are too many people with their hands out wanting more and it's us hard working, taxpaying people who foot the bill for somebody who doesn't plan these things out.

I understand that things happen out of our control and it's nice to have the help out there, but the ones who take advantage of the system make me sick.


Wow, I must live in a very different world. I used one of these online calculators and came up with over $876,000, and we have one child. (and that's just until age 18. My son is looking to got to NYU film school for $240,000.)

Childcare: my wife worked full time; so we needed full time help at $20,000/ year.

Groceries: I can't imagine how one can feed a child on less than $15/day (and that's if all meals are at home). O.K., let's figure $5,000/ year.

Clothes cost us at least $1,000/ a year until age 12, but now that cost is much higher. His school sent home a note that we should send him to a Model UN conference with three suits, four dress shirts and four ties. I would guess that even carefully shopping sales, we will spend $2,500 this year.

Let me forget a bigger home and car, and count those as zero.

Recreation: I have never added this up, but summer camps and programs are expensive. Last summer, he went to a three-week film camp in New York, and it was $5,500 not including air fair or spending money. About $4,000 per summer is average.

From age 7-15 he fenced, and between lessons, coaching, equipment and travel, we were spending over $10,000 per year. (He has friends who compete worldwide who are spending $20,000 per year)

His filmmaking costs money, too. The camera, lenses, lights and sound equipment were over $7,000, and films have production costs.

Health insurance for him is about $275/month and his meds are another $300 a month. We have a $5,000 deductible so his health costs are about $10,000 per year.

Now we'll get to the big money: education! My son's high school is over $30,000/ year, not including books, fees, lunch, extra curricular activities, and "annual giving."

In truth, the $850,000 figure is lower than what we spent, and I have child that asks for nothing. If I ask him what he wants for him birthday, he says "Nothing. I have all I need." He does not want a car. He says, "Why, I can just take a city bus." I sent him to NYC with the recommended $600, and he came home with $520.

As for "keeping up with the Joneses," it's not something I think about, in part because I can't. My son has friends whose fathers have their own jets and live in $20+ million dollar homes. He has a friend who doesn't just go on a cruise; they own a fleet of cruise ships (as a side business). These people make more in a month than I will in my lifetime, so no, I'm not pretending to keep up with them. My wife and I work hard to provide every opportunity we can for our child. A child I love and spend over 40 hours/week with enjoying each moment. He is a child who "gets" how hard we work for him, and repays us by doing five hours a night of homework, getting amazing grades in an extremely competitive school, winning awards and being the most empathetic child I've ever met.


I can't believe people on here are whining about how much or little money they are "given" via state or child support. Wahh.

And @ whoever said "no one wants to do that" RE:coupons/sales: think again! Couponing is taking off like never before.

My family of five survives off of about $50k/year. That includes $1100 or so /month in daycare for one kid, and after school care for another, and an in-home sitter for the baby. We don't own a home, so we pay rent of $775/month. Utilities comes to around $400/month and car payment, insurance and gas are about $500/month. That leaves us with a very tight grocery budget, which is why I coupon and only buy what is on sale. I aim for less than $400/month in groceries. I receive $64/week in child support from my six year old's father.

We have no money left at the end of the budget for fun things, but we make do. We go to parks. We buy a zoo membership annually, which costs $100 and is good all year. We only qualify for WIC which we use for baby formula as my breastfeeding days are done.

People need to keep in mind the number in this article is an average. Tweak it, and make it work for you and your family, and for God's sake, please stop complaining about any assistance you do receive. Remember, there are some people out there who receive none. P.S., I live in Florida. It is insanely expensive to live here.


and here I thought to use this website as a wanna be parent, not because I'm not getting enough money for child support.


It's true you can cut costs if you can live in a smaller home, but if you have a home before a divorce and still live in the same home, it's harder than ever to pay for it. If you haven't noticed, the housing market stinks!

If I tried to sell my home, I'd pay for someone else to live here or it would sit empty, I would not have a home to live in either. I wouldn't be able to get another for 7-10 years. I think it's a shame whenever some people make it sound so simple--it's not.


I have three kids. My spouse also pays child support. I think the child support is way too high for one child. The amount he pays a month for one, I don't pay that much for the three of mine.

I don't have to have a huge house. I live in a town house. Each of my kids has their own room. Their rooms aren't huge. But most of the time you just sleep in it. Even when I was a teenager, my room wasn't huge.

I wasn't home over half the time, and when I was I slept in it, or watched TV. So if you need a bigger house, is up to you but you don't have to have one. That comes down to a want and not a need. Bigger ain't always better.

You can cut food costs, if you really want to. They have sales and there are coupons. Using both combined is huge savings. But it takes time for that. Nobody wants to do that.

As for clothes, you can get great prices for clothes as well. Name brand at its best. I have bought my three kids summer and school clothes, which included stuff for winter clothes for less than 100 bucks. The ways to save money are out there. It's all a matter if you want to do it or not.

My kids also play sports. The sports I think depend where you live. There are discounts as well when it comes to that, if you have more than one child. Once again you have to look into that.

A bigger car. When my youngest was born all we had was a two door escort. We bought a van and it was used and we still have it to this day, six years later.

Health care is just one of those things. I think it would be cheaper if people didn't go for every little thing. Heaven forbid, what do you folks think people did back in the day. Then it drives the cost up. There are ways to pay for cheaper health care as well.

Where my husband works at there is a program called healthy life style. If you enroll you pay less for your health care. If where you work at doesn't do it, maybe that's something you could bring up to them.

We pay a little more when sports are in season for gas. I also don't have to have a SUV that sucks up gas either. Goes back to a want and not a need.

There is a difference between a child's want and needs. An eight year old doesn't need a cell phone. When I was young, you got stuff for your birthday, Christmas, Easter, and clothes for school and summer if you needed them. I was fine having that.

When they're of age and they want something, make them work for it. You want it, you're going to work for it.

I saw where college was brought up. Not every kid is cut out for that. Most have no clue what they want to do for a living to start with and that includes many of adults now who still aren't doing what they want to do.

And if you look how things are going, people coming right out of college still can't get a job.

The bottom line: If you want to save and spend less to raise a child it can be done. People had more kids back in the day and made way less than we do now. But as a parent you have to decide the difference between the needs and the wants. And if you can't do that, expect to pay more.

Yeah, everything keeps going up but your pay. You don't have to fit in with the Joneses.

I'm also a stay home mom. Child care costs too much for us. I couldn't see paying someone else to pretty much raise my kids when I could do it myself. Some folks don't have a choice and that's understandable. But you can save a huge chunk of money if you decide that. I also do plan on going back to work.

You don't always have to be a stay home mom. You can still give a child a good life without forking over a lot of cash.


tuition costs are easily more than $10,000, even in-state at any major university. These figures are all pretty conservative.


i only get $300 a month per child a month to raise my kids. Well school clothes, pictures, sports, gifts for birthdays, theirs and their friends, holidays, doctors bills. But hey, my bring home of $500 every two weeks and his 900 a month barely feeds them, keeps them clothed and the roof over their head with water and electric. but pa domestic relations thinks that's too much.


i have two kids and i only get 720.00 a month and DSS said i get too much money. the only thing they give me is 374.00 in food. they think this is a lot of money i get. i am disabled and i have to do the best with what i have. it's hard on me and my kids so someone tell me where can i get more help.


And exactly where can you find an investment with a return of 12 percent?


A kid actually costs over half a million dollars. Instead of feeding the kid three times a day times 365 days a year times 20 years, you could have invested that same $500 a month at 12 percent and after 20 years you will have over half a million dollars. If you doubt the math then you could look up "savings calculator".

So the question becomes would you use protection to get over $500,000 -- half a million dollars?


The price is also a lot higher if you add the cost of extracurricular activities such as football and cheerleading. Just competitive cheering for a young girl can cost about $1,600 per year.


it cost a little more than that to raise a child if you include all their wants, needs, && college fees.

Im only 13 years old and my parents have probably spent more than 200,000 dollars on me && my sisters

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      Buying or renting a larger home can add to the expense of raising a child.
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