The Cost of Raising a Family

This morning I read a facebook status that said raising one child to the age of eighteen costs an average of $220,000.  I guess if you factor in loss of wages/child care/utilities/sports/classes/etc this might be true, but I don’t think raising a child has to be as expensive as most people think.


You know those endless lists of things the baby stores provide to “help” you prepare for your new little bundle of joy?  Completely unnecessary unless you like to shop and have the means to do so.  I’ve had four kids and I’ve whittled my list down to the bare basics by this point. If I were to have another baby I would need:

Cloth diapers and wipes

A baby toiletry kit

A dozen baby gowns and/or sleepers

A dozen little tshirts

A package of socks

A couple of hats

Several packages of blankets

A sling

A good quality carseat

And that’s it.  No need for a fancy stroller or nursery furniture.  And because I save baby clothes I can strike those off the list.  Except socks.  We never have socks.  The house fairies eat them.


Clothes- I love secondhand clothing- why buy new when your kids will probably ruin it anyway?  And over the years I’ve been gifted with large bags of clothing from friends with older children often enough that I’ve only had to buy about a quarter of the stuff my kids wear.

School- The same goes for our homeschool materials and supplies.  I’ve only had to purchase a few workbooks here and there. We have bookshelves full of books from friends and boxes full of craft supplies. We purchase yearly memberships to places like the zoo and stick to free and low-cost field trips.  I average less than $40 a month on homeschool projects/field trips.

Food- I have mastered the art of frugal cooking. Up until we moved to Missouri, I spent about $50 a week to feed six and sometimes seven people.  During the summer of 2009, I managed to feed us all for $25 a week for seven weeks while my husband switched jobs and we waited for a paycheck.  Now we can afford to spend more on luxuries and we certainly do- but I know if I had to, I could strip the food budget down to $50 again.

Space- We need less than you might think.  Our babies sleep in our bed so there is no need for a nursery, and the middle littles like to share a room- even now that we live in a large house, Patrick and Willow are still sharing a room by choice.  We’ve lived in some tiny places and had to get creative with space for Hannah over the years- in several apartments she has transformed large closets into her own personal space.

Lifestyle- I stay home so we don’t have the cost of child care. We have always been a one car family, which cuts the cost of fuel/insurance/upkeep. We don’t take fancy vacations. We don’t have cable.  We actually like being together- a fun night for us is a “camp out” in the living room with a big pile of mattresses, blanket forts and bowls of popcorn. For fun we go to the park.  Patrick and Willow have been to the movie theater once, but they know where all the best playgrounds are in our area.  The huz and I occasionally splurge on going out for a nice dinner.

I love our family, and I don’t regret our decision to have four children (and perhaps one more) even during our poorest times.  We made it work and we are stronger for it.  I’m not advocating for anyone to make the same choices we have, I’m just saying that you can live without many of the things people think are “necessities”.


  1. Magic and Mayhem Twitter: magicandmayhem says:

    I used to say all the same stuff. Then my kids got older. Now I have 5 kids and the oldest is into the teen years. Of course I don’t regret it and we still live quite frugally, but they are expensive. Not the number often quoted, but a heck of a lot more than your estimates.

    I cook from scratch, garden, can, shop CSA’s and farmers’ markets, shop at thrift stores, do without, make my own cleaning products, use Freecycle, cut my kids’ hair myself, etc. etc. etc. But my kids are old enough now that they do cost a lot more than I realized they would when they were little, period.

    Big kids eat a LOT and if I consider it important to feed my family healthy foods so that means lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (organic when possible), sustainable safe fish (my 4 y/o got an omega-3 deficiency from our largely vegetarian diet so I’ve realized the importance of fish for our family), healthy non-GMO oils, etc. I do it for a fraction of what it could cost, but it still is way more than $50 a week.

    We homeschool and make our own curricula but we are required to have annual testing, which costs. We also take part in conferences, classes and other great opportunities, which cost. My older kids have inexpensive laptops to use for school work. Some of my kids needed math programs and educational subscriptions past what I could find that was free. The educational materials add up.

    At least two of my kids need braces so far. We waited to see if their teeth would straighten out and my oldest can’t wait any longer since it’s causing her pain and harming her mouth. Braces for one kid are expensive. For four or five? It makes you a little sick to your stomach to think about it.

    They quickly outgrow shoes, snow boots, winter coats, jeans, etc. Even buying used, that adds up.

    If we’re out and about and want to eat fast food, that costs way too much with big kid appetites even with the dollar menu. Eating out at restaurants is ridiculously expensive. Those treats have to be things of the past.

    At least some of my kids will be going to college. Even with scholarships and grants, they’ll need to work to put themselves through and we will be unable to help in the ways we’d like to.

    When we go out of town, we can no longer legally all sleep in the same room and need to pay for two hotel rooms each night. That makes vacations super expensive, and travel is something we loved to do together as a family.

    Going to the movies when you have 5 kids? Ouch. Even at matinees at the cheap theaters it costs too much.

    Now we can’t even take part in a lot of the “family memberships” at places like our local children’s museum because it’s for up to 5 people per family and we have to pay additional entrance fees every time we visit.

    Even things like transportation change with a big family. We only have one vehicle but it has to be a minivan to legally fit all 7 of us, so buying a more gas efficient car is not an option.

    My kids coslept and shared rooms (some still do). We have a smallish house with one bathroom for 7 people. As kids get older they want/need more space. We are having to be very creative to make that happen, since a larger house isn’t an option for us.

    My kids are used to having to do without and live cheaply. All the same, I try to give them opportunities and let them follow their passions when possible. It all adds up — guitar lessons, art supplies, allowances, bikes, pool memberships, soccer, trips to stay with friends, even little things like vitamins, underwear, health and beauty products (teenage and preteen girls go through a lot of stuff you don’t think about! LOL)… and on and on.

    Babies are super cheap. I have one of those and she happily nurses and uses cloth diapers and wears darling clothes I got for pennies at thrift shops. But they grow up, and as they do, it is not really as cheap as we liked to believe back when they were little.

    I love my big family. I am so grateful for my children. They are worth the cost! But are they cheap? Nope! For us, the more they grow, the more they cost! :)

    Magic and Mayhem´s last post… Happy Leap Day!

  2. Oh I love your family!!! This sounds like my dream family.. I have always said the same thing too – that raising kids doesn’t have to be so pricey!

  3. Ashleigh says:

    THANK YOU! I’ve been saying this to people for years but it seems like most gals are obsessed with having that “perfect nursery” kind of experience. A neighbor of mine is pregnant and boxes are delivered to her house at least 3-4 times a week. My youngest is 2 and I’m like “I can give you all that you’ll need for FREE!!!” More love, less stuff. Great post!

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge