According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it can cost more than $200,000 to raise a child these days - and that's just up until age 17, even though many large expenses faced by parents (such as college tuition) come after that point.
The government's figure only includes basic essentials like housing, food and healthcare. It's easy to imagine how the figure would skyrocket if you started adding in extras and luxury items. Which is why parents need to cut corners wherever they can - and you can start with items like these that your kids can easily live without. (Deciding whether to leave an inheritance for your children impacts the amount you save. Learn more, in Leaving Inheritance To Children Easier Said Than Done.)

IN PICTURES: Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues

Junk Food
Dr. Michael Applebaum of Chicago said, "From a financial side, eating healthily is cheaper than eating unhealthily. And it sure is cheaper to keep a kid safe from the ravages of overweight/obesity than it is to rescue and repair them later."

Not to mention, fast food and junk food tends to be among the most expensive items in the grocery store. (If you keep to your planned list of needed foods, you won't be tempted when you get forced down the junk food aisle to get at the milk. Find out more, in 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Prices.)

Electronic Games and Gadgets
Okay, this one might get an argument from parents as well as kids, but some parenting experts say it is possible - and beneficial - for kids to live without high-tech toys. Sheri Wallace, editor of Road Trips for Families, is wrapping up the tail-end of a six-week family road trip, one that involved no DVD players or other electronics, with the exception of GPS units for geocaching activities.

"Based on the past few weeks, I can say that kids definitely don't need these gadgets," says Wallace, adding, "This trip is going to change a lot of the purchases in our house."

Over-the-Top Sweet-16 Parties
Despite what they see on TV, most kids don't need a gigantic blowout for their 16th birthday. Many parents go all out and end up with a party that costs the same as a wedding, with total bills in the tens of thousands, including DJs, hall rentals and extravagant gifts.

"If you're paying for it until they're 21, it really isn't worth it," says Jen Singer, editor-in-chief of "They'll survive with a cake at the roller rink. Really." (It's an international phenomenon: the kids that won't go away. Read more, in Why Some Kids Never Leave The Nest.)

Personal Sports Training
In recent years, it's become trendy for parents to hire sports trainers - perhaps even retired pro athletes - to get their kids in shape or sharpen their skills on the field. This is another high-priced indulgence you can easily cut from your budget, Singer says. "Some of the best soccer players in the world came from some of the poorest neighborhoods in their countries, thereby proving that all you need is a ball and a passion for sports to get ahead."

New Halloween Costumes
Your child won't want to be the same thing two years in a row, so this is a one-time use item that's often not worth the cost. Jessica Katz of says, "There comes a Halloween frenzy - people are already securing their costumes now." At an average price of around $50 new, Halloween costumes are something you should buy on eBay or at a consignment store, Katz says. (It's Halloween, and adults and children alike have been browsing costume shops for teeth, fake scars and the occasional severed hand - but who are the real monsters? Read The Ghouls On Wall Street to find out.)

Baby Shoes & Designer Duds for Pre-Schoolers
If your little one is not even walking yet, there's no reason you need to buy expensive shoes. "I have spent a fortune on baby shoes for my seven-month-old daughter," says Katz, who estimates the average cost for the most popular styles of baby shoes are around $30. "The shoes just fall off anyway, and the baby outgrows them every two or three months."

And while we agree, those trendy denim-looking diapers may look cute, your baby doesn't know the difference. Plain old regular diapers work just as well, and are easier on your budget. Same thing goes for toddler clothes by famous designers. Unless your child hangs with some pretty sophisticated youngsters, it's unlikely they will care what label is on his jeans.

The Bottom Line
It's expensive enough to raise a child. Don't add to the cost by springing for trendy or frivolous stuff your child doesn't need. (If your retirement plan hasn't worked out, at least your children can learn from your mistakes. Read Retirement Lessons To Teach Your Children to find out more.)

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Google Gains, Taxpayers Pay.

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    6 Cost-Effective Tips for Raising Your First Child

    The excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
  2. Stock Analysis

    Top 3 Stocks for the Coming Holiday Season

    If you want to buck the bear market trend by going long on consumer stocks, these three might be your best bets.
  3. Investing News

    This is the Fastest-Growing Consumer Complaint

    There’s no way to guarantee that your Social Security number won’t fall into the wrong hands. Here are some ways to make yourself less of a target.
  4. Investing Basics

    Tiny House Movement: Making Market Opportunities

    The tiny house movement throws all assumptions about household budgeting and mortgage management out the window, and creates new market segments too.
  5. Budgeting

    Top 7 Money Saving Tips for Eating Out

    Discover seven money-saving options available to consumers who are looking to partake in the luxury of dining out while cutting down on cost.
  6. Economics

    What's the Velocity of Money?

    The velocity of money measures the rate at which money goes from one transaction to another in an economy.
  7. Investing News

    3 Stocks to Play a Falling Unemployment Rate

    Three stocks to consider as the unemployment rate falls.
  8. Economics

    What are the Four Ps?

    The four Ps of the marketing mix are product, price, place and promotion.
  9. Home & Auto

    7 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying an Engagement Ring

    Understand why the purchase of an engagement ring is so important. Learn about seven key mistakes to avoid when purchasing an engagement ring.
  10. Insurance

    What Does It Cost To Raise a Child in America?

    Having a family can be an expensive proposition, but couples who know the numbers can strategize to lower the costs.
  1. Can my IRA be garnished for child support?

    Though some states protect IRA savings from garnishment of any kind, most states lift this exemption in cases where the account ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Is Japan an emerging market economy?

    Japan is not an emerging market economy. Emerging market economies are characterized by low per capita incomes, poor infrastructure ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Are Social Security payments included in the US GDP calculation?

    Social Security payments are not included in the U.S. definition of the gross domestic product (GDP). Transfer Payments For ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What economic indicators are important to consider when investing in the retail sector?

    The unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rank as two of the most important economic indicators to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do alimony and child support factor into my taxable income?

    The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, applies a different tax treatment to alimony than child support. Most forms of alimony ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do changes in interest rates affect the spending habits in the economy?

    Changes in interest rates can have different effects on consumer spending habits depending on a number of factors, including ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  2. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  3. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  4. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
  6. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's costs of production by assessing the input costs of each step ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!