It's no secret that raising a child is expensive. A 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture report indicates that the average family spends a eye-popping $241,080 on the average child from birth to age 18.
What is perhaps more surprising is where that money goes.
"I knew it was going to cost more," says Stephanie Morgan, a mother of two from Big Rapids, Mich. "But I thought it would be day care and diapers."
Instead, she's been surprised at how much she's spent on food, medical and miscellaneous expenses in the three years since her son was born.
Here are 10 hidden costs of parenting for which prospective mothers and fathers should prepare.
1. Breast-feeding
Although definitely cheaper than feeding formula, breastfeeding isn't necessarily a freebie.
"Everyone loves to say that it's free, but it actually isn't," says Amanda, a blogger who prefers her real name not be used. "There are a ton of hidden costs like pumps, nursing covers and even extra food for the nursing mom."
Amanda, who had to pump exclusively after complications with her son, added up her expenses and found that breastfeeding cost her more than $750 in total.
2. Food
"Food is a bigger cost than I expected," says Morgan, whose oldest is only three years old.
Indeed, the USDA found there wasn't as much of a difference between the annual price of feeding a 3-year-old and the annual price of feeding 13-year-old as you might think. According to the department, food costs break down as follows for each stage of life.
0-2: $1,430
3-5: $1,530
6-8: $2,150
9-11: $2,460
12-14: $2,640
15-18: $2,630
Note that while your 2-year-old will be substantially smaller than most 18-year-olds, the corresponding break in food costs between the two ages won't be nearly as significant.
3. Home repairs
Little children can often lead to big house repairs, says Robert Nickell, a father of seven and founder of the apparel company Daddy & Co.
"Home repairs can often catch us by surprise as parents," he says. "Kids playing 'Handy Andy' with a toolbox can cause unwanted holes or gouges in walls or floors."
Then there are plumbing problems that occur when the wrong things are flushed down the toilet, not to mention stained carpets, ripped furniture and broken glass caused by wayward baseballs.
4. Impulse buys
Mindy Johnson of Grand Rapids, Mich. says impulse buys are another big expense she didn't expect. From cute clothes to the latest toys, she finds she's often spending more on her two children -- ages 1 and 3 -- than she anticipated.
"They are impulse buys," she says, adding peer pressure from other moms can sometimes lead to these purchases. "It's nothing they need, but society definitely portrays that kids should have those new outfits."
5. Medical bills
Medical bills may not be entirely unexpected, but many parents aren't ready for the number of times they find themselves opening their wallets.
Even though Morgan has health insurance, she was surprised at how quickly co-pays for office visits and prescription drugs add up.
Author and relationship expert April Masini adds that, for some couples, having kids in the first place can be expensive in and of itself.
"Let's not forget fertility treatments that can easily cost six figures," she says.
6. Holidays, parties and gifts
From an Elf on the Shelf to a first birthday extravaganza, parents today may feel pressured to provide the magical childhood they never had. Not only does that mean a lot of extra work, but it means lots of money being spent to make everything perfect. Even for families that resist the party culture, there are still birthday and holiday gifts to be purchased.
Children will also inevitably be invited to friends' parties, which means bringing the obligatory gift. If you have multiple children, expect multiple parties each year -- if not each month -- which means gift expenses can add up quickly.
7. Extracurricular activities
As children get older, their activities may evolve from playing ball in the dirt to playing ball in an actual ballpark. While most parents realize they may have to pay for sports or other activities, few are prepared for the size of the expense.
"Travel fees for sporting and related activities can make participation quite costly on top of registration fees and uniforms," says Nickell. "Dance and music-related activities can be just as costly with instrument costs, lessons and costumes."
It's not unusual for parents to spend hundreds of dollars on a single season. For children who excel and move on to more intense and competitive programs, the costs can stretch into the thousands.
8. Electronics
As Johnson has discovered, electronics are becoming the status quo at earlier and earlier ages. Both her 3-year-old and 1-year-old have their own tablet devices.
"For my daughter, we purchased it for her to work on her vision problems," Johnson explains. "For my 1-year-old, it was for educational (purposes) since the daycare he attends strongly encouraged kids have a tablet to work on."
9. College applications
Going to college isn't cheap and getting there can be expensive too, says Nickell.
"Application fees for colleges can be pricey," he notes. "Not to mention the costs to study for and take the standardized tests like the SAT and ACT."
10. Divorce
Although government data indicates that 40 to 50 percent of first marriages will end in divorce, many parents fail to consider how their divorce costs multiply with children. Not only are there added legal expenses to work out custody agreements, Masini says the overall cost of raising kids can double after a divorce.
"Divorce and custody issues are the biggest hidden cost in having children," she explains. "One household becomes two, and supporting two households where kids shuttle back and forth is twice as expensive."
While no one is suggesting that kids aren't worth the cost, parents should be prepared for their little ones' financial impact. They can start by building an emergency savings account to help them weather the costs of parenthood when -- not "if" -- they arrive.
Related Articles
  1. Insurance

    5 Ways to Lower Life Insurance Premiums

    Learn several effective methods for lowering life insurance premiums. These include quitting smoking and considering term life insurance.
  2. Budgeting

    The 7 Best Ways to Get Out of Debt

    Obtain information on how to put together and execute a plan to get out of debt, including the various steps and methods people use to become debt-free.
  3. Budgeting

    10 Ways to Save Money at the Farmers' Market

    Strategic shopping can help your budget as well as your health.
  4. Savings

    6 Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Stuff

    Those school-supply lists just keep getting longer each year. Here's how to shop smart.
  5. Home & Auto

    4 Areas to Consider Roofing Material Types

    Roofing your home is very important, that’s why you should choose a roof specifically designed to handle your area’s climate.
  6. Insurance

    How to Shop for Home Insurance

    Tips for getting the best protection for your place and possessions.
  7. Personal Finance

    Sending Money: MoneyGram vs. Western Union

    Comparing the differences between the services – and the fees.
  8. Budgeting

    The 5 Most Expensive States for Child Care

    To get a better sense of how child care costs can fluctuate, here's a look at the costs of child care across the country.
  9. Home & Auto

    Looking To Invest In Home Improvements?

    Some home improvement projects could cost you more to complete than they’ll pay out in equity. So, here we show you the worst projects to avoid.
  10. Fundamental Analysis

    Understanding the Internal Rate of Return Rule

    The internal rate of return rule is a popular method used to compare investments or projects.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's ...
  2. Internal Rate Of Return - IRR

    A metric used in capital budgeting measuring the profitability ...
  3. Linked Transfer Account

    Accounts held by an individual at a financial institution that ...
  4. Pension Risk Transfer

    When a defined benefit pension provider offloads some or all ...
  5. Foreign remittance

  6. Debt Consolidation

    The act of combining several loans or liabilities into one loan. ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does the trust maker transfer funds into a revocable trust?

    Once a revocable trust is created, a trust maker transfers funds or property into the trust by including them in a list with ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the range of deductibles offered with various health insurance plans?

    A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do I know how much of my income should be discretionary?

    While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What proportion of my income should I put into my demand deposit account?

    Generally speaking, aim to keep between two months and six months worth of your fixed expenses in your demand deposit accounts. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I use the rule of 72 to estimate compounding periods?

    The rule of 72 is best used to estimate compounding periods that are factors of two (2, 4, 12, 200 and so on). This is because ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

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!