Cost of raising a child reaches nearly a half-million

Father, Jason Jones, takes son, Kellen, 11, to baseball practice. Dan Watson/The Signal

With three children who each play a different sport, Santa Clarita couple Pearl and Jason Jones are very familiar with the growing costs associated with raising a child.

“Yes, raising kids is expensive — from soccer to football to baseball and basketball,” Pearl Jones said.

The Jones’ children include: MacKenzie, a 15-year-old who plays soccer; Kellen, an 11-year-old who plays both football and baseball; and Reese, a 6-year-old who now plays basketball and soccer.

The Jones always planned on having kids, though Jason thought they were financially ready after their second child was born.

“I’d like to say I was saving for it — but it doesn’t really work out that way,” Jason said.

As their oldest became more involved in sports and they decided to put her on a club soccer team, the Joneses began to realize the neverending cycle they were entering.

“It’s a time-sucking monster for most of the year,” he said, adding that Pearl is constantly dropping off and picking up their children.

Once MacKenzie began traveling for tournaments, the associated costs jumped, as they began having to purchase meals while traveling and sometimes, even stay overnight. “It all adds up.”

Now, the Joneses are discussing whether Reese will be playing club soccer.

“It’s $2,000 for the year — she’s 6,” Jason said. “Reese doesn’t consider it seriously at this age, and still thinks it’s playtime … so that’s one of the things I’m wrestling with right now.”

The Jones family isn’t alone, as having a child can add significant financial stress, being that the cost of raising a child is $233,610 for a two-parent, middle-income family from birth until age 17, and that’s excluding the cost of college, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Though there is no surefire answer, financial analyst Peggy Williams suggests those looking to prepare for a child start by analyzing their finances and saving at least six months worth of living expenses.

“Though it may sound like a lot, saving up can be a lifesaver when the baby is born and you want to take more time off of work or if, God forbid, there are any surprises,” Williams said. “You’ve got to hope for the best but, realistically, plan for the worst.”

And, the way to begin to understand how much exactly this will amount to is by getting a grip on where your money is currently going, Williams added.

“The first step for success is figuring out how much you typically spend,” she said. “That can help you estimate how those expenses will change after the baby arrives.”

A middle-income family can expect housing costs to account for the largest expense of raising a child at 29% while food is second at 18%, followed by child care and education coming in third at 16% and transportation close behind at 15%, per the USDA study.

“Those looking to have a child shouldn’t balk at those numbers too much though,” Williams added. “These spending habits are sure to naturally change as a child enters the relationship.”

While there will be new expenses, couples may then spend less on other expenses, such as entertainment and eating out, according to Williams.

Talking to family and friends can also help you understand a sense of what costs you should expect in your area.

When breaking it down by year, the USDA study found that expenses also increase as a child ages.

From birth until 2 years old, the average yearly cost is $12,680 and continues to steadily increase as the child ages. By the time they’re 9, that number has gone up to $13,180.

Skylie Polle, 8, displays two shirts she picked out for the first day of school at Old Navy in Stevenson Ranch. Dan Watson/The Signal

Teenagers not only have higher food costs, but also higher transportation costs, as these are also the years in which they begin driving, and a teen between the ages of 15-17 costs an average of $13,900 per year.

“Though I wouldn’t suggest completely ignoring that increase, I would suggest parents take it a step at a time,” Williams said. “Yes, those costs are going to increase as your child grows up, but your experience — both with raising your child and with managing your expenses — will also mature.”

In order to continue to be prepared for those costs, Williams suggests taking an account of your finances each month at first, then continuing to create a spending plan each year until your child has left the nest.

“Savings are key,” she added. “Children are a joy, but they’re also learning, just like you are. And, learning comes with mistakes. “(A savings) can give you the cushion you need to fall back on when life happens.”

As costs rise, the birthrate in the U.S. continues to decline, with rates reaching the lowest they’ve been in three decades, according to the 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 3,791,712 births were registered in the U.S. in 2018, down 2% from 2017, per the report. Data also showed that women are waiting longer to have children, as birthrates for teens age 15-19, as well as women in their 20s and early 30s, declined, while rates for women 35-44 increased slightly.

Williams attributes this change a direct response to the rising costs.

“As the younger generation begins to realize how much they’re going to be spending when they have a child, they’re realizing they need more time to prepare,” she said.

Though expensive, the Jones family certainly doesn’t regret their choices and thinks of those financial costs as money well spent.

MacKenzie is a sophomore at Saugus High School, and was affected by the recent shooting at the school that killed three and injured two others.

“Soccer was her distraction and helped her heal with the tragedy — it still does,” Pearl Jones said, adding, “and I will forever be grateful for that.”

The Wong family goes for a bike ride. From left, Teah, 5, Kylie, 10, Kieran and Stacey (cq) with Reece, 16 months in the bike seat. Dan Watson/The Signal

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