Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Expensive Children?

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

A multitude of articles have been written recently about the massive costs involved in raising children. Estimates range between approximately $120000 and $600000 to raise one child to adulthood. As the mother of a larger family, that is not good news for me! When thinking about a lot of the expenses used in these calculations, though, I gratefully realised that our lifestyle allows us quality at a lesser price.

Money’s well-researched article on the costs parents are facing included a list from University of Queensland’s Dr Paul Henman. He divided the costs into 10 groups, listed below in descending order:

* housing
* childcare
* food
* energy
* clothing and footwear
* household goods and services
* leisure
* personal care
* transport
* health

How does a family save money on those criteria?

Housing –
* When choosing location, try to balance commuting and price
* If possible, with work and family commitments taken into consideration, a small town will generally offer better value for money housing
* Everyone doesn’t need their own room, take a tip from other cultures where sharing and multi-use rooms are the norm

Childcare –
* do the sums, is it cheaper to stay home while the children are little, at least part of the time?
* are you aware of all subsidies and refunds available to you for childcare?
* have you looked into all options for childcare?

Food –
* Grow your own
* Buy in bulk
* Cook from scratch
* Meal plan
* Save ‘treats’ for special occasions
* Don’t eat empty calories – price food items per kilo and learn where your money is better spent (eg: 1kg of potato crisps cost about $20, whereas a loaf of wholewheat bread costs only around $4 per kilogram – try to get some nutrition and value for your money).

Energy –
* teach good habits from a young age – eg: shorter showers, switching appliances off at the wall
* try to heat/cool fewer rooms by sharing spaces
* discuss energy use as a family, so everyone is responsible – it’s about treading lightly as well as the cost

Clothing and Footwear –
* for as long as possible try to use recycled clothing and handmade or altered items
* buy quality, make it last

Household Goods & Services – (includes education)
* wait – don’t rush out to get what you think you ‘need’
* look at all your options – consider secondhand goods, buy quality appliances to last, think about homeschooling (often described as the ultimate private education)

Leisure –
* don’t skimp on really important things, fun matters so make it quality fun!
* find cheap and free things to do as a family to strike a balance

Personal Care –
* looking good and feeling good are important, but needn’t cost a lot
* go for quality over quantity and learn some DIY beauty tricks – have a pamper session with friends or family
* stay away from products laden with chemicals – they’re not necessarily any more effective than cheap and natural alternatives, but they’re certainly more likely to cause problems for the person using them, or the planet

Transport –
*car pool
* maintain your vehicle so it lasts longer
* combine trips to save time and fuel

Health –
* prevention is better and cheaper than cure – eat well, look after your teeth, exercise and live a balanced life
* don’t skimp on health care, if everything else you have vanished into thin air, your health would be all you have left - it’s all that really matters in the long term
* Australia is extremely lucky to have a lot of free healthcare for children - from clinics for babies and children, to bulk-billed (ie: free) medical treatment by most GPs, quality care in many public hospitals, ambulance transport in our state, and free dental care for school-aged children, including a new program for teenagers

Those are just a few hints from our family. Do you have any tips to share for saving money in any of the categories above? Do you think the estimates are accurate?

Related Posts by Bel
Menu Planning for Many
Babysitting Clubs
Real Nappies (diapers)


Val said...

Cloth diapers and breastfeeding! When you see people discussing the costs of having a baby, the two big expenses on the top of the list are diapers and formula.

In our family, I didn't manage to convince my husband to the merits of cloth diapers until our second child was two months old (and our first was 18 months, still diapered). We bought about $400 worth of second hand diapers - some good quality ones, some cheap. It was enough to diaper both of them for 2-3 days without doing diaper laundry. I can't imagine the cost savings if we'd done that from the start, and we could have saved even more if we'd gone for more traditional cloth diapers rather than the fance new kind.

Formula? For about 3 months between the time my milk supply dried up (because I was pregnant) and the time my daughter switched to cow's milk. We used generic, half the price of name brand and just as healthy. I've never evaluated our cost savings, but those diapers I bought have more than paid for themselves.

As brand new parents we were silly. If we had it to do over again, I would have looked more thoroughly for second hand items. They're so plentiful, and aside from saving money it also helps other struggling families get a little bit back as well. Many things were gifted to us, but many were not.

People complain about the cost of batteries for toys. I don't. I don't replace them! On our one big battery sucker, the baby swing that ran for hours every day with our first child, we had my father-in-law rig the battery compartment to an AC-adapter so it would plug into the wall. It worked! 4 D-cell batteries every two weeks = expensive.

When we have a third child (once I convince my husband!) it shouldn't cost us much, if anything at all. I have a boy and a girl already, so clothes are covered. I've saved my gear. Our only expense would be a new infant carseat (first one accidentally got horrible mildewy, and our poor research led us to get one we hated; second one was a hand-me-down we later discovered was American not Canadian and thus not legal for use here) and newborn and small size cloth diapers. Those I would likely either make myself, acquire very cheaply, or ask for as my sole baby shower gift. Babies and toddlers eat so little solid food the cost is negligible. I skipped buying prepared baby food with Kid2, too expensive for a tiny jar of half water, half fruit/vegetable I'm perfectly capable of pureeing or mashing myself. Our medical costs would not go up for a third child, except for our portion of prescription drugs (20%) and our kids don't get sick enough to need them.

University? That's another story altogether, although we do plan to promote trades as a perfectly viable option - much cheaper schooling, better pay starting out, and we have many successful tradesmen (I'd say tradespeople, but they're all men so far!) in our families.

All in all, I think kids are pretty cheap.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Thanks for the post. My husband and I have been married for 5 years, both are secure in our jobs, done with our education, and happy in our home. The problem is that we're not entirely financially secure. You have some really great hints there that make me believe we could have kids!

Lis said...

I too agree with the comment about cloth diapers (nappies) and also make your own (baby) nappy wipes.
I cut up some towels and hemmed them into rectangles (about the size of half a face washer). These went into the nappy bucket with the nappies. My children are now teenagers so I used the traditional cloth fold them yourself kind. I can imagaine it would be so much easier witht he new fitted ones these days.
I also secone the buying secone hand for clothing and other baby needs.
Probably the one thing I bought brand new was my child car seat/baby restraint as you never really know the history if you are buying one second hand.

Anonymous said...

Lower your ideals and be wary of the consumer culture - 95% of what's marketed for babies and children isn't necessary. A place to sleep, clothes, food, and *love* are the most important needs they have.

Mouli/mash your own fruit, vegies and dinners; buy second-hand clothes; wear your baby in a sling; use cloth nappies; breastfeed as long as you are able; find second-hand/freecycled toys and equipment; invest in a good carseat that will last for years; set aside a small amount of each paypacket to provide for their future needs; plan your meals; eat simply but well....there are so many ways to save money not just for your children but your *family*.

Don't think of babies as financial drains. Imagine a study done on how much adults spend on themselves each year - that would be telling!


Opal said...

The reason I am a stay at home mom, my entire paycheck went to childcare for one kid. After making that discovery, I stayed home as husband could pay all the bills and we had a few less with me home. I also got tired of only seeing my son first thing in the morning(sleepy and in a rush) and late at night (sleepy, hungry, frustrated).

Forget those baby blankets, in the summer find a sheet and cut it in four pieces, in the winter or colder months knit a blanket, or find a cheap one at a thrift store and cut it up.

wipes: use paper towels or a wash cloth soaked in warm water and soap in ziploc bags.

I used a back pack as a diaper bag and purse.

thrift stores, yard sales, flea malls great ways to get stuff cheap

Bel said...

What a great lot of advice and hints! Thank you all for sharing Val, Farmer's Daughter, Lis, Anon & Opal.
It's great to hear from other parents doing what we did and do. Thank you!

Karen L R said...

a happy family is one of the best things on the planet. just remember that "the important things in life are not things". homemade fun is cheap, and siblings who get along well together can actually be one another's best friends. books from the library, crayons and paints and paper, blowing bubbles, jump ropes, swings, dominoes, etc...affordable! get outdoors to play & explore & hike. hand-me-downs from older siblings/cousins/friends save $ too. learning to say a firm "no" is as important as a joyful "yes". they're both part of good parenting!

Emma @ the Berry Patch said...

I don't think children are expensive at all. Of ourse there are expenses and I don't think you should ever scrimp on their health and safety, but the important things they need don't cost anything - your time, attention and love.

Everything else can be done on the cheap. I have never said to mum or dad 'thank you for all those expensive toys and clothes'. I have thanked them for being there for me, supporting me (emotionally, not financially) and loving me.


Chookie said...

I never find those lists of prices for children very convincing, but it is true that children cost money. How much they cost is in the hands of the parents. My children have been breastfed and there is no doubt that this is one of the most simple, green and frugal things you can ever do. The Australian Breastfeeding Association now has a national helpline so there's only a single number to ring before you reach an experienced, well-informed fellow mother -- other countries have similar organisations. Breastfed children are noticeably healthier, and the longer you BF the healthier they are (mine both fed for more than 4 years and are noticeably healthier than their formula-fed cousins).
The greatest expense of children is in income forgone when a parent stops working or decreases their hours or refuses a promotion so that they can spend more time with the kids. I think our family income has dropped by about 20%, and you'd have to be really bad with money to SPEND that much on children!

Abby said...

Cloth diapers and breastfeeding are huge cost savers. Gardening and cooking from scratch are great too. And the public library is amazing! I've found that we spend less discretionary money now that we have a baby, mostly because we rarely dine out. However, childcare (or lost income) is a huge expense, at least in the U.S. So I can see why they say raising a child is so expensive. It's worth every penny though!

erin said...

Thrift Stores. Baby clothes especially are barely used. I often find gymboree, children's place and other name brands for less than a dollar per item. The trick is to go to a thrift store in an affluent neighborhood. Garage sales are also a great place to find deals.

Toys...remember this... the more noise it makes and the more it lights up the less your child will play with it. Stick with simple toys and keep art supplies plentiful. You don't need to spend a fortune on toys. My son has a great time with a back yard full of bugs, a mason jar and a stick.

Having children is as expensive as you want it to be.