My Kids Are Getting Expensive

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  • It’s easy to budget for your family when your kids are babies.  But as I’m finding out, it gets a lot harder as they grow up.

    In our house, it all started with school.  My oldest daughter started kindergarten this year, and in some ways, the move improved our monthly cash flow.  For example, I went from paying for two kids in full-time daycare to only paying for one.  That was nice.

    Bills, Bills, Bills

    But then the bills started rolling in.  Where she once ate lunch at daycare, I now have to buy special lunch food to send with her or fund her school lunch account.  She prefers to eat at school, which is fine, but that costs me an extra $50 every two months.

    Another expense I never thought about: book fees.  So far, we’ve paid around $200 in book fees that I didn’t budget for because I didn’t know they existed.  You live, you learn.

    But that’s not all.  She recently came home with a flyer for a Karate class her school is participating in – $20 for two lessons.  And there are all kinds of special “days” at school that may or may not result in additional spending – funny hat day, sports jersey day, snack day, show and tell.

    And now that our kids are older, they want to get involved in things.  So far, we’ve put our kids in gymnastics class for a monthly cost of around $125.00.  It’s totally worth it , of course, and my kids love it, but it’s also just another bill to pay.  And I know it’s just the beginning.  From what my friends tell me, sports in grade school, middle school, and high school can be crazy expensive.  Trust me, I’m already bracing myself!

    How Much Does the Tooth Fairy Give?

    Just a few days ago, my daughter lost her first tooth.  Let me rephrase that: I pulled it out (because she asked).  Where one minute she was staring at the bloody stump, the next she was fantasizing about her payday.

    “How much money is the tooth fairy going to bring me?” she asked.  “Do you think I’ll get a toy?”

    “The tooth fairy gave $1 when I was little,” I told her, adding that inflation could mean she gets more.  She went to bed that night in a hurry, excited to see how much money she would rake in.

    My husband gave her $5.  Why?  “Because it is her first tooth,” he explained.

    Kids Are Expensive…And Worth ItMy kids are getting expensive, but they're also worth it. Do you think kids get more expensive as they age?

    You’re probably reading this and thinking what an awful parent I must be.  “Who complains about their kid’s gymnastic lessons?” someone will say, or “Who begrudges their children’s lunch money?”

    What a cheap bitch I am, except I’m not.

    I like to complain about it – to marvel at the way my children’s stories unfold – but the truth is, this is the best money I’ll ever spend.  Nothing has brought more joy to my life than having children.  Nothing really mattered until I held them in my arms.  I would do anything – pay anything – to make my daughter’s lives better in any way that matters.

    And if that includes paying $25 for a Daddy-Daughter dance at my kid’s gymnastics school, so be it.

    My kids are getting expensive, but they’re worth it.  So instead of fighting it, I’ve decided to make my peace with it and enjoy the time we have.  All I can do is budget for these little expenses now and prepare for them the best I can.  And with proper financial planning and a little bit of sacrifice, we can afford to save for all the things that matter and treat our kids to some activities that will mold their little minds.

    Because one day my children will be grown-ups with their own families and homes.  I might have a lot more money then, but I’ll never get them back.

    Do you think kids get more expensive as they get older?  How have your expenses changed?

    Additional reading:

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  1. True..but you can get back at them by moving you and Greg in, lock, stock and smoking barrel :-). Turnaround is fair play.. Kids were expensive for me in the sense that l had to buy all the crap stuff that my friends’ kids had to sell, from wall paper to cookies to things l just gave them money and didn’t collect on just so l wouldn’t have more junk. When my nephew came to live with us, it was nice to force them to buy those discount card thingies :-). Seriously though, it’s nice that you can afford it, and your daughter is really a mini you. A cutie pie 🙂

  2. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    It’s some every single month! I don’t do school lunch. My kids are way too picky. They’d cost $3 each to have an appke bc that’s probably all they would eat! Then of course milk is free but if you want (or in our case need) a water it’s extra!
    Then yes all the little fun days, class parties, fundraisers (my favorite was a plain old check writing campaign…nothing in return just give us money) birthday parties etc etc! Oh and the fact I was forced to buy an iPad for each child (I mean not really…we upgraded and they got our old ones but we were forced to provide them). That was fun.
    This on top of the fact that I still pay $700/month in before and aftercare so I can have the pleasure of going to a job I hate everyday!!!
    Our house did the $5 for first tooth thing and now they get a “gold coin” (gold dollars) which they think is cool.

    1. Water is extra? I don’t get that!
      And before/after care is crazy expensive around here. It’s almost as much as full-time daycare.

      1. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

        Yep, even though the government has all these rules about what MY kids are allowed to eat at school, they haven’t been informed that whole milk isn’t the healthiest drink option and water is superior…so they charge an extra $.70 for water. Plus my oldest is allergic. I spend .10 per bottle from Costco!
        I strictly remember just going to school early and staying after when I was a kid. It’s just what schools did. I never went to daycare! Maybe they should extend the school day and add in more than 20 minutes for lunch and some extra energy expending breaks…you know time to be children! Kids can handle the longer days if they have enough free time. Then parents wouldn’t have to struggle so much!

        1. My daughter tells me she doesn’t like the milk at school. I wonder if it’s whole? That might explain it- I buy 2% or skim here.

  3. I agree. When they get older, it seems like expenses are skyrocketing! They have more expenses. They get cell phones and have to buy clothes more often. They need more money for party and education. I just wish they could stop getting older for a while so that I could at least do some preparation and planning again to meet their needs.

    1. Oh well, at least we know it’s coming eventually!

  4. Holly, just wait until the pre-teens. Last year my daughter went from age 11 to age 30 overnight and now we’re all about 1) clothes, 2) wanting the new iPhones, 3) clothes, 4) money to hang out with her friends, 5) clothes!!!

    1. Oh, I’m sure clothes will be very important one day. I’m enjoying these days of hand-me-downs and cheap garage sale finds while they last!

  5. Wow, $200 in book fees?! I’m glad to hear they are enjoying gymnastics 🙂 Right now daycare is our most expensive child-related expense, however, my son is showing an interest in hockey…yikes!

  6. Yes, I totally agree with you Holly! I have a seven year old kid and she has her violin class every weekend but her violin class is really expensive! I remember one time, we watched a Youtube violin lesson hoping that she can learned from it but I think violin is hard to learn. 🙂

    1. Youtube, lol. That sounds like something I would do.

  7. I also don’t really care at all about spending money on my girls, haha. They’re totally worth it – like you said!! I’m pretty bad though – my oldest is obsessed with Frozen and, of course, every store we walk into sells Frozen items and I usually end up buying her one. I can only imagine how expensive it’s going to get as they get older!!

    1. I am happy to report that I have said no to all of the Frozen items we get bombarded with on a weekly basis!

  8. I took that same picture of my daughter last week! Same first tooth too. Only that jerk tooth fairy forgot her tooth 3 nights in a row! My son now 7 is starting to put the food down. It used to be just one slice of pizza but now he’s up to at least 4. I don’t see the grocery bill coming down any time soon. But your right, all worth it!

    1. My kids are eating more too. I can tell a difference in our grocery spending compared to a year ago.

  9. Do you get family tax credit in the US? We get a weekly payment from the government in New Zealand of around $90 per week which I save for these kind of expenses – and I put some away in my sons savings account.
    He’s only 2.5 so he’s in hand-me-down clothes from his cousins and happy to do free stuff like going to the beach/park/playground. We did splash out on an annual zoo pass which was heavily discounted due to the season. We only bought one for my husband as my son is free until he is 3 and they can have Daddy and Son time while I work.
    I imagine in the next few years he will start to play soccer and things will start to add up.

    1. No, we don’t get a weekly payment from the government.
      The child tax credit phases out at a certain income level in the U.S. and I don’t think we will get it for 2014.

  10. I am not sure my kids can get any more expensive… I mean daycare is about $425 a week. So as long as I keep “paying” that amount to some sort of account when they are no longer in daycare I think I should be set.

    Also not all sports are expensive. I played baseball for years and it wasn’t that bad. Of course I only used 4 gloves (about $50-100 a piece) for my entire 18ish year career (still use one of them for softball now) and only ever owned 2 baseball bats. On the other hand I had friends who played hockey and the ice time costs in this state are INSANE.

    1. Daycare at $425 per week! Where are they going? Goddard? Dang!

    1. We haven’t done private school here. Our public school system is awesome and one of the best in the state. Huge savings but of course property is more expensive here.

  11. I know the feeling Holly. We have similar new expenses popping up and while I like to complain about it – they’re very much well worth it. It’s just a part of life, to a certain extent, and am thankful we can do some of the things that we can. I am ready to kill the diaper line item in out budget though. 🙂

    1. Oh yeah! We got rid of diapers last year. It makes a huge difference to not spend that $10-$20 per week.

  12. I don’t have kids but love my friends’ two kiddos (3 & 4). I also love horseback riding, and took the kids with me once to let them ride a pony. Now my friend’s daughter can’t stop talking about wanting to ride “her” pony again 🙂 I may have started them into the expensive world of horses – oops! But the sight of a tiny 4 year old on a fat pony is pretty adorable!!!

    1. Awwww….I’m sure my kids would love to ride a pony. They would probably want one! =)

  13. I would agree that as kids get older the expenses just increase. We don\’t have kids yet, but see that it must be a hard line to walk where you want the best for your kids but you also have to be reasonable with things and stay in budget.

    1. Yeah, it really is a balance. You can’t do everything for them without compromising somewhere else.

  14. Costs will always be there. With five kids we have participated, played, entertained, hosted, coached, counseled, and watched almost every sport and extra activity imagined. Did it cost a fortune, YES. Was it worth it ABSOLUTELTY!! Our children learned music, sports and sportsmanship, fitness. compassion, faith, sharing, and how to feel secure in their expanding world. Many of their team mates are lifelong friends. They have remained in contact with many of their teachers and coaches since graduation for advice on their college and work choices. Is it hard to fund athletics, Advanced placement courses, school supplies, teen driving, proms, letterman jackets, youth and church activities, all while hoping to retire one day and the expenses and the parent commitment increases with the skill level

    But as a parent I would do it again. Do I go for manicures and pedicures, no. Does my husband play golf, no. Do we consider a date night a movie and wine at our house with friends, yes. Does this all add up to children and young adults who have gone on to academic and athletic scholarships in school. Kids who I am proud of and know that they will be the members of society who will make a difference in their communities, yes. Is this all due to their involvement, NO. It is due our commitment as parents.

    I chaperoned an 8th grade field trip (for our oldest son) and they asked us to sit with our assigned group during lunch and have a small group discussion. After we had completed the assignment one of the girls in the group asked me in front of this group if I liked being a chaperone. My son rolled his eyes into his head and let out a groan. I told her I did enjoy meeting the students in my kids schools. She then said, How much she wished her mother would just one time before she graduated high school attend a school function. She went on to say how she always said no to volunteering , school performances, after school activities and even parent teacher meetings. My heart ached. My son’s face at that moment said it all and his Thanks were unspoken. Money and activities wont buy you anything. Letting your children know that no matter what they are priceless to you is the perfect activity!!

    1. It sounds like you were really devoted. No regrets, right? That really is a beautiful thing.

      Also, sweet story about your son. That’s part of the reason I love working at home. I can’t be there for everything but I can rearrange my schedule to be at the school sometimes. I went to my daughter’s class party not too long ago and she beamed with pride! I am definitely trying to enjoy it before we get to the point where she is embarrassed by me.

      1. Holly we had a lot to appreciate. Our oldest and only daughter was diagnosed with cancer at 18 months. She had over 7 years of treatment (she is now a strong long term survivor.) Her treatments cost us over $100k out of pocket although we had “good insurance”. The boys came along during this time and so my career, saving for retirement and the good life (travel, bigger home, etc.) took a back seat. Faith reminded me over and over that I just needed to bloom where I was planted. In order to make the kids contribute to their fun I taught them at a very early age (10) to sort clothes and use the washer, dryer and dishwasher. Their uniforms, game bags and such were their responsibility. They had to pack them in the car. If the activities required us to be gone then they had to help pack lunches and drinks or they went without. From this same age we expected certain chores done to help with costs. Once they were about 13 they did chores for neighbors and friends and had to put aside 50% (mandatory) to help and start a savings plan.
        Has all of our hard work and sacrifice given us the perfect life, ^^#$@#$% NO IT DID NOT. What it has given to us I can live with. Blessings

  15. Oh boy! You’ve just confirmed it for me. I hear so many people talk about how expensive babies are, and every time I think to myself that the coming years will probably make things like diapers and formula seem pretty cheap. 🙂 But of course our sweet little miss is more than worth it!

  16. LOL, we give $5 for the first tooth as well – just a buck after that. Book fees? For public school? That doesn’t seem fair to parents: what are we paying taxes for? Our biggest expenses these days have been for braces and stuff, but it’s different being homeschoolers. I can screen social opportunities before I let the kids know about them, and there’s not much focus in the homeschooling world on gadgets and designer clothes. No one really cares. I’ll bet the influence in the traditional school system is much worse, though.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t know about the book fees until I got the bill! =)

  17. I was hoping kids get cheaper! I figured day care and diapers were the biggest expenditures and once they were in school I was good. Although many of my co-workers who are parents put their kids in VERY expensive activities.

  18. It has been quite a few years since I had a kid at home but $5 for the tooth fairy seems really generous. Maybe ours was just cheap. Anyway, when those kids become teenagers, it gets worse. Higher car insurance premiums for teenage driver. Prom dresses. Sports participation fees. And most teens aren’t willing to wear thrift store clothing. And then you have the college years. It just gets better and better.

  19. Kids also come with their own set of random expenses, like, “Hey, I have an orchestra concert tonight, and I need to wear dress pants, a tie, and dress shoes.” Oh…well, to the store we go….

  20. You’re husband is the tooth fairy!!?? Although kids can be expensive and worth it, in most cases 🙂 They can also be turned into much needed cheap labor. I used to love mowing the lawn which saved my father some time. Also, I would help shovel snow, cut wood, build decks, etc. Also, our grandparents lived down the when I was little so if they needed help and I was old enough to help, that saved my parents some time as well. I learned a lot about home ownership through the process and $5 here and there from Grandpa and Grandma for helping out goes a long way when you’re 12!

  21. Oh, just wait. I know you’re gonna cave on Disney World someday! You save where you can so you can let them buy spirit sticks and do book fair. It’s one thing to make kids aware of how money works but totally another to be so cheap you never let them participate in anything.

  22. Man, inflation must be eating up the tooth fairy’s trust accounts – my first tooth was a fifty cent piece, others were a quarter. At least until an older sibling spilled the beans on the tooth fairy being fake and then they were worthless for everyone. (Way to pull up the ladder before I climbed all the way up, brother!).

  23. They certainly do get more expensive as they get older and there’s always some trade offs too. Like youths sports for example when they are young you pay out of pocket for them, but once in middle school and beyond the cost is included school if they participate. I am ultimately paying for it in my taxes, but I’ve always paid for it in my taxes. :). Our 3 are going out more often now and need rides or money for movies, eating out. My wife and I always try and attend sporting events, plays, performances, because the time does go by fast. We’ll have two – 16 year olds in our house next month.

  24. I’ve always assumed kids got more expensive as they aged. I know we did in my family. We cost barely anything as little kids but when we got old and started wanting spending money and playing sports and needing cars we got real pricey fast.

  25. Hi Holly! Our eldest kids must be around the same age because mine is starting to get his first loose tooth! Other than me freaking out about the whole blood thing, it’s a crazy realization of how much they’re growing up.

    For me, them growing up has actually lessened the costs. Going from nanny to private preschool then to public school is slowly freeing up our cash flow. So far my eldest has not shown interest in extra curricular activities so I don’t spend any money on that. They do have Valentine’s stuff but he’s always had that even in preschool.

    We’ll see how we do once they’re in the thick of elementary and middle school, but for now, our biggest money suckers is for sure child care and eventually preschool.

  26. I think I got a quarter for my first tooth! Prices have most certainly gone up! 🙂 I think they probably do get more expensive when they are older, but at least it’s better than two teenage boys, who from what I hear eat a TON of food!

  27. She’s so cute with her missing tooth! I remember those days! Now we’re all retainers and such, another thing to possibly look forward to as well. And fingers crossed new teeth grow in straight! Yes, kids do get more expensive because of activities, but as you said, it is worth it. I think where I have had the hardest time is with some of the school expenses because it never stops. Some days I just wish they would say this is what we need from you (and yes, the girls go to a public school) and I could cut the check instead of having to buy ugly wrapping paper, etc. 🙂

  28. I don’t have kids, but I just assume they can’t be cheap. On our latest vacation I said to my wife “I can’t imagine if we had kids with us. Imagine paying for two additional meals/drinks/etc. everywhere we go!” I realize they are worth it, but I do think you have to factor in that it’s an additional expense in your finances.

  29. they are worth it aren’t they? A big reason we’re waiting on #2 (debt being the biggest reason to hold-up) is that I’d like to avoid the double daycare bill as long as possible!

    People ask me all the time what they should give their kids for toothfairy at work, just because I work in dentistry doesn’t make me a toothfairy expert! My toothfairy would leave $1. I think we’ll probably give $2 when it happens here. Also she’ll be expected to have her room clean because you know, the toothfairy can’t access it if there are toys everywhere.

  30. My daughter is almost 4, and she’s still pretty cheap, thankfully! I’ve toyed with gymnastics, but I don’t think she’s ready for those types of activities just yet. The baby stage is a killer with the diapers, and all of equipment we’re told we need. I think the toddler years offer a nice little lull in spending, but I know it’s game over once she starts school.

  31. My son just turned 15 months so I guess what you’re going through is something I will encounter in a few years. We signed him up for gymnastic classes so he could develop more motor skills. For the skills that he’s learning, the price for the classes is very much worth it.

  32. My daughter is about to turn 20, is at university and still costing me a fortune! It’s been totally worth it though.

    My big thing with my daughter while she was growing up was ‘experiences’ rather than stuff. You really can’t put a value on those.

  33. She made out on that tooth with $5! At $5 a tooth, how much are you going to have to pay both of those kiddos for their teeth? 🙂 And hold up, it gets even more expensive when they go to school!? We’ve got daycare expense and dance for my 4 year old, so I’m hoping that I can keep that at the same or hopefully much less when she goes to school. We have a checking account for “her money” that she gets for Christmas, birthdays, etc, and I should be using that for some of her “wants” (like activities), but I haven’t started that yet. Maybe next year!

  34. Our daughter is only two and she costs us barely anything right now. She doesn’t eat much. Only uses diapers at night. Gets clothes and toys as gifts from just about everyong. It all doesn’t add up to much.

    But she won’t be two forever. I can see how things will get more and more expensive as the years go by!

  35. My dad always says that “children are the death of net worth” and it’s so true. They cost a shit ton of money, but thankfully they balance out those expenses with some pretty joyful moments. We recently took my son to the dentist and were told that he needs to see the orthodontist ASAP. Talk about a money drain! We knew this was coming, but were hoping we could push it off another year. Oh well, thank goodness for HSAs!

  36. My daughter is only 8 months old and so far I totally agree that babies aren\’t too hard on the budget. My wife is lucky that she can breastfeed without problems. We\’ve started to make our own baby food. Plus we\’re using cloth diapers. Other than some baby music classes the cost has been minimal (we\’ll, unless you count the money we\’re putting away for college :))

  37. Do I think kids get more expensive as they get older? They sure do, but I’m completely OK with that. I have an only child and he’s 12 going on 16! 🙂
    He went to a private international bilingual school so you can imagine how much that cost. We live in Germany so it’s far cheaper than if he went to the same in my home country of England LOL! At the moment we have Boy Scouts, camping every fortnight, summer camp, school trips every quarter, and a huge school trip in the summer, karate lessons, drum lessons, & Spanish lessons, oh & we also ski so ski classes too. We used to have Chinese, dance, theatre & guitar, but he doesn’t want to do them anymore. Phew! He’s also tall so although he’s just 12 we now have to buy “young adult” clothes and adult shoes (45/46).

    There are no uniforms in Germany and the other day, he picked up a pair of “casual” shoes and what were they? Hugo Boss! And no, I didn’t buy them!

  38. Zina at Debt Free After Three says:

    Reading this post makes me feel like I should call my parents and say thank you! They paid for 12 years of private school and part of college. I’m too scared to count how much they spent on my education.

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