According to CNN Money, a recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that the average cost of raising a child climbed to more than $245,000 in 2013.

To reach that number, they took the average costs of housing, food, clothing, education, health care, and child care into consideration, along with things like hair cuts, cell phones, and extracurricular activities.  Sounds legit, but are those numbers right?  Does it really cost a quarter-of-a-million dollars to raise a kid in America these days?

I call bullshit.

First of all, it really depends on where you live.  If you live in Manhattan or Connecticut or L.A., then yeah, you might need to spend that much to have a kid- or even more.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture seems to think that $455,000 is a more appropriate figure for high-income parents raising a child in the urban Northeast, for example.  And I totally get that.  But what about the rest of us?

RELATED: Having Kids: Is It Worth It?

I live north of Indianapolis in an affluent area with a median income of $82,468 according to U.S. Census estimates.  So even though I live in the Midwest, housing costs more than average because we have excellent schools, almost no crime, and lots of trees.  There are plenty of ways to spend fat cash here if you want.  As a matter of fact, a daycare within a mile of my house wanted almost $500 per week to watch my two kids!  In other words, $2,000 per month.  And there are plenty of McMansions here too – I just choose not to live in one.

People will tell you that kids are uber-expensive – that you can’t afford them while keeping a roof over your head.  But no matter where you live, there are advantages and disadvantages, and there are always ways to save.

You Can Have Kids Without Going Broke

If you live in an expensive area, I feel for you.  You may not have inexpensive housing or daycare options, and it’s quite possible you’re paying a premium for things the rest of us take for granted.  But almost everyone else in the country can have kids without going broke.  Here’s how:

Don’t Buy a Starter Castle

It’s tempting to buy all the house you can afford.  I know- I’ve been there.  I have the real estate itch like you wouldn’t believe – I just choose to scratch it in ways that aren’t financially detrimental.  In other words, I go to open houses, people.  I look at houses and don’t buy them.  You can do the same – all you need is a Sunday paper and reliable transportation.  Living in a smaller home can not only help you save money, but it can also cut down on your maintenance and utility costs too!

RELATED: 5 Personal Finance Lies Your Parents Told You

Learn to Say No…and Mean It

When I was growing up, we heard “no” so much that we were actually surprised when we heard “yes.”  That’s exactly how I raise my kids now, but I still managed to spoil them somehow.  {How does that work?}  When it comes to kids toys and trinkets, we would all be better off if we said “no” more often, and we would all be richer as a result.  Want to cut down the costs of having kids?  Don’t buy them a bunch of crap!  It really is that simple.

Watch Your Grocery Spending

Food spending is one of the biggest issues that families struggle with, and it is crucial that you keep it in check.  When we started tracking out spending, we found that we were spending waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much money on food and eating out.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long to get back on track and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.  If you want to cut down your food costs, consider tracking your spending for a while and implementing a zero-sum budget. All of those snacks, drinks, and wasted leftovers add up!

Don’t Fall Into the Pricey Daycare Trap

Remember the $500 per week daycare I mentioned a few minutes ago?  In case you’re wondering, they offered baby yoga and French lessons to their members.  Isn’t that adorable?  Maybe so, but for $2,000 per month?  No way!  I can’t stand hearing people complain about the high costs of daycare when there are other options.  If you don’t have 2Gs to drop on daycare every month, shop around for heaven’s sake.  You can find a safe and friendly alternative that won’t cost the equivalent of three mortgages each month.  Save that money for college.  Please!

Kids Can Be Affordable, If You Want

If you live in Middle America, you don’t have to go broke to have kids.  To stop bleeding dollars and cents, all you need to do is to prioritize your spending and cut back on things that aren’t that important to your family.  Obviously, we all have different priorities too, and that’s okay.  Maybe you want to splurge for that pricey daycare, but are willing to cut back elsewhere.  Hey, whatever works!

It only becomes a problem when you think everything is a priority – when you think junior needs private karate lessons, a new car at 16, and a guest room to use when friends visit.  Trying to get the best of everything all of the time will only ensure that you do spend a quarter-of-a-million dollars, or more, raising your child.

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