Today the Huffington Post reinforces what I realize every time I write my son's daycare check: Parenting is incredibly expensive. Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates put the cost at around $300,000 for a middle-class family; the WSJ says that it's a "severe underestimate." (And I would agree, since that's about what we pay for preschool. Just kidding. Kind of.) The WSJ says the figure is more like $900,000, when you factor in things like the lost wages incurred by stay-at-home parents and the astronomical cost of college.
HuffPo pinpoints eight reasons why kids are so expensive: transportation, health care, extracurricular activities, technology, child care, college, housing, and food. I'm curious: Where do you feel the squeeze?
I don't think of health care much, thankfully. We're fortunate to have a good insurance plan, and luckily we haven't had to take advantage of it much (yet). We put away money each month in a 529 for college, though seeing as how many schools now cost $50,000 per year, I panic whenever I check the balance. Something has to give, right? Thankfully, Andy is too young for extracurricular activities, and his main source of "technology" is my husband's much-abused, two-year-old iPad. As for food, well, we probably eat out too much, but I also shop faithfully at Market Basket, where I find good deals on huge rotisserie chickens and the best Italian subs I've ever had. (Just don't go on a weekend morning unless you want to have a nervous breakdown trying to find a parking spot.)
The issues that really get our family are housing and child care. I'm happy with our child care choice, but that peace of mind also comes at a high price. And the cost is a big reason why we're waiting a bit to have another kid. I can't imagine paying twice the tuition right now. Thankfully, prices decline as he gets older.
Housing, meanwhile, is a huge sticking point for many families I know. I wrote a piece for the Globe asking, "Is home buying tougher on the wallet or the ego?" For many, it's the ego. So many people approached me expressing frustration that they had to settle for musty fixer-uppers, couldn't afford to live in the town they grew up in, couldn't compete with buyers paying straight-up cash for $800,000 condos (who are these people?), and on and on. Living around here isn't cheap, which can be hugely discouraging for people trying to budget properly while also moving on with their lives, whether that means upgrading to a larger home or buying their first one.
I'd like to know: What are your sticking points? Do you ever feel financially strapped when it comes to parenting? I'm sure some commenters will point out that, yes, one can be virtuous and eat every meal at home, or pile three kids into the same bedroom, or skip the daycare and become a stay-at-home parent, but ... for many of us, that's an extreme solution, not the reality.
So: How do you do it? Where do you scrimp, where do you splurge, and do you ever check your bank account balance and want to weep?
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