(Guest Post by Len Penzo while J$ is off in La La land with his new boy…)
I know. I heard the groan the moment you didn’t see J Money’s name in the by line. That’s okay. I don’t take it personally.
I usually hate writing guest posts for famous bloggers because being a guest writer on somebody else’s blog is the Internet equivalent of being a substitute teacher — in junior high school. Even so, I wanted to make sure J had plenty of time to enjoy that new baby of his. So here I am!
Awhile back, I noticed that J began tracking every single expense his baby has cost him since conception.
Well, now that J has finally become a Dad — and as the father of a 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter — I want to make sure he knows what he’s really in for, financially speaking.
Like a lot of you, I saw the latest government study that claims it now costs an average of $235,000 in today’s dollars to raise one child to age 18. However, for a lot of folks, this number is absurdly low.
For example, while the study included food, shelter, child care, health care, clothing and grade school education expenses, it failed to include college — that is, assuming you’re the type that thinks parents are responsible for that. The study also inexplicably failed to consider other key cost drivers that most parents have to deal with.
Off the top of my head, here are just a few examples, some arguably more expensive than others:
Unexpected home maintenance
When my son Matthew was around seven-years-old, I made the mistake of giving him a kid-sized tool box with kid sized tools. You know, a little saw, a small screwdriver or two, tiny pliers, a mini-hammer; stuff like that. One day I came home to find out Matthew had decided to use his tool set to do a little home remodeling — the renovations included making large gouges in his bedroom walls, and chipping off parts of the window frames and base boards. Then there was the time he flushed his underwear down the toilet — of course, we only discovered that little surprise after we spent a couple hundred bucks for a plumber to clear the hopelessly clogged line. Good times. I’ve got about 100 other examples from the last ten years I could share, but I think you get the point.
This year alone, I’ve easily shelled out at least a few thousand bucks to cover the fees and other costs for Matthew’s travel baseball team and Nina’s color guard team and weekly singing lessons.
Kids seem to have no trouble flipping on the light switch when they enter a room. In fact, I can’t remember the last time my kids walked into a room and forgot to turn the lights on. But when it comes to turning them off, well … fuggedaboutit. I wish I had a nickel for every time I walked into empty rooms with a 100-Watt light bulb or two burning, or a television set blaring, or a stereo playing. God knows it would certainly help cover the money I’ve spent over the past ten years in extra electricity. And don’t get me started about them standing in front of the open refrigerator for six minutes at a time while they debate what they want to eat or drink.
Think about it: Over the course of 18 years, the number of gifts we give our kids can really add up: Christmas, birthdays, graduations … I’m sure there are other occasions I’m missing.
Let’s face it: parents have to get away from their kids every once in awhile if they want to keep their marriage healthy and vibrant. With few exceptions, the Honeybee and I have been fortunate enough to have two sets of grandparents available to watch our kids. Not everyone is so fortunate, though! And over time, let me tell you, those babysitter rates can really add up!
I’m sure you can think of scores of other examples of why kids can be so expensive to raise. That being said, it’s an undeniable fact that having children makes our lives richer — and that makes kids a bargain at any price.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the cost of raising our kids is largely dependent on us as parents: As long as we understand the concept of wants versus needs — and faithfully live within our means — then everything is going to be just fine.
Len shamelessly airs his dirty laundry several times a week on his cleverly-named personal finance blog, Len Penzo dot Com, which has been twice-honored as a Kiplinger Best Money Blog. (No, really. Len can’t believe it either.)
(Photo by GoodNCrazy)