Parenting on a Budget
Posted by Gail | Filed under Kids & Money
Kids are expensive. Never mind what some people are prepared to spend to get them here, getting them to “independent” can cost a small fortune. You may need a bigger car. You may need a bigger home. And then there are all the costs of keeping your mini-me fed and clothed: dental bills, school supplies, hockey, ballet, soccer, karate… the list can seem endless.
Estimates from the economics section of Manitoba Agriculture put the cost of raising a daughter to age 18 in 2004 at about $166,500. Boys were a tad more expensive — $166,972 – mostly due to their bigger appetites.
The first year of a child’s life is often the most expensive. Not surprising really when you think of all the gear we have to get to bring baby home. And the cost of diapers! In 2004, Canadians spent $10,000 in baby’s first year.
It’s also comes as no surprise that costs go way up when kids hit their teenaged years. So how do you get your kids to self-sufficiency without going broke? You make a budget!
While many of the hard costs of kids – food, the roof over their heads, their transportation – naturally fall into your budget, there are costs that are uniquely associated with the children themselves. One kid is happy to live in jeans and T-shirts, while another won’t wear anything but American Eagle. If Junior is a sports maniac there are league fees, equipment costs, and transportation costs getting them to their next game. Never mind all the eating out the family seems to do on the road.
The trick to not letting kids’ expenses get way out of hand is to allocate a specific amount to each child’s activities and needs, and stick with the plan.
Start by listing all the things your children do for which you must lay out some of your hard-earned bucks. Your list might look like this:
|Mark – 11||525.67|
|Tori – 9||273.50|
|Demi – 1.5||100.00|
Your children’s needs won’t be the same, and spending equally on them won’t be more “fair.” Giving them what they need when they need it is the goal. Over time, as the children’s needs shift, so too should how you allocate the money. And over time, it should all come out even to be fair. So if in the early years one child gobbles up far more resources, then in the later years the other might receive more help with post-secondary education.
But let’s say you don’t have $900 a month to spend on the kids. What then?
You have three options: you can cut back on the less-essential spending, find ways to make your dollar go further, or make more money. Some moms and dads choose to take on a part-time job just to be able to pay for a child’s passion for hockey, dance or horse-back riding. Some parents look for ways to reduce the costs of their kids’ activities by taking advantage of free or subsidized programs offered in their communities. And some parents just cut back.
This is where talking to your kids is really important. Would Mark be willing to give up swimming or lacrosse? If you make all the decisions in isolation, your kids will feel deprived. Make them in consultation and they’ll come to appreciate the activities they are lucky enough to be able to do.