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Does a Child Really Cost a Quarter Million Dollars?

Can you afford another child?

People are really thinking about finances when they make decisions about conception, and many struggle with being a working mother vs. staying at home.

I hear this more often that you’d think: “I wish I could make more homemade foods, but I just don’t have time with working all day.”

How many people do you know who have children yet don’t see them 40+ hours a week because they “need” both parents to work to sustain the family income?

princess birthday

Will Princess Leah get fewer birthday gifts when baby brother comes along? And would she (gasp!) survive that downgrade?

Many working moms have guilt about the time spent away from their kids, and many also wish they could do more for the family’s nutrition but simply cannot balance it all.

It’s a tough spot to be in, but if the numbers released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are correct, all those dual-income families may be right. They’ll need $12,000 a year per child to raise them for 18 years, not counting college savings. Three kids easily consumes a full salary after taxes.

In a move that is overwhelming parents across the nation, the government has estimated that it could cost $226,290 to raise a child born in 2010.

That figure intimidates me at first glance, particularly considering we’re having baby number three in a matter of days here. And I’m not alone: 2 out of 3 moms in a recent survey said that money concerns will affect how many children they have.

As a Catholic who is open to life and strongly believes children are a blessing, and that families should prayerfully discern expanding their family each month while using natural family planning, it hurts my heart that money is such a strong deciding factor.

Don’t hear me wrong here: I definitely don’t believe all people should have as many children as possible. Prayerful discernment should include such things as the parents’ ability to cope with one more, the best interests of the other children, the overall physical and emotional health of the family unit, and the family budget.

However, when I see outrageous numbers like a quarter million dollars per child, I’m ready to pick those figures apart in an intense discussion of wants vs. needs.

I was invited to interview Jean Chatzy, financial editor for NBC’s Today Show, who was dishing advice on “Can You REALLY Afford to Have a Baby?” based on these numbers. That subject line in my email certainly caught my eye!

I have to admit I was initially concerned that the advice would end up very in line with the culture: be prudent, wait to have kids, have a smaller family, etc., allowing children to sound like a burden. I was more than pleased to see that the focus was “Have the baby!” and then how to save money while raising a member of “the recession generation” being born right now.

Who Interviews Whom?

2 kids at wedding

Is two enough?

As tickled as I was to chat with someone I had just seen on morning television, as I prepared questions for the interview I found myself wanting to share as much information as I wanted to ask Jean for hers! Our budget from 2005 demonstrates that we spent less than $600 on baby things for our first child, diapers included. The budget is mostly diapers, in fact.

If we add in the $105 in medical copays for him that year plus the added cost of the family medical insurance plan and the small amount I spent on baby food, since I made most of it from scratch, I feel confident saying that we spent less than $1000 in that baby’s first year of life.

That figure is such a far cry from $12,000 that suddenly I had plenty of questions:

  1. What in the world is included in the $226K to raise a child?
  2. Aren’t there about a bazillion ways to spend less than that?
  3. Why could I spend so little? Have economic times changed that much in five years, or do most middle income families included in the study simply spend that much differently than our family?
  4. How can we evaluate the value of a mother staying at home vs. working?

Are You Curious Too?


photo source

I’m guessing the readership here at Kitchen Stewardship®, where we focus on saving money and eating such incredibly healthy foods that one pretty much has to make from scratch, also crunches their child-raising figures far below $12,000 a year per kid.

Jean Chatzky explained that the $226K estimation does include everything, even a portion of the home mortgage and car payment – which assumes that you’d need a larger house and larger car to fit the family.

Immediately one must pose the question of wants vs. needs. As someone currently living with her in-laws because we’re seeking a larger house, this may sound ironic coming from me. However. We are living within our means wherever we end up, so even though we want a larger house, enough so that we’re making some serious sacrifices to get the right one, I regularly clarify that we do not need anything more than we had.

We could have had a perfectly happy family life in our old 3-bedroom house with the tiny kitchen (and yes, some days I get scared of the unknown end of the tunnel on this journey and just wish we had stayed there in the comfortable “known”). Even four children would have fit just fine in two bedrooms, since children don’t need their own room and often actually benefit from the lessons learned from sharing their space with a sibling.

Are Two Babies Cheaper Than One?

This question of “Can you afford to have a baby?” seemed much more geared toward couples who already had a child or two and were considering expanding their family as opposed to the childless couple wondering if they should start a family or not. If numbers alone are the deciding factor in “kids or no kids,” it hardly seems to matter what the statistics say. Of course it will cost something to have a family; the real question here is how much per child?

Some of the figures included in the $226K are certainly legitimate – most middle class folks will choose to drive a minivan and have an extra bedroom in their house once they have one or two children. There is a cost there. However, the jump from compact car to minivan only happens once.

I maintain that for families considering expanding their family, it couldn’t possibly cost $12,000 per year, per child. Each child has to end up making less of an impact on the family budget, because you’re already driving the minivan, you already have the crib, changing table, car seats, bikes, swingset, ETC. And if you’re a frugal gal like me, you borrowed or found second hand all of those items except the car seats!

Jean Chatzky agreed that it’s possible that additional children will cost less but was quick to remind me that there is always a “breaking point” at which another child will require a step up in some of the big costs like house and vehicle. In fact, the statistics from the study that made her “open [her] eyes the widest” was the number of moms who said, “I would like three, but I feel like I can only afford two.”

If I really thought this child sitting on my bladder would cost $12,000 this year, and $12,000 the next year and so on, I’d probably be frightened into saying the same thing. Numbers like a quarter million dollars do little but incite fear in young parents’ hearts across the nation.

You can raise a child for less.

Particularly once you already have kids.

Keeping up with the Joneses: Wants vs. Needs

tball team

May I state for the record that children do not need very many toys? Children do not need piano lessons or hockey travel teams or yearly vacations to Disneyworld or YMCA memberships. Babies do not need all the gadgets in a Babies ‘R’ Us catalog.

As it turns out, Jean readily admitted that most people spend more than $600 in their child’s first year of life both because times have changed (prices increased), but mostly because most people don’t think like me. They don’t always borrow, buy secondhand, and seek frugality.

For example, I spent a mere $21 on Paul’s first winter coat, his high chair, and twin bed sheets and comforter that lasted from age two to five. We bought our baby gate new ($20) but only $13.25 on a pair of shoes and his first birthday gift combined. That high chair and baby gate will not need to be purchased again as we head into baby three. Children are simple, if you let them be.

We spent $45 this summer on tee ball for our 6-year-old. But if that money wasn’t in our budget or if we had to find a place to cut, I guarantee we would have chosen to simply play more catch in the yard, organize a few kids to practice skills, or get smart and realize the YMCA offers a free league just down the street.

I could choose to spend $50-100 a month to give my child the experience of Gymboree, or I could spend nothing and regularly attend library Storytime and Bright Beginnings, a free program offered by the school district twice a month.

I can see how many figures could add up quickly while raising a child, but these “wants” that many see as necessary also inflate the average that people spend. I’m not most people, and I’m happy about that.

The Value of a Stay-at-Home Mom

two kids at the zoo

Hot, bedraggled, wearing all secondhand clothes – we’d never make a magazine shoot – but we’re having fun family time using our zoo membership that I ask for as a birthday gift each year.

I could dress my kids in gorgeous, matching, brand new clothing every time they change a size and spend a fortune, or I could shop second hand, accept hand-me-downs from friends, ask for clothing for Christmas and birthdays, and borrow from friends. I’ve purchased practically nothing for Leah to wear beyond a few packages of underwear because a mom in my Bible study is lending me her oldest daughter’s entire wardrobe, while I lend her Paul’s wardrobe for her second, a boy.

The value of having a network of other moms and time to hit a garage sale here and there is monumental to our finances, and I wouldn’t have time to do it if I worked part or full time outside the home.

I also wouldn’t have time to shop for food wisely, whether that means couponing or visiting various stores to shop sales or farms to find the best produce I can. I wouldn’t have time to make my own bread or cook nearly every meal from scratch. I might not have read about making homemade yogurt when Paul was 9 months old, a process that enables me to make 1-2 gallons of yogurt for our small family every week.

I save $9 every time I make a batch, and it takes 15 minutes. $36 an hour is a pretty good salary for a stay-at-home-mom, don’t you think?

You may have seen the studies that factor how much it costs to work outside the home: taking into account daycare, gas to commute, professional clothing, lunches out and convenience foods necessary to work 40 hours, many women are working for a few bucks an hour. I’ve even seen some figures that demonstrate that a mother would save more just staying at home than she would working.

When I asked Jean Chatzky how to quantify the value of the stay-at-home-mom’s “job,” she began by saying that “Stay-at-home-moms get all the credit in the world from me because their job is so much harder than my job.” However, she continued, unless one is looking at how much life insurance to buy for a mother to cover all the jobs she does at home, Jean didn’t think one needs to ask the question, “What is this contribution worth?” but rather, “Can we afford to do this?” and still afford our lives?

She recommends that during pregnancy, a couple should try to live off one income and bank the second as a good test of that question (and a great way to get that “just in case” nest egg as well). Here are a few resources if you’re contemplating making the switch from two incomes to one:’s Cost Calculator and Chatzky’s budget worksheet.

I maintain that a stay-at-home-mom who makes homemaking her profession, her vocation, can have a quantifiable “income” in the money she can save her family (considerably knocking down the $12,000 a year that other people are somehow spending on their kids!). The question then becomes, Jean reminded me, “How many moms are like you?”

“Are moms actually going to clip coupons or make from scratch, to make that their job? If that’s true, absolutely, you can attach a higher value on your life as a stay-at-home-mom. …You’re really saving your family significant money because that’s added value.”

Of course I told Jean I’d teach her to make homemade yogurt too. Winking smile I tweeted the link to @JeanChatzky (follow her there for smart money tips, and even join the conversation on #thecostofraisingkids).

If you’re a regular reader, it won’t surprise you that I have MANY ways to save money, both on the food budget and everywhere else. Some of the more significant impacts include:

Where’s the Silver Lining?

The real positive outcome of this recession generation may be in how the children grow up looking at money. The parents who are having kids right now are being forced to handle their finances differently than even five years ago. They are learning to save, to be frugal, to discuss things like wants and needs.

Jean says it will be interesting (and hopeful, I think) to see what kind of savers and spenders the children born today will grow up to be. We need a new renaissance of frugality, and this may be it!

Financial Advice to Have that Baby!

I thanked Jean at the end of the interview for encouraging people to “have the baby!” and not wait until they feel perfectly financially stable. If couples waited for financial stability, no one would ever have children!

As a parent of someone in the recession generation (or a grandparent who needs to pass this information to their children), here are Jean’s best tips for keeping your finances in order:

  1. “If I can get moms to do one thing, it’s save money!” she said emphatically.Go through your spending line by line and figure out where to make cuts in every single category. “The more stress your finances bring to your marriage, the more likely you are to get divorced. Families that save money – assets vs. debt – are so much stronger!” It’s not always fun to save rather than spend, but having that money allocated for the future ends up fun because it allows you to dream.
  2. Save for retirement over college. While it’s nice and generous to help your kids through college, they can get financial aid for that. There is no financial aid in retirement, and it will really hurt your kids if  you have to end up turning to them for financial help just when they’re trying to raise their own family and save for their future.
  3. If you do have the $5/week or month to save for college, get a 529 savings account for sure. will get you on the right path to the appropriate plan. And make the savings happen automatically so you don’t even miss it. As soon as the $5 feels easy, bump it up to $6.
  4. More from Jean Chatzky HERE at BabyCenter.
  5. And Katie’s personal advice: always consider wants vs. needs when studying your budget and discerning family size. Pray about your kids and your finances, offering them to God and trusting Him to take care of you as He does the birds of the field.

A Final Thought Nugget

When I read this philosophy on family size, it was a revelation to me.

Our children certainly impact the country and world we live in, right? One of the big problems in the news today is that Social Security is dying. Why? Partly because there aren’t enough young working adults to pay into the system to take care of the elderly generation.

If we have fewer and fewer children, there will be fewer people paying into Social Security, fewer taxpayers, and more needs for caretakers for the elderly as their health declines. Are we damaging our economic security by raising small families at less than the replacement rate nowadays? Just a little something to think about…

How about you? What are you best money saving tips for raising children? Do you think about finances when deciding whether to expand your family?

And how much do you think people really have to spend on a child from birth to 18?

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105 thoughts on “Does a Child Really Cost a Quarter Million Dollars?”

  1. Really great post! It amazes me the things people robotically (sp?) spend money on. I just had a friend tell me they were thinking about getting some reusable water bottles because those giant bricks of plastic water bottles really add up. Um…you think?

    Hopefully, we can contribute by raising kids who aren’t mindless spenders/consumers. Yesterday, I was making mayo with my nine year old and she began to wax eloquent about how great it is that we don’t have to go to the store to buy the mayo with all the scary ingredients!

  2. Thanks Katie! Great post.

    Regarding saving for college or retirement,
    here’s a paradox for you: We send our eldest to a faithful Catholic college, paying the (hefty) shortfall after his grants/loans/scholarships, instead of saving for retirement.

    That probably sounds crazy and counterintuitive, but think of it this way: we are investing not in a company or group of companies, but in a person whom we know and love. We have put him into a strong environment where he can establish the habits of a man of faith, and we hope that that faith and those habits will enable him to support us if and when we need it.

    I certainly hope that we don’t become a drain on any of our children, but we feel much more confident paying to help them grow in mature practice of their faith, knowing that faithful Catholics take care of their elders, than we do sinking money into a mutual fund–even a good one. For one thing, money isn’t likely to be all that we need if we make it to 70 or 80; for another, how awful it would be if we had pots of retirement savings lying around, and children who were just waiting for us to die so they could get their hands on it. Ugh.

    I don’t say the choice is between paying for good kids through a good college, vs. saving for retirement and having greedy kids–if only it were that simple!–but I do think there is a lot to be said for investing in children’s faith formation as young adults, and right now there is no better way to do that than by immersing a junior in a faithful Catholic college environment.

    It’s just one more way of trusting God, knowing that He will always be faithful to us, as so many folks have pointed out. Blessings to you and your family, Katie!

  3. Pingback: You Children May Be Costing You $250,000 Each | Frugal, Freebies and Deals

  4. Thank you for this post. My hubby and i have been waiting to have children for almost 7 years now because we havent felt financial able. Now that we are in our 30’s the pressure is on. Yes, we are in debt but we dont even have a house. I am the sole income right now even though i REALLY want to be a sahm/wahm. So im working right now to make that happen so that we can starting TTC next summer. Thanks again for this post, it has been a great comfort 🙂

  5. this was an excellent post! i just want to say as a mom of 4 young kids who stays home with them while my husband is in full-time ministry, you do NOT need $12,000 per kid to get through a year. gosh, if we had that much per kid, our annual income would definitely increase! i think the numbers are grossly inflated and really i think you hit the nail on the head about the reasons why.

    i am not going to say that financially it is always easy to live the life that we have chosen (big family and full-time ministry), but God is ALWAYS faithful. He provides for our needs and our kids needs and having a community of people around us has helped in the ways you mentioned – i even get cute hand-me-down clothes for myself from friends who are changing sizes or decide something almost new doesn’t look great on them. we bought a nice minivan in complete cash, don’t own credit cards, and eat mostly all real whole foods. we are even blessed to have our older two in a christian school for right now at a discounted rate. we make sacrifices to do it in other areas, but even with that God has made a way and if we decide to home school later or do a charter school, i know He will lead us.

    i think people also forget that there are many ways a mom can earn some income from home while raising her kids. i teach private piano lessons 1 afternoon a week and can supplement our income by several hundred dollars a month just using 2 hours a week. not everyone can teach music lessons, but there are so many creative ways to bring in supplemental income without having to give up being there for your children.

    anyways, i am sharing your post because it breaks my heart that the message is being sent that people can’t afford children, when really God is faithful to provide enough for these little ones, whether someone chooses to believe in Him or not.

    p.s. i love your tips on yogurt – that is the first way i became a reader and now love your blog.

    my recent post: only enough time to be thankful

  6. My guess is that child-related costs tend to be a percentage of your income. If you make six figures, yeah, you’re going to want to spare 12,000 for your child. If you’re in a poor country making a dollar a day, each child might get 12 cents worth of rice. Everyone wants to make their children a priority, and that shows in their spending. It kind of shocks me the kind of money higher-income people spend on baby gear! But for them, it’s their way of showing that their child is important to them. (Plus, they don’t all have my knowledge of where to find the good deals! haha)

    Our kid definitely doesn’t cost $12,000. His first year, we spent about $200 directly on him, plus some medical costs and the increase in our insurance premium. (Don’t know how much that was, but surely not more than $2,000 — less than the tax rebate for having him, I bet.)

    The real cost was me quitting my job. In my income bracket, having kids really does end up meaning you’ll be much poorer. But I’m okay with that … I am rich in love and have everything I really need.

    I know not everyone is as “lucky” as me. So I just thank God for making it possible to have the life I do … practically speaking, there’s no way our finances make any sense. But somehow we still keep a roof over our heads!

    1. Not all people with higher incomes spend more on their kids. 😉
      I am blessed beyond belief to be able to stay home with my child. My husband makes a good income at what he does. I am so lucky that I am doing things like cooking from scratch by choice and not as a necessity.
      We moved from a high cost of living area to a lower one (my husband found a job that paid a similar amount), completely cut cable and reduced many other things we used to spend money.
      I think the only way, even higher income people could spend $12,000 per year on a kid is with some debt. Because we’re not in the “just getting by” category and I still shop thrift stores for mine & the babies clothes, take hand me downs, ask for clothes or things the baby needs as gifts, go to free story time at the library and do almost everything from scratch at home as far as cooking goes.
      Over half of our income goes into savings – for emergencies, for our next vehicle, for our retirement and for college. Our only sticking point on having a second child right now is how to double what we are saving for college.
      Anyway… not all the folks with more money choose to spend it on that fancy baby stuff. Our stroller was $25 at a consignment sale (bought it on half price day), changing table was $20 on craigslist, cloth diapers were baby shower gifts mainly, toys and clothes needed to fill gaps come from Goodwill whenever possible (not that there are toy “needs” per say but when I do buy a toy I go there), etc.

  7. I did the math like Tasha did and got similar results. So I stayed home and homeschooled. I also get the “you’re so lucky your husband earns so much” even though we are frequently under the poverty level income wise.

    And it does irk me when it comes from a woman with a leased, new vehicle, designer clothes, salon hair and nails, cell phone in hand, who says she works to keep her kids fed. None of those things keep her kids fed, and that’s the part that irritates me. I have no issue at all with two income families who really need the income, nor do I have an issue with two income families who use the second income for things they want but don’t necessarily need, as long as they aren’t whining about how much kids cost, or assuming that because I don’t get a paycheck, I sit around watching tv all day. I don’t have time during the day, and in the evening I tend to doze off part way through a program, because I WORK all day, everyday, including weekends.

    Right now I have a canner full of produce from the garden, am drying fruit leather for school lunches and waiting for the washer to finish so I can hang laundry on the line. Most of that is back to school clothing from the thrift store trip yesterday. The working moms are just now starting to drive past on their way to their jobs. In the past 24 hours, I know I have avoided spending more than most of them earned, after all their work related expenses are accounted for. It might cost them $12000 a year to raise a child, even without special medical expenses, but it hasn’t cost me anywhere close to that to raise two.

    I expect that figure includes many things that frugal people consider to be luxuries, like individual cell phones with all the apps, computers and other electronics, an annual “destination” vacation, brand new name brand clothing, regular salon hairstyles, restaurant meals and other entertainment, a typical North American quota of prescriptions and over the counter medications, full sets of matching bed linens to be replaced as soon as a new favorite character is featured, as well as savings for college or university. Excepting the education funding, I don’t think many frugal people do any of those things. If you aren’t frugal and do choose to provide all that, you almost certainly will need a second income, because you will have created the need.

    I could go on, but the washer just stopped, so I’m off.

  8. I enjoyed this post, too, Katie. How cool that you snagged the opportunity to get that interview. I think it’s the mindset that has to change–in our culture we all seem to have to have a certain amount of square feet, opportunites, etc. or we aren’t going to thrive.

    Well, some of us aren’t getting that, and we are thriving!

    We live in a pretty small house with 3 children. We’ve made it with one vehicle (and our oldest is 18) which sometimes causes minor annoyances, but we can work those out. We have one bathroom, one television, and one computer. It’s not that we wouldn’t want to expand (I would LOVE more space), but all this helps us to live within our means so that I can be home and we can be together as a family. That ‘s what’s important to us, and that’s what drives our decisions. It’s important to us to stay out of debt.

    Our 18 year old starts a college program next week: It’s a proven, legitimate way to get a bachelor’s degree for a fraction of the cost and also a fraction of the time. It’s great for children like ours who just aren’t sure of what they want to do yet, but can still bank the basic credits as a stepping stone for the future. If it weren’t for a program like this, we’d probably be looking at student loans.

    No, I don’t think that it necessarily takes $12K each year to raise a child (unless you’re talking boys–those food bills, LOL!), but if you’re home with them, and they’re getting all that “custom, one-on-one guidance, love, and affirmation”–that’s something that’s way out of the ballpark that you can’t even begin to put a value on!

    Great job presenting this–and best wishes to you on your forthcoming birth:)!

  9. Katie, I always appreciate that you say what needs to be said, even if its controversial!!
    I fully agree with you. I have stayed at home since becoming a mom almost 8 years ago. My husband doesn’t make a fortune either (in fact right now he is not working at all!). It has always irked me when people say “It’s so nice you can afford to stay home.” Nope, actually we can’t afford it. But we sacrifice what is unnecessary to make it work! My kids don’t have the latest clothes or toys, but they have a relationship with both their parents and know they are loved. That is what matters to me! I also appreciate what you said about using discernment to decide on growing your family, or not. We just had baby #4 and decided that he is our last. It is an emotional decision for me, but my hubby felt strongly (not at all for $ related reasons!), and I went with my husbands convictions. I still think we may adopt some day, which is a conviction we have both shared at different times. Anywho….thanks for this post Katie, and for saying the controversial! 🙂

  10. i agree it can be kind of irritating when people say how “lucky” i am “get” to stay at home. my husband does not make very much, and we too make sacrifices so that i can stay at home. we drive older vehicles (well, one at this point), ride our bikes, and we live in a very small 2 bedroom home in a “not quite gentrified” neighborhood 😉 but we are in a central location close to most everything in our nice college town of 100,000. we are so blessed!! i know by most people’s standards in THIS country we are poor, but compared to most people on the planet we are incredibly rich- and that is how i feel!

  11. I loved this article. I know there are moms out there who truly do all they can to save money and still can’t make it add up to stay home. I spent 3 1/2 years in that place. But when I stepped out in faith, God answered our prayers. When my first was born I put pen to paper and even if I sold my car and cut cable and coupons we couldn’t make it work. My husband just didn’t make enough. Over that 3 1/2 years, God opened doors, changed our hearts, and put us through the wringer. I ended up in the ER with a very sick child (later diagnosed with a brain tumor, she is doing well now) and decided that night I would not go back to work. Whatever had to happen, even if we lived in a box, I was staying home.

    And miracle of miracles, I have stayed home now for almost 3 years and we have never gone without. Yes, we made huge sacrifices but those were replaced by blessings. Money “magically” appears in the mailbox right when we need it. We have prayed for a rocking chair, washer/dryer, and a car and low and behold, someone will call wanting to know if we need those things at a deeply discounted price. Not all our prayers have been answered yet-we live in a small house and are in need of a bigger house for less money.

    It makes me mad sometimes when people say that its so wonderful that I can stay home, like my husband must make a lot of money or something. I always say that I can stay home because we make sacrifices. We wear hand me downs, make our food from scratch (mostly), and basically live within our means. Our tax return money goes into savings, our children don’t have the latest and greatest toys and gadgets, and we live in a small but affordable home. I can stay home because we have the faith that God will provide, my husband works hard, and we all sacrifice.

    Thank you Katie for this article!

  12. Women ask me all the time how I can afford to stay home and dont I get bored. My response is usually I save my family a lot of money by not shopping, instead of shopping for things I do not need and are more than I should pay, I spend my time learning how to take care of my family, and teach my children to do the same. So instead of spending more more in the mall, I SAVE my family lots of money making yogurt.
    Of course most think I am nuts, but really why would I need a $200 couch purse for my child to dump milk in when a $20 one would work just fine!

    This was a good article, I know lots of parents who spend that $12k and beyond each year, needless to say they do not understand me, I do not understand then, but I do feel sad that they are spending all of there childrens young lives working then to make up for it are rushing them to every over priced activity that they can.

  13. If I was a SAHM $12K a year would be seriously over the top. However we live in HCOL area and even with frugal livestyle, both of us working, we just make ends meet. $12K easily goes for a year of daycare here, so for me this is mainly that expense. I tried numerous times to calculate possibility of being SAHM, but with high housing prices here one salary barely covers more than a mortgage on a old condo in the suburbs. It really bags me when people always assume that working moms work because of wants not needs. It’s just not true in most cases.

    1. Marta,
      I don’t think anyone here is trying to bunch all people together – if the comments show anything, they underscore that every situation is very different. That you’ve calculated finances shows that you’re in the same “category” as we moms who can stay at home, and surely if and when you can make changes, you will! Remember that the fact that I’m blogging here means I’m actually a work-at-home-mom and I am contributing some income to our family. Every situation, so different.

      Please don’t feel put down because you’re doing your very best!!!

      🙂 Katie

  14. Oh, and you’ve also made me feel a bit better about being a stay-at-home mum. Hopefully I can save the family some money through my cooking and gardening. 🙂

  15. Hey Katie, thanks for another well thought-out article.

    We’ve just had our second child and at this point are thinking that might be it for us. (Although we could change our mind once the sleep deprivation period ends.) (Or our minds could be changed for us, since babies one and two came along when they pleased.)

    In any case, I found your comments on the recession generation interesting. I hadn’t thought about the fact the next generation will grow up with different ideas about money because of the recession. It’s given me a bit of hope for the future.

    Cheers for that,


  16. Natasha@ Saved by the Egg Timer

    I just wanted to share my experience…when I decided I really wanted to be a stay at home mom I calculated our income, expenses and tax bracket. Turns out without my income we dropped down to a lower percentage tax bracket and with all the extra expenses, gas, daycare, wardrobe, eating out, etc….I only brought home $300 a month! All that work for nothing, not to mention my heart broke every day I was away from my kids. I save much more money staying home, shopping sales, clearance, cooking at home… We got to keep our lifestyles, did not have to change anything at all, we can still afford kids sports and my gym membership. My teenager even notices how we have all been healthier this year by way of eating better :). We are happy, healthy and husband loves the home cooked warm meals to bring for work lunch! Moral of the story….check your tax bracket!

    1. Natasha,
      What a great real-life example of redoing the SAHM finances! I’m so happy you found what worked for you and shared it here. Thank you!
      🙂 Katie

  17. Excellent post! When my husband and I were married in 1996, we immediately started living off of only his incoming, saving all of mine. At the time, his income was $11/hr and mind was $7/hr! This afforded us a significant downpayment for our first home and to pay for our vehicles with cash. So, when our fist child came along in 2001, there was no big adjustment to living off of one income. Yes, we had to get creative in order to save, but by then, my husband’s wage had also increased. Living on one income right from the beginning of our marriage was the best thing we ever did and that would be the tidbit of advice I would share with every young couple just starting out their lives together.

  18. Thanks for this article, Katie. I agree with a lot of your points. I do sympathize with Jenny, who wonders about the medical costs. Our son, now 2, had several severe medical issues when he was born, including a hereditary crippling of both feet, and a disorder that made it necessary to wean cold turkey and take a prescription formula. The one blessing for us in all of this was discovering that Shriner’s Hospital will treat our son’s legs at no cost — they do not even bill our insurance or ask for a copay. With their help, our son’s legs look completely normal and he walked right on schedule. Something to look into for parents whose children have serious medical issues or catastrophic injuries.

    You mention that a lot of mothers who work feel guilty about not spending time with their kids — I feel guilty about being a burden on my husband as a sahm and about “not contributing” to the household finances.

    1. Meg,
      that is certainly a valid flipside I didn’t include! I would encourage you to see your SAHM work as a job, though, and consider how much you SAVE your family in what you can do – like I do w/homemade yogurt. What do you save in coupons that you might not have time for if you worked?

      Or, like my mom said when we talked about this article, don’t be afraid to find some small way to work outside of the home. She sees herself as a SAHM who went a little stir crazy at home, to the detriment of her attitude about motherhood at times. She wishes she would have substitute taught once we were both in school rather than waiting to take that plunge until my brother was in high school. There are many concrete and not-so-concrete ways SAHMs can contribute to the family income – embrace the gift you have in that role…

      🙂 Katie

  19. Interesting! We have 5 kids, at 12,000/child/year we should be digging a hole deeper into debt, and yet we aren’t we are saving money and I don’t do near all the things you do to save money.

  20. One thing not mentioned in the article that I can see greatly affecting the costs of raising a child is your regional location. Not only does the cost of living in your area affect your income and the cost of goods, but there are significantly different needs in different regions.

    We live in a cold region for example and run our heater throughout the winter, but we would almost certainly need to run an extra space heater for an infant, unless we were to cosleep. Babies and small children in our area need snow gear and extra footwear, even more blankets., etc. Those are small things, but they could add up, especially across three or four children of different ages.

    Now, after saying all that, I still have to add two thoughts: I fully agree with you, there is no way a child would cost us $12K/year; absolutely no way. For the first year of our marriage, even with a mortgage, my husband and I supported ourselves, three large dogs and several foster cats on $12K; we never had any consumer debt, paid our bills on time and ended the year well in the black. I can’t imagine a baby demanding more that all of that–mortgage, bills, pets, etc.

    Finally, I think this is one of the best articles you’ve written to date, Katie. I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on a topic that has always interested and befuddled me.

    1. good point, and different governments’ regulations also add to the cost. in much of the world a moped is considered a family vehicle. we transported our family of seven in a 1970’s VW bug for years. but that’s not legal in America even though the road conditions there are much safer and drivers generally follow traffic laws.

  21. as a childless & spouseless person, the cost of raising children is still a huge fear to me. At various points in my childhood, I did without. I can remember having 2 pair of jeans for school, track shoes that hurt my feet, sleeping under a pile of blankets all winter, & no phone for 3 years, among other things.

    I paid for college myself, largely through academic scholarships & the maximum pell grant. When completing my FAFSA I discovered my mom’s income was around $12-15k/yr during my college days with 2 kids at home.

    while i am not a parent, i took custody of my youngest brother just over a year ago. he turned 18 in march. he’s covered by my insurance & going thru accutane treatment for severe acne that couldn’t be helped otherwise. those meds are expensive, but insurance helps a lot. he’s also gotten 18 years of dental care in a span of a few months. i’ve seen how his years without have affected his gentle personality much more than they did my strong one.

    i type this reply in my $7 (50% off) nearly new til i got ahold of them thrift store calvin klein jeans. Monday I wore $3 thrift store Jolt (a Macy’s brand) jeans. For my 30th I splurged on an ipad. shortly before my 29th, i bought a house, on my own, in the Seattle real estate market.

    i do not wish to spoil my kids, should i have any, but i want them to have reasonable access to the things i did not – travel, culture, lessons, a better school, college funds, & the like.

    i believe family planning is extremely important. a family that is not making ends meet or barely scraping by should not be bringing a child into the world if it is going to stress (& break) their already tight budget. kids are smart & figure out financial stresses.

    1. i don’t think any of us is in a good place to recommend others not have children. although i appreciate your point of view, and i think it is of course extremely important for children to have their basic needs met, and yes any stress in the family (financial or otherwise) will have a negative affect on the children, i guess i wish people would stop short of telling others not to have any more children, i think it is offensive.

    2. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Your story is first of all, amazing. You have done so well in your short years!

      I do agree with Lizi, though, that child decisions must be up to the couple – as the statistic said in the article, when couples can save $, their marriages are stronger. I do believe this – but it also is very personal in how people respond to monetary challenges. I’m reading the biography of Maria Trapp (of the Sound of Music) and it is AMAZING to see her family’s response when they lost 10o% of their savings in a bank crash. They ended up counting their blessings even more, solely b/c of their faith, tenacity, and great attitudes about adversity. Their children were the better for it ultimately.

      The bottom line is that having children is always a gamble – even when you feel “secure” you never know what the next month might bring. One has to prayerfully discern what’s more important – money or children? And each couple must prayerfully discern on their own, without the help of the government, friends, relatives, or random Internet people like you and me! 😉

      That said, your perspective is very important, and I honor you so much for stepping in to help your brother!!!
      🙂 Katie

  22. To Nina,
    Sorry if I offended you with my McMansion comment, and by the way, I have been friends with this woman for over 20 years. We were in each others weddings, she is the person I would and have on many occasion called in the case of an emergency. She is well aware of her priorities , we have discussed it. Her window treatments in her house equaled the cost of my children’s tuition for one year. That’s how much I DO know about her finances..I was merely trying to add to the commentary on wants vs. needs. I was raised by a single mother, so I understand somewhat where you are coming from; however, it seems to me as if you are the one judging organized religion with a broad stroke. If you would take the time to actually become involved in a community, you may be surprised with the acceptance you will find. At my church (even in my children’s classes) there are several single mothers. You may be surprised to know that there are also same sex families, regardless of church teaching. I seems as though you are judging others unfairly, as I’m assuming as a single parent, you don’t have the option of staying home. We are all merely making a point that it is not easy for us to do so..we all make sacrifices, as do you. I certainly respect those who choose to work and those who have no other choice. The point I think everyone was trying to make is that if it is something you strongly desire, many times it can be achieved, but not easily.

  23. Some very good points here – things I’ve wondered about hearing those numbers. I particularly liked the point about younger children costing (generally) less than older. But then older can (potentially) contribute to their own upkeep – paying their own car insurance as one reader specified.

    I read recently, can’t remember where, about a mother of 4 visiting the pediatrician. The doctor, in his usual checkup family interview, asked the mom if she worked. He then stopped himself, saying, “of course you don’t. You couldn’t afford the childcare for four children.” Not that she couldn’t, but that in general childcare is soooo expensive. Staying home does save you a bundle (even so it’s not always enough, I know).

    That being said, we’re in the unusual position of each of our children costing MORE than the last. The first was almost free, the second cost a little more, the third wiped out our savings. Granted, we did hit a “breaking point” with him – needed the car upgrade – but still, it doesn’t seem to be the common experience. If you already have a big(ger) car, a separate room for the kids, and have children of the same sex, at the same time of year, then yeah, #2 should be about free. But sometimes that doesn’t work out and a subsequent child is a little pricey…maybe not $12000/yr pricey, but enough to make you stop and plan a little more.

  24. I am the mother of 4 children and I can honestly say that if we had waited on finances to have a baby that we would still be waiting. And waiting. We’ve been married ten years and while we have worked hard, we’ve had major set backs. Ironically, with each set back, we found God calling us to have a child. At times it was scary, but that is where faith came in…
    There is so much more value to a child than a monetary number! We have had to let go of a lot of wants, but the Lord has faithfully met all of our true needs (they are, after all, His children first). This last time especially was difficult as we lost our home and like you are living with parents while we find another. God will teach you how to care for His children as he gives them to you if you open your home and hearts to them. This last sweet baby–the one I was so worried to have– has brought SO MUCH JOY into our lives! Joy I ache to think of having missed out on. And these joys will last forever, unlike money.
    If anyone is interested in our (and the world’s) declining population, Demographic Winter is a great documentary to start with.

  25. Melissa @ Dyno-mom

    This is a topic that rattles my nerves, particularly as a Catholic. This amount of money is unreasonable consumerist nonsense. I am with Raising Olives on this one, I also have ten kids, no debt, own a home, eat whole foods and homeschool. It is totally doable for far less than they say. It is all about values and putting your money where your heart is and all too often it is new clothes, new cars, and expenive electronics.

    Sorry to be caustic, but I am really too tired of being asked how we afford all the kids we have.

  26. My son was quite a bit his first yeat. He was early and in the hospital for almost a month so despite insurance i had almost 5k in medical bills. Due to some substance abuse and mental health issues his father has and is not willing to work on he is not in our lives so i had to work and had to oay for child care. His clothes were donated and i breastfed as much as i could but for a preemie w health issues this isnt always rec’d. Plus to have a job i commuted quite a distance add in wear and tear on car etc.

    Perhaps it is unitentional but the majority of the readers here profess they are religious and potentially christian but there is little love or a demonstration of that in their judgments and responses. I think it is great if they have found their circumstances are different. Why do they need to malign those thst don’t? I would suggest that if you refer to a person in your life as having a mcmansion…you arent a friend. Do you know anything about them? Maybe they got a good deal and the market tanked…maybe they had fsmily put down a deposit and felt it was a good idea anf they were obligated. Maybe someone had a rotten day and splurges on starbucks for the first time in a year and thats the day you see them and judge
    them for that.

    Its so very sad as women that our first response is to denigrate rather than lift up others all the while loudly proclaiming (admidst our judgment) that we are religious. Its one of the reasons i avoid organized religion and won’t bring my son up around such hypocrisy. I know he’ll be judged for not having a father and i will for being a single parent and no one will attempt to find out what our indivual circumstances really are or walk in our shoes and see if they would have done differently. Thankfully i know God loves me as i am even KNOWiNG me…but it sure doesnt engender an enjoyable community spirit here.

    1. AMEN! i agree with you, it is be honest with ourselves and not judge others, but uplift our brothers and sisters. because like you said, we may not know the whole story; but the bottom line is that tearing each other down is NOT helpful, it is hurtful. is that what Jesus, or Buddha, or anybody worth following taught??
      Although, I do think this is an important discussion to have; but it is not always cut and dried. It is worthwhile to talk about these things, because although I have a feeling most patrons of this blog are forward thinking, family oriented, free thinkers who have evaluated saving money, eating whole foods, raising a happy family, etc; there is a large portion of society who i think may not be exposed to our “alternative” POV about supporting a family. I try to be open hearted about others who seem, on the surface, to be working 2 jobs to support a nice home (large mortgage) nice vehicles (2 large car payments), mane brand clothes, vacations, and the like.
      As a single mom, I will admit, I do sometimes judge families like these. Maybe it is on the pretense that I feel bad about how our society pressures moms. But maybe it is because in some way I feel inadequate as a stay-at-home mom, we are what most people would call poor, and maybe I have some insecurities there.

      But nevertheless, I thank you for your reminder that we are here to LOVE ONE ANOTHER, and we should always keep that in mind in discussions like these, especially if we want to see real progress in these issues. It doesn’t do any good to tear each other down, which I don’t think most of us are trying to do, lets just stay sensitive to each other 🙂

    2. Thanks for the reminder, Nina. It is very important not to judge others’ situations. It’s tempting, because we KNOW many others are spending more than they need to … but we don’t necessarily know that Mrs. X could afford more kids or to stay home. Sometimes it’s more than a question of dollars and cents.

      I have a friend who has more money than I do, because she doesn’t have to pay for kids. Because she has trouble having kids … her only two died early. That’s a cross she has to bear, and I don’t envy her that burden. A cross she definitely doesn’t need is other people judging her for having so much money and not being “generous” enough to have kids!

      There have been plenty of people on here sharing their situations, so I think we can all see how not-simple it is.

      Kids don’t HAVE to be that expensive. I think few kids really HAVE to cost $12,000 a year. But many kids do have a lot of expenses (medical treatment, special needs), and some of us don’t have even the $1,000 a year that we need. We all do what we can. I always try to assume others do the same.

      Try not to write off organized religion just yet. Not all of us are like that. I think it’s pretty clear from Katie’s tone that she isn’t. And I know you’d be welcome at my church (Catholic) any time. <3

    3. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I feel badly that it’s taken my 4 days to get through the comments down to yours…forgive me!

      I’m so sorry that your husband wasn’t able to do his duty to his family, and you (and your son) are certainly the ones who suffer his mistakes. A tragedy. We all know that you’re doing everything you can to be the best possible parent, and of course you can’t be a stay-at-home single mom.

      I’ve been involved with an amazing organization in my community called Cradles of Grace, specifically to support unmarried pregnant women and their children. It is a Christian organization, and you’d never find judgment there. Unfortunately, we do live in a fallen world, and people point fingers at those they don’t understand all the time. Even Christians sin! We just understand the importance of getting back up again, repenting, and making better choices as we move forward. I don’t think you’d be judged wrongly in any church you go into, but surely there are some people in some churches who would look down on single moms, sadly.

      I pray with Sheila that you don’t group all churches into one box, either, and understand that there are many, many loving and open Christian communities out there who could be literally a second family for your son – the benefit of God telling us to live in community is that even though we CAN worship and pray to him on our own, as you sound like you do already (which is great!), it’s better to be with others to support each other in love.

      I hope your little guy is now healthy and someday will understand and appreciate how much his amazing mother sacrificed for him! You have a tougher job than any of us married women here, and I know we all honor you for that!!
      🙂 Katie

  27. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    Yes…there’s a lot that can be done to save money!

    We took a dresser from my parents that they no longer needed to use for my daughter. It had been mine as a child…which they purchased at a garage sale in the ’80s for $10. It’s not in good shape — at all — but it still works.

    We bought kids clothes at Good Will this year…got TONS of cute stuff and I let them go a little wild. But we hit sales and got the first batch for $0.33/each and the second batch for $0.67/each. I don’t even need to hit clearance racks for $2 – $4 each when I can just go to Good Will…. I’ll fill in what I didn’t already get with clearance at Walmart and stuff. But I even got my son a fall/spring jacket at Good Will. Fleece zip-up shirts are cheaper than “real” coats and safer in car seats too.

    Saving money is my “job” as we’ve discussed it. I have the house budget to work with and I have to be really smart about it. We’re getting better and better about it these days.

    We do choose to save about 40% of our income for both retirement and college and can afford to do both. This has been a priority for us. When we look at newer cars, vacations, etc. we know that it is not worth it for us at this time. We don’t send our kids to preschool or sign them up for lessons or anything like that either. I have friends who say, “Well, preschool’s only $100/month and they have fun!” This is for about 4 hours a week. I just can’t fathom spending that much on something my kids don’t need.

    I believe there are families who truly cut back everything they can and both parents still have to work, but I also believe that there are families who have mixed up the ‘want’ vs. ‘need’ and possibly would not both have to work, if they were willing to seriously reevaluate their budget.

  28. Overall, I agree with this post and the information within it- and I agree with everyone about the “want” vs. “need” argument and the excesses many go to to raise their children. I need to comment on: “Are we damaging our economic security by raising small families..”, however. Aren’t we risking damaging the planet’s ability to provide for today’s expanding population as it continues to grow? Certainly, living the whole life, making conscientious decisions like buying second hand, living frugally, etc. makes less of an impact than a typical upper/middle class lifestyle does (particularly at $12k a year per child). But to imply that more people will make less of an impact is misleading, to say the least. Additionally, to state that having more children somehow bolsters the economy seems like an faulty justification to support a personal choice in family size. Every couple has the privilege to reproduce as many times as they want to. But to claim having a child will mean another person can retire doesn’t make sense. Kind of like clapping so a fairy gets its wings. By that reasoning, the next generation will have to have even more children so the elders can retire, and so on, and that does nothing but ensure everyone’s demise. Thank you.

    1. Yes, thank you for bringing this up. Over population is no laughing matter and I really and truly don’t understand how so many Christians seem to think it doesn’t apply to them. Actually, I find it offensive enough that I will no longer be reading this blog.

      1. Oh Beth,
        Just because someone has a differing opinion than you on one issue doesn’t mean you have to stop reading the blog. Im not catholic and many here are. I don’t always agree with some of their beliefs as they do not always agree with my beliefs (non denom. church of Christ). Whats important is keeping an open dialog, talking, encouraging, and growing. Hey, I or they may learn something new. Thats wonderful. Sometimes, I go and read up some more and I change my mind, sometimes I read some more and am further strengthend in my beliefs. Encourage, admonish, love. Sometimes we are not all good at that. I can be a little bit of a pistle, but I try not to.
        Just remember there are two sides to every coin. You may not agree, but you may be able to find greater understanding what others are thinking.

      2. Beth (& Britt),
        As with everything, as Jenny already pointed out (I got way behind on comments), there are multiple sides to the coin. I’m not saying we all have to have MORE kids to take care of us when we are old, but at least replacement rate, which in our country and some others in the world (China), we are not.
        Thanks, Katie

  29. I want to know what you are doing to keep your medical costs down. Are all of you sure your adding it up right? We have great insurance through my husband’s work and we used doctors with in the system. Out of pocket for prenatal care and birth- 3000-3500. We also had to go back to the hospital because our daughter needed the billie light for 24 hrs. My husband has HOCM, a type of hereditary heart disease. So the first year of each childs life we have to have tests done – about $1200. Another test at age 5, $600. Again at age 10 for another $600. Then once a year and maybe our insurance will cover it since they will be at the age the insurance thinks the tests should start. To say the least, medical bills are a major factor in holding us back. We have to plan ahead and save big time. So By the time our baby was about 5 months old she racked up about $5,000 alone in medical bills. Not too far from the $12,000 a year. We are hoping the subsequent years will be cheaper- at least for a little while.

    1. I saw this on babble today and found it interesting.

      One thing that has been irritating me lately is a comment that was made to me by an individual living off of the goverment. I want more children but we do have to save up before we can have more- simply to pay the medical bills for the whole process. She looked at me confused and said can’t you just get medicare to pay for all of it? I gently told her no that we can not recieve medicare. In my head I thought, NO! My husband works- a lot – and we have to pay a lot in taxes for you to have babies as often as you like and you don’t even have to hold back, wait, or save to do so. I know it’s a bad attitude and I should feel sorry for her poor up bringing and lack of desire to work hard to reach out of her position. It is something I have been praying about. I am glad our gov. helps those that truely need it, but it irritates me to see people abuse it and teach the next generation to do the same.

      1. i don’t think it’s very kindly to “feel sorry” for your supposed friend any better than it is to look down on her and berate her for what you perceive to be her faults.
        if we lived in a country with gov’t subsidized health care for everyone it would be a totally different story, but i guess that isn’t really the issue here. but to me it is an issue because my family right now if in tight times so we get by with a little help from uncle sam, which includes health insurance for my kids and for me when i was pregnant. and i was working full time when i was pregnant with #2, with salary that included health insurance. our state’s guidelines for medicare for preg women goes over twice the poverty threshold, which for a family of four is $23K, so if you make under $46 K you would qualify and it would be FREE, no copays, FREE. around here a one salary household making $46K is still considered pretty well off. that said we had our babies at home so we had to pay for the midwife and prenatal all out of pocket anyway.
        i guess if your philosophy is that you are a loser unless you have the “desire to reach beyond your position” and pay for your own health insurance costs, that’s your pov. but i think health care should be available to anyone so i am not ashamed that we receive help for ours and i wouldn’t work full time and send my kids to daycare for it. just because your friend used it or i am doesn’t mean we are abusing it. in fact the way you talk about her how can you say she is a friend?

        1. Im sorry you feel that I was being unkind to someone you have not even met and do not understand. . Im quite sure you have never visited the Delta or Mississippi for any period of time. There are groups of people of all races that culturaly think its ok to just live off of the goverment. There are unwed families because they can collect more welfare by reporting only one income. They work little, stop working as much to remain on wellfare and you see them sitting around outside drinking beer throughout the day. In poorer areas teachers (I have friends and family who teach) have commonly heard their very younge students talking about how they want to have a baby or another baby so they will get a check from the gov. Its quite sad. We have one very bright younge man that goes to church with us whose mother made him perform poorly in school- they get more money if their child is in special ed. She then made him quit school and go to work. He’s in his mid twenties and our preacher helped him progress in his edu. He is now in college on the deans list. Obviously not everyone fits that bill of abuse, and your case is different. Although please remember that goverment assistance is not free, the goverment isn’t giving it to you or anyone else. Any goverment assistance is not given to you by a goverment that is a business making money from their own hard labor. The money is coming directly from we the people. More importantly, its coming from the middle class. We are people too and we have needs.
          Gov. ast. can be good, but it can be bad. It does in many instances hold people back. One lesson in church pointed out that many people do not give to the church as much because we have to pay so many taxes. As a result, the church isn’t able to do as much and people do not reach out as much to the church for help because they have the gov. to look to. This also cuts back on local missionary work and their efforts.
          If churches were able to do more of the distribution there would be a more fair discharge of help. It would be less standardized and more individualized.

          1. Jenny,
            The Delta and Miss. are not alone in this – certainly there are many, many folks who need/require assistance, but yes, there are plenty here in Michigan too, sadly, who learn to work the system and live off the gov’t on purpose.

      2. Families are the building blocks of society; it is in the interest of government and the public good that there be government support for families.

        1. Please come for a visit and see if the gov. is truely helping or hindering. Your absolutely right that its in our best intrest to support families. I just don’t think its in our best intrest for the gov. to. I think it’s better to leave more money in our own pockets. Personally, I would like to have more so I can give more to our church. I feel that our churches are better suited for such benevolence. That they would be more effective in spreading the word of God if people had to depend more on God’s churches to help them rather than depending on the goverment.

          1. you are right i have never spent much time in the deep south but i can attest that here in rural MO poverty is just as rampant as are people who “work the system”; my non mothering career has always been working with NFP helping people of this demographic. and i totally agree it is sad to see people supposedly happy to just get by working the system, especially when you consider that “the system” does not bring people out of poverty, it just brings you right to the brink. am i happy living the way we are now? yes and no. of course i feel very blessed for having such a wonderful family, and even the 850 SF home we own and the older vehicles we drive, the food on our table (yes with help from uncle sam). but i am not happy to stay in this place, and fortunately it looks like my husband will be getting a better job and we will be well out of poverty (tho not rich by any means!). i just want people to know that not all of us receiving help from the system are abusing it. i think it is kind of a taboo topic, but i am not embarrassed to talk about it. like i said in another post, if we lived in europe and had more family foward policies regarding maternity leave and health care, etc, then we would be in a different ball game. i know not everyone agrees, but that is how i sort of rationalize my situation, it helps me stay home with my kids while they are little and my husband just graduated and looking to get a better job.
            i am FULLY aware of the rampant abuse of the system, altho since i have worked extensively with people like that, i wonder if the system is wrong or if it is a societal issue at root. should we dismantle these programs just because people rely on them too much? should the people get cut off, families go hungry, naked, without health care? it is a tough call. seems like we need to support each other more to be our best, and yes i actually think the gov’t could play a part in that. frankly when we talk about taxes the issue shouldn’t be so much how much we are taxed but how those taxes are spent. the % of the govt budget that goes to welfare and food stamps is a pittance compared to what we spend on corporate welfare and our military budget. we are still called to tithe properly regardless of how much we are taxed. my family tithes more than our percentage, and also shares our time and talent, even though we are on a meager income, so it can be done and God will take care of us. His kingdom is abundant!! lets cultivate attitudes of kindness and not tear each other own because it does not help. i did not mean to do that to you, just to point out that to me it doesn’t make sense to call someone a friend and then talk down on them. i don’t have to know the person personally to think that is off neither does knowing the person entitle any of us the condemn them.

            1. Lizi,

              As for the goverment wellfare system, I guess we will never agree and thats ok. Im a less is more kind of goverment girl. Less gov. makes me more happy and I believe it allows the people to do more, grow more, and help more in more direct and meaningful ways to each individual. Just because so many in Europe are doing it (socialism), doesn’t mean I want to. Lets not all go and jump off a bridge! 🙂

              I would hardly consider praying for myself to have a better attitude and pitty towards someone who’s environment has caused them to have some poor behaviors (listed above) as condemning them. Please be more careful with your word choice. Or you may end up being a pot calling the kettle black.
              Although I do understand that some undertones may have been misrepresented through my writen word. You can’t hear my voice or see may face- nor I you. 😉

          2. ah! yes, subsidiarity is the way to go. churches are almost always a better choice than gov’t to help families, but unfortunately are not always equipped to do so. it is in the gov’t’s interest to promote the creation and education of more citizens, so the gov’t helps families through tax credits for children, medicaid, etc. certainly some abuse the system, but does that mean that those that don’t abuse the system should go without care?

      3. this is senseless. we need to talk about redistribution of wealth. not the socialist scaremongering of the right and not the poverty-trap welfare of the left.

        government is not an entity with money of its own; it collects taxes from citizens and redistributes those monies. but the beneficiaries are NOT poor people. poor people do not hoard that money, buying up investments. they SPEND that money.

        so the question is, where does that money END UP? to whom is it eventually and actually being redistributed?

        in the case of food stamps it is BIG AG and in the case of medical care it is BIG PHARMA.

        big business is getting rich of off taxpayers in many more ways than one. and while they are siphoning off the wealth of the middle class, they set the middle and lower classes off fighting against each other.

        the poor have the stingy middle class to be mad at and the middle class have the sponging lower class to be mad at so we never stop to follow the money.

    2. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      The medical costs I quoted are what I marked down in our budget for the first year, although I did notice since then that we also paid $200 some for circumcision. This baby will cost much more in labor/delivery costs, unfortunately, because of new insurance and legislation. 6 years ago, we paid nothing for the birth. I liked that better!

      You are very right that nowadays parents have to make sure they can cover the medical costs before having a baby…
      🙂 Katie

      1. Man! I should have been born a little sooner and had my children early. It seems the prices have sky rocketed.

        1. WHY does medical care cost so much in America?

          name some of the top performing companies in America? according to bloomberg businessweek #2 in the nation is in healthcare products, #6 in pharmaceuticals, 13 in biotech, 24 pharma, 26 biotech. (interestingly, on the global list pharma shows up only at #20 and med devices & services at #39. why does the industry do so much better in America? does it have anything to do with corrupt relationships with the FDA?)

          i lived in jordan for 7 years and to walk in off the street and see any doctor in any hospital cost only $10. if you have an idea of what your problem is and want to skip the doctor you can consult with a pharmacist for free and buy the medicine you need without prescription.

          so, no, we should not put off having children because of high costs. we should question the high costs. after all, people can’t put off getting cancer. they get stuck with inflated bills.

          if healthcare was affordable the government would not need to subsidize it. since healthcare costs are greatly inflated, the government has to subsidize, and BIG PHARMA gets bigger.

    3. Jenny,
      I’m coming back to this comment because I’m learning how much this new baby will cost – see the difference between a 2005 birth and 2011 birth here: Things have changed!
      Here’s hoping the pendulum swings back…

  30. I second what Laurel said (even though I get where you are coming from). I need to work 3/4 time to maintain my sons’ health insurance. Both of them have special medical needs and my husbands insurance is so bad and would costs us thousands and thousands extra every year for all the specialists/surgeries my sons need. I am lucky to have a flexible job with great insurance that allows my sons to get the care they need and we can then afford their dietary supplements (not covered by insurance) as well. I know that obviously my husband could find another job with better benefits and we have been trying for a long time. Not the best economy. Ideally we will be able to do this and I can stay home finally. But for now this is what we need to do. And I am proud to admit, even with working 30 hours a week, I still cloth diaper, get many things from goodwill/craigslist, make my own yogurt and beans and lots of other stuff I learn about from this blog. Its not always easy but it can be done!

    1. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      You’re doing so awesome! Every situation is so different, and certainly in this economy finding a new/better job is incredibly difficult. I don’t think all moms need to stay at home…but I don’t think it takes $226K to raise a child. Special needs kids, naturally, should have a new category of their own. Thank you for reminding us of that! 🙂 Katie

  31. Katie,
    I love LOVE this post! You’re exactly right that it all comes down to needs vs. wants. @Lisa B,
    Well said! I have been at home for almost 10 years now and I wouldn’t trade a moment. Sometimes I sit back and wonder how in the world we have been able to do it. Our 3 kids are all in Catholic school as well, and I feel so very blessed. They don’t always have the lastest gadget, but they have a roof over their head, good REAL homecooked food in their bellies and a Mom who is always there for them..always! I have a dear friend who works full time as does her husband. She tells me there’s no way they could afford Catholic school or for her to stay at home; however, they have a McMansion, two fairly new vehicles, a decorator (yes, a decorator!) child-care stresses and a freezer full of frozen/processed meals. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything! Once again Katie..thanks for such a wonderful site. God Bless your family and the work you do 🙂

  32. I’m so glad you wrote this post! I sent it to my husband to read too. We haven’t had any children yet, but our intention is that I will be a stay at home mom once the kiddos come and I’ve been following your writing in order to learn how to save and make homemade. This article articulates everything that I’ve thought about the cost of children, but as a childless young adult, can never say.

  33. Katie, thank you for this post. I am always astounded at the numbers that are calculated as necessary for raising children. We are due with #3 any day now, too, and so far we have spent probably $10 on two too-cute-to-pass-up shirts and stocked up on diapers with sales, ECBs, and coupons. While our children aren’t deprived, we try to spend our money very consciously and opt for experiences rather than things. Esther, I had to work, too, until just before I had my second child and understand that sometimes it just has to be done. It’s a hard, and often heartbreaking, choice. I pray that you can soon be able to stay home as you’d like. Please know that you are doing a great and very difficult job as a mom and full-time employee. Good luck!

  34. I absolutely agree with so many of your points! I am a mom of 1 so far, and I know we didn’t spend nearly that much. One big thing that saved us money was gifts! So many people in our church and family were extremely generous, and we received almost everything we needed to start up that way. And for almost the entire first year, I hardly had to buy any clothes! I know whenever it is time for #2 we will have almost everything we need, with the exception of possibly different season clothes in various sizes. This means it will hardly cost anything to have a second child, except for childcare.

    I currently work outside the home full-time, as does my husband, although we work different shifts. This pains me greatly, and I am constantly taking apart my budget, trying to find some way to pay all the bills without having to work. It simply doesn’t. Not even close.

    I don’t want to be defensive or inflamatory, but when I see comments about moms who work outside the home being unwilling to give up “wants” and placing that above their child’s needs, it makes my eyes well up. And I think it is an overly broad statement. I know it is true in some cases, but I am proof that it is not true in all cases. In fact, I cook almost all of our food & cleaning supplies from scratch. We only have one car, my son wears cloth diapers whenever I’m home, we live in a small apartment, I shop sales and get things secondhand as much as I possibly can. I can’t do those things as much as a stay-at-home mom can though. There are simply not enough hours in the day, and in my area garage sales run while I am at work. So I go to thrift stores for clothes, but it’s really hit or miss with what sizes they will have at a particular time, and sometimes my son ends up wearing new walmart clothes instead.

    I guess I just want to tell the other side of the story so people know it’s not always about wanting more, more, more. Sometimes it’s about making enormous sacrifices so that we can pay the bills and put food on the table.

    Anyway, thank you for all the wonderful information! I have used many of your tips to save money, and I love your blog. 🙂

    1. L,
      Thank you for being a good example of the enormous sacrifices parents make! I realized I didn’t use that word in the post – but yes, absolutely, to have children CHANGES most couples’ lifestyles dramatically, and if you’re not ready for sacrifice, you’re not going to be able to raise children on less.

      🙂 Katie

    2. Just an encouragement here. We had 4 children in daycare with 2 incomes and 2 cars and never seemed to make ends meet. I hated my job and was very underappreciated. We also didn’t own our own home at the time. But my Mom, who drummed into my head my ENTIRE life that I had to bring home the bacon, brought to my attention (after reading an article) the fact that I could possibly save money by staying home. I then took account of all our expenses, costs for work attire, lunches out, gas for commuting, etc. etc. It turned out that I was only netting the cost of our food bill! That’s right. Everything else on my job paid for my working!!! So I went to my favorite local grocery store and asked if they were hiring for nights and weekends. Mysteriously (a God thing) I was hired on even after finding out they never had my application on file. I just called to find out when I should come in and they told me when the training started up. I went in on that day, and I worked for several months till I was secure that I could quit my day job. God had his hand in the whole enfolding of events. Immediately after that, my husband was given the opportunity of a new job that increased his salary by 50%. I was able to finally become a full-time stay at home mom after about 2 yrs.

      Try to give your husband the chance to be the full-time provider. Look again; you might see some things that you didn’t think of before. It’s great that you only have one car and are being as frugal as you can. Your work will be rewarded. There is no greater reward than a Mom being able to raise her child/ren herself, with Dad being there of course.

      I was raised to be a business woman who didn’t need to rely on a husband to take care of me. But that’s not who I am. I am so thankful for the suggestion of my Mom. I don’t even think she could guess what it would lead me to. Today, we have 7 children, homeschool, and are trying to simplify our life by being more connected to each other and be together as a family. We grow produce in the summer, we raise chickens, we do things more naturally. Other than dish soap and dishwasher detergent (yes, for us it is cheaper to use the machine) and shampoo, we don’t use anything other than homemade household items. We don’t buy paper goods. We have a picnic utensil set for company, we use reuseable plastics cups, and our usual plates also for company. That saves a bunch. We make our own laundry soap–look it up online–you can make a powder formula that’s easy to transport.

      Please be encouraged and rely on our Lord God for your strength. It’s through him that we can accomplish much.

  35. Beth @ Turn 2 the Simple

    Amen! Needs vs. wants is definitely the bottom line! We (family of 4) live on less than $2,000 each month — no debt, real foods, no government help. It can be done! We have plenty — more than enough, as the toy piles and clothing piles grow! God always provides — through great deals, gifts, extra income jobs, etc. My job as a stay-at-home mom is NOT a want — we are willing to sacrifice most anything to keep me home! And my staying home enables me to cook from scratch, garage sale, etc. to save money.

  36. I hate it when people tell you how much your children cost you without asking you… I have a cousin who does not have children. I told him that we had 5 boys and he was shocked and proceeded to tell me how much the bills are! He wouldn’t listen when I tried to tell him that my children really aren’t such a financial burden, I am a stay at home, homeschooling mother. He proceeded to tease me about my husband and how rich we must be to have that many children and to make enough to provide for us all. He succeeded in offending my husband pretty badly. To set the record straight, we are not rich in money but we are rich in children! I really don’t like it when someone tries to push their beliefs on you when they are so obviously false. Do people report how much children cost to deter young people from having children? These people who report on how much a child cost–they ought to ask someone who really knows–us moms! I love my children and it breaks my heart that I can’t have anymore due to horrible complications after #5. I hope to adopt someday, I may not be Catholic but I am glad to read a blog that agrees with me–children are a gift from God. I hope all goes well with your up and coming birth. Your sweet princess is getting the best present of all–a sibling to share her life with.

    1. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Thank you for the well wishes – and I hope your cousin gets an education someday in how rich of a blessing children are! We lead by example, and you’re doing a wonderful job. 🙂 Katie

  37. Excellent article! Such a huge $-figure presumes so much upon the pressures of a you-need-now society. Thanks for sharing your views with so many who need to see the other side of the coin too. 🙂

  38. this is a great article. As a mom of 7 and homeschooling 5, I have lived this way for a VERY long time. No, you can’t plan what the cost of a child will be. Even if you don’t have insurance, there are ways to pay for the hospital bill, etc. by budgeting. Even with health insurance, for our 3rd child, she required a week’s hosptilization which left us with a huge copayment (20%) that we had to pay off for her whole first year of life! Although we started out buying new cars and having a payment (drove the 1st car for 14 yrs, the 2nd is a 2002 and has over 225k miles on it), we now buy used and have found a self-employed mechanic to take care of them. He doesn’t mark up the parts as a shop would.

    The only qualification I have is that with 5 children and hubby who works from home 3 days per week, there are no leftovers for lunch. And as we all know, those cute cooking shows like 30-min meals are usually for 4 servimgs, so double that and it’s 1-hour meals. So double that, to have leftovers, and you’ve got 2 hour meals. As a result, we eat a lot of eggs (have our own chickens), make our own bread, grind our own wheat, buy our own beef and pork. We’ve found ways to do this. Also, since going to REAL food, we don’t spend much money at the grocery store. My husband weaned himself off coffee, so no bill for that. I drink herbal teas and seltzer, but I’ve started making kombucha, so that will replace some of that. that’s just a sampling.

    I’m in this with you. I believe those $225K numbers are for those yuppy’s or dink’s or whatever you call them all now, who will die without their starbucks lattes, ski and disney vacations, beamers or dinalis or hummers or whatever, their weekly mani/pedis, massages, gym memberships and whatever goes along with the ‘package’. and let’s not forget those $1000 strollers and the private schools. . .

    We have our own package–lots of kids that God intended us to have. they don’t have invite the whole class birthday parties, sweet 16 parties that mimic a wedding reception, our teens don’t get their drivers license until they can afford to pay for car insurance. But we love them, clothe them, feed them, teach them God’s word thru the bible, they learn to care for themselves and their siblings, they learn to not ask for throw away toys at Walmart. There’s a lot more, but I guess you get the idea.

    I’m glad that you challenged this reporter’s idea of the ‘necessities’ of this life. We know that those are wants and we don’t need to envy anyone who chooses to live that way. I had to give my boys a lecture about this today when they were complaining about the ‘chores’ I needed them to help with. It’s easy to be complacent or feel entitlement, even with a simple life.

    Keep up the great work and the great info. Thanks for your blog!

  39. Back in the 90’s, Amy Dacyczyn wrote an article (it was reprinted in her book The Complete Tightwad Gazette) on exactly this topic. At that time, the USDA figure was that a middle class family (annual income $32K to $54k) would spend $231K raising one child from birth to age 18. That figure allowed for 6% inflation/rising costs. An “affluent” family would spend about 50% more. She argued (rightly) that in reality it is possible to raise a child for a small percentage of that.

    Frankly, I think that USDA’s formula doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense. It quite obviously costs more to feed/clothe/entertain a teenager than it does a tiny baby. My 2-year-old daughter doesn’t eat much (unless it’s pizza ;0). My 11-year-old son (who looks like a stick and needs a belt to hold up his pants) consumes more calories than his father. His almost 6-year-old brother (also a stick, but has an increased caloric need due to a medical condition) eats almost as much as him.

    I have 4 children altogether and when they were all young, their servings combined added up to about 1 adult serving. NOW I never have leftovers no matter how much I make.

    My 2-year-old’s clothes are mostly hand-me downs. Finding thrift/yardsale clothes in good shape for the 11-year-old have proved impossible in my area, so we ask for clothing gifts from the grands, but gosh, keeping him in shoes and such, not a cheap proposition (he’s already in men’s shoes).

    BUT, my point is, the initial expense was not really very high. Number 2 can usually use number 1’s crib, carseat, clothes, etc.

    Things like soccer teams and dance lessons won’t come until later.

    When our second child was born, we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment. Young children actually love to share a room. Until last year, we lived in a 3 bedroom house with all 4 kids. It’s doable.

    And hopefully, for most families anyway, as the bread-winner becomes more established in his career, the income will slowly go up to help cover those added costs. That’s not always the case, I know, but our ability to plan too far ahead is limited…we have to learn to roll with what comes sometimes.

    Pardon my ramble.;0)

  40. Katie,
    Thanks so much…as a mom of 4 and in hopes to be blessed with more…we are constantly striving to find ways to save and survive on a ministry salary…I cant begin to tell you how much your website as well as nourishing traditions has helped us in the saving category in both finances and family/mommy vocation….
    Its been so great to take the time to plan and prepare meals and my children enjoy the grocery adventures and the taste testing!
    Thanks for your sharing…it is such a challenge many families face and the solutions you offer are extremely helpful!! Blessings to you with #4!!

  41. Kimberly @ Raising Olives

    Great post Katie and you make some great points.

    I wanted to chime in because I’m a mom of 10 and I can definitively state that children do not need to cost $12K a year, not even CLOSE!

    According to that figure our 10 children would cost more than $120K every year. Our family income is not even close to $120K a year and we are not in any debt. We live in a large home, eat whole foods, have lovely clothes and even pay for our children’s education as we homeschool them.

    It saddens me that the media will float numbers like that because despite the encouragement to go ahead and have that baby, it certainly will discourage some from doing that, especially those who feel ‘stretched’ already.

  42. Whew! What a can of worms. I work outside the home because my husband is in graduate school (2 more years!). If I stayed home we would have to find a way to pay for health insurance for myself and baby (close to $8k/year last time I checked). Given that he doesn’t make a large salary as a student, we would have to go on public assistance, which I can’t in good conscience do. Daycare in big cities (I live in Chicago) is super expensive (~$10k per year) but given that I make a good salary, we are able to afford it, continue to tithe 10% of our income, and have no debt. We use cloth diapers, cook all our meals, use leftovers for lunch, shop thrift stores/garage sales for baby clothing (or borrowed from friends), breastfeed exclusively (baby is 4 months old), use homemade cleaners, don’t own a car, don’t own a television (so no cable bill). Even with all the savings from these, there is no way we could afford a second child right now because daycare would be too expensive. My husband would have to drop out of school or I would have to quit work and we’d live off our savings (we have two years worth of living expenses saved). I totally agree with you Katie–people need to look at their needs vs. wants. We won’t be buying lots of expensive gear or going on fancy vacations, but that is ok with me. My best memories are just spending time with my family. We take advantage of all the FREE things to do in Chicago (parks, museums, festivals) and live a very full life. I think that this generation of children will have a different mindset as people start to examine what they really need, and what is really important.

    1. <<>>

      when i read comments like this, i have to say, i feel a bit ashamed, embarrassed, maybe even like am doing something wrong. I am a stay at home mom of 2, and we -GASP!- get by with help from public assistance: food stamps, and my kids are on gov’t subsidized health care plans.
      i was raised in a upper middle class home, and i graduated with honors and plans to go to law school. i never pictured myself “scraping by” like this.
      i probably would have said something like you said, i would never “in good conscience” go on welfare or food stamps. as if it is morally reprehensible to do such a thing. as if people who get by with help from the gov’t are irresponsible and make bad choices.
      but when it became obvious to me that by getting that assistance, i would be able to stay at home with my daughter, and now my son, i have to say i swallowed my pride and applied for food stamps. the way the economy is, my husband (who just graduated, so he was a student) just couldn’t make enough for us to get by otherwise and frankly i wasn’t so sure my income would justify day care expenses for one or 2 kids. i just couldn’t do it.
      the way i see it, if we lived in europe or a more progressive country, we would have gov’t subsidized health care and generous maternity leave, so in a way the extra $ we get for food stamps and our kids health insurance is OKAY with me.
      i know in our society it is seen as a huge weakness to go on food stamps, or really to accept any help from anyone let alone the gov’t. you are seen as a failure, or lazy, or both.
      but to me, staying home with my kids is worth it, 100%. let me say i am not proud to get food stamps, but i don’t want to feel ashamed either. it is not a life-long choice, either, but when our kids are this little i consider it a blessing and i do thank God everyday for it. as i type this, my husband is actually being considered for a job that will almost double his salary, which means we won’t need public assistant anymore. i am excited at the possibility, for sure. but i am done feeling like a loser because we chose to take this path.
      does anybody this those families in europe or elsewhere are so bad, lazy, or acting without conscience. because let me affirm that this has been a challenging decision and i have more conscience and prayer behind me than ever.

      i personally think we need more family friendly policies in the workplace and gov’t sponsored ones too. i think it is an investment in the future of our society.

      i went back to work when my daughter turned 2 (husband stayed home with her and she was in day care part-time while he was in school), and i had a great, well paying job- then i found our i was pregnant with #2. my boss told me with a straight face how we had a GENEROUS maternity leave policy- SIX WEEKS UNPAID. i thought you must think i am crazy. i gave my notice and resigned when i was 8 months pregnant. i am sure people thought i was crazy, but i have NEVER regretted it. not even when i swallowed my pride and applied for food stamps.

      1. I am SO sorry if I have offended in any way. I do NOT feel that people are “losers” or that they shouldn’t go on public assistance when they need it. It is a great safety net to help temporarily when there are tough times. I was trying to say that I wouldn’t quit my job just knowing that I couldn’t afford it. That does not mean that anyone is morally reprehensible for doing so–not at all. We each make our own choices that are prayerfully discerned about what is best for our family. I agree–if we had universal health care and more generous maternity leave these choices would be a LOT easier. I thought and prayed a lot about my decision TO work, and decided that it was best for my family at this time. I realize it is different for other people. This may change in the future and I may stay home when we have different circumstances. I had no paid leave as well, and now that I am working 80% time, I also only get 80% benefits. It is frustrating and I really wish that our country could realize that we need to support families WAY more than it currently does–with better leave policies, health care, etc.

      2. Lizi, you’re not alone. My baby is on Medicaire and we get WIC. We also live with my in-laws for a very low rent. Being on public assistance is something I never wanted either, but sometimes life just happens. We are working as hard as we can to get out of this situation, though, and someday I hope that we can be the ones giving instead of the ones receiving.

      3. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

        It sure sounds like you’re making the best choices for your family, and temporarily being on assistance is what it’s there for, right!? Every situation is so different, and I hope you just hug your babies and never feel ashamed for being the “helped” until you can be the “helper.” Mary’s reply is great, too!
        🙂 Katie

      4. lizi,
        I gather this from your response – public assistance made it possible for you to be a SAHM with your first child & now that you have a second, you’re not sure that daycare for them would make working worthwhile, so you remain on assistance.

        Don’t you feel as though society first supported the luxury of you being a SAHM & now also has to support your decision to have a second child? why should my tax dollars support your luxuries? maybe I’d like to keep those tax dollars in my pocket so I could have a child of my own.

        pressently, I am a single with my 18 year old brother to support. Should I have a child now, my income could not support that child on my own, so I do the responsible thing & don’t have a child.

        After I bought my house, I realized I was “pigeonholed in”. If I didn’t get married to a husband w/ his own income or increase my own income, I could not afford to have a child. As someone who is relationship challenged, I had kinda wanted to keep the single mom by choice option open. I do have my brother to finish raising, so I suppose, all is not lost. I have already given him numerous opportunities I didn’t have but looking back wish I did.

        1. Tonya,
          I think the important thing here is that Lizi can’t wait to be self-sufficient and is doing everything she can. I don’t think she’s an example of someone “working the system” at all…but we all are entitled to our own opinions…


        2. well you could certainly see it that way, but i see it a little differently. i don’t feel bad about letting the gov help me be a SAHM because i think that is pretty much the best way for me to contribute to society. when i went back to work full time to support my family when my daughter was 2, i found out i was pregnant again. we were doing NFP but i hadn’t started my periods yet so it is tricky and surprise! so i worked throughout the pregnancy and yes went back on pub assistance with the next baby because frankly i would have had to use it for daycare assistance if i wanted to go back to work and the small amount we get for food stamps plus the kid’s health care i think is a small price for the gov to pay for me to produce healthy, loving, secure children. my husband has been working full time and finishing up his degree the last 3 years and he just graduated so we are just waiting (any day literally) for him to get hired at a better paying job with benefits, etc, so we will go off pub assistance. it isn’t something we planned, or are proud of, but the way it worked out i just consider it a blessing and a lesson learned for me, who a few years ago NEVER would have thought myself to be “on welfare”. but instead of feeling like a bum, i just try to see the positive side of it, not just for ME and my family, but for society. i have paid taxes for years and will for the rest of my life so no i don’t feel like i am abusing the gov for the total 2 years we have received help. and like i said, if we lived in france and i had generous maternity leave, gov sponsored health care, would anyone be judging me? of course i know that’s not what everyone wants, but it is just something to think about. i wish gov didn’t have to support me in this way, but maybe if our gov was more family friendly and not so gung-ho under the pretense of business/military, more families would be supported in other ways.

        3. Something I was thinking on the other day… our country pays millions of dollars in healthcare, support, and retirement money for our servicemen and women, active and retired. And rightly so. However, could you not make the argument that the MOTHERS of our country do just as much to promote the welfare of our nation as our soldiers (and I say this as the wife, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law of 5 veterans)? Why then can they get no help? Why must staying home with our children be a luxury rather than a valuable investment in the lives of our smallest citizens; our future taxpayers, soldiers, and elected officials; and our future mothers and fathers? Staying at home may indeed be a luxury for some families, but not all.

      5. It’s a nice thought to think that we should be more “European” and have more “family friendly” policies. It sounds so, well, nice, and kindly, and modern. The problem is….it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work morally or financially. Morally, it is making other people pay for the choices we make, literally. The government is not some kind of checkbook fairy. That money doesn’t come out of the sky. It comes from the work of other citizens. You can see the result of this in all of this civil unrest going on in Europe all the time. There is always rioting somewhere (today, London and Manchester) because of people who are brought up to believe that the government owes them all of these benefits. The government is nothing. The government doesn’t have anything. It is the money of the working citizenry. The real statement that people should make when they say the government should pay for X, Y, and Z is “my fellow citizens should pay for X, Y, and Z”. Does it still sound like a good idea to say “my fellow citizens should pay for my health care”, “my fellow citizens should pay for my maternity leave”, “my fellow citizens should pay for (fill in the blank)”?

        So, morally, government entitlements are problematic (and in case you think I’m a rich person hoarding my money, let me tell you, that I live in a 40+ year old single-wide trailer, and my newer car is 3 years old). But, fiscally, they don’t work, either. All of those wonderful, progressive, so-smart-we-just-gotta-be-like-them European countries are BROKE. Because it doesn’t pay to work (tax rates are unbelievable, 40, 50, 60 percent and more), many people don’t. Huge amounts of people on welfare. Huge amounts of money being spent on “free” healthcare. Super low productivity from the private sector means that no wealth is being created. People who do have capital are sitting on it, rather than investing it, because the government takes so much of what they make and makes it so hard to run businesses that there is too much fear they will lose their shirts, so they hold on to what they’ve got.

        The last thing that any American who can do math wants is to be like Europe. Europe is broke and burning with social unrest because of their “generous” programs.

        As to whether or not you should be on welfare and food stamps…I think it’s really easy to determine. If you could go to work and make it (pay your bills, feed your kids), then of course not. It’s wrong to take from our fellow citizens when we can do for ourselves. Even if working would net you no more than taking welfare, you should do it because you would be paying your own way, not taking from others when you could do for yourself. But if you really can’t, then this is what safety net programs are for. Take the help for as long as you really need to in good and clear conscience. There is nothing loser about that.

        Of course, only YOU (and your husband) will ever know whether you really need it, or not. It’s up to you to prayerfully discern these things, and then live with yourself about it.

          1. thank you KESW for your thoughts- i agree that mothers, care-givers, need a lot more respect and i obviously think along the lines that why aren’t they entitled to a little help from uncle sam for their contributions to soceity.
            i only meant to refer to european counties as a point of reference i never said they are perfect or we should be just like them. (!!)
            by family friendly policies i would be referring to every other remotely industrialized nation (including mexico) that have more generous family leave policies, not necessarily government entitlements. mothers are expected back at work when their newborns are a month and a half old, and i do not agree with that because i do not think it is family friendly. same case with care-givers helping an ailing parent or relative. in this country you have no legal recourse to take longer off from work, you could lose your job and that is a tough call to make.
            tammy, as for your advice or equation for how i can “calculate” if i should go to work or not. i can tell you are a bottom line kinda person, only factoring the money. well i think staying home with my kids in INVALUABLE to society, so i guess i will take the health care for my kids and the small amount of food stamps (i don’t get any welfare check….) and yes i pray plenty and i sleep pretty darn good at night even with my baby waking me up to nurse. i am not a bottom-line-only, money is the only measure, kinda person, i think of the big picture. i have paid taxes for years and will continue to for the rest of my life, God willing, so i don’t have an ounce of remorse for receiving help right now.
            i agree with you that it is realistic to remember we are not using $ from some “checkbook fairy” it is from the taxpaying citizenry. i do still pay some taxes, thankyouverymuch, and i can say i don’t mind lending a hand to someone so that they can do what’s right for their family which is usually what benefits society best as well. it’s not just about $-$=$? and the bottom line. there is a bigger picture. so i thank my fellow citizens, and God, for investing in a happy, healthy, whole family that at this time best serves society by functioning wholly. i can guarantee it will pay off in spades 🙂

  43. Katie, I think you have an interesting post. As my husband and I pray about the idea of expanding with baby #3, finances play a huge roll. No matter how we spin the dial, there isn’t a way for me to stay home. We coupon, cook all meals from scratch, buy second hand and follow a myriad of cost saving strategies. But the real reason I work boils down to savings. We want to make sure to have enough money for retirement as well as college savings for the kids. It’s also nice knowing that should an emergency arise (like the broken sewer line in our yard), there’s money there to pay for it.
    I fully believe that children do not cost $12k a year and that they don’t need lots of stuff, but sometimes even after giving up all the wants a second income is necessary to cover the needs.

    1. Esther,
      And you’re absolutely right. It’s an expensive world we live in! I couldn’t figure out how to fit this in the post, but there’s some irony in my own story: I started blogging because after I quit teaching 6 hours a week, our budget was suddenly in the red. 6 hours was all it took, so I began looking for some *small* way to supplement our income. I encourage moms to think out of the box too and try to find part-time or at-home income so they can be more flexible with family time. Thank you for giving me a chance to include that info with this post!
      🙂 Katie

      1. Yes, I totally agree with this. I clean houses a few hours a week and keeps us from going in the red.

  44. My mom and dad raised me and my 10 siblings on one income, and the wants vs needs is really an attitude to pass on to your children, I got a 21 year old vehicle that I drove for a year for $600 and didn’t have to put any money into it but a tire because of a flat— Thank you for this article. Wants vs needs is what it really comes down to.

    1. I don’t see the point in bragging about buying a cheap, used vehicle. Unless you have major mechanical skills it’s totally a matter of luck. You ended up being able to driving it a year but it’s just as likely it could have broken down the day after you bought it and needed $2000 to fix. It’s a total gamble.

  45. I LOVED this post! What exactly are they trying to accomplish by releasing a ridiculous figure like that? My first child is almost a year old and I think we’ve spent about $1500 on her first year, maybe closer to $2,000 after medical costs, but that’s still a far cry from $12,000. We still drive a little 2-door car even though all our family and friends told us we would require a bigger car right away and we live in a small 2 bedroom apartment. People look at us like we’re crazy when we talk about fitting a second child in the same car and the same bedroom, but we’re happy to do it! We don’t “need” a lot of stuff and really…we don’t “want” it either. I do like to shy away from quantifying my stay-at-home-mom status. I simply do not feel the need to use money — something so meaningless (as necessary as it may be) — to place value on something which means the world to me and my family.

  46. I’m amazed at what people spend on their kids. Last year I spent $30 at garage sales before school buying my daughter a new wardrobe. And you know what! Not one person could have guessed she was in thrifted clothes. I have a friend who spends $300-400 a kid (she has 4) on school clothes.

    Blows my mind when people say they couldn’t afford to not work. What they can’t afford is to give up their wants.

    1. Your last 2 sentences are pretty offensive. It is not always that simple of a decision. Try to be more sensitive.

      1. Laurel,
        I certainly understand that many people cannot physically or emotionally have more than one or two kids. If by last two sentences you mean the nugget of thought that our country as a whole may be damaging our economic security by choosing/raising smaller families, certainly I’m not pointing fingers. It takes millions of people to make this country thrive or fail. I may be done at 3 and barely having more than the norm, who knows? But it was an interesting thought to ponder for me…


        1. Katie, I actually loved the last part of your post. There are very sobering statistics about how a society falls when people have smaller families. My issue was with the comment from lisa b. Not all working moms work only to fulfill their wants, there are times when they must provide the essentials for their family.

          1. Sorry, Laurel – in my backend dashboard, I can’t actually see who is replying to whom. gotcha! 🙂 Katie

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