How Much Does It Cost to Have a Kid? Try More Than $250,000

The cost of raising a child is climbing. Find out how to keep a lid on spending.
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Any parent knows it's expensive to have kids. In fact, the price tag for a middle-income family to raise a child born in 2015 through age 17 is nearly $237,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And that estimate doesn't even include one of the biggest costs of all: college.

Here's a look at look at how much money you're spending on your kids, from pregnancy to extracurricular activities.

doctors checking pregnant woman
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Pregnancy and Childbirth

Your checking account starts to feel the effects of having a kid before your child is born. The cost of visiting the doctor while you're pregnant adds up. These prenatal care expenses — as well as childbirth expenses — are not included in the USDA's health cost estimate. And they're likely higher than you expect.

New mom and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch knows the financial difficulty of bringing a child into the world. "We knew having a baby would be costly from a healthcare perspective, but just how much surprised us," she said. Average out-of-pocket costs for childbirth range from $2,244 to $2,669 for women with insurance, according to the most recent figures from a 2013 study by Truven Health Analytics. However, costs can be higher if there are complications, or if you don't have insurance coverage.

Woroch said she and her husband knew what the cost of delivery at the hospital would be, but they didn't factor in the potential cost of an emergency cesarean section. "We owed hundreds of dollars more for the surgeon on call to assist, anesthesia and the extra day in the hospital," she said. In all, Woroch said she paid about $5,000 out of pocket for medical expenses during her pregnancy and for childbirth.

Fortunately, she had set aside money in an emergency fund beforehand to cover those costs. She recommends that all parents-to-be make it a priority to build an emergency fund. "You don't want to go into debt to pay for medical care, and you don't want to skimp on it either," she said.

Another option is to take advantage of a health savings account if you have a high-deductible health insurance policy. You can contribute up to $3,400 in 2017 to an HSA if you have individual health coverage with a deductible of at least $1,300. You can contribute up to $6,750 if you have family coverage with a deductible of at least $2,600.

Contributions to an HSA can be deducted from your paycheck before taxes, and are withdrawn tax-free for healthcare costs.

Estimated cost: $2,669 to $5,000

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Loss of Pay During Maternity Leave

The U.S. doesn't require employers to provide paid maternity leave for workers, so most companies don't. Only 12 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave, according to the Department of Labor. That means most working women have to get by on less if they take time off after having a baby.

Holly Johnson, a mom of two and author of "Zero Down Your Debt," said that this expense caught her off-guard when she had her first child. Her former employer paid half her regular salary for six weeks of maternity leave. However, she took another four weeks of unpaid leave.

"This was very difficult to do when I had just saved $500 per month for eight months of my pregnancy in order to have our $4,000 deductible ready when I delivered," she said. It made it all the more difficult to get by during that time with reduced pay because she had the additional costs of a new child, she said.

The U.S. Department of Labor said women working full time earned a median weekly wage of $758 during the fourth quarter of 2016. That means they would lose $4,548 in earnings if they took six weeks of unpaid maternity leave. It's important to calculate lost wages for maternity leave. That way, you can start setting aside money in a savings account during your pregnancy so you can get by without pay for a while.

Estimated cost: $4,548 for six weeks of unpaid leave

Learn: Is It Cheaper to Have a Baby or Adopt?

woman changing a baby's diaper
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Lots and Lots of Diapers

If you have a child, you will go through a lot of diapers. The USDA does include this expense in its cost of raising a child estimate. But the amount you'll pay might surprise you.

Parents can expect to spend $72 per month on disposable diapers during the baby's first year, according to That's $864 for just one year — and you can expect your child to be in diapers for another year or two beyond that. If your child is in diapers for three years, you could spend $2,592.

You can cut the cost of diapers if you buy generic brands instead of name-brands. For example, a package of 100 size-one Pampers Swaddlers diapers costs $24.29 at Target. However, a package of 176 size-one diapers from Target's up & up brand costs $21.99.

Or you could use cloth diapers, which can be significantly cheaper if you wash them yourself. estimates the monthly cost to be $19 — which adds up to $228 over a year and $684 over three years.

Estimated cost: $2,592 over three years

young family with children eating pizza
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Takeout When You’re Too Tired to Cook

Of course, you expect to spend more on food when you add another mouth to the household, and the USDA estimate does include food costs. Although you don't want to waste money on unnecessary expenses, it might be hard to avoid an unexpected rise in the amount you spend picking up food from restaurants.

"When baby arrives, you won't have time to cook, and those endless takeout orders will begin racking up," Woroch said. During the first few months after their daughter was born, Woroch and her husband were spending 50 percent more on takeout orders. "We went to cheaper restaurants like Jersey Mike's, PizzaRev and Chipotle and looked for coupons, but it was still a hit to our budget," she said.

Millennials spend about $100 per month on restaurant meals, according to a survey by TD Bank. So if you're in this age group and are thinking about having a child, prepare to spend that much — or 50 percent more, as Woroch did — getting takeout the first few months after having a baby.

You can avoid this cost, though, by preparing meals before the baby arrives. Woroch recommends you buy food in bulk to save on groceries and cook freezer-friendly meals such as lasagna or beef stew. "These will be easy to reheat when you're too tired to even boil water," she said.

Estimated cost: $450 during the baby's first three months

family celebrating daughters birthday with cake and hats
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Birthday Parties and Gifts

Birthdays provide another example of the steep cost of raising a child. More than 40 percent of parents surveyed by T. Rowe Price said they spent $200 or more on a child's birthday party. Add in gifts, and the cost rises even more. An equal percentage of parents said they spent $200 or more on birthday presents for a child.

If you spoil your kids by throwing lavish birthday parties and showering them with gifts, it could cost you a small fortune over time. If you spent $400 on a party and gifts every year for your child, you'd spend $6,800 over 17 years.

It's understandable that parents want their children to have memorable birthdays. But remember, there are other gift-giving holidays throughout the year. Plus, as your kids reach school age, they'll be invited to parties — which means more gifts to buy. So keep birthday parties simple, and set the precedent early on so your kids will only expect a few gifts on birthdays and holidays.

Estimated cost: $6,800 over 17 years

Related: How I Keep My Kids Entertained Without Spending a Fortune

kids children playing soccer
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Sports and Extracurricular Activities

As your kids grow out of diapers and go to school, you'll be hit with even more expenses. Some of the biggest are extracurricular activities.

More than one-third of parents surveyed by T. Rowe Price said they spent $500 or more in a year for a child's extracurricular activities. If you have a child involved in competitive sports, prepare to spend even more.

A survey by TD Ameritrade found that parents of children who play youth sports spend an average of $100 to $500 per month per child. About 20 percent spend $1,000 or more per month on competitive sports.

Parents can keep down these costs by limiting their kids to just one extracurricular activity. Not only will you save on fees and activity-related expenses, but you'll save money on gas if you're not driving your kids to numerous practices or lessons. You also can save money by buying used instead of springing for new instruments or sporting equipment for your kids.

Estimated cost: $1,200 to $12,000 per year; $15,600 to $156,000 for 13 years during elementary, middle and high school

kids children in summer camp sitting on logs in nature
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Summer Camp

Working parents can count on paying for child care. After housing and food, it is the third-largest expense in the USDA's estimate of the cost of raising a child. You might expect to be free of this expense once your kids start school.

However, what will you do with your kids during school breaks when you still have to work? Many parents rely on camps. Johnson said she is spending $380 to send her daughters to a gymnastics camp for three days over spring break. "During summer, they're doing four week-long camps to the tune of $1,000," she said. "It all adds up."

The average tuition for day camp ranges from $199 to $800 per week, according to the American Camp Association. The tuition for resident — or overnight — camp tuition averages $630 to $2,000 per week. So if you have more than one child or plan to send your only child to more than one camp during the summer, you might end up spending thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep down the cost of sending your child to camp. Many camps offer discounts for early registration, enrolling more than one child and even referring other campers. And more than 93 percent of camps offer financial assistance, according to the American Camp Association.

You also might be able to get financial assistance from civic organizations, churches or synagogues. Or you might be able to claim a tax credit. You can claim a credit of $3,000 per child — up to a maximum of $6,000 — for expenses you paid for child care in order to work.

Estimated cost: $199 to $2,000 per year; $1,719 to $18,000 for nine years during elementary and middle school.

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