The cost of raising a child from birth to 17? Don’t ask!

The cost of raising a child from birth to 17? Don’t ask!
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It’s no secret that raising kids can get expensive. In fact, the total price tag to raise one child from birth through age 17 now sits at a whopping $233,610.

That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And it doesn’t include the annual cost of college since most kids won’t begin that until after their 17th birthday!

(If you’re curious, you can tack on an additional $47,000 a year for a private college or $20,090 annually for a public institution if you want to talk about the cost of higher education for your child.)

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Where does all the money go?

The single biggest expense was housing, which accounts for 29% of the total. Following that you have food (18%), child care and education (16%), transportation (15%), health care 9(%), miscellaneous (7%) and clothing (6%).

The study was based on U.S. averages for middle-income married couple families from the most recent version of the Expenditures on Children by Families report.

Nobody ever said children were cheap!

But consider this: Where you live has a big impact on how expensive it is to raise a family.

The USDA report finds that on average you’ll spend some $40,000 less living in a rural area ($193,020) versus any urban city center — no matter whether you’re talking about the urban Northeast ($253,770), urban West ($235,140), urban South ($221,730) or urban Midwest ($217,020).

You can estimate your cost to start a family using the USDA Cost of Raising a Child Calculator.

Ways to save money during the baby years

If you’re a financially strapped parent, you’ve got some new tools in your diaper bag to help you make ends meet…

Some 40% of parents say they spend more than $80 on diapers each month. Meanwhile, 60% of parents fess up to spending a minimum of  $120 on formula every month.

That’s according to a survey of 1,000 parents with kids under the age of three that discount grocer Aldi conducted in partnership with Google Consumer Survey.

What if you could take that cost down big time? Aldi says it can save you in excess of $1,200 a year on diapers, formula and snacks.

Aldi’s line of baby products called Little Journey promises savings of up to $110 on snacks, savings of up to $400 on diapers and savings of up to $720 on formula.

Meanwhile, cloth diapers may sound a bit odd in our disposable society, but they make a lot of financial sense.

Our cost comparison of cloth diapering vs. disposable diapers found that you’ll save $840 over two years by going with cloth. And that’s just for one child.

If you have two children, the savings are even more extreme — somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,080!

When it comes to formula, generic formula is about half the price of the national brands. The Food and Drug Administration requires that it be nutritionally equal to brand names like Similac, Enfamil and Good Start.

Of course, it goes without saying that mother’s milk is the best (and cheapest!) food for infants if that’s the choice for you. If it’s not an option for whatever reason, Aldi is a great place to shop for formula.

But don’t forget about Costco either. The warehouse club sells it for almost less half the price of formula you might purchase at your local grocery store. Kirkland Signature brand formula is 46 cents an ounce and the name brand, Enfamil, is 89 cents an ounce.

Final thought: Don’t forget about life insurance and doing a will!

If you have children, you’ve got to have life insurance and a will.

With term life insurance (aka level term), you pay one flat rate year after year for the length of the policy, and you typically buy it for periods of 20 or 30 years.

It’s strictly intended to serve as income replacement for your heirs in the event of your untimely death.

Read more: Your 7 most common life insurance questions answered

Meanwhile, doing a will isn’t as daunting as you think it has to be.

When you have children, you need a will for the simple fact that if you don’t have one, the state would decide who raises your kids if something were to happen to you.

Fortunately, you can get a simple will in place in about 15 minutes using the WillMaker software ($70) from If you don’t like WillMaker, ($69) would be another way to get it done on the cheap.

Both Nolo and LegalZoom frequently run sales and both have updated their software for 2018.

RELATED: Cheapest and easiest ways to do a will

Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller "Living Large in Lean Times."
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