Thursday, May 17, 2012

High Costs & Higher Things

Did you see the recent news story on the cost of raising children? (See here: The Inflation of Life, if it somehow slipped by your radar.) Here's a quote:
The government's most recent annual report reveals a middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend roughly $227,000 for food, shelter and other expenses necessary to raise that child - $287,000 when you factor in projected inflation.

And, no, the bill does not include the cost of college or anything related to the pregnancy and delivery.

"If you sat down to tally up the total cost of having children, you'd never have them," says Timothy Knotts, a father of four and a certified financial planner with The Hogan-Knotts Financial Group in Red Bank N.J. "It's a very expensive adventure."

Talk about a life-changing event. That's a lot of vacations, clothing, and restaurant dinners you may no longer enjoy.

Warning: in the next few paragraphs I go on a very candid rant.(Click the "read more" button if you want to read.)

1st - It does not cost that much to raise a child, I'm sorry. I don't care what study you're quoting. I don't care about inflation. It does not cost that much to raise a child.

2nd - Why are they talking about shelter costs? Presumably you live in an apartment, house, trailer, or pup tent whether you had a child or not.

3rd - The actual story, once the blinding rage had passed, had points I agreed with: things like cutting your expenses and paying off debt. But, again, you ought to do those things whether you have children or not.

4th - It's truly frightening what our culture defines as needs. Here's a hint: your kiddos don't need their own rooms. They don't need their own TVs, computers, or cell phones. You do not need to buy separate groceries just because Little Jimmy decides he does not like what the rest of the family eats. (Obviously actual food allergies are a different subject but even then you can adapt in frugal ways if you try hard enough.)They don't need horseback riding lessons, ice skating lessons, Mandarin lessons, Mommy & Me dance classes or whatever it is all the "cool" (read: more money than sense) parents are providing.

5th - Yes, as Dave Ramsey has often said, in the first year of your child's life you are contractually obligated to pay your Pediatrician's Porsche payment. Fact of life. Kids need checkups. They get sick. They get hurt. Plan for it. Have the best insurance / savings plan / emergency fund you can. You can do this. Make them wash their hands often. Teach them that "cough into your elbow" trick. Teach them to use a tissue instead of their arms, sleeves, or your skirt. Feed them real food most of the time. Keep them out of germ growing institutions when possible (coughdaycarecough). Don't call the doctor every time they run a fever. Teach them what poison ivy looks like. Use common sense. Don't have any common sense? Get some. It'll save you a few thousand dollars minimum.

6th - Nurse those babies. I have no idea if the above $227K figure includes formula or not but I can tell you that nursing is definitely cheaper. And - don't let anyone tell you differently - it's more convenient too. No bottles to clean. No formula to mix, warm up, and throw away when it's wasted.

7th - You know which paragraph really got my goat? Go on, guess. Yes, you guessed it:
Talk about a life-changing event. That's a lot of vacations, clothing, and restaurant dinners you may no longer enjoy.
My word. Stop the presses! Having a baby is a life-changing event? Who knew?!

Praise the Lord, it is a life changing event. Children are a blessing. And, bonus: they help us in our sanctification process. (Some days they help us a lot in our personal sanctification.)

If you would trade what a child brings, costs, and offers for any vacation, any article of clothing, or any restaurant dinner (yes, even a 5 Star restaurant dinner) then you are much the poorer for it no matter how much money you have in your bank account.

I'm going to step off my soapbox now and finish with a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies:

Capt. Lin Nan: [after Jen-ai adopts a baby girl] Don't you see how stupid and pointless this is? What are you going to do with her?
Jen-Ai: Call her Six-Pence I think. Do you like it?
Capt. Lin Nan: I said what are you going to do with her? What do you know about babies?
Jen-Ai: What is there to know? When they're dirty you wash them, when they're hungry you feed them.
 There may be slightly more than that to it, I'll admit.

I know there are people who choose not to have children. I hope it's for better reasons than "we thought it was too expensive" or "well, we like to go on vacation". Let it be because husband and wife both agreed and not because one member of the family read a scare piece on Yahoo and decided they couldn't afford a child.

Having children is difficult, messy, time consuming, and yes, sometimes it's expensive. (Dentist visits for four children, anyone?) But it's worth it. It's most definitely worth it.

3 comments:

MacKenzie said...

I completely agree. I know this is talking about childhood overall but I get annoyed at the "babies are expensive" thought process too. We did buy (or were given) a fair amount of stuff for Lucy but with this baby, I'm trying to think up registry items because I think family members would like it but all I have is 1)car seat and 2)mirror for next to car seat. Since we do cloth diapers, I don't even need any of those. Of course, if baby is a boy eventually he will need some non-pink clothes but all of our newborn and most of our 0-3 months are yellow and green. So when babycenter tells me a baby costs $10,000 the first year, I can't help but think that unless I have to buy a car to put the car seat in, it will not cost that much!

And I know some people who thought we were ridiculous for buying a 2 bedroom house when we already had one kid (and obviously hoped she wouldn't be the last) but they'll be fine for quite a while together and we'd rather live within our means than insist on buying a house with a separate room for every hypothetical child like we see so often on hgtv shows.

Amy said...

*Sigh* Just one more piece of evidence that we really do live in an anti-child society. Great rebuttal! Being a money-conscious parent brings 'frugality' to a whole new level. :)

hsmominmo said...

AMEN!!!

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