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Why Your Kid is Now 25% More Expensive

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As the parent of an only child, I get a lot of "suggestions" from family, friends and even strangers to have another kid. I've heard it all:

"He needs sisters and brothers."

"He will always be lonely."

"You need a daughter to care for you when you're older."

Still, no matter how much convincing they try to do, the decision to stick to only one child (or at least wait a while) stands.

The reason: Kids are expensive!

Although he's only in first grade, my son, Darren, has already cost us quite a bit of dough. There's medical insurance and co-pays, food, clothing, school supplies, field trips, his allowance and (the insanely high-priced) video games and entertainment. It seems the older he gets, the more he wants and needs--and the bigger the number on his kid "price tag."

I'm worried that by the time he turns seven, his dad and I will both have to take on additional jobs just to handle the expenses. And new research shows it's not just us--it's the new reality of having kids.

What Does It Cost to Raise a Kid, Anyway?
The cost of raising a kid from birth to 17 rose a whopping 25% in the past decade, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In its most recent report, for a child born in 2010, a middle-income, two-parent family can expect to shell out almost $227,000 for the necessities needed to raise that child (not including the cost of the pregnancy, childbirth or college).

Factor in inflation and those parents are looking at a grand total of around $287,000.

Of course, housing, transportation, clothing, childcare and other miscellaneous expenses contribute to the large bill, but two major expenses associated with raising a child have climbed significantly.

Hint: They're in your refrigerator and the medicine cabinet.

What We're Spending the Most On
In 2000, the grocery bill for raising a child to age 17 was a little under $24,000. In 2010, it had skyrocketed to more than $36,000.

To keep that same child healthy until age 17, in 2000 the fee was almost $9,000. By 2010, parents could expect to cough up double that amount, more than $18,000. (In fact, recent data shows that annual premiums alone for typical family health coverage rose 9% in 2011 to $15,073. We talked more about the rising cost of health care, and what you can do about it, here.)

As for your grocery bill, "the price of staple foods has been steadily rising, particularly because of global warming, and it impacts everything we consume on a daily basis," says Stephany Kirkpatrick, CFP®, LearnVest's Director of Financial Planning. "Rather than officially raising prices, companies tend to make smaller packaging. So what was a 24-ounce package is smaller, and we go through it faster."

While there's not much we can do about rising prices or shrinking package sizes, what we can do is become more conscious consumers. "As moms are working to balance work and parenting, we often find ourselves buying pre-chopped vegetables or the ready-made chicken dinners at the store, because we're looking for convenience, instead of sticking to a plan," says Kirkpatrick. "What will make the biggest difference is coming up with a budget, and sticking to it."

Now Take a Breath ...
Although the news may sound bleak, having a child doesn't have to be financially crippling. "If you're reading this now and pregnant, or you just had a baby, don't panic!" she adds. "And if you're reading this and have grown kids, don't panic either! Take a step back, and think about the smart things your own parents did to make it work when you were growing up. Cook dinner and eat leftovers the next day. Use coupons! It might be old-fashioned, but they're there for a reason."

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