Response to Geekdad’s “We’ve been doing it wrong” post

Recently on Geekdad blog, a contributor wrote about how impossible it seemed to only spend 3-4,000 dollars per year for each child.  The previous recommendation has been 10,000, and even that price seemed too low for this writer.

However, being a mathematician plus passionate about frugal living, my brain started immediately crunching the numbers.  Is it possible to do 4000 dollars a year per child?  What about 10,000?

As a mother myself, I know the cost of children can be high, but mostly of you choose it to be high.  That first year of being a parent can be quite spendy, because you do all the research and “have” to buy that 1,000 dollar crib and the 500 dollar stroller and you have the get the best daycare at 1500 bucks a month.  I’m here to encourage new parents and seasoned parents alike, I do believe it IS possible to raise a child using 3-4,000 dollars a year.

Let’s quickly look at some numbers.  For the first year, there are all sorts of things possible to buy, and not all of them useful or necessarily.  So let’s price the top things a parent needs for a baby in their first year.

Carseat:60 bucks on amazon, good safety ratings.

Pack n Play: 110 full price (but can be found cheaper at consignment shops)

Also note that one can get away with just a pack n play.  It can be used as a bassinet, then a crib later on.  I slept in a pack n play until 2 years old, so if low on funds, a bassinet, crib, AND pack n play is unnecessary.

Diapers/Wipes: 75/month, but can be way cheaper if cloth diapering, though I don’t know the exact numbers

Clothing: Nice/New baby clothing can be found all the time at thrift stores.  And if you get some from friends, the cost for clothing in the first year could be as low as 100 bucks for the entire year.

Stroller: 50 bucks easy on amazon

Baby food: 30 bucks a month approx if you make your own.  50-60 if you buy in bulk and go for the cheaper routes.

Formula: This one is tricky, it can be about 100 bucks/month depending on how much your little one eats, which is why if you can breastfeed it’s free!  But if you need to do formula, there are cheaper ones and even applying for WIC if needed.

Daycare: If you seriously want to make that 3,000-4,000 mark, daycare is NOT the way to go.  Many people I know basically work for daycare, i.e., their entire salary goes to daycare.  If you really want to save money (and daycare is expensive in your area), have one spouse stay at home and possibly work part time in order to avoid daycare.  I know this isn’t always possible, so bear with me on the numbers.  Certainly 10,000 per kid per year is possible on part time daycare or cheaper daycare, but 4,000 per kid per year would be very difficult to achieve in this case.

Car: If you don’t have a kid friendly car, then sell your current one and buy a used car on Craigslist in cash for the same or less than what your current car is.  This IS possible, because we’ve done it.  We have two cars and zero car payments.

House: You might think you need to buy a new house right when you have a kid, but if it’s going to make money tight, it is possible to live in a small apartment or house for the first couple years until you save the money to make a good down payment.

Toys: Once again, thrift stores can boast great toys for cheap.  My son will play will his 8 dollar playground ball all day long.  And talk to friends/neighbors, go to garage sales to find the bigger stuff, because often it’s cheap and barely used.  So we’ll go 100 bucks for toys total, if you are wanting to be extra frugal.

Health Insurance:  This will cost, of course, but you are probably paying less than 100/month for insurance for your child.

Crunching the numbers leaves us at about: 4080 dollars/year.

It is actually possible to do 4,000/year if you are choosing to be frugal, choosing to not buy the “best” stroller on the market.  I added formula (1200/year) in this mix too, which could easily be cut out if one can nurse for a whole year (I commend you if you can, I made it to 6 months!).

And of course, us parents can cut out many other things in our lives to make having children more affordable!  Check out my other blog posts about saving money. If you do want to spend more money on your children than 4,000/year, then you can certainly do so.  But it’s not so impossible as one may think!