When my kids were little, I used to think “Oh, I can’t wait until I can stop buying baby formula.” That gradually was replaced with “I can’t wait to be done with diapers” and then “Oh gosh– we’re almost done paying for daycare!”I used to think about all the extra money we would have every month not having to pay for all this stuff anymore.
What no one tells you is that this
pot of gold extra money you think you’re going to magically have?
It doesn’t exist. And it never will. You can kiss those dollars goodbye.
I think of the cost of raising children as being similar to running a marathon– the last few miles are the worst. As your child grows, you replace the baby formula, daycare and diaper costs with sports (and all their equipment), clothing, school supplies, children’s birthday parties…and those are just the younger years.
I’m currently at the parenting stage which I’ll refer to as the last few miles of the marathon. I’ve got four teenagers– one is in college, and two more will be going in the next two years. Our youngest is 13, so we’re thinking we’ll be empty nesters in about five years. You’d think everything would be smooth sailing for us, like soon we’ll be able to walk around naked or do whatever else we want. (Trust me… I will not be doing this, but I will not speak for my husband’s wishful thinking).
Before we get to that “walking around the house naked” phase, we need to worry about having enough money to actually get the kids through graduation and off to college.
- Car Insurance – This one is a doozy. Even with all of the good student and multi-line discounts, we pay about $100 per month, per child for car insurance. This is whether they have their own car, or are just added to your plan so they can run errands for you every so often. And God forbid one of them gets a speeding ticket (I won’t name names… SON!), because it can double the price of insurance.
- Car – Whether you buy a car for each kid, or they all share one, or you’re going to run them around yourself (good luck with that last one)… plan on lots of gas money, lots of maintenance, and lots of mileage.
- Food – Kids can, and will, eat everything in site. And so will their friends.
- Technology – With as busy as kids are, they really do need a cell phone. Add a data plan to each of those phones as well. If the school doesn’t provide a laptop (some do nowadays), your kids will probably need one. And don’t think you can get away with one laptop for all your kids to share. Even though they are older, they still don’t like to share their toys.
- Toiletries – Three words. Makeup & hair products. Enough said.
- Clothes – If you even hear your children mention the words Under Armour, Uggs, North Face, Columbia, Hollister, Abercrombie, The Buckle or even the words “shopping at the mall”, you might want to just run for the hills now. Also, if you have girls, this will also include prom dresses, homecoming dresses, winter formal dresses, makeup, hair, nails … and probably an entirely different dress if they go to a dance with someone from another school. Boys? Tuxes, corsages, etc… the list could go on for-EVAH.
- Sports – School sports claim to be free, but they aren’t. Schools can’t charge a fee to be on the team, but you still have to supply a lot of the uniform and equipment for your kid to be able to play and be safe. In our family, we buy a softball bat every two years…at $300 a pop. Soccer cleats need to be replaced every spring AND fall. Softball cleats are replaced once a year. And the socks… oh lordy, we have dozens of pairs of socks, usually required to be a certain brand (Under Armour). And did you know that the better they are at a sport, the more it will cost you? The camps, the tournaments, travel, and so much more. (Again, I defer back to the $300 softball bat)
- School & Such – I’m not talking about college or even private school tuition. My oldest daughter is a senior this year, so you can imagine the expense that comes with it. I’ve paid for senior pictures, cap and gown rental, and graduation invitations and in the process of planning a graduation open house. In the last month, I’ve written a check to the school for $189 for two Advanced Placement exams my daughter will take this spring. (The money was due 4 days before Christmas.)
- College – Oh wait, you didn’t forget about this one did you? Did you know that all those years you’re pinching pennies to pay for this stuff, you’re also supposed to be saving for their college education? In addition, just the process of getting them into college is expensive. The travel expense of visiting colleges can be a lot if they aren’t exactly sure which school is right for them. Keep in mind that it now costs anywhere from $25-$100 just to APPLY for college. Again, taking my oldest daughter as an example: We paid a $40 application fee to a state University, then when she was accepted, we had to PAY TO ACCEPT THE ACCEPTANCE. To the tune of $330, due right about the same time as the $189 AP fee I mentioned earlier.
If you’re like me, you probably never even thought about this stuff when you were holding that tiny baby in your arms, wondering what they were going to grow up to look like, and what kind of personality they would have. You traded in nighttime feedings for laying awake at night wondering if your kids will make it home before curfew. You hear about a car accident on the news, and you immediately stop to do a head count of each child. Instead of dirty diapers, you don a hazmat suit to clean out the bathrooms. (You just wait!) Instead of worrying how long your baby will nap, you wonder when the heck that teenager is going to crawl his butt out of bed and do his chores.
So yes, the last few miles of the marathon are tough. We’re exhausted, we’re sore, and we’re just flat out running out of gas. But the one thing to always remember?
Crossing that finish line makes everything worth it.
I’m Jenni…. a 40-something working mom of 4 living in small-town Iowa – trying to keep my sanity juggling the family calendar. I’m not a very good cook, and I hate to clean. It’s really a wonder my kids have survived this long. I have a husband of almost 14 years, 1 cat, and 2 spoiled dogs.
My blog: SincerelyJenni.com