Worth every penny

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For the last several weeks, my spare moments have been filled with receipts and spreadsheets as I tried to get things organized to file.

The slips of paper were proof of the green river running straight out my wallet. Aside from the normal things like the mortgage payment and light bill, the stacks for school clothes, soccer cleats and dance lessons seems to grow in direct relation to their height.

The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income, two-parent family averaged $226,920 last year (not including college), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s up nearly 40 percent – or more than $60,000 – from 10 years ago. Just one year of spending on a child can cost up to $13,830 in 2010, compared to $9,860 a decade ago.

In the study, the government defined middle-income families as those with $59,000 to $103,000 in annual income before taxes.

Lower income families can expect to spend less – to the tune of about $169,000 over 17 years and higher income families can expect to spend more – roughly $390,000.

The USDA has been estimating the cost of raising a child since 1960. The first year the report was issued, the agency estimated it cost an average of $25,000 (or roughly $192,000 adjusted for inflation) to raise a child to age 17.

From buying groceries to paying for gas, every major expense associated with raising a child has climbed significantly over the past decade, said Mark Lino, a senior economist at the USDA.

Well, duh!

When I was younger, my parents had a garden and raised cattle. Our freezer was always full. I thought it was normal that people had steak for dinner all the time.

It wasn’t until I was in college and had to buy my own groceries that I realized how good we had it.

The realization is affirmed each time I swipe the debit card at the grocery store.

Now, let’s talk about gas. Between 2000 and 2010, consumers paid an average of 85 percent more per gallon at the pump, according to AAA.

Add to that the cost of childcare, health insurance and glitter – an important commodity in house of three girls – and it’s a wonder parents don’t need to sell a baby on the black market to pay for the other one they have at home. Not that I condone that, but you get my point.

Most parents, myself included, work very hard to make sure their kids have more they did when growing up. We make conscious decisions every day to do without so that our children have what they need, and sometimes, a little more than they need.

And as I look at their sleeping faces at night, I know they’re worth every single penny.