Family or Marriage Finances & Money

The Finances of Having a Second Child

(Guest post from Libby Balke)

Most people decide to have a second child because they want a bigger family. Most people decide to have a second child because they know they have so much more love to give. Most people decide to have a second child for emotional reasons, not financial reasons.

Not me.

Yeah, that doesn’t say a lot of nice things about me, to be honest. But, quite frankly, I’m a pragmatic person who evaluates the nuts and bolts of life before I contemplate the mushy, gushy stuff. That’s just who I am. So, when it came time for my husband and I to decide whether or not to expand our family of three, I immediately went to my budgeting spreadsheets to let the math speak louder than my heart.

What The Stats Say

It’ll set you back $227,000 – $287,000, if you factor in projected inflation – to raise a kid from birth to his 18th birthday in the United States. If you want to break that astronomical figure, which doesn’t include the cost of his mother’s pregnancy, his own delivery, or his college education, here’s what you get:

  • An average of $15,944 a year
  • An average of $1,329 a month
  • An average of $43.68 a day (it’s slightly less – $43.65 a day – if you consider that children will live through at least four Leap Days before turning 18)
  • An average of $1.82 an hour
  • An average of $0.03 a minute

That’s right, you better get your piggy bank out, and starting stuffing three pennies into it every minute until your child graduates from high school – because that’s exactly how much it will cost to raise a child.

My Single Child Budget

When my husband and I had just one child, it had a dramatic impact on our day to day budget. For example:

  • Adding another person to my husband’s health insurance policy tacked on an additional $310 a month, or another $3,720 a year
  • Adding another mouth to feed forced us to increase our grocery budget by an additional $50 a month, or another $600 a year (I’ve found that number gets higher and higher as kids get older and older, and consumer more and more food)
  • Adding a child to our family meant paying for child care; in the first year of my daughter’s life, we spent more than $10,000 for a part-time nanny

There were less predictable expenses to consider as well: co-pays for an unexpected trip to the pediatrician’s office, Mommy & Me swim classes at the local Y, extra money spent on gas to get to a weekly play date at the library. At first glance, the idea of spending $15,944 a year on a child – especially a small child – looked like a lot… until I looked at my own budget, and realized we probably spent just as much (if not much, much more) than that during each of my daughter’s first two years of life.

Here Comes Baby!

My daughter was just shy of two years old when I learned I was pregnant with what would be her baby brother. My son’s conception was actually a surprise (at the time, I outright called it an accident, but that’s not doing justice to a little boy who brings such joy to my life; he’s our unexpected blessing); my husband and I had crunched numbers and decided that we just couldn’t afford another child at that time. The Big Guy Upstairs, however, had other plans.

Because I quit my full-time job to work freelance from home mid-way through my pregnancy, I knew the costs related to raising two children as opposed to one would be very different this time around. There would be no more nanny, for one thing. But there would also be more money spent on gas as I chauffeured not one but two children to and from doctors’ appointments, play dates, and my own errands.

Adding In A Second Child

In an effort to pare down the cost to raise a child, I opted to try some green (as in saving green) methods after my son’s birth. Like his sister before him, I breastfed him exclusively for more than a year (he’s almost 14 months old as we speak, and I still nurse him twice a day), avoiding costly formula and bottles altogether. Next, I chose to cloth diaper him. I spent less than $220 up front for one-size-fits-all cloth diapers, which I’ve been able to use ever since; by comparison, I spent $70 on disposable diapers for my daughter through her first year. I also tried my hand at making my own baby food, although that didn’t save me as much money as I’d hoped it would. Finally, I began buying both of my children’s clothes – and most of my own clothes, too – from high-end consignment shops, where I can essentially outfit the whole family for what I used to pay on my daughter’s wardrobe alone.

I was able to save money in other ways. When I switched from my old employer’s health insurance plan to my husband’s, we maxed out his family plan; in other words, adding a fourth person to the policy didn’t change our monthly premiums at all. Additionally, because I was at home with the kids, it was no longer necessary to pay for outside child care. Of course, there was less money coming in, but also far, far less money going out.

Where We’re Spending More

While we’ve been able to reel in our expenses, there are some areas where spending more on raising kids is absolutely unavoidable:

  • Our grocery bill has gone up. I tried to artificially limit my grocery budget for months, but I soon realized I was merely buying lower quality goods, and less of them. Ultimately, I’ve had to increase my budget by nearly $150 a month in order to more healthfully feed a second child, as well as provide better nutrition to his growing big sister. Turns out, the grocery bill for raising kids from birth through age 17 is a jaw-dropping $36,000 over those 18 years… I can see why.
  • Our utilities have gone up. A large part of that is due to the cloth diapers, which must be laundered regularly. However, having a second child has also meant a whole new wardrobe that must be cleaned – and if you know anything about babies and toddlers, you know they are messy, messy little people. I’ve tried to reduce these bills by employing environmentally-friendly tactics like turning off the lights when I leave the room, but having a baby who likes to play with the light switch next to his crib seriously impedes my efforts.

Overall, however, adding a second child to our family hasn’t had the cataclysmic impact on our finances my husband and I predicted. In fact, our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter – our oldest – has been far more expensive over the last year as she’s gone from a toddler to a preschooler, forcing me to acknowledge that while the cost of adding a second might not be that expensive when the child is a baby, it certainly will be as my son gets older… but that’s another post for another day.

Readers, how much of a difference in your finances did you notice when you went from one child to two? How about from two to three?

Libby is a long-time (and much appreciated) staff writer at Dining Out Challenge. She’s really into budgeting…even for the emotional stuff…

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I give you credit for such an honest post. Personally, I don’t think of children in terms of finances, at least not in putting the finances first, but it is expensive to raise kids. Until you get there, you don’t realize just how expensive it gets – food, car insurance, car, college, medical insurance & bills. For me it’s well worth the expense, even with 3 kids. And we teach our kids that they need to contribute in certain areas. But it is eye-opening how as kids get older, the “toys” get much smaller but much more expensive.

  • @Kris –

    Isn’t it amazing how much more expensive those kids get as they age? As my daughter has transitioned from toddler to preschooler, I’ve been shocked that preschool and dance classes could be so much pricier than diapers and Gerber meals!

  • Children these days are getting more expensive then ever, as you need the daycare, the babysitters, etc. At least in the past when women usually worked at home all those costs could have been saved.
    But in general, children really are a blessing, especially if they succeed in their career and turn out to be fine adults.

  • @Tony –

    It is really amazing to me how much child care costs have gone up over the years. When I was working, child care was the single biggest part of our monthly budget; it’s a cost my parents didn’t even have to worry about, as my mother stayed at home throughout my childhood. Now, it’s almost impossible for most families to earn a comfortable living on a single income.

  • @Tony & @Libby:

    Even when a mother works full-time in the home, she usually requires a certain amount of respite childcare; so childcare costs can be mitigated, but not always eliminated.

    As a SAHM, my daily “shift” begins at 7 am and is approx. 12 hours long. My first break from feeding, dressing, changing, reading aloud, coloring, play-supervising and accident-prevention, among many other activities, doesn’t usually come until naptime, about six or seven hours later.

    It’s currently been more than a month since I had any independent time to myself, whether for errands, for “life administration”, or simply to do something *I* enjoy.

    I’m looking forward to getting a couple of days off by hiring a sitter just as soon as possible in order to regroup. But even to get one afternoon “off” out of an approx. 70+ hour SAHM-workweek costs more than $60.

    You need some time away so you don’t lose your mind; but it does *cost*. :S


  • @Miranda, I understand where you’re coming from. I just rehired our old nanny to watch my kids a few hours a week while I work at my freelance jobs, but before then, I was trying to “do it all” – watch my kids (they are up at 7am too!) and work from home. It was insanity-inducing. I completely acknowledge your “costs”.

  • Nice post Libby. People generally don’t pay heed to such statistics and end up paying for it in the long run ,when they have to manage the expenses of their second child. It’s always better to plan things out according to me so that your financial life is not ruined later on.

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