It costs $233,610 to raise a child from birth through age 17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest estimate. In What Kids Cost, parents unpack a week’s worth of child-related expenditures. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone you know to be interviewed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This interview, conducted by Rebecca Onion, has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Married with two kids: A, age 10, and B, age 7 (Initials changed to protect kids’ privacy)
Parents’ jobs: Structural engineer and engineer for a tech company
Home: San Jose, California
Total family income before taxes, 2018: $393,000
Mortgage/rent, including property taxes: $4,300 a month for 4 bedrooms
Annual child care cost: $29,487: $8,257 for overnight summer camp, $1800 for day camp, $11,430 for after-school care (kids go to public school), and $8,000 for an after-school nanny*
Sunday, Nov. 19
We bought a $25 gift card and a birthday card for B’s friends party, along with bread and cereal for the kids. A gift card for about $25 is pretty common for kids’ parties in the Bay Area. That’s what you get your kid’s friends—a gift for $25, or a $25 gift card. Nobody’s getting crazy $100 gifts at parties. At least not at my friends’ parties.
My kids get a kick out of being able to choose their own gifts. And I can’t tell them they can’t get it, because that’s their gift card. People usually get Target cards for presents, because you’re there anyway and it’s easy to pick up, but my daughter got a Claire’s card this year that she still hasn’t used, and her birthday was in February.
And then I think [my daughter] chose the most expensive stupid greeting card at Target for her friend. It was like 10 bucks.
Haircuts for both kids
Bounce house trip
On their birthday, they get a day where they decide what they want to do and want to eat. So my son decided he wanted to go to this bounce place, and have pizza, and I think go to a movie or something. We went to the bounce place and it was closed, and six months later I was like, “We have a weekend free, we should go to this.” We do have birthday parties for them, but we also have this day where they can make the decisions.
Milk, eggs, and lunch stuff.
Sunday total: $190.90
Monday, Nov. 19
School lunch for the week, for both kids
They pay per meal, using the lunch money account app MySchoolBucks. … It turns out my son barely eats the lunch because he doesn’t like it. Apparently he has been bumming off of his friends. I’m like, “You can’t do that, either you pay for school lunch or you bring your own lunch. Those are the options. You’re 10, old enough to figure that out on your own.”
Gymnastics class for both kids
They’re not doing competitive gymnastics or anything. It’s three days a week. They need to be in an activity and that’s one they actually like, so that’s what they’re in. Right now they’re in the same time slot so it’s easy. … I was a competitive gymnast, so we started them early. It’s a good base for whatever sport you want. It’s strength and body awareness. … We started with gymnastics, and they haven’t been like, “We don’t want to do this anymore,” so I’m like, we’ll keep going with it until they figure out if there’s something else they’d rather do.
We go out for McDonalds every Monday after their gymnastics classes.
A gets $10 a week; B gets $7 a week. A lot of times the allowance just sits in their mental accounts. … My son knows to the dime how much money I owe him! It’s up to like $300. He keeps track. My daughter, not so much. (I haven’t gotten them bank accounts yet; I haven’t been that organized.) But a lot of times, we’ll got to Target, and they’ll want to buy a present, something for themselves, something small. We never let them buy big things; that we have to decide about. But we let them buy a stuffed animal, or a small Lego, or whatever, something under 15 bucks. When we go to Target that’s their limit. We do that once in a blue moon. Basically the money sits around and they don’t spend it on anything.
Monday total: $105.83
Tuesday, Nov. 20
I don’t keep track of what I’m spending on groceries. I figure, I’m not going out to eat, so I’m saving money there. The only reason I know is that I kept my receipts this week because I wanted to make sure it was right for this diary! Mostly it’s Trader Joe’s and Safeway.
Tuesday total: $52.65
Wednesday, Nov. 21
Gymnastics class for both kids
Nanny’s pay for the week
After-school programs for the week
We have a nanny pick the kids up from school aftercare a few days during the week. She works six hours a week, does the kids’ laundry; it takes a little bit of a load off of us because I don’t have to be there right at pickup time. So she brings them to gymnastics two days a week and does their dinner and helps with homework and stuff. … With two parents working full-time, sometimes you need some help.
Wednesday total: $427.08
Thursday, Nov. 22
Gymnastics class for both kids
Thursday total: $31.08
Friday, Nov. 23
I don’t generally take the kids grocery shopping. They might ask for a particular kind of cereal, or something. Generally, they are at the point where they eat real food, which is great.
Friday total: $40
How much did we spend on our kids this week? $847.54.
This is a typical week—for the school year. During the summer, [things get] more expensive because we spend more money on child care and activities. But there are obviously also parts of our annual budget that are missing from this week. I learned a lot when I wrote down our yearly expenses, along with considering the week on its own. It was illuminating seeing how much we spend on activities.
We have an annual ski [budget] of $2,463 for the two weeks we’re with our family in the family cabin in Canada. We both grew up skiing. We don’t have to pay for accommodation or meals while we’re there, and we drive, so that’s good. My husband’s family, Christmas is their big thing, so they like hanging out with the grandkids and teaching them how to ski.
My family on my side is not as well off as we are, so things like the overnight camp during summer and the ski lessons might not happen for my nieces. The skiing and the overnight camp … our friends don’t do that with their kids. And those are pretty big expenses.
A lot of our neighbors, their kids go to private school, but I don’t want ours to grow up to be entitled shits. I don’t want my kids to grow up with people like that, people who are just going to work at daddy’s business.
My friends’ kids all go to the same school. Nobody is rocking designer clothes in my group of friends or going on monthslong European vacations or anything. Nobody has pony rides at their birthday parties or anything over the top. We are well-off, but for the Bay Area we’re middle class.
Correction, Feb. 11, 2019: An earlier version of this article misquoted the amount of money the family spends annually on child care.