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 email@example.com.
This interview, conducted by Rebecca Onion, has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Married mom, with two kids: Twins, both boys, age 2; a third baby on the way
Dad’s job: Chemist
Mom’s job: Writer
Home: Biberach an der Riss, in southern Germany
Total projected family income before taxes, 2019: About $167,770
Mortgage/rent, including property taxes and insurance: About $1,460 monthly rent for a “relatively small” three-bedroom, two-bathroom house
Annual child care cost: $11,482 for full-time day care for both twins, plus snacks and lunch
Saturday, Dec. 8
Fruit, veggies, cheese, quince jelly, eggs at farmers’ market
Milk, yogurt, lentils at grocery store No. 1, Walke
Bananas, jam, detergent, soap at grocery store No. 2, REWE
We moved to Germany when the twins had just turned 1.* We always wanted to live in Europe, and since my husband has Romanian citizenship, that’s an option because of the European Union. He got a good job here, and we decided to do it. The salaries in Germany aren’t actually higher, but the cost of living is so much lower that it was an option for me to make no money for a couple years and try to establish myself as a writer.
In the suburbs of New York, where we were living before we moved, day care was $3,500 a month for both kids. Here, it’s about $730 a month for both, plus a small additional amount for the lunch and snacks provided at school.
The farmers markets here are amazing. Almost everything in the market comes from the local farmers, but people also import things, like the one guy who imports citrus from Italy. I went twice this week, which is typical for a week when the weather is nice and I’m not trying to finish something at work and the kids aren’t sick. It’s one of my favorite things about our small town.
Saturday total: $30.71
Sunday, Dec. 9
Pretzels, bread, cookies at Bakery Traub
The bakeries are the only stores open on Sundays. No grocery stores, nothing. There are a million bakeries in town—it’s like Starbucks in New York. Besides this bakery, which is part of a regional chain, we have two local chains, two other regional chains, and two local bakeries with single locations. Keep in mind, this is all in a town of about 32,000 people.
It’s my favorite Sunday morning ritual to get up and bike down to the bakery. The bread is cheap, and so most of that money was for the cookies. They had all these really cute little German Christmas cookies, and we have our neighbors over sometimes or go over to their house for cookies in the afternoon, so I got some. And I bought some big soft pretzels. They’re a way of life where I live. Before I moved here, a friend of mine who lived in the region said to me, “It’s a perfectly legitimate breakfast there, to have a soft pretzel with butter on it.” And it is!
Our neighbors all have kids the same age as ours. The town we live in is a company town: A huge percentage of people who live here work at the same company. It’s been relatively slow going to make friends. But that might just be true of making friends at our age.
When it comes to visiting neighbors, you do text ahead of time, not just pop in. A lot of people go do things outside of town on the weekends. These are people who only have singleton kids! They are constantly going on trips every weekend. They’ll go to the mountains and go hiking. It’s weird to stay in your house all weekend and do nothing. But with two kids who are twins, even just getting ready beforehand takes twice as long. If we don’t pack and get everything planned the night before, it’s just not going to happen.
Sunday total: $7.27
Monday, Dec. 10
Doctor’s visit for one kid
Fried fish sandwiches, shrimp platter, bottled water, Quarkbällchen (“kind of like donut holes”), and carousel rides at the Christmas market
I thought one of the boys was sick, so I decided to keep them both home from day care until I could get him to a doctor. He was actually totally fine. By the time we saw the doctor, it was too late to bring them to day care, so I took them to our town’s Christmas market for lunch. My husband ended up meeting us there for his lunch break.
This kind of Christmas market is all over Europe. They had, like, obviously food and coffee and whatever, but also a nativity scene with live sheep and a donkey. The carousel is crazy expensive, and the kids love it and cry when you take them out.
Monday total: $19.37
Tuesday, Dec. 11
Groceries to make cookies for husband’s Christmas party at work
I assigned the kids some of this amount because they ate some of these cookies.
Tuesday total: $3.23
Wednesday, Dec. 12
Fruit and veggies, eggs, and egg pasta at the farmers market
I bought a papaya, which was stupid expensive, but sometimes you just want a papaya. The kids ate basically the whole thing. Our kids eat so much since they started eating people food. I feel like it’s 40 percent of our food budget! It’s absurd, but I find myself saving fruits and vegetables for them, and so I don’t eat as much … I find myself eating lots of bread because I want to save food for the kids, which makes no sense because I could just buy more vegetables!
Kids’ snowsuits, lentils, polenta at Aldi Süd
Aldi is great and terrible. These weren’t weatherproofed snowsuits, they’re just insulated—not waterproof. The kids already have waterproof snowsuits, but I just saw these and they were so cheap and we were about to go on a trip to the U.S., where we were going to be without a stroller, and planned to babywear the kids while walking around NYC. I wanted something that would fit into the baby carriers.
I try to buy used clothes as much as possible out of economy and principle. But for some things, part of it is that I just don’t know where to get things in Germany. Finding two things of the same size is difficult. In the United States, you know where to go: It’s Once Upon a Child, they’re going to have millions of things. Everyone in Germany does buy used stuff for their kids. I just haven’t figured out where they do it.
A lot of the kids’ new clothes come from Aldi and Lidl, which is similar to Aldi. We do have Amazon, but for the most part you can’t order from American shopping websites because the taxes are really high.
Wednesday total: $37.06
Thursday, Dec. 13
Bread, pastries at the bakery
Blueberries, raspberries, milk at the grocery store
Thursday total: $8.42
Friday, Dec. 14
Baby carrier on Amazon
When the babies were little, my husband talked me out of buying this thing called the TwinGo carrier, which cost like $200, and I really regret it. It’s essentially two baby carriers in one: You wear them on the front and back or separately. I don’t know why we didn’t buy this; we should have just bought it! So I bought a second single-baby carrier for our trip to New York from a German brand called Manduca.
Special five-point harness airplane seat belts for the kids
These seat belts were such a waste of money. Completely useless. You have to put the straps over the seat back behind you, and if the tray table is recessed it has to go OVER that tray table. Which means you need to get the agreement of the people sitting behind you to take away their tray table! The people sitting behind us on the plane were already like “F**k no, there are babies in front of us, I can’t take this … ” They were awful, so we weren’t going to ask. So I’ll see if there’s some way we can return them.
We have one car in Germany. I don’t have my German driver’s license yet. I have an e-bike, and that’s my form of transportation. I take the kids to day care in a little bike trailer. Our day care has a little shed outside, and all the parents leave their bike trailers in the shed.
We filled the car’s tank to get to the airport, and we wouldn’t be driving to the airport if we didn’t have the kids; we would have taken the train. But there’s construction on the train line between our house and the airport so it would have added an hour to the trip. I think in the future, when the trains are running normally, we’ll definitely take the train with them.
We also paid more money on the trip the next day than we would have without kids because we wouldn’t have had to check a bag if we hadn’t had to transport their stuff.
Friday total: $367.44
How much did we spend on our kids this week? $473.50.
This week, the major purchases we made would not have been typical. In terms of food, I would say the amount we spent is probably pretty typical. It’s not so normal for us to go to the grocery store every day. I was a little sick during the week, and we weren’t planning what we’d eat at all, and we kept forgetting things. I wish we would plan our meals a little better so we don’t have to go to the store every day.
I learned from this exercise that we should probably buy fewer pastries! It’s a problem, we eat so many sweets. I never used to eat sweets before I got pregnant. Now, the pastries are so good, and the bakery culture is so amazing … I’m such a bread snob now.
We’re 100 percent spending less on our kids than we would have if we lived in New York. We just have so much more disposable income. The major expenses here are a quarter of what our major expenses are in the U.S. Our rent is less than half what we were paying, and our day care is a quarter of what we were paying in the U.S. We can make a stupid mistake—like buying those plane seat belts—and it’s not going to hurt us.
Correction, April 25, 2019: An earlier version of this column misstated the interviewee’s twins as being “6 or 7 months old” when the family moved to Germany. They had just turned 1.