How Much Will Your Child Cost You?

We all know that raising kids is an expensive job, but have you ever wondered just how much it actually costs? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a middle-income family can expect to dish out a whopping $300,000 to raise a child through age 18. While this figure may startle you, it’s an important reality to face now so you can better manage your money and prepare wisely for the future.

Among some of the biggest expenses parents will incur are those unavoidable, big-ticket items that pop up during the teenage years like extracurricular activities including club sports, transportation needs and even orthodontic care. While you may strive to give your kids the best in life no matter the cost, you’ll be happy to know that you can do so without compromising your budget. Follow my tips below on how to manage and save on those growing teen year expenses.

From art programs to music lessons to club sports, parents are dishing out more on extracurricular activities for their kids than ever before. While participation fees add up fast, there are hidden costs families need to budget for too, such as supplies and equipment, specialty gear and travel for tournaments.

Luckily, there are a few options to ensure you can provide children with enriching activities without going broke. Look into community-sponsored recreational departments in your area that may offer extracurricular activities at a significantly reduced cost compared to private companies and teachers. Bartering is another tactic that may work! Ask if there’s anything you can offer in place of cash for lessons or activities such as advertising for the school or instructor, cleaning the studio, clerical and administrative work or assisting with coaching or team management.

Parents often forget to budget for the annual check-ups as well as bigger health items like braces. Considering that over 4 million teens are in orthodontic treatment today, this is a major cost that families need to discuss and prepare for in advance, but it shouldn’t be about finding the least expensive option. Rather, finding the best value that provides the best care and meets your needs. Since the American Association of Orthodontists recommends you bring children in for an orthodontic evaluation at age 7, this will give you plenty of time to start a savings account so you can afford treatment by the time it’s needed. Even if you can only put away $20 or $30 a month, anything will help.

For parents who are ready to treat their teens now, I recommend Invisalign Teen® clear aligners, which are specifically designed to treat teeth straightening needs specific to teenagers. They have a proven track record for safe and effective treatment, and in the hands of the right doctor, they can treat anything traditional metal braces can. I can personally say as a teen who had metal braces and inadequate care, skimping on orthodontic treatment will lead to poor results and end up wasting your time and money in the long run. I’m still unhappy with my teeth to this day! When considering Invisalign treatment, be sure you find a qualified orthodontist with specific Invisalign Teen experience. You can find a qualified doctor in your area by, clicking here.

Teens are impressionable people who just want to fit in with the crowd and parents are often pressured by their children to buy brand-name clothing. In fact, 6 in 10 parents plan to splurge on designer labels for their teens during the back-to-school shopping rush and over 34% admit that half of such purchases are influenced by their kids. While you shouldn’t give in to all of these requests, you want to make sure your son or daughter feels comfortable in their skin.

Luckily, you can find brand names for less by doing a little savvy shopping. Search for end-of-season sales on summer clothing. Dresses, tank tops, shorts and sandals will get your kids through the first couple of months of school and they can be layered during the colder months. Then hold off on buying fall apparel when it’s on sale in October. Don’t forget to check discount stores like Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack for name-brands at half the cost — I found Joe’s Jeans and Tory Burch shoes for a fraction of the cost at these stores recently! Lastly, look at second-hand options. You can find like-new clothing for a fraction of retail prices (up to 90% off) from consignment sites such as Tradesy and Thredup. While you’re at it, persuade your children to sell their outgrown clothing to make money toward new purchases.

Every teen dreams of driving, but the costs of lessons, insurance and a car itself is a huge expense. Take for example a parent adding a male teen to the insurance policy, they can expect rates to run over $6,000 and up to 227% higher than insuring an adult driver alone. This is a good time to get your teen involved in the financial discussion and learn how to budget wisely.

Be sure to compare quotes and have your son or daughter take defensive driving to save an additional 10 to 15%. Also, look into purchasing a car with a high safety rating to qualify for a lower premium as insurance rates vary by type of vehicle.

Over the last decade, families are spending 40% more on school supplies including backpacks, laptops, and other essentials. While education is priceless, parents don’t have to blow their budget on such school needs.

When it comes to gadgets such as mobile devices or laptops, for example, look at last year models or refurbished options from popular electronics retailers like Apple, Best Buy, Verizon and Newegg to save up to 60% off regular retail prices. For those teens heading off to college, consider renting textbooks instead of buying them from sites like Chegg, and eCampus. You’re looking at paying just 5% of the actual textbook cost and this can be a huge savings considering that students spend over $600 a semester on books alone.

This post is in partnership with Invisalign Teen® and all opinions expressed are my own. Full disclosure.

Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who regularly contributes to leading national and regional news stories. She has appeared on NBC's Today Show, Dr. OZ, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, CNN, ABC News with Diane Sawyer, and been quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Better Homes & Garden and many others. Andrea also enjoys writing articles for various personal finance and lifestyle websites and blogs. Andrea is passionate about sharing ideas and tips to help you live on less without having to sacrifice. She says making a few small tweaks to daily and monthly spending is all you need to do to achieve your dreams within your means. Follow Andrea on Facebook and Twitter for daily savings tips and check back for new videos, magazine stories and blog posts all about saving money!

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