If your idea of budgeting for Baby is deciding how much to spend on a new crib, consider this: According to the US Department of Agriculture, it will cost roughly $235,000 to raise a child born in 2011 to adulthood—which works out to more than $13,000 per year. This is thanks to the rising prices of just about everything these days—most notably transportation, child care, education, and food.
Little surprise, the exorbitant new price tag of parenting has led many families to make some very difficult decisions. According to a joint survey between nonprofit Center for the Next Generation and Parents magazine, 1 in 5 parents of children under 12 said they won't have another baby due to finances and the still-poor economy. What's more, parents who do have more children tend to feel pessimistic about their children's future. As the survey says:
- When asked to choose between an extra $10,000 per year or an extra hour every day of quality time with their children, 2 out of 3 parents would choose the money.
- While the majority of parents (55 percent) think life will be better for their children than it has been for them, one quarter (26 percent) feel it will be worse.
If you're bucking the trend and still trying for a baby, no matter the cost, personal finance expert Carmen Wong-Ulrich has some advice for you. Her first tip? Take the long view. "Pay attention to long-term planning, saving and growing, not just the day-to-day budget," she shares in a recent Today Show segment on parenting costs.
Working together on budgeting and money decisions is important she adds, because 4 out of 5 couples disagree on the spending rules of the family, according to another survey.
As evidence of this, she says, "Almost 80 percent of moms say they're more likely to splurge on their kids, whereas maybe this isn't so surprising, over half of dads are more likely to splurge on themselves."
To overcome budget battles and make smarter money decisions, Wong-Ulrich recommends couples set aside time once a month to go over family spending and set goals, whether it's paying down debt, reigning in spending, or saving for college.
For day-to-day cost cutting, think about embracing the practical wisdom of hand-me-downs, clipping coupons, eating out less, finding free activities to keep kids busy, and sharing tips with other frugal parents through online message boards.
"There are so many different ways to find free things to do as a family. And half of the moms [in the survey] said they actually enjoy all this coupon clipping and stuff because it's money that can be put to something else," notes Wong-Ulrich.
Parenting in today's economy? For most, she says, "It really has become the art of the deal."