USA Today’s reporter, Kathy Chu, talked to some typical parents to get a feel for how much they spend indulging their children. Here’s a statistic from the U.S. Department of Agriculture of all places, quoted in the article:
Last year, a middle-income family spent an average of $190,980 to feed, house, clothe and entertain a child from birth until age 18, with the preteen and teenage years taking the heaviest toll…
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At an average of $10,610 each year per child, parents often have to choose between funding their own retirement and their own children. How do you find that balance?
You want your child to be well-rounded and to have the opportunity to discover his or her talents, so you want to provide summer activity camps, music lessons, sports participation, class trips, and college-level summer courses. Children feel they have needs spurred by society like a hot car, tech gadgets, and extravagant parties (remember Marissa and her sweet sixteen party?). All of this comes at the expense of funding that child’s higher or private education and your own needs.
The article offers some actions you can take to minimize teenager-related expenses.
- Look into scholarships. Those expensive extra-curricular activities can turn into acceptance advantages and scholarships for colleges.
- Early financial education. It’s important for teenagers to understand the use and value of money. Some parents want their children to get a job (or jobs) to help teach them. I’d rather see my children volunteering their time with an organization they like or fostering talents and skills. This falls into the “some things are more important than money” category.
- Budget. Being open about your finances with your children helps them understand the choices you need to make. Perhaps when they see the numbers, they won’t feel it’s necessary to ask you for money for the latest tech toy.
- Give allowances. How much should you give? The article suggests $1 per week for each year of their age. A sixteen-year-old would receive $16 each week. Don’t cave in when he or she asks for more.
- Manage expectations. Parents should be clear what will be covered by them and what won’t be. The parents may be willing to pay for equipment for sports and music, but not for cell phones or parties.
On the one hand, I’m looking forward to having children. On the other, I’m dreading it until I’m sure that my income will keep growing.
Updated October 15, 2015 and originally published May 15, 2006.