Even Mark Zuckerberg is discovering what it costs to raise a child
Doesn't Mark Zuckerberg know how expensive it is to raise kids?
Earlier this month, the Facebook founder and his wife honored the birth of their daughter by announcing a momentous philanthropic gift. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg, said that over the rest of their lifetimes they would donate to charity 99 percent of their stock holdings in Facebook, now worth about $45 billion.
Of course, the Silicon Valley billionaire couple is not like the rest of us income-wise. But they are like most any mom and dad when it comes to facing child-rearing bills for the first time. The expenses start with diapers, formula, childcare, baby furnishings and other gear and seemingly don't end until the young one lands a full-time job. If you're lucky.
That's a lot to jam into anyone's already squeezed household budget.
Which raises a question that many new parents probably ponder at one time or another: How much does it cost to raise a child?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is in charge of crunching those numbers, and here's the latest benchmark figure: $245,340.
That's the amount an average middle-income family can expect to spend over 18 years on a child born in 2013, according to the department's "Cost of Raising a Child" report.
The report showed child-raising costs, which reflect food, housing, childcare, education and other expenses, were up 1.8 percent from 2012. Costs associated with pregnancy or expenses incurred after age 18, such as higher education, are not included.
When adjusted for inflation, the report said, the cost of raising a child climbs to about $305,000.
Child-raising costs have risen faster than inflation since the government report was first drafted in 1960. Back then, a middle-income family could have figured on spending about $25,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. That would amount to about $200,000 in today's dollars.
The next USDA report on child expenditures is due out next spring, and even the mild inflation we've been experiencing lately will ratchet up the numbers again.
For middle-income families with children, housing is the single biggest expense, averaging 30 percent of the total cost. It was followed by child care and education and food. In addition, health-care spending on children has gone through the roof when compared to 50 years ago.
These expenses also vary by location and were lower in the urban South and highest in the urban Northeast, the USDA said.
Not surprisingly, wealthier families tend to spend more on child-rearing — $407,820 for households earning more than $106,820.
Of course, dollar signs are only one part of the responsibilities of raising a child. And there are lots of ways parents can keep the cost of clothing, food, toys and all the other expenses in check. The USDA has created a cost of raising a child calculator to help you zero in on your number. And the department has other helpful child-rearing resources, including ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Finally, here are two pieces of financial advice for new parents, the Zuckerbergs included: Don't try to keep up with the Joneses by showering your little ones with everything their hearts desire. And start socking away money in a tax-friendly account to pay for college education that could be even more ridiculously priced 18 years from now.