No matter whether you’re buying just the basics or going all-out, the cost of raising a child is one of the steepest expenditures most of us ever face.
A “no-frills” upbringing — with less expensive clothing and groceries, for example — generally costs more than $260,000, according to NerdWallet calculations. That’s just for the essentials such as food, shelter and health care — not including the many extras that most kids ask for, like vacations, birthday parties and electronics.
If you choose to provide more expensive essentials and add common perks, you could easily spend over $745,000 from birth to age 18, according to our calculations.
The cost of raising a child from 0 to 18
Just the basic essentials
Food, housing, clothing, transportation, health care and health insurance
All of the above with more expensive choices for food and clothing, and life insurance for the parents
All of the above plus extras for early childhood care, college savings, education, music and sports lessons, family vacations, electronics and gaming, and other purchases “just because.”
To get an idea of how much you might spend, take a spin through our calculator below. We calculated a variety of potential expenses in each category — such as summer camps and math tutoring — so that you can see how certain spending choices add up over 18 years.
The biggest costs of raising a child
The baseline essentials: Housing and transportation gobble up the biggest slices of the budget among essential costs. Married couples with a child spend almost $80,000 more on housing than married couples with no kids, and almost $57,000 more on transportation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Deluxe essentials: We calculated total costs after increasing spending on clothing and food and adding in life insurance for both parents. Still, housing and transportation remained the biggest costs.
Deluxe perks: When we added extensive, nonessential perks, we found the most expensive purchase to be care from a nanny for ages 1-5. College savings and vacations and recreation were the second- and third-biggest costs, respectively.
Here’s a look at the main categories of basic expenses, without splurging on deluxe options, in the cost of raising a child from birth to 18.
The cost of raising a child: Basic expenses
'Just the basics' spending, ages 0-18
Of course, your specific choices will differ, and bargain hunters can find ways to trim costs on many of these purchases.
» MORE: The cost of having a baby