Cost of Raising a Child Tops $260,000 — Just for Basics

Raising a kid is expensive, whether you provide “just the basics” or go all-out with deluxe trappings.
Written by Alex Glenn
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Edited by Amy Danise
Fact Checked
cost of raising a child

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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

Spending level


Just the basic essentials

Food, housing, clothing, transportation, health care and health insurance


Deluxe essentials

All of the above with more expensive choices for food and clothing, and life insurance for the parents


Deluxe perks

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





Health care


Health insurance




Of course, your specific choices will differ, and bargain hunters can find ways to trim costs on many of these purchases.

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For costs to age 1, we used data from NerdWallet’s cost of raising a baby study. To calculate “just the basics” and “deluxe” choices for ages 1 to 18, we used the following:

  • Housing and transportation: data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

  • Clothing: “Just the basics” clothing is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey, for the $40,000 to $49,000 income group. “Deluxe” clothing is from the Department of Agriculture, Expenditure on Children by Families, 2015, for those with before-tax income of more than $107,400.

  • Life insurance: Rates are from NerdWallet’s life insurance tool, for 20-year, $1 million term life policies for 30-year-old healthy men and women.

  • Food costs are from the Department of Agriculture, "Cost of food at home at four levels," December 2016, using the "thrifty plan" and “liberal” levels.

  • Health care costs are from the Health Care Cost Institute, "Children's Health Spending 2010-2014.”

  • Health insurance costs are from the Kaiser Family Foundation, average group health insurance costs in 2015.

  • Summer camps average cost is from the American Camp Association.

  • Vacation costs are from the providers: Disney World, Royal Caribbean and Tauck Tours. Prices were compiled in February 2017.

  • The cost of private high school is from Private School Review.

  • The average cost of a math tutor is from

  • The cost of online SAT prep classes is from the Princeton Review for the SAT Retail Ultimate LiveOnline.

  • The cost of college applications was averaged from six schools: Stanford, Northwestern, Duke, UCLA, Michigan and Boston College.

  • Piano lesson costs are from Angie’s List.

  • Swimming and tennis lesson costs are from Thumbtack.

  • The costs of laptops, iPhone and an Xbox are from Amazon. Game prices came from GameStop.

  • Nanny costs are from the International Nanny Association's 2015 Nanny Salary and Benefits Survey.

  • The bedroom furniture price is from Ethan Allen.

  • The hybrid bike price is from REI.

  • The Toyota Camry price is from TrueCar.

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