Cost of raising kids causes dad to swerve

‘Because I Said So’ column for The Commercial Appeal

Aug. 28, 2014


Cost of raising kids causes dad to swerve

On a half-hour drive across town the other day I tuned the radio dial from station to station looking for anything to distract me from the stop-and-go Memphis traffic. In that time, I heard the same song by a popular ‘80s hair band twice, a Morgan & Morgan law firm commercial 19 times and a story on NPR about it now costing $245,000 to raise a child until he or she is 18 years old.

I nearly swerved off the road.

By my calculations, it’s going to cost me a cool million to get my four kids to adulthood. I don’t have a million dollars. I’m not sure what the penalty is for that — some sort of kid foreclosure, I suppose. The bank will show up and repossess them, which is fine, let them learn how expensive Pop-Tarts can be.

The study is conducted every year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for some reason. I suppose they need to know how much milk they’re going to have to make (at least four gallons per week for my kids) or how many hot dog buns to produce.

They say children are a gift, but I’ve never in my life spent so much on a gift.

The greatest expenses are housing and child care, the study declares. These are followed closely by notebook paper, three-ring binders and glue sticks. Having just barely survived the start of the school year, I’m fairly certain the long list of school supplies required to accommodate elementary, middle and high school must take up a great swath of real estate on the USDA’s child-raising ledger.

The report also says that teenagers are the most expensive, though that might have come from the U.S. Department of the Obvious. My teen outgrows his clothes at an inhuman rate and eats more than the rest of the family combined. Then there is the issue of bandwidth and digital usage, costs my parents didn’t have to consider.

I recently wrote a check for our first auto insurance premium with a teenage driver attached to it. It more than doubled what we had been paying. I nearly swerved off the desk.

It isn’t all about money, I know. I love these kids, they are irreplaceable. They are not, it turns out, priceless — the government has put a price on them.

Anyway, I look at it all as an investment. I don’t normally invest a million dollars in a single industry like child raising, but I don’t really have a choice in this matter. And I do intend to collect dividends.

I intend to collect that money in person, showing up at my adult kids’ homes once a quarter with my hand out. I’ll demand a check, some Pop-Tarts and a ride back to my house since I’ll have to sell the car to pay for that last teenager to eat her weight in hot dog buns.

Should they refuse payment, I know of a law firm to handle the case. I’ll pay the legal fees, I’m sure.

Link to The Commercial Appeal