We don't want to alarm you, but if you haven't started saving, do it now. That's because according to estimates from the USDA, the total cost of raising a child born in 2013 to the age of 18 was about $245,000, and that's if you're squarely in a middle class tax bracket. If you fall in the highest income group, the average cost for keeping a kid alive for 18 years jumps to $407,820 [source: USDA].
If $245,000 sounds like a lot, it is. It's not like you find that kind of cash under a couch cushion and say, "Darling, are you in the mood to raise a human to adulthood?" It's not like finding a $20 bill in your coat pocket and offering to pay for tacos.
However, there are a couple of factors that change the cost of raising a child, and when you break it down into annual chunks, it's not quite as scary. Not surprisingly though, the biggest predictor about how much it's going to cost to raise a child is his or her future parents' annual salaries.
Cost analysis for raising a child is broken down into seven main categories: housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care and education, and miscellaneous.
Housing accounts for the largest annual expense — about 30 percent or between $3,100 and $7,370 depending on your income bracket [source: USDA]. On the high end, that's the equivalent of renting your child his own unfurnished studio apartment. On the low end, it's more like leasing him a BMW to sleep in (which we don't really recommend).
Much like BMWs, however, children become more expensive to maintain as they age. Feeding an infant for a year costs between $1,200 and $2,000, depending on your income bracket. As they grow from adorable babies who live on strained peas into hulking teenagers who can finish an entire pizza in one sitting, the cost doubles at all income brackets [source: USDA].
Clothes cost roughly the same between the infancy and 18. There's a slight increase into the teenage years, presumably because of growth spurts, but on balance, clothing costs are between $600 and $1,300 a year [source: USDA].
One of the big differences between income brackets is the cost of child care and education. Parents in upper income brackets tend to pay between $5,000 and $7,000 for their kids' education every year. The average for lower income parents doesn't even come close. The costs amount to about $4,300 during the first five years of life on day care, but after age 5, it drops to below $1,000 [source: USDA].
If you plan to send your kids to college, these estimates don't include those costs, so you'll have to plan a separate college savings fund for your child's educational future. Good luck!