Expanding your family your way
When thinking about the costs of adding a new member to your family, start by considering what matters most to you.
November 2, 2021 8 min read
Having a baby is a life-changing event. Beyond just the dirty diapers and the sleepless nights, it can impact every aspect of your life, from how you spend your time to what matters most to you. And just as you get used to parenthood—and all the love and added costs it brings—you may find yourself thinking about adding a second, or even a third, child to the mix. While growing your family will undoubtedly mean more love, it will also mean more expenses.
You may already be thinking about all the basics—will you need a bigger car? A bigger house? But now’s also the time to think about life experiences and all the things that will be important to you as your kids grow up. It can be hard to picture those sweet babies as temperamental teens, but with a little vision and some basic planning, you can map out the things that matter most to you and your expanding family.
Ongoing costs of raising children
How much does it cost to raise another child? According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the cost of raising a kid from birth until adulthood for a middle-income married couple is, on average, $284,570. And that’s just for the essentials, such as housing and food. Costs can vary depending on where you live, how old your children are (older kids are just more expensive!) and your income (people who make more tend to spend more on their kids).
Some good news is that with each additional child, expenses for each typically decline. The same USDA study found that a family with one child can pay on average 27% more per child than a two-child family does. Expenses average 24% less for each kid in a three-child home than in a two-child home. This is because larger families can benefit from economies of scale—buying food in bulk, older siblings babysitting younger ones and passing down everything from clothes to toys to furniture.
But the “cheaper by the dozen” rule only applies to the necessities of child rearing. Based on the type of life you want to give your children, it’s important to remember that when it comes to things like extracurricular activities and travel, you can expect expenses to grow with each additional child.
Prioritize what's important for your growing family
When adding to your family, it’s even more important to plan out the kind of lifestyle you want to give your children. Put into words the values that are important to your family, and prioritize the “above and beyond” expenses that will help bring your values to life.
- What kind of schooling should you prepare for? There are pros and cons of all types of schooling, including public, private, charter schools and home-schooling. Is having smaller classes and individualized teaching important to you? Are large sports programs top of mind? Decide what options might best meet your family’s needs, and understand the costs associated with them.
- What kind of experiences do you value? If you went to a summer sleepaway camp as a kid and met all your forever friends, that may stand out as an experience you definitely want for your own kids. Or maybe study abroad helped you see the world in a new way, and you want to make sure your kids have that same opportunity. Those may be costs you want to prioritize.
- How will you approach sports, arts and other activities? There are only so many hours in the day for piano lessons or soccer practice. The more children you have, the more chances there are that schedules will overlap and costs will rise. Focus on what’s important to you. That could mean giving your children every chance to excel in travel sports or managing free time by setting a limit on the number of activities each child participates in.
- What will be your approach to gift-giving in your home? More kids means more birthdays and more gifts, not to mention all the other holidays you celebrate. What kind of gift-giver will you be for your growing family? Will you be a one-gift-per-child household? Will your gifts focus on developing your children’s creativity, sportsmanship or charity toward others?
- How early is too early to think about college? When you have, or are considering, multiple children, the answer is it’s never too early. Will you give your children the choice between a state school or a private university? What about any college prep costs that could arise? Think about when you will start a college fund for your new addition and how you will grow it over time.
Child care changes & going back to work
Any parent knows that finding child care that’s loving and stimulating while still fitting into a desired budget can be like winning the lottery. When additional kids come into the mix, it’s important to think about whether your approach to child care—or your need for it—will change at all.
- How will expanding your family affect your career? As some families grow, they start to think about whether or not returning to work after parental leave makes sense. One adult may consider switching from working full time to either working part time or becoming a stay-at-home parent. If you want more time with your family, you may be willing to trade off income from outside work, at least for a period of time—and you can plan for that.
- How will it affect cost? If you’re going back to work after having a baby, will you have the same schedule and child care needs you had with your first child? If you will, you’ll want to plan for that increase in child care costs. You may want to ask whether your child care provider offers sibling discounts.
- Will it affect the type of child care you choose? Think about whether having an additional child changes your approach to child care. You may find that you want to explore something different. Nannies, au pairs, day care and child care sharing are all options. Take a look at what will best suit your ideal family vision and how the financial impact of this choice could affect other household decisions.
Current housing & living situations
As families expand, they often need more space. Housing is the largest expense when it comes to raising a child, making up 29% of basic child-rearing costs. Can your current house accommodate a growing family, or would you need to reevaluate your living situation? There are many things to consider when thinking about what’s important to you.
- How much space do you need? The average size of a single-family home in the United States is around 2,300 square feet, but the amount of space you need is a personal choice. How you use your space might be the more important thing to consider. Do you need a guest room, or could you convert it into a nursery? Are you open to children sharing bedrooms? Will you want a playroom so the toys don’t overtake your house? Where you’re choosing to raise your family, how much you’ll be at home and any plans for more kids down the line are all important things to consider.
- Is your current location right for your expanded family? Does it make sense to move closer to other family members so they can help out with child care? Do you have your eye on a different school system? Or maybe you just need more outdoor space for siblings to play together. If your current location doesn’t seem right, moving might be the right choice.
- Does having a child affect your mortgage? There shouldn’t be an impact on mortgage or loans that already exist, but if you or your partner are thinking about changing your employment status, be sure to think about how those changes would affect any new applications.
Travel & vacation planning
If you’ve tried to go on a family vacation with a baby, you probably already know that travel changes once you have kids. More kids may mean more memories but also more costs and more considerations overall. Number of plane tickets, school schedules and types of getaways are all things you’ll probably find yourself thinking about as you get ready to travel with kids.
- How will trip planning change? The bigger your family, the more important it is to plan in advance. You’ll be scheduling around things like school and sports schedules, and the times of year that kids are out of school are often the most expensive and busiest times to travel. When it comes time to leave for a trip, there’s just more to keep track of. Have you packed enough sunscreen for the whole family? What about snacks and games to entertain toddlers in the car? If you’re traveling abroad, is everyone’s passport up to date?
- Is traveling stress-free your main priority? Think about how your vacations will change. If you’re flying to tropical locales now, will you switch to beaches that are within driving distance? Do you want to invite more people on the trip, like a nanny or a grandparent, to assist with child care? If so, will you help cover their costs?
- Is seeing the world with your family most important? Do you want to show your children new cultures and take them around the world? If so, think about your must-see locales and plan ahead.
- How important are timing and frequency? Have you dreamed about having a nearby cabin for frequent weekend trips, or would you rather take a long trip over the summer? Knowing how often you want to travel and how much you want to spend will mean you’re ready when the travel bug bites.
Remember to define your values and stick to what’s important to you and your family. Take time to plan for the financial and logistical choices you need to make so you can focus on what’s important—building a lifetime of memories and living life as a family of any size your way.