$241,000 to raise a kid! How can I afford to be a parent?

Mitch Strohm

I'm staring at a startling figure and asking myself a strange question: Is it financially responsible to have a kid?

The average estimated cost for a middle-income couple to raise a child born in 2012 is $241,080, up 2.6% from 2011 and 23% from 1960 when adjusting for inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Its annual report Expenditures on Children by Families is a great way to measure the expenses you might face when raising a child.

Factoring in housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care and education, annual child-rearing costs for a middle-income family range from $12,600 to $14,700.

Pricey.

And that's only for the first 17 years. It doesn't include the cost of college.

Tack that on and, depending on where the kid goes, it could be an extra $100,000 or more.

This is serious information for my generation since we're in the process of deciding when, or even whether, to have kids. And if so, how many.

That quarter of a million dollar price tag is a lofty aspiration for us, especially in this economy.

While the cost to have a rug rat keeps going up, wages have taken a dive.

The median household income was only $50,054 in 2011, a 1.5% decline from 2010 and 8.9% lower than the peak in 1999.

In addition, high unemployment, dismal savings rates and a very rocky stock market have been staples of millennial's lives in the work force.

The economy simply hasn't been as good for millennials as it has been for other generations, and saving has been a little tougher.

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It's easy to see how a couple thinking about kids could be discouraged.

As the economy slowly recovers, those of us thinking about starting a family are looking at some big costs that we might not be ready for.

It's daunting to take in all at once.

Couples have certainly been deterred in other countries. A story I just read in the New York Times told how high unemployment in countries like Greece, Italy and Spain is discouraging young generations from having children.

And the state of the current U.S. economy isn't exactly ideal for raising a child, either.

According to the USDA report, the average cost to put a baby in your backseat largely depends on where you live.

Families in the urban Northeast can expect to pay an average of $277,170 for child-rearing, whereas families in the urban South can expect an average of $226,260.

If you live in a rural area, the average cost falls to $190,290.

Housing is by far the largest expense, making up almost one-third of the total cost of having a kid, or $71,820.

Child care and education are the next-biggest expenses, making up 18% of the pie.

And food comes in at 16%, rising from $1,430 per year for an infant to $2,630 per year for a 17-year-old.

I asked some peers what they thought about these costs and got replies ranging from "No wonder people are broke" to "I'm not having kids anymore."

But when it comes down to it, these numbers are more of a reminder that, while children can be rewarding and fun (mostly), they are very costly and take up a lot of the budget.

They seem to be a pay-as-you-go proposition.

Will the cost deter my fiancé and me from having a kid? Nope, but we may have an "only" child.

As long as we're not shelling out a quarter of a million up front, I think we'll figure it out when the time comes and hope that the economy continues to recover, figuring out ways to cut costs here and there.

But will seeing these numbers result in upping our percentage of savings? You bet.

How about you? Does that $241,080 price tag discourage you from having a kid?

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