When you spend $850 a month on groceries alone, no one needs to tell you how expensive it is to raise four children.
For 35-year-old Brooke DiMare, of Utica, that’s only the beginning.
With three daughters ages 13, 9 and 7, and a 2-year-old son, DiMare and her husband, Mike, 36, have to budget all of their expenses to the penny to keep their children fed, clothed and cared for.
“I coupon, watch sales, buy in bulk and reuse things as much as possible,” Brooke DiMare said. “We don’t lease or charge things unless it’s an emergency. We pay everything off.”
The DiMares aren’t unique, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released annual report, “Expenditures on Children by Families.” It showed that a middle-income family with a child born in 2012 can expect to spend about $241,080 raising him or her to age 17.
The estimated cost, which jumps to $301,970 when adjusted for projected inflation, represents an increase of 2.6 percent from 2011, but is below the annual average increase of 4.4 percent since the report originated in 1960.
The report finds housing costs are the single largest expenditures for middle income families, making up 30 percent of the total cost over 17 years. Child care and education are next in line at 18 percent, followed by food at 16 percent.
Steve Fiorentino, 30, and his wife Megan, 33, know all about child care and education costs. The Utica couple paid more than $2,000 in day care for their 4-year-old son last year, and he just started pre-kindergarten. Couple that with the birth of their daughter last week, and their costs are set to jump even higher.
“It seems like the cost of just about everything is going up,” Steve Fiorentino said. “It costs a whole lot more to do some of the things that used to be considered cheap. We tend to sacrifice certain things that we don’t need in order for our kids to have and do more.”
Arthur Friedberg, an economics professor at Mohawk Valley Community College, said the rise in child care costs can be attributed to the demand for services not keeping up with supply, more stringent state requirements and regulations placed on day care facilities, and shrinking funds for programs such as Head Start.
He added that education costs are rising even faster thanks to employee health care and retirement costs, increased administrative and maintenance costs and diminishing state and federal aid that puts a greater burden on local taxpayers.
“I think there is also a much greater amount of peer and parent pressure to spend more money as a way of fitting in,” Friedberg said. “There is more of a tendency to try and imitate each other so as not to be ostracized and that translates to more costs.”
Page 2 of 2 - DiMare said she goes to great lengths to avoid that very trap.
“I’m trying to raise my children not to want what everyone else wants,” DiMare said. “It doesn’t matter if we have iPhones and drive fancy cars as long as my family knows it is loved and cared for, that’s my main priority.”