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The Cost of Kids

Summer is here. Which means vacations, camps, and spending money for Dave and Buster’s. Darn, kids are expensive.

Child support guidelines are set by state laws. You’d think they’d cover everything you need, right? Sadly, a lot of women are shocked to realize their child support doesn’t come anywhere near the amount they actually pay for their kids’ expenses. A Starbucks cake pop here, a new pair of Nike Air Force 1’s there. These things add up fast. If you’re not careful, you could blow an entire month’s child support payment before you’ve even covered the basic bills (you know, things like your rent and utilities).

So, what will you really spend during the course of your little’s lifetime?

I thought about my own kids and spoke to a bunch of moms to come up with this kitchen-sink list. When you see it all in one place, it might feel a bit insane. But it should help you with 2 things:

1. Build a better budget. When you’re going through divorce, your budget is critical - it’s what everyone will look at to determine your financial need. But many women underestimate their actual expenses, either because they forget to include certain categories, they don’t know they’ll need them, or they low-ball costs. Don’t do that! Now’s the time to get crystal-clear on how much your children actually cost you every month. You want your budget to be real and bullet-proof. If you haven’t yet perfected your budget, we’ve got some great tips on how to do that here.

2. Know what to ask your spouse to pay for above and beyond that monthly child support number. Child support can’t cover everything. There are a lot of one-off expenses, and some ongoing ones, that you simply won’t be able to float with your basic child support payment. And if your kids are younger, there may be future things you don’t even realize you’ll need to pay for later. Most states have a formula for child support, but also allow for payment of extras above and beyond that number.

Here’s what to do…

Go through the list below, and see which ones apply to your kids - or might later on. Use this list to help create your budget. Then, ask your soon-to-be ex for more help by agreeing to pay all or a share of the expenses that aren’t part of your day-to-day living. He or she can pay them directly to the school/coach/tutor/whomever or reimburse you once you’ve provided proof of the expense.

There’s no way you can estimate an exact dollar amount for each one of these costs now, since some of these expenses are years away, or may change year to year. But what you can do is get your ex to agree to share the costs you agree upon when they do come up.

As you’re working through who will pay what, make sure you define, define, define. If you and your ex have agreed to share, for example, the cost of your kids’ activities, think about this: What types of activities are you agreeing to pay or split - music, arts, sports, scouts? Are you also agreeing to pay or split equipment/gear, uniforms, lodging and meals for travel sports? If your child loses his soccer cleats, does each of your obligations include buying a replacement pair? Once you’ve agreed on the terms, make sure to spell them out in your settlement documents. Be as clear as possible. You’ll rarely go wrong by being over-explanatory in your agreement about what you each are and are not obligated to pay.

Worried you’re asking for too much? Don’t be. These are both of your kids, after all. And as my mom always said, if you don’t ask for it, you’ll never get it!

Our Kitchen-Sink List of Things We Pay for Our Kids,

From Youngest to Oldest:

While They’re in Your Home

· Diapers, diapers, diapers

· Wipes, wipes, and more wipes

· All-things breastfeeding related - pumps, nursing bras, and so on

· Formula

· Baby bottles, sippy cups, feeding supplies

· Strollers, joggers, car seats

· Baby monitors

· Crib, bedding, baby blankets

· Baby and toddler-proofing gadgets

· Toys

· Books

· 1 thousand Little Einstein videos

· Clothing

· Day care/nanny/sitter/after-care

· Baby photos

· Medical, dental and orthodontic expenses - don’t forget the braces!

· Vision expenses - contact lenses and glasses

· School tuition and fees

· Uniforms

· School supplies - required by school, and all the other stuff your child will want (like that matching Pottery Barn Kids pink foil hearts backpack and lunchbox)

· Lunch money

· Tutoring

· Yearbooks and school photos

· Sports and extracurricular registration costs - including gear and replacement gear when your child loses his first set (e.g. football helmets, soccer cleats, tennis rackets); uniforms, lessons, costs for travel sports

· Arts (dance, band, orchestra, drama, etc.) - including registration costs, outfits and supplies (leotards, dance shoes, etc.), recital fees, instrument purchase or rental, costumes

· Field trips

· Class parties, teacher gifts

· Costumes - Halloween, school dress up days

· Birthday parties

· Gifts for other children

· Child-oriented vacations, like Disney World

· Summer camps - including registration fees, clothing supplies, trunk and travel

· Electronics - including laptops, iphones, ipads, ipods, cell phone service plan, game console repairs (e.g. Geeksquad)

· Allowance

· Entertainment - movies, plays, water parks, arcades

· Bikes, skates, helmets, etc.

· Eating out

· Therapy costs

· Passport applications/renewals

· Homecoming and Prom dresses/tux

· Spring break trips with friends

· Family vacations - including travel costs, lodging, special gear like ski clothes and rentals, passes

· Cosmetics/grooming/haircuts

· Car - purchase, insurance, gas, repair and maintenance, parking and toll

· Senior trip

· SAT/ACT prep course and test fees

· College visits

· College applications

· Fees to attend school events like dances and football games

· Graduation costs - class rings, cap and gown, parties, announcements

Off to College and Beyond

While the court can’t require either of you to pay college, you can agree, so ask about these, too….

· Tuition

· Room and board

· Books

· Transportation

· Sorority and fraternity dues

· Spending money

· Healthcare

· Study abroad programs

· Your own increased expenses when your kids come home for the summer and on breaks

· Grad school

And remember...


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