Newsflash: raising kids costs money. A lot of it.
Ok, not a new idea. But it’s gonna have a whole new meaning for you when you’re going through divorce.
Child support amounts 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 pair of soccer cleats here, a Kylie Jenner lip gloss there (hello, $16?!)… sounds inconsequential but this stuff really adds up. And if you tack on a travel sports team or overnight camp to the equation? Fuhgeddaboudit.
What will you spend during the course of your little lovie’s lifetime? I’m talking about things beyond the obvious food-clothing-shelter categories, which child support is designed to cover.
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’s a bit insane. But it should help you with 2 things:
1. Build a better budget to maximize child support before it’s set. When you’re going through divorce, your budget is critical - it’s what everyone will look at to determine your financial need. But women tend to 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.
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.
I urge you to go through the list below, and see which ones apply to your kids - or might later on. First, 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 can pay them directly to the school/coach/tutor/whomever or reimburse you once you’ve given him proof of the expense.
There’s no way you can estimate a 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.
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
Baby bottles, sippy cups, feeding supplies
Strollers, joggers, car seats
Crib, bedding, baby blankets
Baby and toddler-proofing gadgets
1 thousand Little Einstein videos
Medical, dental and orthodontic expenses - don’t forget the braces!
Vision expenses - contact lenses and glasses
School tuition and fees
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)
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
Class parties, teacher gifts
Costumes - Halloween, school dress up days
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)
Entertainment - movies, plays, water parks, arcades
Bikes, skates, helmets, etc.
Homecoming and Prom dresses/tux
Spring break trips with friends
Family vacations - including travel costs, lodging, special gear like ski clothes and rentals, passes
Car - purchase, insurance, gas, repair and maintenance, parking and toll
SAT/ACT prep course and test fees
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….
Room and board
Sorority and fraternity dues
Study abroad programs
Your own increased expenses when your kids come home for the summer and on breaks