3 Financial Lessons I've Learned the Hard Way as a Mom

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  • I thought that certain kid-related expenses, like childcare, would decrease as my children got older.
  • Instead, these days, I'm spending more money than ever on summertime childcare, food, and medical bills.

Once you become a parent, it's really important that you get into the habit of budgeting. If you don't, your savings account balance might very quickly get whittled down, all because of your kids.

A few years back, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the cost of raising a child through age 17 at $233,610. And frankly, that number seems low to me.

Now, I knew before having kids that doing so would be an expensive prospect. But through the years, I've found myself increasingly getting caught off-guard at how costly it is to raise kids. Here are some of the more harsh financial lessons I've picked up more recently.

1. You won't necessarily spend less money on childcare as your kids get older

Back when my kids were babies, the cost of daycare was a huge expense I had to bear. I assumed I'd get a ton of relief once my kids got older and were eligible to attend school.

But here's a little truth bomb. Unless you're a teacher or have a job that somehow does not require you to work during the summer, you need to find a way to keep your kids occupied during that 10-week stretch when school is not in session. That's what summer camp is for. But the cost there can be downright astronomical, especially if you want your children to have some sort of decent program that includes a variety of activities and access to a pool.

I took a look at my summer camp bills recently and am convinced that I'm now spending more money on childcare than I did when my kids were infants. The silver lining is that my kids' camp allows you to charge tuition on a credit card for no extra fee. So at least I'm racking up my share of reward points.

2. The cost of snacks could be enough to bust your budget

It's certainly not a shock to me that kids need to eat. What is shocking is the sheer number of snacks these little beings are capable of putting into their bellies, only to then still want dinner an hour or two later.

Not only are my kids constantly asking for snacks, but they want different snacks. Sweet snacks. Salty snacks. Snacks they can share with friends.

Some weeks, I'll buy two cases of chips and popcorn from Costco only to not even have that supply last from Monday morning through Friday afternoon. And that's pretty astounding considering that my kids are in school for much of that window.

3. The fun really begins when your kids start to need glasses and orthodontics

When my kids were younger, I was constantly forking over money for pediatrician copays to deal with things like ear infections. These days, we still frequent the pediatrician's office. Only on top of those healthcare bills, I've reached the point where my kids are starting to break just a little.

My daughter recently got glasses and needs a back-up pair. That's a multi-hundred-dollar expense. My son is in the midst of orthodontic treatment, and somehow, I've already shelled out thousands of dollars before braces have even gotten onto his teeth.

Make sure you have savings before having kids

Kids are expensive, no matter where you live and what sort of lifestyle you try to maintain. So my advice to anyone thinking of having kids is to build up a nice amount of savings first.

Once you have kids, they're going to take all of your money. There's really no getting around that. But if you go in with a solid cushion, you'll alleviate some financial stress so you can focus on other things, like breaking up fights between siblings, panic-buying birthday party gifts at the last minute, and shuttling children to overlapping activities on a regular daily basis.

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