Raising a child can be one of the most rewarding experiences there is, but it can also be one of the most expensive. From diapers to college tuition, the costs add up fast. Understanding how much raising a kid costs can help you be prepared for the financial demands ahead. Here’s a detailed look at what to expect and how to manage these expenses effectively.

1. Early years: birth to preschool

The first few years of a child’s life can be shockingly expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (who knows why that’s the agency that tracks this), the average cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 is around $233,610. And that’s excluding college costs. Let’s break down some of the major expenses you can expect during the early years.

Medical costs:

– Prenatal care and delivery: The cost of childbirth can range from $5,000 to $11,000, depending on your insurance and location. This includes prenatal visits, delivery, and postnatal care.

– Pediatric care: regular doctor visits, vaccinations, and occasional emergencies add up. Budget around $1,200 to $1,500 annually for healthcare in the early years.

Childcare and supplies:

– Diapers and formula: Diapers can cost between $70 and $80 per month, while formula can add another $100 to $150 monthly (if you’re not breastfeeding).

– Childcare: Daycare is one of the most significant expenses for working parents. Depending on where you live, daycare can cost between $9,000 and $20,000 each year.

Essential gear:

– Furniture and equipment: Items like cribs, strollers, and car seats are necessary. Expect to spend around $2,000 on these essentials in the first year.

2. School years: elementary to high school

As your child gets bigger, so do the expenses. School-related kid costs can become a big part of your budget.

Education and extracurricular activities:

– School supplies and fees: Basic supplies, field trips, and school activities can cost several hundred dollars per year.

– Extracurriculars: Sports, music lessons, and other activities can range from $500 to $1,500 annually, depending on the level of participation and equipment required.

Clothing and food:

– Clothing: Kids grow fast, and you’ll find yourself buying new clothes regularly. Budget around $500 to $1,000 per year for clothing. (Check out some ways to save on kids’ clothing for some ways to take the edge off.)

– Food: Feeding a growing child will definitely add to the grocery bill. Expect to spend an additional $1,500 to $2,500 annually on food.

3. Teen years: high school to adulthood

Teenagers bring a whole new set of expenses, from increased food consumption to extracurricular activities and preparation for college, if they’re planning to go.

Technology and transportation:

– Electronics: Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are basically essential for school and social life these days. They can cost $500 to $1,500 initially, plus ongoing costs for data plans.

– Driving: If your teen gets a driver’s license, add costs for driving lessons, insurance, and possibly a car. Car insurance for teens is notoriously expensive, ranging from $1,200 to $3,000 annually.

Higher education:

– College preparation: SAT/ACT prep courses, college application fees, and campus visits can add up to $1,000 or more.

– Saving for college: While this cost is not mandatory during the teen years, it’s wise to start saving early. Tuition and fees can range from $10,000 to $50,000 per year, depending on whether it’s a public or private school.

4. Managing the costs

Budgeting and planning:

– Create a savings plan: Start saving early, ideally even before your child is born. Set up a dedicated savings account for your child’s future expenses.

– Use tax benefits: Take advantage of tax credits like the Child Tax Credit and Dependent Care Credit to reduce your tax burden.

Smart spending:

– Buy secondhand: For things like clothing, toys, and even some equipment, consider buying gently used. Thrift stores, consignment shops, and online marketplaces can offer substantial savings.

– Plan for emergencies: Have an emergency fund in place to cover unexpected kid costs, from medical bills to sudden school fees.