Children: They’re expensive

Duh. We realized children are expensive two-thousand years ago; however, very few have actually tallied the figures. If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen the average percentages on your newsfeed while commuting, or, have had the conversation with friends and colleagues. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this article, that I looked at our own two little money-suckers. The areas I chose to focus on are Childcare, Kindergarten, Aftercare, and Summer Camp.

For sanity purposes: I’ll skip over clothing, sports, activities, holidays, tutoring, vacations, pizza nights. I’m sure your list can stretch down the I-95 corridor as well. Nevertheless, I am remised to not mention food, and here’s why. I can’t empirically prove this, but due to our chromosome mixture our kids are born quasi-vegetarians. Not a concern, but we were unprepared to say the least. Long before Cowspiracy and What the Health, we trekked down the veggie movement. Fortunately, life is easier today with recipe apps and dinner ideas on timelines. Nonetheless, eating FOOD is expensive, especially with a family of four. Trust me on this one, grape-tomatoes cost more than chicken breast and I live in Jersey. HOW SWAY?!

Anyhow, I digress to the big ticket items in our life: Childcare, Kindergarten, Aftercare, and Summer Camp. Childcare Aware of America publishes an annual report detailing the stark cost-analysis and also the importance of childcare. No matter how you shake the tree, it’s needed and for good reason. Children are trained on how to interact with other children, they’re introduced to diversity, learn collaboration, and acquire social skills key to their development. So now that we’ve identified it’s needed and beneficial,what’s the cost? When my oldest was in daycare, the charge was approximately $613 a month. That figure is extremely low considering my wife’s employer contributed to reduce the price. If not for her company, local centers within our community are easily $850 a month, and even that’s a steal. When I compare our cost to higher-end states in the below table…I’ll keep my mouth shut on complaining.

If you live in Massachusetts prepare your wallets for a beating! The table is from 2015, so adjust for inflation. Prices go up, never down. My oldest was at a Childcare facility until the age of five. That shakes out to approximately $37k over his tenure. My youngest is still in Childcare and the cost is now $633 a month. So if my fourth-grade multiplication pans out correctly, that’s an estimated cost of $38,980 over 5 years. Whew, that’s steep but I quickly found out our cost were just beginning.

On a child’s fifth birthday, we traditionally hallmark the event as their transition to “Big Girl” or “Big Boy” status. They’re getting ready to embark on the journey of academia, commencing with Kindergarten – or at least I presumed. In the great state of New Jersey, kindergarten is not mandatory and our children don’t officially start school until the age of six. This was introduced to me when my oldest was registered. Not only is it not mandatory, but if we wanted him to attend, we would have to pay. Silly me for assuming K-12 meant “K” would be covered by our property taxes…umm, it’s not. Turns out, New Jersey is just 1 of 35 states whom does not mandate. Check out the Education Commission of The States website to see if your state does. Regardless, I had never heard of paying for kindergarten. And here’s why:

In 1981, the Education Law Center filed a complaint in Superior Court on behalf of 20 children attending public schools in the cities of Camden, East Orange, Irvington, and Jersey City. The lawsuit challenged New Jersey’s system of financing public education under the Public School Education Act of 1975 (Chapter 212).This was the first salvo in the historic case, Abbott v. Burke, which is widely recognized as the most important education litigation for poor and minority schoolchildren since Brown v. Board of Education. (Education Law Center, 2018)

These districts receive funding for not only Kindergarten but also Pre-K. There are now 31 funded districts throughout New Jersey but if you’re outside of them, you’re probably paying. How much is contingent upon your district. The sticker price for our district is $5,500 which includes busing. A price I’ll humbly pay. As fate will have it, I’m a kid from the Abbott Districts which is now referred to as SDA Districts. I am Irvington and Newark public school educated. Because of Abbott v. Burke, I was given the opportunity to attend kindergarten at no cost to my parents—so if me now paying ensures children from my home districts get what I had and more, so be it. With that being said, my oldest is already through Kindergarten; nevertheless, I have one approaching which places my grand total on Kindergarten at $11k, unless inflation take an unforeseen trajectory.

Alright, so now your kids are in school and all is covered in your property taxes. You’ve finally made it, or at least you thought. Welcome to the morning and aftercare conundrum. This is the necessary evil established to coincide with your work schedule; you know that ‘9a.m. to 5p.m.’ thing that doesn’t include travel time? Ugggghhhh, I know! Coincidently, we were not alone, according to Child Care Council of Westchester Inc., “65% of parents work schedules are affected by child care challenges.” Morning and aftercare cost will vary based on location so I can only vouch for us. Aftercare at our son’s school is $193 a month; however, it’s well worth it because counselors ensure homework is complete before the gymnasium is destroyed. Regardless, this started for us in kindergarten and our oldest is now in the fourth grade. That brings a grand total of $11,580. If you need Morning care which most families do, go right ahead and increase your cost estimation. Oh, the agony…when does it stop?

Schools out, thank you heaven! My children can sit at home and ease our liability column…wrong. Albeit, New Jersey law has no specifying age of when to leave your child alone at home; Mom chooses to follow the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, which recommends no one under 12. I tried the “back in my day” speech but it went nowhere. Hence, summer camp. For many of us, we work in the summer and the grandparent’s live three states over which leads us to camp. Nonetheless, good luck on shopping summer-camp because it’s priced quite evenly, deliberately. Fortunately enough, we found a camp for approximately $1200 a summer and that’s a blessing. Compound that figure over seven years for two children, it’ll scare you.

Here’s the skinny of all this. Every institution outlined has commonality; they’re required for you to have a career. Unless you’re an employee at companies such as Bristol Myers Squibb, Avon, or one of those generous tech companies with onsite child care, you’re forced into this market. Parents are also attempting a one-up–one-down strategy. This is where one parent stays home to alleviate the cost in entirely. Genius in theory; howbeit, when the Down-Parent looks to return to their career – our ridiculous society only sees a gap in employment for six years. Label me pessimistic but HELP isn’t on the way so get off your roofs spelling SOS out with bed sheets. Numerous reports show that child care represents nearly 20% of our households spending. Please account for these costs when planning your family because it adds up. The days of Mrs. Harris’ makeshift daycare conveniently located across the street may need to make a comeback but until then, prepare to dig deep in your pocketbooks. Check out the numbers below of the total cost for me and my wife. Two children combined will cost us $114,140 for daycare, kindergarten, aftercare, and summer camp … I only forecasted out to age 12, lol.

References

Center, E. L. (n.d.). The History of Abbott v. Burke. Retrieved January 7, 2018, from http://www.edlawcenter.org/cases/abbott-v-burke/abbott-history.html

America, C. A., Wood, S., Fraga, L., Dobbins, D., & McCready, M. (n.d.). Parents and the High Cost of Child Care (pp. 1-76, Rep.).

http://www.childcarewestchester.org/services/employers/item/28-employers

Stay cool,
@MFPguys


The days of Mrs. Harris’ makeshift daycare conveniently located across the street may need to make a comeback but until then, prepare to dig deep in your pocketbooks.