The Hidden Costs of Raising a Toddler

Toddler mess

It may not seem like it when you’re in the middle of another long, sleepless night, but your precious newborn will soon be an energetic toddler. And as any parent who’s gone before you will attest, toddlerhood brings with it a whole new set of challenges – and a whole new set of costs. While the challenges will likely come as no surprise (though that won’t make them any easier), the costs might catch you off guard. For while plenty is written about how much your newborn will cost and how to prepare for it, far less is written about preparing for the considerable costs associated with toddlerhood. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the costs you can expect, as well as a handful of strategies for keeping them in check.

The big expenses

Extra living space

If you’re a relatively new parent, chances are you’ve been warned at some point or another that once your little infant starts walking, it’s all over. That’s true on so many levels, including, in some instances, your ability to “make it work” in your tiny apartment. A child on the go is a child in need of space. (And that’s to say nothing of how often said child becomes a big brother or big sister at some point during toddlerhood.) Assess the needs of your family, and be honest about whether you can truly make it work in your current living space once you have a toddler on the move. If you can’t, the time to start budgeting and saving for that extra living space is now.

Daycare and Preschool

If preschool or daycare is a cost you’ll be incurring for the first time during toddlerhood, it’s one you’ll need to meticulously plan and budget for right away. Daycare is expensive. Preschool is expensive. Period. There’s no way around it. The ballooning cost of daycare is well documented, and the cost of preschool isn’t far behind. Estimates vary depending on where you live, but it’s safe to assume you’ll be looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 a month (or more) in added expenses.

Updating many of your child’s belongings

Toddlers outgrow things like crazy. Their clothes, their toys, their infant car seats, their cribs, and just about anything else designed for infants. In other words, there’s a whole lot of new coming into your life in the not-distant-future. And new is not free.

The hidden costs

None of what we’ve outlined so far should really shock you. But a bigger living space, enrollment in preschool, and a collection of new clothes and toys are really just the tip of the toddler-cost iceberg. A host of additional costs hover beneath the surface, including:

Medical Expenses

A not-so-funny thing happens when your toddler starts hobnobbing with other toddlers on a regular basis: They get sick. A lot. Whether it’s through co-pays or prescriptions, or lost pay on account of missed work, the costs can add up quickly.

Food

Most toddlers tend to have ravenous appetites. Don’t underestimate just how ravenous either. You’ll need to stock the fridge with more food – and restock it more often – than you ever have in the past. Prepare for a higher grocery bill – 20 percent higher and up is not out of the question.

Cleaning and Repairs

Toddlers’ appetite for food is matched only by their appetite for destruction. They don’t call it the terrible twos for no reason. Toddler proof your home and car all you want, but if they can get a hold of it (and they will), they will break it, or spill it, or stain it – or all of the above and then some. After a while, the cost of all the professional carpet cleanings, interior car washes, and replacement plates adds up.

Entertainment

If you handed a toddler a new toy when you started reading this article, chances are she’s already bored with it. Toddlers need infinitely more attention and entertainment than babies, and sometimes (most of the time), the toys in the house just aren’t enough. You’ll need to budget for memberships and activities – such as zoo and museum memberships – to keep your toddler occupied and yourself sane.

Keep costs in check with these steps

The good news is there are many steps you can take to keep the costs of toddlerhood in check, including:

Budget and save now: Don’t assume you won’t be hit with these costs. You will. It’s the cycle of life. Prepare now, and be glad you did later.

Buy food in bulk: Toddlers may eat a lot, but they’re not exactly foodies. In fact, most toddlers tend to eat the same thing over and over. Use that to your advantage by buying their favorite non-perishables in bulk to drive down your grocery bill.

Accept hand-me-downs: There are few guarantees in life, but here’s one of them: If you know parents just getting through toddlerhood, then you know parents who cannot wait to give away all the stuff they no longer use. Toys, clothes, double strollers – you name it. Take advantage. It’s free to you and it’s new to your child. That’s a win-win, folks.

Call the doctor first: Nowadays, most doctors will gladly talk to you over the phone and tell you if it’s really necessary to come in on account of that sniffle. And more often than not, it isn’t. So, make the call first, and save the time, the gas, and the co-pay. As often as toddlers get sick, the savings will add up quickly.

Eat as a family: Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll cook for your kid first, put him to bed, and then cook for yourself. You won’t. You’ll get exhausted, you’ll order in, and you’ll repeat that routine until you’re spending more money on takeout than you did before you had kids. Cook once, eat as a family, and enjoy the savings.

Enjoy the great (and free) outdoors: The wonderful thing about toddlers is they don’t know the difference between Disneyland and your neighborhood playground. Being outside is joyous for them, and it’s free for you. What did I say earlier about a win-win?

Look, toddlerhood is a period marked by chaos (and lots and lots of love, too). But, as with anything else, through proactive planning and smart budgeting, you can keep the financial chaos to a minimum. So, start planning now and the terrible twos won’t be so terrible on your wallet.

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