10 Cheapest Cities to Raise a Family


NEW YORK (MainStreet)—That little bundle of joy is going to cost you a cool quarter-million.

Raising a child is no doubt rewarding, if a tad on the expensive side. No wonder your married-without-children friends are always going out to dinner.

In a new report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that a middle-income family with a child born in 2012 can expect to spend about $241,080 for food, shelter and other necessities associated with child-rearing expenses over the next 17 years.

Make that $301,970 when adjusted for a projected inflation rate of 2.5%.

Based on a middle-income, two-parent family, the annual costs can range from $12,600 to $14,700, depending on the age of the kid. And his or her shoe preferences.

That will lease a couple of loaded Bimmers, but who can compare that to the love of a child?

And nearly every expense is going up: child care, education, health care and clothing saw the largest percentage increases from 2011. But housing, food, transportation and miscellaneous expenses rose slightly for the period as well.

And of course, the more you money you make, the more you'll spend on a kid. The report says a family earning less than $60,640 per year can expect to spend a total of $173,490 on a child from birth through high school. Middle-income parents with earnings between $60,640 and $105,000 will shell out $241,080, and a family making more than $105,000 can expect to spend nearly $400,000.

But the good news is, the more the merrier. It seems you earn a volume discount -- as expenses per child decrease as a family has more children.

Families with three or more children spend 22% less per child than families with two children. As families have more children, the children can share bedrooms, clothing and toys. Food can be purchased in larger and more economical quantities, and private schools or child care centers may offer sibling discounts.

This handy calculator can help you more accurately predict your child-rearing costs.

The report also reveals the geographic variations in the cost of raising a child, with expenses the highest for families living in the urban Northeast, followed by the urban West and urban Midwest. Families living in the urban South and rural areas have the lowest child-rearing expenses.

If all of this is giving you an urge to pack-up and move to one of the cheapest U.S. cities to raise a family, the Council for Community and Economic Research has rated over 300 urban areas on the after-tax cost of living. The index considers housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services.

The top ten least expensive cities to raise a family are:

  • 1. Harlingen, TX
  • 2. Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • 3. Pueblo, Colo.
  • 4. Pryor Creek, Okla.
  • 5. Norman, Okla.
  • 6. San Marcos, Texas
  • 7. Memphis, Tenn.
  • 8. Fayetteville, Ark.
  • 9. Wichita Falls, Texas
  • 10. Springfield, Mo.

Not only will you save a bunch of money by raising your family in one of these areas, but in most cases your kids will grow up loving barbecue and having a cute accent.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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