New parents hear all about how expensive babies are. From the car seat to the stroller, the diapers and the child care — there’s no doubt it can add up fast.
What other parents don’t warn you about, however, is the fact that the cost to raise a child only increases as your child grows up. In fact, the teenage stage is when a family’s spending on a child peaks, at $13,900 per year according to the USDA Expenditures on Children by Families report.
As your child gets older, looking ahead to the next stage in their life can help you anticipate and prepare for new costs. Here’s a look at why costs can increase as your child starts to grow up, and a breakdown of the costs to raise a teen.
Housing Costs for a Teenager
As your kids get older and your family’s needs change, that can mean upsizing to a home with more space. Siblings who used to share a room might now insist on their own, or you might need a larger shared area to have their friends over.
The added housing costs of a bigger family account for 27% of what parents spend to raise a kid. For the average family spending $13,900 per year on their teen, $3,800 of that goes to housing.
Costs to Feed a Teenager
Your teen is going through puberty, growth spurts, and plenty of social and developmental milestones all at once. It’s no surprise teens are notorious for eating a lot — it takes a lot of food to fuel all that!
No longer can you get away with four chicken nuggets and 8oz of milk for lunch.
Higher nutritional needs can also mean a rise in grocery and food costs. On the USDA’s moderate-cost food plan, families spend about $310-320 per month feeding a teen son. The average monthly grocery costs for a teen daughter are $255.
Compare that to the average $178 per month of less families would spend on a child 5 years or younger.
Costs for Transportation of a Teenager
Your family’s transportation costs also might rise as your child grows older. As a teen, they might have more commitments to keep and places to be between school, extracurriculars, and their social life. You might find yourself needing a bigger car and spending more on gas to meet those demands.
And when your teen earns their driver’s license, that can mean many more costs.
Insuring a teen driver isn’t cheap — it can add about $2,000 to your annual premiums. And then there’s the cost of buying a car for your teen, if you choose to do so. In all, the USDA puts transportation costs at 16% of overall spending on teens ages 15 to 17, about $2,225 per year.
Costs for Education and Extracurriculars for a Teenager
After paying for child care in the preschool years, education costs tend to fall. But then they increase again at ages 15 to 17, as many students get more involved in college prep and extracurricular pursuits.
According to the USDA, 15% of what parents spend on teens goes toward education costs, equal to just under $2,075 per year.
This can include tuition for students attending private schools, school books, fees, and supplies. Other common education costs include private tutoring, college entry exam prep and test fees, school trips and activities.
Costs of Personal Care and Interests for a Teenager
You’ll also probably be plunking plenty of cash down for your teenager’s miscellaneous costs and interests. Miscellaneous costs are about 7% of what parents spend on teens, on average (about $970 per year). This covers everything from personal care, such as hair cuts or beauty products, to personal interests.
Entertainment purchases like books, movies, music, and video games can add up for an average teen. And many teens also have an expensive hobby or pastime, whether it’s pricey private dance classes, one-on-one music lessons, or sports equipment.
And don’t forget spending money for incidentals like grabbing food or coffee, getting together with friends, or buying a ticket for an event.
Costs to Clothe a Teenager
Overall, clothing costs for teens aren’t much higher than at younger ages. They spend just under $800 per year, an average of 6% of total costs, on clothing for their teens.
They may want more-expensive clothing, and how they dress is more closely tied to their self-expression and even social status. I’m sure you remember being a teenager and being overly self-conscious about your looks. I know I do.
Saving for College and Adulthood
The costs of raising a teen don’t stop when they reach 18, of course. Many parents continue to help their children financially, even after they’re officially adults.
Commonly, parents will help pay for college. Parents say they contribute an average of $17,314 to their child’s college education, according to an HSBC study. Saving up that amount (or more) requires some careful budgeting and planning.
Many parents might also choose to allow their teen or adult child to continue living at home, remain on their insurance, or pay for other portions of their living expenses. In fact, about six in 10 parents with young adult kids (ages 18 to 29) say they provided that child with financial help in the past year, according to a Pew Report.
Dealing with the Costs to Raise a Teenager
Involving teens in the process of managing and paying for their own costs can be an important learning opportunity for your kid. It can help them practice crucial money skills while they still have the safety net of living at home to fall back on.
As a parent, you are responsible for covering your child’s living costs and paying for their basic needs. So you should cover things like housing, food at home, basic clothing, and other necessities.
Of course, it’s important to keep these expenses in check. For example, it’s always wise to choose an affordable home, make meals rather than eating out, and save and find deals for big purchases.
What you pay for beyond the basics up to you, however. Invite your teen to help in the process of budgeting, spending, and even earning the funds used to pay for their wants.
Give them an allowance. Figure out how much you can and are willing to spend on your child in a given month. Then, you can budget for this and give it to them in the form of an allowance.
Your child can then decide how they want to manage that money to buy clothing, go out with friends, buy a video game, or make other purchases. And you won’t be stuck arguing with them about spending or getting sucked into overspending.
Encourage them to earn their own money. Whatever age your teen is, they can find ways to earn some cash to buy the things they want. Teens who are 15 or older can get a summer or part-time job. And younger teens can earn cash by doing odd jobs like babysitting, dog walking, or yard work. Or they can make something to sell, like baked goods or DIY jewelry and art.
With them earning money, that’s cash they can use to pay for what they want and need — without it all having to come out of your wallet.
Share costs with your teen. It doesn’t have to be that either you or your teen buys the things they want or need. Especially if they have a big-ticket item come up, such as an overnight school trip or a car, it’s plenty fair to expect them to help cover a portion of the costs.
Task your teen with drawing up a budget for their desired purchase, along with how much you each contribute. Once you agree on an arrangement, you can both start planning and saving for the expense together.
Know when to say no. Not spending or putting purchases off is often part of smart money management, and it’s healthy to help your teen learn that!
It can help to reframe these decisions from “We can’t afford it,” to, “We already have enough,” or “We’re choosing to spend on other important things right now.” It’s also the perfect chance to model financial prioritizing and explain how you make decisions with your money.
Balancing the needs and costs of raising your teen with those of other family members isn’t easy. And how you handle your teen’s costs and family’s financial needs will look unique to you.
But understanding the general costs to raise a teen can give you a more realistic idea of what to expect. You could find places in your budget where you could cut back, as well as plan for expenses that are coming up in the next few years.
Best of all, managing your family budget and finances will provide your teen with an important example and role model of positive money habits.