Most parents understand the need to prepare for their children’s college educations by budgeting money while the kids grow.
But there are other expenses—not on the magnitude of college—that are also worthy of budgets all there own.
If you have children who are at least in middle school, you already have an idea of at least some of them.
But if your kids are only a few years old or younger, you’ll need to start preparing for some of them right now, because the day for most or all of them is coming up fast!
Most kids it seems need braces. I don’t know if it’s because kids are being born with more crooked teeth than they were a generation ago, or if our collective tolerance for teeth that are anything less than perfect has reached an all time low.
What ever the cause, braces cost a fortune!
According to Answers.com, braces normally cost between $4,000 and $6,000, but can run as high as $10,000. I suspect the highest range is for the designer varieties, like the clear or colored versions that didn’t exist when I was a kid. But like all professions these days, up-sell is the name of the game.
If you have two children, it’s likely that at least one of them will need braces; if you have three, assume two will need them. What ever the need, an expense this large and predictable cries out for a budget.
If you’re new to parenting, or don’t have any but plan to, you may be unaware that airlines don’t offer discount pricing for children.
In the airline industry, a seat is a seat, and whether it’s occupied by a six foot adult or two foot toddler matters not.
If you’re used to traveling by air, you’ll need to be prepared for the fact that just getting where you’re going will be more expensive than it was in the days before children. The $500 airfare you paid for you and your spouse will mushroom to $1,000 when your three year old and your newborn are added.
Speaking of discount pricing, once your kids get “older”—which in many establishments means reaching the age of 10—they will be charged adult prices. This can include theme parks, restaurants and other entertainment venues.
And, as you’ll discover when they start moving beyond 10, they begin to eat like adults. That can have a material affect on your restaurant bills.
Moral of the story: what ever you pay for vacations now will roughly double in a few years. A weeklong trip to Disney World or even the beach can cost thousands of dollars.
If you don’t normally establish a budget for vacations, you’ll need to have one when you have kids and more so as they get older.
Extracurricular school activities
When I was a kid, some kids were in extracurricular activities but most weren’t.
It’s very different today.
It seems that nearly every school age child is in a sports — or music-program of some sort. Many are in both.
When your children are in elementary or middle school, the in-school activities are usually free or have only a small fee ($50-$100), but when they reach high school you can safely assume you’ll need to pony up roughly $1,000 per activity per child. If junior is in three activities, that will be $3,000 per year. If you have two children in high school and each are in three activities, you’re looking at $6,000 per year—now we’re talking real money!
You probably won’t be covering those fees out of your checking account, so you’ll need a budget for this one too.
Junior’s first car
Even a car that’s well-used can cost a few thousand dollars, and by the time your kids are of driving age they’ll almost certainly cost more.
If you have more than one child, well—you can do the math. The point is, this is another major expense category that will require advance planning—a budget.
There may be a tendency to think, “I’ll let my kids worry about paying for a car—I have enough expenses to cover”, and while that’s a legitimate point, teenagers often need a car long before they have the ability to afford one.
You’ll have to be prepared for this one as well.
Tutoring, test preparation and summer camps
This is really a miscellaneous category. It’s filled with “nickel and dime” expenses—a few hundred here, a few hundred there—but collectively it adds up to real money that you’ll need to be prepared to come up with.
School agenda is being accelerated in districts across the country. No where is this more apparent than in math and science, two subjects that are difficult for a large number of students to begin with. In addition, since No Child Left Behind, pass-fail exams have become the order of the day. Later on, there are college entrance exams.
All will need to be prepared for.
For many, this will require one-on-one tutoring, enrollment in out-of-school support programs (Kumon, Mathnasium, etc.) and the use of various test preparation services.
Then there are summer camps!
Most kids today seem to attend them fairly regularly. Now there are different types of camps—some are daytime only, some are away from home, some are a few days, and some are a month or more. Some will be less than $100, others will be more than $1,000. The point is, your children will probably be in one or more most summers.
In a typical year, you’ll probably pay out upward of $1,000 per child—although this expense can go as high as you want! With two or more kids, you could be paying several thousand per year.
College education is an important event to budget for, but as you can see there’s a whole lot to be prepared for before your children reach that point. By budgeting for them in advance, you can insure that you’ll be fully prepared when they come up.