How Much Does it Cost to Raise 5 or More Kids?

A big family is expensive.

 Stephen Simpson / Stone / Getty Images

One of the scariest prospects of having a big family can be the big expense. How will you clothe, feed, and entertain five or more kids?

Before you can answer that question, it’s important to know what you might expect to pay to raise each child. And then, you might find some ways to cut your expenditures so you don’t have to worry too much about money.

Average Cost of Raising a Child 

Since 1960, the USDA has been tracking the cost of raising a child. They analyze the average expenses by age and provide a comprehensive report that shows how much parents are paying on average to raise kids in different regions of the country. 

Based on the 2015 report, the average middle-income family (earning $59,200 to $107,400 per year), two-child, married couple family spends approximately $12,980 per child every year.

Families with lower incomes spend, on average, $174,690 on each child through age 17 and higher income families spend an average of $372,210 from birth to age 17. 

Those figures don’t count for inflation. And unfortunately, they don’t include the cost of college tuition or the cost of pregnancy

Where the Money Goes

According to the survey, the average middle-income family spent the money for raising kids in the following way:

  • Housing: 29%
  • Food: 18%
  • Child care / Education: 16%
  • Transportation: 15%
  • Healthcare: 9%
  • Clothing: 6%
  • Other necessities: 7%

The costs of raising kids were highest in the urban Northeast, urban West and urban South. Costs were lowest in the urban Midwest and in rural areas.

Much of the variation in costs across regions stemmed from differences in housing prices. Child care and education expenses also affected much of the cost variation in various regions.

Overall, the cost of raising a child was 27% lower in rural areas compared with areas within urban Northeast, where expenses were highest.

The authors of the report note that child rearing costs vary greatly depending on the number of children and their ages.

Expenses tend to increase as a child ages. Annual expenses averaged $300 less for children from birth to age 2 and averaged $900 more for teenagers between 15 and 17.

Not only do older children require more food, but they usually have higher transportation costs. Once teens begin driving, added expenses may include car insurance or even the cost of a car.

Does Each Child Increase the Cost?

Of course, you might find that raising a big family doesn’t mean a lot more expenses. Mark Lino, PhD, who authored the study, says that as family size increases, costs per child generally decrease.

Researchers found that families with one child spend 27% more on the only child. Families with three or more children spend 24% less on each child.

There are several reasons why your cost per child may go down as you have more children. For example, your housing costs might remain about the same whether you have three kids or six kids.

If the kids share bedrooms, you don’t necessarily need a bigger home. So while your utility bills might be a little higher, you might not find a major difference in household expenses.

Kids may also be more likely to share toys and clothing. And you may be able to buy food in bulk, which could be a significant cost-savings.

Older kids may also be able to watch younger kids, which could significantly cut your costs for child care.

On the other hand, you might find that you need to spend more on transportation. If you have two kids, a small compact car might work well for your family. But if you have five or more kids, you’ll likely want to upgrade to a van. That may mean your transportation expenses become quite a bit higher—and you may be on the road a lot more so you might spend a lot more on gas.

How Much Do 5 Kids Really Cost?

If you spent the average amount of money that most middle-income parents spend on each child, you might expect to spend $64,900 each year on the kids. Over the course of 17 years, that adds up to a whopping $1,168,200.

Since the cost of raising each child tends to go down with subsequent children, you likely won’t spend that much. 

If you spend 24% less on each child (like the average family with three or more kids do), you might expect to pay $49,324 per year. Over the course of 17 years, you might spend $838,508. 

Obviously, every family has their own set of circumstances and financial needs. So don’t let the statistics scare if you aren’t sure how on earth you’ll come up with that much money for your family. 

Establishing a Budget

You can definitely raise happy, healthy kids on far less than what the average middle-income family spends raising a child. A little planning and creativity can go a long way toward helping you manage your family’s finances in a responsible way.

It’s important to establish a realistic budget. And then you can work on strategies to manage your money in a large family.

You might decide to cut costs by setting rules on how many sports each child can play. Or, you might move to a new area with a lower cost of living.

You also might look for ways to increase your income. A work-from-home side hustle might give you some extra money every month. Or, you might make it a priority to advance your career so you can increase your salary.

A Word From Verywell

Raising a large family may mean making some sacrifices—fewer trips to restaurants and more staycations than extravagant vacations. But the benefits of having a big family (if that’s what you want) can make it easy to shift your priorities.

Whether you find great joy in creating meals on a budget or you like finding simple ways for the whole family to have fun without spending money, you can definitely raise kids for a lot less than what the average family spends on child rearing costs.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lino M, Kuczynski K, Rodriguez N, Schap T. Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015. Miscellaneous Publication No. 1528-2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; 2017.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.