The cost of raising a child is high. Economists can estimate just how much money goes into raising an offspring. However, they don't tell you the whole story. The unexpected financial jolts are what get to you.

I remember lugging another huge box of disposable diapers up the stairs, mentally adding up how much money I'd save once my child was toilet trained. It made for a nice, knotty math problem but the truth is I never realized the savings.

By the time each child no longer needed diapers they needed other things. Suddenly they play sports and need the equipment for that. Then they need a bicycle and a doctor's visit for their broken elbows and thumbs. They need school supplies, back packs, lunch money, and clothes.

Ah, clothes. They lose a jacket. The tear the knee of their newest pair of jeans. They grow so fast that their pants look like capris (which isn't cool if you're a boy). Clothes are a real drain.

And, in a totally separate category, there are socks. Children are born with the firm belief that socks are disposable. I have spent more on socks than I spent on diapers, baby food, formula and diaper rash gunk combined.

I recommend setting some money-saving rules as you raise your children.

First of all, let them know you'll only pay for socks every six months. That sets the ball rolling. Then, when they're teenagers, be tough. You'll only pay for their learner's permit and driver's license if they pass the test the first time.

That should inspire them to work for their money. Of course if that sounds like it'll be a relief. It isn't. If they don't have their driver's licenses then you're driving them. If they do have them, you're paying for gas because they're "saving all their money for college."

Then they're gone.

And, of course, the price goes up. Tuition, books, and - of course - socks..

I've said it before, parenting isn't for the faint of heart. It also isn't the ideal course for a stingy person. The guy on the TV show "Numbers" probably has a equation for it. Mine's simple but here it goes:

Love + worry + expenses = parenthood.

Hugs + kisses + unconditional love = what makes it worth it


"Home Front" by Terry Murry is published Tuesdays.


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