Worried that having a kid will cause a serious dip in your bank account?
Your concern is justified: According to a new report from the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child in a middle-class family has increased by almost 3 percent, going from $234,900 in 2011 to $241,080 in 2012.
The scariest part? That figure doesn't even include sending the kids off to college.
Why are kids so expensive?
According to the report, the four areas that are the biggest drains on parents' bank accounts are housing, child care, education, and food. But health care, education, and child care are the areas where spending has increased the most, Yahoo! Finance reports. Combined, they made up 26 percent of total expenses in 2012.
Food and transportation take their toll, too. With gas prices having almost doubled in the last 12 years, driving kids to their various extracurricular activities, as well as keeping them nourished and fed along the way, can get expensive.
Ideally, the rise in how much kids cost would also come with an increase in how much parents make, but research shows this isn't the case. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Americans' median annual income was $50,054 in 2011 — $4,000 less than it was in 2000.
What you can do
If you're reading this and having second thoughts about starting a family, don't let the numbers scare you away. There are some things that you can keep in mind as you plan for the future. For example, consider settling down in a less expensive city where your cost of living will be relatively low and basic expenses like rent or mortgage payments will account for a lesser chunk of your household budget. Steer clear of the urban Northeast, including New York City and Boston, which is one of the most expensive areas in the country, and where upper-income families spend a whopping $446,100 on children, compared to $143,160 in rural areas for families earning less than $61,590 a year.
Kids come with their share of unexpected expenses, too, so try as you might you won't be able to predict every little expense. Luckily, you can ask other parents for advice along the way — or check out our money secrets for moms for brilliant, surprising ways to save cash on kids.
More from LearnVest...