A child born in 2012 will cost $300K by age 18

EUGENE, Ore. - As Debra Nash-Galpern makes dinner, her kids Sarah and Joshua spar with kitchen utensils.

"Make sure no one gets hurt," Debra says.

"I'm pretty fast at everything because I'm a working mom," she explains. "So, I do everything pretty efficiently."

Debra started working as a part-time acupuncturist and herbalist when her kids were born.

Even though her husband makes a good living as an environmental lawyer, raising the kids is expensive.

"I'm guessing, because I don't keep a budget, I'm guessing we spend about a thousand dollars to $1,200 a month on groceries," Debra says.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to raise a child born in 2012 for 18 years, it's going to cost you about $300,000.

"As women entered the labor force, we saw that the child care component of the expenditures on children started to dramatically increase," said Mark Lino, an economist with USDA.

Deborah saves on child care by switching off duties with other parents.

But that's only one of the costs associated with raising a child.

The USDA report breaks down the percentage of the total expense to raise a child in a middle income family.

  • Housing: 30 percent
  • Childcare and education: 18 percent
  • Food: 16 percent
  • Transportation: 14 percent
  • Health care: 8 percent
  • Clothing: 6 percent
  • Misc. 8 percent

Then there's college: the Oregon College Savings Plan website estimates a child born in 2012 will need $210,860 to complete a 4-year, in-state public college.

"I feel like together, we earn a good income," Debra says, "but we are not really getting ahead. We wonder how we are going to pull college off."

"Well, they should start saving as early as possible," says financial advisor Timothy Depaepe.

Parents can economize by seeking hand-me-down clothes and toys; having kids share bedrooms; and buying food in bulk.

Where you live can be a factor, too. Debra says her family has found housing in Eugene more affordable than it was in San Francisco.

The USDA report says the urban West and urban Northeast are the two most expensive places to raise a child.