By Lauren Wanko
Diapers, food, baby wipes. Just a few of the things mom Shannon Sprague needs to buy for her baby monthly.
Is she constantly seeing dollar signs in her head?
“Yes constantly!” Sprague laughed.
This mom knows, it’s just the beginning of the spending spree on 4-month-old Damian. Nationwide middle income married-couple families are projected to spend an average of $233,610 raising a child born in 2015. For families with lower incomes, $174,690. In New Jersey, and throughout the urban Northeast, the average cost spikes to $253,770 according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2015 Expenditures on Children by Families report.
Connie Mercer, the founder of HomeFront, said, “In New Jersey, the cost of housing is — as one of our presidential candidates talked about — too damn high and that is the major cost burden that folks have in terms of raising a kid. Too many of the working poor that we at HomeFront deal with, spend 70, 80, 90 percent of the income they make to pay for the rent.”
HomeFront is a social service agency dedicated to serving the working poor and homeless families. Sprague and her family have been living at HomeFront for about six months. The mom says she and her husband are eager to get jobs and their own apartment, even though it’ll cost them. Nationally, 29 percent of the $233,610 average price tag goes toward housing. Food adds up too, with 18 percent of the cash used to fill hungry bellies. Fifteen percent is spent on transportation, 9 percent on health care, 6 percent on clothing, 16 percent on child care and education and another 7 percent is used on miscellaneous expenses. This doesn’t include the cost of college tuition.
“It is very, very expensive,” said Sprague.
The report states annual child-rearing expenses varied considerably by household income level. Sprague and her husband are raising five kids.
“It could reach close to maybe $1,500 a month for just a family my size in child expenses,” explained Sprague.
Mercer says all of the families at HomeFront struggle with the cost of raising a child. This week she launched a Week of Hope in an effort to raise awareness about the challenges of the working poor and homeless face daily.
“Community members can come and volunteer. We want the community to know and to care,” said Mercer.
Sprague’s grateful for the support and for her kids too.
“You don’t have a price tag on your children,” said Sprague.