Budget, Shopping

How to Determine (and Track) How Much Money You Spend On Your Children

This is a very long article.  This post is to tell you how to calculate how much you spend on your children.  Each month, you can compare your spending to ours to see where you can improve or give us tips to decrease our spending in certain categories. We are tracking our monthly spending on Monkey and will share with you to keep accountability with you and you with us. 


Whether you have 1 child or 10 children, they are going to cost you a little extra money to raise.  You will notice your monthly bills go up.  Some of you may notice you monthly bills going way up.  But raising a child – or multiple children – doesn’t have to break the bank.

If you already have a family budget and spending history, this next part will be much easier.  If you don’t yet have a budget, head over to this post, and make your family budget first.  Or, you can get the free budget spreadsheet by email below.

If you don’t have time to do your budget right now, that’s OK.  Just make sure you go do it after you finish reading this post.

The information below is still very helpful when determining spending categories.  It is also great to keep in mind areas where your children will cost you money so you can be as efficient in those categories as possible.

Be careful that you do not over- or under-attribute some of your spending on your children.  If the data you put into this isn’t accurate, it will not do much to help you become more frugal when spending for children.

Determining on what you spend money for your children

Children seem to be infinitely expensive.  Every time you turn around you have to buy diapers, or formula, or clothes, or soccer cleats, or musical instruments, or etc., etc., etc.  The list seems to go on and on without reprieve.

But have no fear, 4D Frugal is here!

Do I sound like a superhero?  Well, I am! 🙂  And I have the power to save you money on your children – the greatest superpower, in my book!

Obvious Categories

There are typical categories where you spend money on your children.  Most of these are ones you think of quickly off the top of your head.  These categories can be diapers, toys, clothes, doctor visits, daycare, gifts, recreation, etc.

But did you also think about health insurance?  What about gifts for their teachers/classmates/friends?  And the older children get, the more birthday parties they will be invited to.  That is until they start to get too cool for birthday parties… (sad face, whimper, whimper)

These categories are pretty easy to determine the level of spending on your children because it is a definite amount of cash that you shell out for each of these items.

Each time you spend money on your children and it falls into one of the categories above, write it down.  Tracking it will allow you to see how much you are actually spending on your children and will help you find ways to become more efficient in your spending.

Health insurance is usually paid for in part by your employer.  You only care about the increase to your portion.  For us, that is the amount we pay now minus the amount we would pay if we didn’t have a child.  I say would pay because health insurance costs usually go up every year, and you want to ensure you only attribute the difference in this year’s dollars not what you paid before you had children.

Calculating difficult expenditures

Several other categories are much more difficult to determine.  These fluctuate every month and are usually just a potion of what your family spends on the category.  Food is a good example.  You buy food for your whole family, but how much can you attribute to your children versus yourself?  Utilities, housing, and transportation also fall into that same category.  You know they have gone up since having children, but you aren’t sure exactly how much.

We will dig into ways to calculate those below.


Monkey LOVES food

Determining how much money you spend on food for your children is difficult unless you purchase specific baby food or keep all your receipts and portion each transaction out.  We do not buy baby food anymore (and when Monkey ate baby food, we made most of it).  And keeping track of every piece of food we buy is more tracking than I can handle (I actually have a life outside of the internet – I know, crazy right!?!).

We do buy specific food for Monkey because he has many food allergies and cannot eat some of the things our family loves.  The milk we have to buy for him is $14 per gallon!  And wheat-free pasta isn’t the cheapest food, either.

Overall, we have determined that Monkey eats one portion of food, I eat one portion of food, and Richard eats two portions of food on average.  Using this, we determined that we spend about 1/4 (his portion divided by the total number of portions) of our total grocery budget on Monkey.

We found this to be a good estimate for us because Monkey eats less food than we do, but food specific for him costs more money.

Rule of thumb

The portion of your food budget that you spend on children may be different than ours, and you may not have to buy allergen-free foods like we do.  But you need to make a good estimate based on your situation.

A good rule of thumb is that children eat 1 portion to a mom’s 2 portions to a dad’s 3 portions. So your child would eat 1/(1+2+3)=1/6 of your family’s total food stash.  Or if you have 3 children, your children each eat 1/(1+1+1+2+3)=1/8 of the stash or 3/8 of the stash together.

To determine how much we actually spend on Monkey, we multiple 1/4 by the total amount of money we spent on groceries in a given month.  For example, if we spent $400 on groceries for the family this month, we would attribute $100 of that spending to Monkey (1/4*$400=$100).

When we go out to eat at restaurants, we do not order anything specific for Monkey.  He either eats off my plate or we bring food for him.  Because of this, we did not include any spending on restaurants in his calculation.  If you have older children or ones that do get separate meals at restaurants, you will need to factor that into your calculation.


The World’s Laziest Dog does get up from his spot on the rug to ‘clean up’ after the Monkey.

Utilities are another difficult one to determine for your children.  We know that you will spend more on water and electricity when you have kids – I mean, they do have to take baths, too, every once in a while.  But how much can we actually attribute to them?

Ideally you could take you level of spending before having kids and compare it to after kids and the difference would be the amount you spend on just the children.  But our spending on water/gas/electricity is not static over time, and doing it that way is very difficult, if not impossible.

For us, we have determined that Monkey is one portion of the utilities to my one portion and Richard’s one portion.  So Monkey would use 1/3 of our utilities category.  We came up with this because taking a bath does not use as much water/electricity/gas as a shower but we now have to run the air conditioner and heater upstairs for him at night.

Again, this calculation will not be exact, but we are mostly trying to get a good estimate.  Be careful not to attribute water used for watering grass or electricity for a hot tub to your children unless they are the ones using/begging for it.  (Hint: they probably aren’t)

I am excluding utilities like TV, internet, and phone because Monkey doesn’t use any of them, but if you have older children, you will need to determine how much of those are attributed to them.  This may be as simple as figuring out how much you paid before they were on your ticket and comparing that to what you pay now.


Calculating the amount of money attributed to housing for your children may be a bit tricky to determine to begin with, but, thankfully, it doesn’t tend to change month to month.  This will make it easy to continue the cost in your budget.

For this determination, you need to sit back and think about what your housing situation was like before you had children.

  • Did you move to a larger house when you had kids so they would have room?
  • Are you now renting a storage unit so you have room for you children?
  • Did you put your baby in a large closet in your room to keep her close and keep from having to move to a bigger house?

If you moved to a house with an extra bedroom (or two) for your children, they portion of the mortgage (and taxes and insurance) would be the square footage of their room divided by the square footage of the whole house.  if their room is 100 sq.ft. and the house is 2000 sq.ft., you can say they take up 1/20 of your house.

If you moved them into a closet, congratulations!  They don’t cost you any extra money for housing.

If you now have a storage unit, they cost you the cost of the storage unit.  You can frugalize here by getting rid of some junk and getting rid of the storage unit. Plus you can make money selling your stuff that you obviously don’t used because it is just stored somewhere.


Did you buy a new car when you had children.  Do you have a fleet of mini-vans now instead of two small 2- or 4-door vehicles?

The cost of the new vehicle over the cost of your old vehicle could be attributed to your children.  You can take a small portion out if you were going to buy a new-to-you car anyway, but be reasonable in your calculation.  Remember, the data coming out will only be useful to you if you put good information in.

The next cost for transportation is gas and mileage to take your children places.  This can be to daycare, recreational activities, or school.

Our daycare is just 1/2 mile from my work, so we only travel for Monkey about 1 mile a day.  The cost of mileage and wear and tear on a vehicle is currently valued at 53.5 cents per mile.  This mileage rate includes the cost of maintenance, insurance, registration, and gas.

Tracking how much money you spend

Now that you have an idea of where you spend money on your children, it helps to write it all down and keep track of it.  This helps you see trends and anomalies.

It is difficult to go back historical months, but starting now, you can keep track of everything you spend.  Start a table, much like the budget table you can get by signing up below, and keep track of how much money you spend every month on your children.

Do not fudge the numbers, here.  You need to see if there is an area in which you seem to be going way over budget.

Using the information you have collected

Now that you are tracking your spending (for your family and children), you will have some great information in which to become more frugal.

Compare your spending over time.

Do you catch yourself spending more and more over time in certain categories, like food?  Can you vow to cook at home more?

A portion of our wipes stock-up before Monkey was born. They were cheap on sale, and we are still using them.

Can you find ways to save on diapers, like buying in bulk or using coupons (even though we hate coupons).

Is there a way to save money on toys and clothes?  We buy our son’s clothes at consignment sales.

Can you rotate your children’s toys so they think they receive new toys more often?  And then you don’t have to buy new toys often.  This works well for younger ones who have a very short attention span.

There is almost always room for improvement.  If your family is already working at an uber frugal level, I am jealous of you.  Teach me, oh wise one!


Do you need help calculating any value?  Send me an email at mrs4dfrugal@4dfrugal.com, and I will do my best to help you!

Do you wonder how you do compared to us?  We will reveal our spending on Monkey in just a few short days.

Do you want to ensure you don’t miss the post?  Sign up below!

Do you tend to overspend in one (or several) categories?

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