Raising kids isn’t cheap. The average cost for a middle-income family to raise a child to age 18 is a whopping $245,000! And that doesn’t even count college. The cost will vary based on where you live and other factors, but kids are expensive no matter what. It’s not just about diapers, food, clothes, and other direct costs – it’s also the cost of their portion of housing and utilities, travel, medical care, education, and more. And sometimes, it’s very hard to cover those costs.
The good news is that there are a lot of resources out there to help low-income families cover the costs of raising kids.
There are a number of federal, state, local, and private programs available to help you meet your housing needs. Kids take a lot of space and expanding your family may mean that you no longer fit into that affordable apartment.
If you’re struggling to afford your living space, you may qualify for Section 8 housing. It’s a federal program designed to help get low-income families into clean, safe homes at an affordable price. You’ll need to apply through your local office.
There are also lots of private and charitable organizations that work to make sure low-income families have access to housing. Visit your local community center or your state Housing Authority to learn about what programs may be available in your area.
Paying for Utilities
Utilities can already eat up a big chunk of your budget and having a child is only going to push those bills up. As with housing, there are governmental and private programs that can help you cover those costs.
The first step you should take is to contact your utility company. They may be willing to help you work out a payment plan so that you can keep up with the bills and not worry about collections. They may also have emergency assistance programs that can give you cash or credits to cover the costs, at least temporarily. They also frequently offer some free products or services to decrease your consumption, like weatherproofing your windows.
If those aren’t an option or aren’t enough, your utility company will also be able to give you a list of programs in your area that can provide assistance. You may apply for financial help from the government; they can offer cash assistance, protection from shutoff, and sometimes home improvements and furnace upgrades to lower your costs.
There’s a reason people talk about “more mouths to feed.” Growing kids eat a lot and food is expensive. So, there are a number of programs that can help you put food on the table. You’re probably already familiar with food stamps, which cover a set amount of groceries every month. If your child is in school, they may qualify for free breakfast and lunch.
You can also visit your local community center to learn about food banks and other food distribution programs in your area.
Single parents have to work. Two-parent families face a tough choice between having both parents work while paying for childcare or having one parent stay home. But childcare can be really expensive, so the government offers programs to help cover the cost.
The best place to start is your state’s Department of Family and Children’s services. They’ll help you figure out if you qualify for assistance and submit your application.
There’s been a lot of hubbub about healthcare for years, and even more since the start of Obamacare. But at the end of the day, healthcare is really expensive. Medicaid is a federal program that provides health care to low-income families. If you qualify for Medicaid, it covers your child’s dental care as well. You can apply online.
Where to Start
Having a child is overwhelming even without the financial challenges, but there’s help out there. The trick is to start researching your options as soon as you know you’re having a child. Have a plan in place for getting the help you need; that will make it a lot easier to manage once your little one arrives. Your state Department of Family and Children’s Services is a great place to start. They’ll be able to tell you about all the programs your state runs to help families make ends meet. They may offer cash assistance, subsidized housing, subsidized childcare, job services, food, and more. Take a look at what your state offers here.
Your local community center may also be able to offer direct help or connect you with local charities and organizations that can give you a hand.