According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- those same folks who count our pork bellies and bushels of corn -- raising a child is officially far from a financial breeze in 2012.
Oh, really. Well, who'd have thought ...
The USDA says a middle-income family with a child born in 2011 can expect to spend about $234,900 for food, shelter and other necessities to raise that child until he or she is 17 years old.
That figures to $13,871 a year per child for those of you playing at home without a calculator.
But the assumption (and you know what happens when you assume, don't you?) made here is that parents somehow quit paying for their children's food, shelter and other necessities at age 17. Who picked that number?
For most of us parents, I believe we need to factor in another five years into this equation. So using that annual $13,871 figure, that's an additional $65,000 -- give or take a Happy Meal.
Toss in money for college and you're easily more than another $100 grand into raising your kids. After all, latest college cost figures peg the annual average tuition and fees at $28,500 at four-year private colleges, while annual room and board was listed at $10,089.
So let's just round the whole thing off at $400,000 to raise a kid until they're out of college.
Seems like it might be easier to get a dog, wouldn't it?
But those darned four-legged creatures are getting expensive, too.
Our little Westie, Chopper, has cost us about $200 just this week with his haircut, bath and nails/teeth package at Pet Smart and a trip to the vet for pills to stop his scratching and some fancy flea and tick protection.
What do you expect, we treat them like kids? Choppie sleeps at the foot of our bed and even has his own Cubs blanket to cover the living room chair where he takes up residence and watches TV when we're not home.
But his expenses are nothing compared to what daughter Nicole has gone through recently with their Lab.
First Wrigley choked down some big rocks and had to have those removed from his stomach via surgery. Think that cost $800.
Then came a recent bout of intestinal infection of some kind.
There was no curing him with Alka-Seltzer or Pepto Bismal. Nope, but a several day stay at the vet's office and $1,200 later and Wrigley was a new pup.
So that's $2,000 in vet bills. Probably a lot closer to $234,900 in dog years than we even realize.