How Your Budget Changes in the Empty Nest

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Raising my children was expensive. Really, really expensive. I am sure every parent who raised their kids in the last 50 years would say the same thing. It costs so much money to get a child from 0-18 and then, even after you’re in the empty nest, you may be helping to pay for college.

The most recently available information says that the average cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 is $233,610 in a married two-parent middle-income family with two children. This information comes from a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report from 2017, using information from 2011-15 and figures in 2015 dollars.”

Consider that. Raising two children costs approximately $466,000 and change. And that’s the average. There are many who spend far more than that. I think we probably did. Spend more than that, I mean. Here are just a few of the things we paid for beyond food and shelter.

  • Pre-school
  • Children’s theater program
  • Religious school
  • Batting lessons x 2
  • Team uniforms
  • Summer camp
  • Two B’nai Mitzvahs
  • Tutors
  • SAT/ACT prep
  • College applications

I don’t regret much of what we spent on our kids. There were some things they could have done without, but overall most everything was worth it. I’m sure most empty nest parents would say the same. And while it doesn’t offset the enormous amount we spent on them, each year when we went to do our taxes, it stung a little less because of the tax deduction we could take for having kids.

As empty-nesters, my husband and I have found ways to spend our money that are more focused on our interests. All of those choir shows we traveled to and away football games we paid to watch now go directly to our travel fund. Since our kids left home 9 years ago, we’ve gone to more places than we did the 20 years we spent raising them. We are no longer buying t-shirts for every event we attend, or buying raffle tickets for prizes we never won. We don’t have to spend money on cleats and uniforms and costumes and booster club dues. We’re no longer paying for birthday parties or snacks for the neighborhood or boxes of tissue for classrooms. We don’t have to spend money on things we don’t understand (Pokemon cards, glitter nail polish).

Being in the empty nest has also allowed us to indulge our own interests with less guilt. When my husband wanted to buy season tickets for his favorite college football team, he could. When I want to go to New York every year to visit my childhood friends, I can. These are things we didn’t do when we were raising our children, because:

  • We didn’t have the money
  • We didn’t have the time
  • Our lives revolved around our kids

We enjoy spending on our kids now that they are grown – in different ways, of course. Taking them out for a nice dinner or on a vacation feels like fun, not like work as it did when they were growing up and needed constant supervision or entertainment. We may spend bigger money now, but it’s far less frequent and nowhere near what we spent annually just getting them through the first 18 years of their lives (plus college, of course). But as much as we enjoy indulging our kids when we can, we mostly enjoy indulging ourselves. Raising children is a lot of work, and we deserve a little fun. So do you. Finding room in your budget for what you love to do is one of the budgetary benefits of the empty nest.

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