Basically, that’s the question my ex wanted me to answer when he called this morning. Only, he didn’t ask, “How much do you need?”
He asked, “How much do you make?”
I can’t answer that question. I make an hourly rate, per assignment. When I’m not working, I don’t get paid. I don’t have health insurance, life insurance, 401K or savings. I have three pairs of trousers and a couple of sweaters. I don’t spend money on myself… so I’d say that a good 70% of my expenditures are for the Kid. I rented a house. If I were single without kid, I’d have rented an efficiency and saved myself $800/month.
The USDA’s publication, Expenditures on Children by Families, 2005, has some interesting things to say about single versus two parent families, including this eye-opener:
Income groups of single-parent households (before-tax income under $31,000 and $31,000 and over in 1992 dollars; these income groups are inflated to 2005 dollars in the table) were selected to correspond with the income groups used for husband-wife households. This income includes child support payments. The two higher income groups of two-parent families (income between $31,000 and $52,160 and over $52,160 in 1992 dollars) were combined because only 17 percent of single-parent households had a before-tax income of $31,000 and over. The sample was weighted to reflect the U.S. population of interest.
The emphasis is mine. Only 17 percent of single parent households, 90 percent of which are headed by women, make more than $2583 a month… before taxes? And these figures are based on households with two children.
From elsewhere in the publication, I pull this gem:
For the lower income group (2005 before-tax income less than $43,200), a comparison of estimated expenditures on the younger child in a two-child, single-parent family with those in a husband-wife family is presented in table 10; as previously discussed, 83 percent of single-parent families and 33 percent of husband-wife families were in this lower income group. Total expenditures on a child up to age 18 were, on average, 5 percent lower in single-parent households than in two-parent households. But more single-parent than husband-wife families fell in the bottom range of this lower income group. Average income for single-parent families in the lower income group was $18,100, compared with $26,900 for husband-wife families. Single-parent families in this lower income group, therefore, spend a larger proportion of their income on their children. On average, child-related housing expenses were higher, whereas expenditures on transportation, health care, child care and education, and miscellaneous goods and services were lower in single-parent families. Child-related food and clothing expenditures were similar, on average, in single-parent and in two-parent families.
No wonder children from ‘broken homes’ are having such a hard time making it. They don’t have the resources, the basic necessities. Yeah, I know, a child needs a father. It looks as though a child needs a whole world of stability that two people in a commited relationship can give: financial, emotional, physical.
According to this publication, I should expect to spend $15,100 on my child in a year. By my calculations, I’m going to spend slightly more than that. The way I figure it, his portion of the house I rented is the amount over what I would have paid for a one bedroom or efficiency, had I not been the primary caregiver. Let’s say, $600/month.
If I weren’t responsible for him, I’d be eating any old thing, whatever was on sale. But I’m concerned abotu where our food comes from, and what we’re putting into it in the name of profit, so I shop at the farmers’ markets, and the local organic store, and am considering buying into a farm co-op this spring. I’d say his share of the groceries comes to $300/month. I could cut that down, but why would I feed him crap if I can make ends meet and still buy organic?
I spend about $50/month on clothes and shoes for him. He’s growing like a weed, loses mittens every week, and has Really Big Feet. The clothes we were gifted when we got off the plane two months ago are already too short on him. I shop at thrift stores for him and am making due with three pairs of trousers in my own closet. He is the proud owner of nine pairs of swank Thomas the Train, Spiderman, and Cars undies, thanks to Laura. We’ll get by somehow.
Single entertainments like movies, puppet shows, all that stuff? We haven’t spent a dime on it, but I’d love to be able to include things like that in his mental diet. Toys? We don’t really have any. Slowly but surely going to fix that. And we’re both voracious readers, which means we need a book budget. But what’s reasonable? $50/month? More? Less? I have no idea. Books are not a luxury. Experiences that make my child’s mind sing with possibilities is not a luxury.
Health insurance, education, emergencies, etc? No idea. Probably $300/month. Quality child care is going to put me through the roof, but my kid needs some fun, some smaller group dynamics, some special attention. I hope I can afford to give it to him.
This puts me at $15,600 for the year. And that’s conservative. Sigh.