They say that you get out of life what you put into it. Hopefully the same is true of babies. According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, middle-income couples who had a child last year will have to spend an average of nearly $250,000 to raise that child to the age of 18. Housing and transportation costs account for over $100,000 of that amount with child care, education, food, clothing, and health care making up the remainder.
To put things in perspective, consider that the last reported median income for the U.S. was $44,389 in 2004. That means that if you didn’t have to pay taxes or spend money to, you know, stay alive, it would still take five and a half years of solid labor to get a single child into a voting booth.
What else could you buy for the average cost of raising a child? I’m glad you asked. Here are twenty things you could buy instead of giving birth to a human child:
1) A plane ticket—wait for it—to outer fucking space.
2) A Chipotle burrito every day for 97 years or two every day for 48 years if you have a friend whose digestive system you also want to destroy.
3) Kourtney Kardashian’s super cool Mercedes SLS.
4) A modest waterfront home in several American cities.
6) A month in a penthouse suite in the luxurious New York Palace hotel.
7) Eleven pregnant female alpacas who will then give birth to the cutest babies in the animal kingdom. And unlike human babies, alpacas don’t need to go to school, they only eat grass, and they literally grow money in the form of wool.
8) Eight average American weddings for the serial monogamist who just can’t seem to settle down.
9) Ten years of retirement overseas.
10) A single bottle of diamond-infused nail polish.
11) Dinner in the sky every day for a year so you can literally and figuratively look down on people as you eat gourmet cuisine.
12) Nine months alone in an underwater hotel room so you can quietly read Camus or finish your screenplay.
13) One hundred three-second-long meetings with Britney Spears at her Vegas show. That’s a combined total of five minutes of time with—as James Franco puts it in Spring Breakers—“an angel if there ever was one on this earth.”
14) A morning stroll on the top of Toronto’s CN Tower every single day for nearly four years.
15) Sixty of the most expensive box of LEGOs in the world, the coveted “Cloud City” Star Wars set. You can either keep them in the shrink wrap or you can create the world’s most bizarre slashfic LEGO orgy with sixty Lando Calrissian clones and sixty Darth Vader clones. Up to you.
16) Your face on a billboard in Albuquerque, New Mexico, displayed continuously for sixteen years. Do a duck face in the photo, add YOLO in block letters, and leave it there to mystify the people of Albuquerque for a literal decade and a half.
17) Seven years worth of admission to Disneyland. Go on Splash Mountain everyday, maintain the same expression during every single photo opportunity and then compile them into a timelapse video that depicts you aging while sitting motionless in the hollow of a fake log. Someone is bound to write a BuzzFeed article about you seven years from now.
18) Two-hundred and fifty MacBook Airs which you can use for light computing, dicing vegetables, or the world’s most costly game of frisbee golf.
Bonus: Thousands of sex swings for all the non-procreative sex you’ll have as a childless couple.
OK, so some of those things might sound more enticing than others but you get the idea: if you are a middle-income couple in the United States, you could save a tremendous amount of money by remaining childless.
What’s more is that the staggering cost of raising a child is enough to justify not having one in the first place. If you can’t imagine ever spending money on any of the above-listed things because they seem too wasteful, know that that’s exactly how much money you will likely spend raising a child if you opt to have one. In 2014, it should be perfectly acceptable to refuse to have a child simply because you cannot afford to do so.
But that doesn’t stop people from hounding women who don’t have to children. Whenever a woman on the Internet writes an article about not wanting kids, pro-baby commenters emerge to call her selfish and “narcissistic” with more than a twinge of cross-generational condescension. “Don’t worry,” they often say. “You’ll be happier when you have kids.” Baby boomers, it seems, are eager for us to inherit all of their life choices along with the broken country that they’re leaving behind for us.
What baby boomers might not realize, though, is that even if all of us wanted children, we probably can’t afford to have them. As U.S. News and World Report notes, the rising generation of adults is “the first in U.S. history” to be in “worse economic shape than their parents.” We have a higher unemployment rate and piles of student debt to deal with to boot. Forgive us, parents and other elderly friends, if the news that a baby costs a cool quarter million doesn’t have us rushing to our conjugal beds.
With the exorbitant cost of childrearing in mind, here’s one final list of things to consider. This one’s a list of things baby boomers can do besides badger us about having kids:
1) Literally anything else.
Babies are fucking expensive. Let us not procreate in peace.
Samantha Allen writes about gender, sexuality, and technology. Her opinion columns appear regularly at the Daily Dot and her work has also appeared on the Daily Beast, Jacobin, the Advocate, Paste, Polygon, and Kotaku. You can find her on Twitter at @CousinDangereux or on the Web at www.samanthaleighallen.com.