What It’s Like to Raise a Family on $150K in Charleston, South Carolina

"My daughter just turned eight months old. I thought having a kid would be a hell of a transition financially speaking. And, well, it is"

It’s a question that’s often on the minds of anyone who’s ever looked at the high cost of raising kids today: how do parents make it work? Well, we wondered too. That’s why we’re asking parents around the country for a peek into their financial lives: what they earn, spend, save, and invest as well as what financial headaches they face, what tricks they’ve learned along the way, and what, if anything, they have figured out. Will the answers we receive get the a-okay from financial advisors? Not always. Are they honest looks into families trying to provide for their kids? Absolutely. Here, Roger, a 39-year-old father in Charleston, South Carolina, discusses how he and his girlfriend’s spending has changed since their daughter was born.

My daughter just turned eight months old. I thought having a kid would be a hell of a transition financially speaking. And, well, it is. But there were so many things my girlfriend and I did before having a kid that a kid doesn’t allow. So, we’re doing fine. We’re also just thinking about our finances in a bigger way. Kids force you to talk a big look at everything.

I work in the food service industry, so my hours are crazy. I don’t want to say exactly where I work — it’s a government operation, not secret or anything, but I’d rather not expose myself. But let’s just say it’s good work and I make $90K a year. My wife is a Graphic Designer. She pulls in $65K a year. So that puts us at $155K combined. After taxes and insurance and all that fun stuff, it’s about $110K.

We live in a two-bedroom apartment. Decent space. We’ve been there for five years now. Has a little backyard where I have a smoker. You’re talking to a southern boy, after all. Rent is $1150 a month. Sure, it’s a lot to throw away on rent. But the housing market right now isn’t great so we’re happy renting and putting other money away for the future rather than investing everything in a piece of property that might not be worthwhile. The whole rent vs. buy thing gets me a lot of grief from friends, but whatever.

Utilities run us about $150 per month on our place. That’s for trash, heat, etc. Internet is another $55 or so. In terms of other around-the-house stuff, we have a cleaning service come by every other week to help us. We did that before the baby came along. But that’s about $80 every other week. Let me tell you: worth the money. My wife and I would always bicker about cleaning. Now, we only bicker about laundry (laughs).

Our biggest expenses? We have two cars. I have an F150, which runs fine knock on wood. My wife’s car just kicked the bucket. So we had to buy her a new one. She now has a new Jetta. We’re leasing it at $216 per month. Insurance and gas for both run us about $450 total per month.

Fatherly IQ
Do you regularly use group texts to communicate with your family?
Yes, it'a convenient way to keep in touch
No, group texts are annoying
Thanks for the feedback!

Then, of course, is daycare. That’s a wallop. That runs us $1200 a month. So it’s pretty much like paying double rent. But we found a really nice one for our girl that’s not too far from where each work. Good facility. Caring staff. Exactly where we want to put here. My wife was on maternity leave for three months. So we’ve been paying for full-time daycare for five months now. It made more sense financially for us to both work and send her to daycare. It’ll be better for her in the long run. It’ll be worse for us right now. That’s the trade-off.

Groceries aren’t too bad around here. We get by on $400 a month on groceries for the three of us. That’s breakfast lunch and dinner for everyone. My wife and I are really good about not spending money on lunch out or, like, $9 lattes or anything like that. We make coffee. We make breakfast. We make lunch. We make dinner.

We spend about $250 or so on baby stuff and toiletries at CVS and drugstore.com and the occasional teething ring or stuffed animal we can’t resist. Honestly, I thought buying diapers and everything else would be more expensive. But so far our little girl is pretty low maintenance. [laughs] No, if only she’ll stop screaming in the middle of the night so much.

Investment-wise, since I work for the government, I have a decent nice pension plan. So that’s a real help. But we also tuck away some money every month. It fluctuates. But at least $500. Yeah, we have a rainy day account and all that stuff, too, that we’re growing and just don’t touch. We had to dip into it a few month ago — my wife broke her wrist and we hadn’t met our deductible yet. But that’s why it’s there.

The biggest thing that we do without now? Food and drinks, mostly. I’m an eater and so is my wife. And there are so many nice places here in Charleston that it’s easy to want to eat out. Right now, we’re doing well. Like I said, we make our meals. We realized after we tallied up that we’re saving nearly $500 a month now that we would’ve spent on food. And we only go out and order a sitter, maybe once a month? We both just want to be home with the little one, which makes it easy to save.