The true cost of having a child is sometimes sugar-coated. As matter of fact, a lot of people are ragged on for not reproducing. I can’t see why. We can’t all reproduce. We shouldn’t even attempt it, but that is another story for another day. Many things are typically glossed over in this conversation about how expensive it is to have children in the 21st century, and it (topic) is never-ending.
If you’re not careful, you might hear things like, “the kids won’t starve” or ‘it will work out“. Of course, we know it is true, but maybe, some of us want to provide more for our children than basic needs. And that cost money. A lot of it. That cost is significantly higher when you aspire to give your child the best of everything. That drive is twice as strong when you come from very little yourself.
So I thought I’d take the conversation a bit further and put numbers to thoughts for folks who want kids but have no idea what the real costs look like. Let’s talk about the money! The actual financial costs associated with having and raising a child, specifically in Kingston, Jamaica because that’s where I live.
Before we dive in, my kid is five, so I am only able to speak with certainty on costs thus far. What I know for certain is that more is to come.
Costs are considerably different in other parishes in areas like private education and housing. To put it mildly, though, the cost of living in Kingston is higher than in other parishes. Additionally, public healthcare and education are free. They include certain fees, but for the most part, choosing to use private or public access for these services is a personal choice, whether out of necessity or otherwise.
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Disclaimer, these prices are for 2021.
The Cost of Pregnancy and Birth
Yes, pregnancy. It’s incorrect to think that the financial costs associated with having a child start when the baby comes. It begins well before that. Antenatal care in Jamaica begins when you find out you are expecting. Giving birth in public hospitals in Jamaica is free. In private hospitals, it is not.
The Public System
In the public system, you attend a ‘clinic’. This refers to periodic prenatal visits where your pregnancy is monitored as your pregnancy progresses. It includes things like your initial visit where you will undergo testings. In the public system, these visits are ‘free’. You will pay minor clinic or hospital registration costs, but overall, the majority of the costs associated with pregnancy care at clinics are minimal.
The Private System
Many people opt not to use the public system for a myriad of reasons. For example, a person who has a job that provides health insurance coverage may opt to use a private doctor or specialist for antenatal care. Fees can range up to J$10,000 per visit and up to J$20,000 for initial tests.
Giving birth in a private hospital can cost as much as…
- J$200,000 for a vaginal birth or
- J$500,000 if you give birth via cesarean section.
- More if the birth is complicated.
Most private hospitals also require a deposit on your expected birth type months in advance.
The costs are considerably less if you have health insurance of course. Depending on the carrier, most insurance companies will cover 80 per cent of charges up to a cap. For maximum coverage, some individuals will use more than one insurance plan. This will mean that one company will cover 80 per cent of the cap, and the other will cover 20 per cent of their cap. In most cases, it means 100 per cent coverage for the insured.
Unless the insurance company decides you aren’t covered for something for some reason. But that’s a whole other rabbit hole.
You will also need to pay for services like a Pap smear test, an ultrasound and so on. An ultrasound during pregnancy may range from J$8000 – J$10,000. I’m not sure whether they are conducted free of cost in the public system, however, if there is a charge, it would be under or within this range.
Other costs would be prenatal vitamins, being on a specific diet, new clothes to fit a woman’s expanding figure, etc.
The Cost of Home Life Changes
One of the things that people often forget about the cost of pregnancy, is the preparation of your home/living situation for the arrival of a child. Tiny though they may be, babies have a big presence. For example, my hubby and I had been living in our one-bedroom apartment for a couple of years before we got married. Up until I got pregnant, we’d been very comfortable and thought we could go on that way for a little while with a tiny baby.
But very quickly, after buying a few new pieces of furniture, we realized that three definitely was a crowd in that apartment. Our tiny human brought a big presence with her, so with a newborn in tow, we found ourselves moving, to a two-bedroom apartment that cost twice as much in rent and needed new furnishing to account for the space.
All that to say, new furniture, clothes, space, all of those things come with a hefty price tag. A crib runs about J$30,000. A good car seat runs upwards of about J$50,000. Breast pumps, strollers, bassinets and other items to make life with a new baby easier also come with a hefty price tag.
Not to mention, a new human being means all new clothes and care items being outgrown at a nauseating pace. All those cute outfits? Blink and they no longer fit.
Baby formula is expensive. Some women are able to exclusively breastfeed, others are not or simply choose not to. But even then after six months, the formula is needed (unless your kid is like mine and completely snubs formula. Thank God for Lasco, but that isn’t cheap either!)
A small can of formula, lasting a week or less costs about J$1500 plus GCT. That translates to a minimum cost of J$6900 per month.
Once upon a time, Caribbean parents favoured nappies to secure children’s bums. A white, rectangular cloth intricately folded and secured with jumbo safety pins, it was the norm to see several dozen strung out drying in the hot tropical sun and breeze. If you felt fancy, you had a ‘wet panty’, a plastic covering for the nappies to help prevent pee and poop from making it to secondary places.
Nappies have evolved now into modern, cloth options, but they are still, for all intents and purposes, nappies. Diapers were luxuries saved for going out if you bought them at all. Like I said though, once upon a time. Now, disposable diapers are the norm. (Thank f**k, too. Washing crap-stained white cloths daily would have probably been too much for me to entertain motherhood.)
Diapers are priced depending on the size and number of units in the packaging. Cheaper diapers cost approximately J$1000 for 10. As a parent, you quickly realize that cheap diapers mean more frequent changes and leaks. So, they run out twice as fast. As a result, most parents avoid them, going for the more popular brands. Their diapers costs look something like…
- Size 1, 125 pack – J$5,500+
- Size 3, 168 pack – J$8,000+
- Size 5T (pull ups), 86 pack – J$7,000+
P.S. A box of 100 diapers for a young child lasts about a week and a half to two weeks. So that’s easily a minimum of J$10,000+ monthly depending on the stage and patterns of your child.
Childcare costs vary depending on the services but can range from J$8,000+ per week.
As I mentioned before healthcare is free, but if you want to avoid the very real possibility of spending an entire day or waiting months to get a procedure done, you may want to turn to the private system. A pediatric (medical and dental) visit is about J$7,000+.
An independent family health insurance plan costs about J$70,000+ semi-annually.
The Cost of Education
Primary and Secondary
As I’ve mentioned before, education via the public system in Jamaica is free up to the secondary level. The private education system is not. Though the government mandates for kids starting at by four years old, most Jamaicans have their children in school sometime after their second birthday and well before the fourth.
The private institutions’ kindergarten/basic school level in Kingston is brutally expensive. Be prepared to pay between J$70,000 and J$110,000 per term. These figures carry all the way through to secondary schools. For comparison, the fees for private schools in St. Catherine (a neighbouring parish to Kingston and St. Andrew) can be as low as J$20,000 per term.
In Jamaica, tertiary level education is the responsibility of individuals and/or their parents. Degree programs outside of the medical field, engineering and law are subsidized by the government at an 80:20 ratio between the government and the individual. These programs cost about $300,000 per year to the individual.
Programs in medicine, engineering and law are not subsidized and run over J$1,000,000 per year.
And because I want to give you nightmares, think about the cost of having twins… or other multiples. Lol!
I don’t know whether I’ll get used to the expenses associated with being a parent, but ano go it a guh, a come it a come. I can imagine what the cost of having a child will be if and when I have a second, or by the time my one good egg is old enough to have one. Jah!
All that to say, have kids when you are ready, and not a moment before. Pickney pretty but them expensive!