5 Cities Where It Costs Less to Raise a Baby

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- U.S. government researchers estimate that raising a child from birth to age 18 costs $241,000, but here's a look at five cities you can move to where you'll reduce that tab -- at least during your newborn's first year.

"Having had children myself, I know that the expenses involved are one of those things that you don't think about until you've had kids and say: 'Where did all of my money go?'" says researcher Tommy Unger of real-estate site Redfin, which recently named the cheapest and costliest U.S. cities to have a baby.

Redfin found the high- and low-cost locales by analyzing how much the average of the first year of baby-related expenses in 40 of America's largest metro areas. The study looked at:
  • Housing costs. Redfin calculated the cost of "upsizing" to a bigger home by comparing median prices consumers paid between May 1 and July 30 for two-bedroom houses or condos in each city vs. three-bedroom ones. The site then calculated the added mortgage costs you'd incur during your baby's first year if you bought the larger place using a 30-year, 4.5% fixed-rate loan.
  • Child care. Redfin estimated each city's child-care costs by combining National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies figures for expenses by state with U.S. Labor Department data for child-care workers' salaries by metro area. Figures refer to nine months of child care, as the study assumed at least one parent will stay home during a newborn's first three months.
  • Energy. The study projected the added energy costs involved in having a baby by multiplying U.S. Census estimates of each metro area's typical home-heating and cooling costs by 20%. "Having had children myself, I can tell you that if you ever go into a newborn's house in the winter you're asking: 'Why is it 90 degrees in here?'" Unger says.
  • Health care. Redfin estimated that newborns' parents incur $3,000 in extra out-of-pocket medical expenses regardless of where they live. That's based on a 2013 study commissioned by the nonprofit group Childbirth Connection.
  • Baby items. Using BabyCenter.com figures, the site assumed that families spend around $5,500 regardless of location for diapers, sippy cups and everything else a baby needs in its first year other than child care.

All told, Redfin estimates the average family in the 40 metro areas studied will spend $26,000 extra during a newborn's first year.

But costs vary widely from city to city.

Unger says the biggest variables separating costly metro areas from inexpensive ones revolve around home prices.

"Land is limited and housing is limited on the West Coast or in New York City -- which leads to very drastically different home prices than in places like Las Vegas or Atlanta, where there's plenty of space," he says.

The expert adds that child-care workers in cities with high home prices also usually expect higher wages. "You generally have to pay salaries that are well above minimum wage, and things get expensive very quickly," Unger says.

Click below to check out five cities that Redfin estimates offer the lowest costs for raising a newborn during the child's first year.

All references to "average" figures refer to the average among the 40 metro areas that Redfin analyzed. (The study includes most major U.S. metro areas, but excludes Houston, Minneapolis and some other cities for which Redfin lacked sufficient home-price data.)

Fifth-cheapest U.S. city to have a baby: Durham, N.C.
Estimated first-year expenses:
$21,100

Move to Duke University's hometown and your little Blue Devil won't cost that much to raise.

That's because Durham has below-average pricing for all three variable expenses that Redfin studied.

The site estimates that moving to a three-bedroom home from a two-bedroom there will add only $5,500 to your annual mortgage bills. That's 27.6% below the $7,600 U.S. average.

Likewise, Redfin predicts you'll pay just $6,500 for child care during your baby's first year, or 30.1% less than the $9,300 nationwide norm.

Lastly, expect to only spend an extra $500 -- 16.6% below the $600 U.S. average -- to keep your house extra hot in the winter and cool enough in the summer during your baby's first year.

Sound good? Click here to check out the roughly 1,400 Durham-area homes that Redfin lists for sale.

Fourth-cheapest U.S. city to have a baby: Houston
Estimated first-year expenses:
$19,700

Expect Texas-sized savings during your baby's first year if you move to Houston.

After all, Redfin estimates you'll pay just $5,600 on child care. That's 39.8% below the U.S. average.

You can also plan on spending only $4,900 a year (35.5% less than average) to move to a three-bedroom home from a two-bedroom there.

That should more than offset the $600 that Redfin estimates you'll pay in extra home-energy costs during your baby's first year, matching the U.S. average.

Unger attributes Houston's low baby-related expenses to the fact that the Lone Star State has long offered modest home prices and wages, including child-care workers' pay.

"It's the whole Texas thing of having more-affordable housing and relatively cheap labor," he says.

Check out Redfin's 5,200 Houston-area home listings here.

Third-cheapest U.S. city to have a baby: Las Vegas
Estimated first-year expenses:
$19,500

Odds are that you'll save big bucks during your child's first year if you move to Vegas.

That's mostly because upsizing to a three-bedroom from a two-bedroom there will cost you only about $3,900 a year, or 48.7% below average, thanks to the price collapse Sin City saw during the U.S. housing bust.

You'll also spend just $6,500 or so on child care during your newborn's first year -- 30.1% less than the national average.

As for energy costs, you can expect to tie the U.S. average of $600 in extra heating and cooling costs during your bundle of joy's first year.

But Unger recommends that anyone who wants to start a family in Las Vegas act fast, because local home prices have bottomed out and begun a rebound.

"Las Vegas has had some of the biggest price-appreciation gains in the past year, so they're quickly seeing reduced housing affordability," he says.

Interested? Redfin shows here that some 5,400 Las Vegas homes are for sale.

Second-cheapest U.S. city to have a baby: San Antonio
Estimated first-year expenses:
$18,700

Remember the Alamo -- and don't forget to consider moving to its hometown if you're starting a family and want to save money.

The South Texas metro area places near the top of Redfin's list due in large part to low home prices. The site predicts you'll spend just $4,100 a year on extra mortgage costs moving to a three-bedroom San Antonio home from a two-bedroom to accommodate your newborn. That's 46.1% less than the U.S. average.

Similarly, expect to pay only $5,600 during your baby's first year for child care, or 39.8% below the nationwide norm.

You'll also spend 16.6% below average for extra heating and cooling costs, which should set you back around $500 during your child's first 12 months.

Check out Redfin's approximately 3,900 San Antonio-area listings here.

Cheapest U.S. city to have a baby: Atlanta
Estimated first-year expenses:
$18,500

Georgia's largest city is a real peach when it comes to saving money while raising your newborn.

Redfin estimates you'll spend a relatively modest $5,000 on child care during your baby's first 12 months if you move there. That's not only 46.2% below the U.S. average, but the lowest level seen in any of the 40 metro areas that Redfin analyzed.

You can also plan on paying only $4,500 a year in extra mortgage costs, or 40.8% less than average, if you upsize to a three-bedroom Atlanta home from a two-bedroom place.

"Atlanta is one of those places that just has lots of space -- so you end up with housing that you not only pay less for, but that the people you hire to do child care pay less for as well," Unger says. "It works out for everyone."

Adding to your savings, Redfin estimates extra energy charges will run you just $500 during your baby's first year. That's 16.6% below the U.S. average.

Click here to view some 2,900 available Atlanta-area properties listed for sale on Redfin.

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