September 2, 2012
I got ready to take notes when I heard financial advisor Kevin McKinley speak on Wisconsin Public Radio about Milwaukee’s rank in spending on children.
I notice a lot of frugal parenting in the Milwaukee area so if I would have had the chance to make a bet with my husband, my money would have been on a low ranking.
Saving money is a point of pride for many local parents—a rummage sale find is something to brag about, and so is recounting the amount raked in after hosting a rummage sale. Friends routinely swap coupons. High-end strollers are a rare sight at Bay View’s parks.
Most people I talk with shop at secondhand stores, either those catering to children or general resale shops like Value Village Thrift Stores.
I have lived in other cities before becoming a mother and my sense is that secondhand shopping, coupon sharing, and other money saving strategies are less in vogue there.
As I thought about where Milwaukee would be likely to rank, I didn’t get the chance to ponder the high rate of poverty in parts of our city. That factor would further contribute to a low ranking.
McKinley revealed what I (and probably you readers) suspected: Milwaukee trends significantly below national spending on children. The data aggregator and analyzer bundle.com crunched three years of spending data for parents in 36 U.S. cities. *
Not only are we below the national average, we’re 54 percent below it and near the bottom of the list of spenders. Only St, Paul, Minn. and Madison, Wis. are more frugal.
In case you’re wondering, top spenders are in New York (Manhattan), N.Y.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Miami, Fla.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Tulsa, Okla. Chicago, Ill. is one percent below the national average.
Milwaukee’s spending cannot be attributed only to our reasonable cost of living because that is only 11.4 percent below the national average.
Madison’s cost of living is 9.3 percent above the national average and Chicago’s is 16.2 percent above the national average, so it seems that the choice to keep kid gear at a minimum is a values-based choice in our region.
For parents of school-age children, school resumption often perks up spending. Retailers try to tempt us into getting the perfect backpack and lunch gear via email and catalogs. The first back-to-school catalog shocked me by arriving at our house before July 4.
It went out with that month’s recycling. Frugal is fine with me.
The average middle-income family will spend roughly $12,000 on child-related expenses in their baby’s first year of life and by age two, add $500+ to that figure, according to parenting.com.
*To see the chart ranking cities and spending: tinyurl.com/d9325y8
The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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