It takes Rona Steinhoff more fingers than she has one her two hands to name off all the kids in her family – 16 kids, to be exact. So she’s no stranger to the expenses that come with raising children.
“I would say food is probably the number one most expensive thing,” Steinhoff said. “We have a large family, so we do buy in bulk.”
According to an annual report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a family raising a child born in 2012 will spend on average $241,080 over 18 years. If that number is correct, Steinhoff may very well spend $4 million altogether on her family.
But she's learned some tricks of the trade to keep the costs down, like buying in bulk at stores like Sam’s Club and shopping at secondhand clothing stores.
"We buy everything in big containers, like the sour cream, and the big containers of fruit,” Steinhoff said.
She’s a frequent shopper at La Crosse’s secondhand kids’ store, Once Upon a Child, where employees say they offer name-brand clothing at prices 70 percent lower than those in retail stores.
"I think it's really great for the kids to be able to come in and pick out the brands they want and the style that they like,” Store Manager Heather Buchholtz said. “You can’t tell it’s gently used, and it’s more comfortable for Mom and Dad's wallet.”
Steinhoff said her kids – ranging in age from 2 to 17 – have no problem shopping at stores like Once Upon a Child.
“The kids are excited to get new things,” Steinhoff said. “We stay in the fashions, we don't buy anything that's junky or torn or not suitable.”
Steinhoff is the first to admit that raising kids isn't cheap, but she said the end result is worth it, no matter what the price tag.
"Money comes and goes, you know?” she said. “Kids are forever. You can't put a price on that, it's priceless."
For parents looking to save money on raising kids, Steinhoff suggests taking advantage of those secondhand and bulk stores that have helped her keep finances in line as she looks to expand her family – she’ll be welcoming two adopted children to her home next month.