By Morlette Cowan 

I grew up in a family of 12. Six girls, four boys and my parents...and what fun it was. Then again as children, all we were concerned with was having fun. We were raised during the sixties and seventies, at a time when having a large family was the norm, at least in our Caribbean culture. Now-a-days - culture aside - though the cost of raising kids is well, not what it used to be, parents are learning how to still have the family they want just in a more creative and modern way. 

Let me throw some quick facts at you:

According to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a division of the U.S. department of Agriculture, families making more than $74,900 a year will spend $289, 380 to raise a second child born in 2006 though age 17. Families earning between $44, 500 and $74, 900, they can expect to spend $197, 700. Families earning under $44,000 can expect to spend $143, 790. This, according to an MSN report breaks down to $15,800 a year from birth to age 2 for families in the $74, 900 income bracket.


So, are we doomed?

I don't think so. Children are priceless and yes, raising them may be one of the most expensive things we'll ever do, but it can be done. And since most of us are used to a certain way of living this will take some trial and error. We can start by adjusting our lifestyles and learning how to live on a budget - tough, but crucial. 

According to the MSN analysis although the report is sobering, it is also misleading (to an extent). For instance, the survey ends at age 17 and doesn't take into account the millions of students past this age who are still being supported in part or full by their parents. The report also does not factor in heavy medical bills, or the cost of pricey private schooling. So we can definitely add or subtract a few thousands from these figures to suit our particular situation. 

Here's the approach to take if you'd like to comfortably raise more than one child:

Learn to pay off debts and avoid from further debts. This may mean having to look for extra income temporarily. If unable to leave the home you may want to consider creative ways to earn more money, perhaps by doing a work-from-home position. Also look for ways to cut back on spending at home; going without cable may be a good place to start. Are there pricey items in the home that are not being used? - sell them and add the cash to your savings or, start a college fund.  

Determine how much you can afford for food and clothes each month and stick to it. If this is hard to do try the envelope method; set an envelope aside for food and clothing and other fixed expenses and stuff cash into them each month - take only the envelopes with you when you are ready to shop. (This forces you to stick to a budget and pay only cash for what you can afford.) 

For entertainment visit parks, zoos, museums, the beach, play sports or rent DVDs - all free or low cost. Give treats every once in a while - although you are making sacrifices (and you should talk to your children about this) that doesn't mean you shouldn't splurge every now and then. Each month plan a family day when you can all do an activity suggested by one of the kids - within reason of course.

Make family meals from scratch and pack school lunches instead of buying. If there is a new addition to the family, opt to breast feed if at all possible instead of buying formula. Not only is this more nutritional for the baby, but breastfeeding provides lots of health benefits for both mom and infant. 

Quick Tips: Instead of paying strangers to mow your lawn or clean the pool, pay the kids. Stock up on personal care, household and food items at bulk warehouses. Rent instead of buying musical items needed for school, if you must buy, utilize used equipment or pawnshops. 

Remember: "Think Frugal, Live Frugal." But don't go overboard! And in all your planning - plan to have fun.