Cost to raise a child can be much less than USDA estimate

Annually-released statistics such as the Agricultural Department's "cost of raising a child" report are the sort of thing that make a frugal woman shake her head. The cost of raising a child from birth to age 17, says the USDA, is $222,360 for those born in 2009; this takes into account the expenses for housing, transportation, food, clothing, health care, child care and education, and "other" (toothbrushes, iPods, and kidlit, evidently). It's a hard number to believe, especially given my possession of three hale-and-hearty boys, ages two to seven. But there was an interesting tidbit in this year's survey: as you have more than two children, your incremental costs decrease.