Retirement Age

Whats the True Cost of Raising a Child: Analyzing Expenses and Financial Strategies

Last Updated on:
October 25, 2023
Edited By:   Bryan Henry
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Raising a child comes with many joys, as well as financial challenges. As a parent, you may be wondering about the true cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood. It’s important to be prepared financially, so understanding these costs can help you plan for your family’s future.

In the United States, estimates reveal that you could spend about $260,000 to $310,605 on raising a child from 0 to 17 years old(https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2022/cost-raising-child-calculator/). This amount typically covers basic essentials such as food, housing, clothing, transportation, healthcare, and health insurance. However, it’s important to note that these costs may vary greatly depending on factors such as your location, lifestyle, and personal choices.

Childcare and education are among the most significant expenses you’ll encounter when raising a child. Childcare costs, for instance, can range between $5,436 and $20,913 per year, depending on where you live and the type of care you choose. As your child grows older, factors like extracurricular activities, private schooling, college tuition, and family vacations will also come into play, potentially increasing the overall financial burden.

Understanding The Cost Of Raising A Child

Raising a child can be expensive, and understanding the costs will help you better prepare for the journey. As a prospective parent, it’s essential to be aware of these costs to make informed financial decisions.

In recent years, the cost of raising a child has significantly increased. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that a middle-income family would spend an average of $233,610 to raise a child to age 17 in 2015. Adjusting for inflation, the number is much closer to $300,000 for a child born in 2022 1. Keep in mind that this estimate doesn’t include college costs.

The costs of raising a child can vary depending on several factors such as location, family income, and individual choices. To help plan for these expenses, consider the following categories:

  • Housing: Housing typically represents the most significant expense, including rent or mortgage payments and property taxes.
  • Food: Providing nutritious food is crucial, with costs ranging from $98 to $162 per child monthly on a “thrifty plan” and up to $182 to $327 on a “liberal plan” 2.
  • Education: Public schools may be free, but parents often face additional costs like school supplies and extracurricular activities. Private schools and college education are separate expenses to consider.
  • Childcare: Childcare costs can vary from $221 per week for one child at a care center to $694 per week for one child to receive care from a nanny in 2021 3.
  • Healthcare: Health insurance premiums, medical appointments, and medications are all part of the cost of raising a child.
  • Transportation: If you own a car, consider fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs. Public transportation costs should also be included if applicable.
  • Clothing & Personal items: Children grow rapidly, so expect to buy new clothes, shoes, and personal items periodically.

Understanding these expenses can help you create a realistic budget as you embark on the journey of raising a child. Remember, each family’s situation is different, and so are their expenses. By estimating the costs and planning accordingly, you can provide a stable and comfortable environment for your little ones.

Housing And Accommodation Expenses

When it comes to raising a child, one of the major expenses you’ll face is housing and accommodation. On average, about 29% of the cost of raising a child goes towards housing alone. This amounts to around $3,750 per year or $314 per month, per child.

The cost of housing varies greatly depending on the region you live in. Urban areas in the Northeast are typically more expensive than rural areas. Additionally, families often need to upgrade to a larger home or apartment as their family grows, adding to the housing costs.

Shelter expenses go beyond just rent or mortgage payments. Utilities, property taxes, and maintenance costs should also be taken into account. Here’s a breakdown of some common housing expenses:

  • Rent or mortgage: The cost of your monthly rent or mortgage payment will depend on the size and location of your home.
  • Utilities: Utilities include electricity, water, and heating. Utility costs generally increase as your home’s square footage does.
  • Property taxes: These vary by location and home value but are an important part of your yearly housing expenses.
  • Maintenance: Regular upkeep and repairs are necessary to maintain a safe and comfortable living environment for your family.

Keep in mind that the specifics of your housing situation, such as whether you rent or own, and the location of your home, will heavily impact your overall housing costs while raising a child. It’s important to plan for these expenses and determine how they will fit into your overall budget.

Nutritional Considerations And Food Expenses

As a parent, you need to ensure that your child gets proper nutrition to enhance their growth and development. The food costs associated with raising a child are a significant part of the overall cost of raising a child.

According to United Way, food costs contribute up to 15% of the total cost of raising a child. It is crucial to take these costs into account as you plan your family budget.

The USDA report states that the average annual food cost per child is $2,794. To give your child a balanced diet, you will provide them with a mix of groceries and occasional restaurant meals. The USDA categorizes food spending into:

  • Thrifty plan: $98-$162 per child per month
  • Liberal plan: $182-$327 per child per month

To keep your food expenses within your budget, consider the following tips:

  • Buy in bulk: Purchase non-perishable items and staple foods in large quantities to get discounts.
  • Meal planning: Creating a weekly meal plan can help you strategize your shopping and avoid wasting food.
  • Cook at home: Prepare meals from scratch to reduce expenses on prepared and restaurant foods.
  • Seasonal produce: Opt for fruits and vegetables that are in season, as they tend to be more affordable.

By incorporating these suggestions, you can manage your child’s nutritional needs and food-related expenses more effectively. Remember that investing in your child’s nutrition not only contributes to their well-being but also helps in reducing potential healthcare costs later in life.

Educational Costs

Raising a child includes various educational expenses that parents need to be prepared for. The costs may vary depending on the type of school your child attends, with public schools generally having lower costs than private schools.

Public School
Attending a public school does not require tuition fees, as these schools are funded by the government. However, parents are responsible for occasional expenses, such as uniforms, school supplies, field trips, and extracurricular activities. According to the World Population Review, these costs can range between $5,436 and $20,913 per year, depending on your child’s needs and the state you live in.

Private School
In contrast to public school, private schools require parents to pay tuition fees, which can vary significantly based on the institution. In the United States, private school tuition ranges from $10,000 to $50,000 per year. Keep in mind that tuition fees are only one aspect of the total cost, as additional expenses such as uniforms, extracurricular activities, and other fees may also apply.

College Education
When it comes to college education, the costs can be even more daunting. A four-year degree at a public college can cost an average of $25,000 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students, while out-of-state students may pay an average of $40,000 per year. For private colleges, the average yearly cost is around $50,000. Remember, these figures don’t include room and board, books, or other related expenses.

Planning for your child’s educational costs is crucial, so consider setting up a college savings plan or exploring scholarships and financial aid opportunities. Be prepared to make informed decisions about the type of school your child will attend and the various costs associated with each option.

Clothing And Apparel Expenditure

As a parent, clothing and apparel are essential expenses when raising a child. From infancy to teenage years, your child will need a variety of clothing items for different occasions and as they grow. Let’s explore some of the costs associated with clothing and apparel.

When it comes to infant clothing, you can expect to spend a considerable amount on essentials like onesies, sleepwear, and outerwear. Newborns grow rapidly, so you may need to purchase new sizes every few months. To save on costs, consider buying clothes in larger sizes or look for sales and discounts at local stores or online.

As your child reaches toddler and preschool age, you may notice an increase in clothing expenditure. This is because they’ll need more durable, stain-resistant clothing as they become more active. Additionally, your child will begin to develop personal preferences in clothing styles, which can sometimes result in higher-priced items.

When it comes to school-age children, you’ll have to invest in uniforms or clothing suitable for a school environment. This can include items like dress shirts, pants, skirts, and outerwear for colder months. Aside from school clothing, your child will also need casual clothes and appropriate footwear for sports and extracurricular activities.

Finally, as your child enters adolescence, their clothing needs will change yet again. Teenagers often have more expensive tastes and may become brand-conscious, leading to higher clothing expenses. The need for formal wear for events like school dances, interviews, or special occasions will also arise.

To keep costs manageable, consider the following strategies:

  • Shop at discount stores or second-hand shops
  • Buy clothes during sales or clearance events
  • Swap clothes with family members or friends who have children of similar ages

By being mindful of expenses and seeking out deals, you can help make clothing and apparel expenditures more manageable as you raise your child.

Insurance And Healthcare Costs

When raising a child, one of the significant expenses you’ll encounter is related to insurance and healthcare. Health insurance is essential for covering routine check-ups, vaccinations, and emergency treatments. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average annual cost of family health insurance in the United States is around $20,576.

Premiums and Deductibles

You should factor in the cost of health insurance premiums, which you or your employer may pay monthly or annually. Depending on your plan, the premiums can vary significantly. Additionally, deductibles – the amount you’re responsible for paying before the insurance coverage starts – may also affect your healthcare expenses.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Keep in mind that health insurance doesn’t cover everything. Out-of-pocket costs can include copayments for doctor visits, medications, or treatments not covered by your insurance. These expenses can add up over time, especially if your child has any special medical needs or ongoing treatments.

Well-Baby Visits and Vaccinations

Regular well-baby visits allow your child’s healthcare provider to monitor their growth and development. It’s important to budget for these appointments, as well as any necessary vaccinations. Most health insurance plans cover preventive services like well-baby visits and immunizations, but it’s still essential to verify what your specific plan covers.

In summary, insurance and healthcare costs are an essential aspect of budgeting for your child’s upbringing. Ensure that you research and understand your health insurance options and account for out-of-pocket medical expenses that may arise during your child’s growth and development.

Childcare And Nanny Fees

When considering the true cost of raising a child, a significant portion of those expenses come from childcare services. While the costs can differ significantly depending on factors such as the type of care, location, and specific needs of your child, understanding the current averages can help you make informed decisions.

Childcare costs have risen significantly in recent years. According to Care.com, the average weekly cost of childcare services for infants in 2023 are as follows:

  • Weekly nanny cost: $736 (up 56% from $472 in 2013)
  • Weekly daycare cost: $284 (up 53% from $186 in 2013)
  • Weekly family care center cost: $229 (up 80% from $127 in 2013)
  • Weekly babysitter cost: $179 (up 92% from $93 in 2013)

When hiring a nanny, you may find various factors influencing the price, such as their experience, education, and background, as well as your specific needs and requirements. You can learn more about these factors at Care.com’s guide to the true cost of hiring a nanny.

To manage childcare expenses effectively, it is important to research and compare various options in your area. Some parents may choose to rely on a combination of childcare services, such as daycare and a part-time nanny, to accommodate their family’s unique needs and budget.

Remember, the quality of care and ensuring your child’s well-being should always be a top priority. As you weigh your options, consider not only the costs involved but also the value and nurturing environment each option provides.

Transportation Costs

When raising a child, transportation costs are a significant factor to consider. These expenses will vary depending on your family’s needs and lifestyle choices. However, there are a few common areas where you can analyze and control costs to some extent.

One essential aspect of transportation costs is getting to and from school or childcare daily. This expense may include costs for public transportation or gas money if you use a private vehicle. If your child participates in extracurricular activities, you’ll need to budget for additional trips to practices, games, and lessons.

Furthermore, as your child grows, their transportation needs may change. For example, they may transition from using a stroller to a bicycle or eventually require a car or a carpool arrangement when they become more independent. It’s essential to consider the long-term costs of these upgrades, including the initial investment, maintenance, and insurance.

To reduce the impact of transportation costs on your budget, consider the following strategies:

  • Make use of public transportation whenever possible.
  • Establish a carpooling system with other families.
  • Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of walking or biking to school or activities.
  • Keep your vehicle well-maintained to reduce fuel consumption and costly repairs.

Remember, every family’s transportation needs will differ, but being aware of these costs and making informed decisions will help you maximize your budget and ensure your child is well-supported throughout their upbringing.

Influence Of Income On Child Raising Costs

When considering the cost of raising a child, your household income plays a significant role. It’s essential to understand how income levels affect the overall expenses. We’ll explore the differences between lower-income, middle-income, and upper-income families.

Lower-income families generally spend less on raising children due to various factors such as government assistance, smaller housing options, and limited access to extracurricular activities. The USDA puts the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 at $233,610 for a middle-income family (married with two kids) — around $12,980 per year.

Middle-income families tend to spend more on their children due to factors such as larger and more expensive housing, better access to education, and more opportunities for extracurricular activities. The increased expenses, however, should be weighed against the fact that middle-income families typically have higher incomes and better access to resources.

For upper-income families, the cost of raising a child may be higher still, as these families often invest more in housing, education, and extracurricular activities. While upper-income families may have a higher overall expense, they generally have the financial means to support these costs.

In summary, the cost of raising a child is influenced by your household income and lifestyle choices. Lower-income families often spend less on child-rearing, while middle-income families tend to have higher expenses. Upper-income families can afford a higher overall cost, but this comes with an increased investment in their children’s futures.

Impact Of Region On Expenses

When raising a child, it’s important to consider how the region and its associated cost of living can impact the total expenses. While some common expenses may be similar across the country, the cost of living can vary significantly between urban, rural, and suburban areas.

In the urban Northeast, for example, the cost of housing, education, and child care tends to be higher compared to other regions. You may find yourself spending more on rent or property taxes, as well as extracurricular activities and private schooling. On the other hand, public transportation may be more accessible and affordable than owning a car, helping to offset some expenses.

On the contrary, rural areas often have lower expenses for housing and transportation. However, you may find that access to quality schools and health care providers more limited than in urban or suburban regions. This could lead to additional costs for private education or traveling to seek specialized care.

To make a more informed decision and plan for the future, consider the following factors when evaluating the cost of raising a child in different regions:

  • Housing: Compare rent or mortgage payments, property taxes, and utilities in various locations.
  • Education and child care: Consider the quality and cost of public schools, private schools, and child care options in each region.
  • Health care: Investigate the availability and cost of medical providers and insurance options.
  • Transportation: Assess the need for and cost of owning a vehicle, as well as available public transportation options.
  • Recreation and extracurricular activities: Compare the availability and cost of activities, such as sports and arts programs, in each area.

By understanding these key factors, you can better gauge the true cost of raising a child in different regions and make decisions based on your family’s specific needs and priorities.

Leisure Activities And Their Costs

When raising a child, you should also consider the costs of leisure activities. These expenses can add up quickly, so it’s essential to plan accordingly. Let’s explore some leisure activities and their associated costs.

Vacations and family vacations are an opportunity to bond and create lasting memories. The cost varies depending on your destination and preferences, but a typical family vacation may cost between $2,000 and $5,000. Don’t forget to include accommodations, transportation, meals, and attraction fees in your budget.

Hobbies and sports allow children to explore their interests and develop skills outside the classroom. Examples include painting, dance classes or playing musical instruments. Hobbies costs can range from $200 to $2,000 or more per year, whereas sports equipment, such as soccer cleats or baseball bats, can range from $50 to $500.

Enrolling your child in extracurricular activities not only fosters personal growth, but also provides social opportunities. Membership dues for clubs or organizations are typically around $100 to $400 per year, while specialized activities like horse riding or martial arts may cost up to $3,000 annually.

Summer camps offer children a chance to learn new skills, make friends, and stay active during school breaks. Day camps can run between $200 and $800 per week, while residential camps generally cost between $800 and $2,000 per week.

Video games can be both a leisure activity and an educational tool, depending on the game. A gaming console, such as a Nintendo Switch or an Xbox One, costs around $300, while games can range from $30 to $60 each. Consider setting limits on screen time and balancing digital entertainment with outdoor activities.

Budgeting for leisure activities helps you provide a well-rounded upbringing for your child. By planning for these costs in advance, you can ensure that your child enjoys a diverse array of experiences and develops a broad range of skills. Remember to prioritize activities that align with their interests and nurture their talents.

Miscellaneous Expenses

When raising a child, miscellaneous expenses can accumulate quickly and significantly impact the overall cost. These expenses are often unpredictable and can vary greatly from one family to another. In this section, we will touch upon some common miscellaneous expenses related to raising a child and how they can affect your budget.

One category of miscellaneous expenses involves electronics. As technology becomes increasingly integrated into daily life, it’s essential to consider the cost of devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. These items are often necessary for schoolwork, staying connected with friends and family, and entertainment. Depending on the brand and quality of the devices, costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars over the years.

In addition to electronics, various extracurricular activities and hobbies should be factored into your budget. These may include sports fees, music lessons, art classes, and club memberships. The expenses for these activities can vary widely depending on your child’s interests and the chosen programs. For example, joining a soccer team might be relatively inexpensive, while enrolling in a prestigious music program could potentially cost thousands of dollars annually.

Educational expenses are another often overlooked aspect of raising a child. Beyond basic schooling materials, consider the cost of tutoring, test preparation courses, and expenses associated with field trips or school events. If your child has special educational needs or requires additional support, these costs might also increase.

In summary, miscellaneous expenses can significantly impact the overall cost of raising a child and vary greatly for each family. Items such as electronics, extracurricular activities, and educational expenses are just a few examples of what might fall into this category. As a parent, it’s essential to carefully consider and plan for these expenses to ensure your child has the opportunities and resources they need to thrive.

The Role Of Inflation

In recent years, inflation has played a significant role in the increasing costs of raising a child. Higher inflation rates mean that the prices of goods and services rise over time, making it more expensive for parents to provide for their children’s needs. Let’s discuss how inflation impacts the costs of raising a child and some key factors to consider.

When inflation is high, every day parenting expenses, such as food, clothing, and healthcare also increase in price. Parents end up spending more money on essential items for their children, which can strain many families’ budgets. One notable example is the cost of raising a child in the U.S. which has reached $300,000 due to inflation.

The inflation rate also affects other vital aspects of child-rearing, such as education expenses. As prices rise, so does the cost of quality education, making it difficult for parents to afford private schools or tutors for their kids. The overall inflation rate might not seem very high at first glance, but these levels can significantly impact families planning for their children’s futures.

Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare for the effects of inflation on the costs of raising a child. Some strategies include:

  • Setting aside money in a high-interest savings account or investing in inflation-protected assets.
  • Creating a detailed budget and making necessary adjustments as prices fluctuate.
  • Shopping smart by looking for deals, using coupons, and making use of second-hand shops to save money on clothing, toys, and other essentials.

Remember, understanding the role of inflation in the costs of raising a child is crucial to preparing for these expenses and making informed decisions about your family’s financial planning. By being aware of the current inflation rate and taking practical steps to mitigate its impact, you can better prepare for the true costs of parenthood.

Economies And Trade-Offs In Raising A Child

When raising a child, you will face various trade-offs and find ways to achieve economies of scale. To navigate these challenges, it is essential to create a solid financial plan. This section provides an insight into these aspects.

Firstly, consider the trade-offs when committing resources to childcare versus other financial goals, such as saving for retirement or lifestyle choices. Remember that prioritizing childcare costs might lead to sacrifices in other areas. For example, you might need to opt for a smaller house or postpone that dream vacation.

Economies of scale can come to your rescue when raising multiple children. Naturally, as the number of kids grows, per-child costs may decrease for some expenses. For instance, housing costs are typically fixed regardless of the children’s number; thus, they can be divided among the siblings. Similarly, hand-me-down clothing and shared toys can reduce individual expenses.

It’s crucial to have a financial plan in place to manage the costs of raising a child. Start by estimating future expenses and adjusting your budget accordingly. Take into account the cost of childcare, education, healthcare, and everyday living. Moreover, consider creating an emergency fund for unforeseen expenses that may arise along the journey.

Finally, with proper planning and understanding of the economies and trade-offs involved in raising a child, you can make informed decisions and ensure their well-being without jeopardizing your long-term financial stability.

Cost Management And Saving Strategies

Creating a family budget and learning to save money are crucial when raising a child. Follow these strategies to make the most of your financial resources:

1. Start budgeting for a baby early: Once you know you’re expecting, start adjusting your budget to accommodate the upcoming expenses. Include categories like baby supplies, medical costs, and childcare fees. Keep track of your current expenses and find areas to cut back or adjust to maintain a balanced family budget.

2. Shop smart for baby essentials: Look for sales, discounts, and secondhand items when purchasing baby clothes, furniture, and other necessities. Babies outgrow things quickly, so consider borrowing or renting items that your child will only use for a short time.

3. Understand your employee benefits: Talk to your Human Resources department to learn about your company’s maternity/paternity leave policies, as well as potential childcare reimbursements or subsidies.

4. Plan for education expenses: Open a college savings account for your child early on, even if it’s just a small monthly contribution. Look into tax-advantaged savings opportunities, such as 529 plans or Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, to make the most of your contributions.

5. DIY whenever possible: Learn to cook homemade baby food, sew clothes, or create toys to save money while providing personalized care for your child. This teaches valuable skills and potentially reduces costs over time.

Remember, prioritizing your family budget and finding ways to save money will greatly benefit you as you navigate the path of parenthood. Assess your financial situation regularly and look for ways to cut expenses and increase savings without sacrificing your child’s well-being or your own happiness.

Alternate Child-Raising Pathways

While the cost of raising a child is often considered daunting, there are alternate pathways to explore that can provide a fulfilling experience without the same financial strain. One such option is adoption. In this section, we will discuss some aspects of adoption as an alternative to biological parenthood and how it may affect your finances.

Adopting a child can bring immeasurable joy and fulfillment to your life. However, it’s essential to be aware of the costs associated with adoption. Depending on the type of adoption you pursue, the initial costs can range from a few thousand dollars up to $40,000 or more. For example, domestic private or international adoptions tend to be more expensive than adopting from the foster care system.

It is important to consider that, much like raising a biological child, the ongoing expenses associated with adoption will still be part of your financial responsibility. These costs include food, housing, healthcare, education, and extracurricular activities. However, there are often financial resources available to adoptive parents to help alleviate some of these expenses.

For instance, there are tax credits available to adoptive families, like the Federal Adoption Tax Credit. Employers may also offer adoption benefits, such as financial assistance or additional leave time when welcoming your new family member.

Adopting from the foster care system can also provide financial support to adoptive families. Each state has its own foster care adoption policies, with many offering subsidies to help cover the daily living costs for adopted children.

In conclusion, choosing alternate child-raising pathways like adoption can still incur expenses, but they offer a rewarding experience and provide opportunities for financial assistance. By researching your options and available resources, you can determine if adoption is the right path for your family and navigate the financial aspects with confidence.

Understanding Calculators And Surveys

When considering the cost of raising a child, it’s important to understand the various calculators and surveys available to estimate these expenses. One such resource is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has published reports on the costs of raising a child in the United States. In 2015, the USDA estimated that a middle-income family would spend an average of $233,610 to raise a child until the age of 17. With inflation, this number is now expected to be closer to $300,000.

The Consumer Expenditures Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is another valuable source of information on child-rearing costs. This survey provides insights into the spending habits of American families, including housing, food, clothing, healthcare, and more. Online calculators, like the one provided by the Washington Post, can help you estimate the costs of raising a child based on various factors such as your household income, location, and number of children.

Research institutions, such as the Brookings Institution, have also conducted studies on the cost of raising a child. The findings of these studies can help you better understand the financial implications and nuances involved in child-rearing, especially in different geographical regions and at various income levels.

Remember, these calculators and surveys are meant to provide an estimate of the costs involved. Your actual expenses can vary based on personal choices, availability of resources, and other factors. Using these tools and data sources will help you make informed decisions about your family’s financial future and ensure you’re prepared for the costs involved in raising a child.

Conclusion

Raising a child undoubtedly comes with significant financial responsibilities. It is essential for parents to be aware of the various aspects of child-related spending and to plan accordingly. Based on estimates, middle-income families could spend around $300,000 to raise a child to age 17, excluding college expenses.

Costs of living play a major role in determining the overall expense of raising a child. Factors such as housing, food, clothing, education, and healthcare contribute to these costs and can vary depending on your location and lifestyle choices. It’s crucial for you to evaluate your financial situation and make informed decisions to provide a comfortable upbringing for your child without straining your budget.

To manage child-related expenses effectively, you can:

  • Create a detailed, disciplined budget to track and categorize your spending.
  • Prioritize necessities, while re-evaluating non-essential expenses.
  • Consider cost-saving measures, like buying second-hand items or seeking public resources for child care or education.

By understanding the true cost of raising a child and taking proactive measures, you can confidently navigate the journey of parenthood and provide your child with a solid foundation for a successful future.

Footnotes

  1. What’s the true cost of raising a child? | Facet
  2. A Breakdown of the Cost of Raising a Child
  3. How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child? | Family Finance | U.S. News
Written By:
Debbie Wheeland
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