Children are like precious jewels - beautiful and VERY expensive. Particularly when raising them during today's cost of living crisis. A new report shows just how pricey raising a child is it costs an average of almost £203,000 to get offspring from pregnancy to 18 years old.
In fact, today’s living costs mean it’s just over £11,000 a year on average to raise a child, according to analysis carried out by the wealth manager company Moneyfarm.
Of course, the amount spent varies depending on a family’s income, ranging from £131,000 to as much as £320,000 in some cases. But for a typical family, a single child costs over £200,000.
And it’s interesting to see exactly how those prices break down.
From childcare to chinos
The cost of children peaks when they’re young and then again when they are close to adulthood.
Every parent with children in nursery will know about those expensive that early childcare can be for many families.
Mumsnet and the organisation Pregnant Then Screwed recently surveyed 27,000 parents of young children and found that almost two thirds of families are paying more, or the same, for their childcare as they do their rent or mortgage.
That high cost of care is why those first three years typically cost just over £44,000 combined, according to Moneyfarm. After that, the research suggests they fall until children reach 15-18 years old. But in those last three years of childhood, the typical cost rises to just under £50,000 for that three-year period alone.
That’s because that’s the age where they really start needing and wanting more. Those three years typically cost around £10,000 in food, around £12,000 on holidays and outings, £4,000 on sports plus pocket money and clothing. It all adds up.
And of course, a lot of parents will keep funding their children even once they are adults – the so-called Bank of Mum and Dad, so the final bill may be even higher.
Chris Rudden, Head of UK Investment Consultants at the company, says: “The cost of living has risen sharply whilst wages have largely stagnated, so when you see these costs in black and white it feels like an impossible mountain to climb - and let’s not forget that parenting rarely stops at 18.”
Of course, the cost of children might be massive but no parent would be without them – even at twice the price.
And Moneyfarm’s Rudden does have one reason to be cheerful. He says: “Reassuringly, let’s remember that all these costs don’t come at once.”
It’s definitely a good thing we don’t pay for our kids upfront!
Watch: 'Ostrich' Boris Johnson has head in sand over cost of living, claims Labour
The actual hard cash
Most of the cost of raising a child is the food, the bills, the school uniforms and day trips and thousands of other regular expenses.
But many parents also hand over cash every week or month, either to pay for chores or as pocket money.
The RoosterMoney pocket money index shows that the average amount given each week is£6.14 per child, but it varies pretty widely depending on age.
So, out of the lucky four-year-olds whose parents give them a weekly allowance, the average amount is £3.21. That rises to £5.40 by the age of 10 and to a decent £11.64 on average once they hit 14.
Kids who get paid for good grades typically get a cash injection of just under £15 as a reward for a good school report, with top maths marks the top earner.
Read more: 22 easy ways to save money
5 ways to save on the cost of your kids
Most of us want our children to have the very best that we can afford but there are still some easy wins when it comes to saving cash – or not wasting it on things that don’t benefit them. Here are some ideas:
1. Use Tax-Free Childcare
This is such an easy win and yet it’s so underused. If you pay for nursery or a childminder then you can register with HMRC for Tax-Free Childcare. For every £8 you pay in care, the government pays £2 – up to a maximum of £2,000 a year per child. There’s no reason not to get that help and save a fifth off your annual childcare bill.
2. Claim all the benefits you’re entitled to
Millions of people fail to claim the benefits that are rightfully theirs. In fact, the rules around Universal Credit were recently changed so that even some higher rate taxpayers with children can claim some help, so even more parents can get a little extra. The EntitledTo and Turn2Us websites both have good calculators.
3. Don’t be afraid of second hand
Whether it’s toys or clothes or sports kit, buying second hand can help money stretch further and it’s a more environmentally friendly option – which even teenagers can approve of. And, let’s face it, if you’ve ever handed clothes down between children then they’ve already had plenty of second hand stuff!
Read more: 8 steps to taking control of your finances
4. Become a swapper
Once you’re a parent you will find you know hundreds of other parents! From the school gate, from baby groups, from local social media chats. So make use of them. Instead of paying for a babysitter, see if you can swap care with another parent, letting you both have a cheaper night out.
Or instead of buying books or comics or toys, maybe you can exchange with other parents and keep the costs down for all of you while still providing new excitement for your children.
5. Find cheap or free activities
There’s no cheaper morning out than the local park, which all kids love! But if you’re looking for something a bit more exciting then get online and look around. Often churches have play groups or activities for young children. Some councils run holiday clubs that are free for people on certain benefits or subsidised clubs.
Some children’s centres may offer activities, especially for younger children. Libraries can be a gold mine of everything from reading sessions for toddlers to Lego clubs for older kids.
And it’s also worth seeing if your area has a coder dojo as these sometimes offer free open days to teach kids everything from coding skills to 3D-printing. Get hunting because there are activities out there for ever budget.