How much do children cost?
Boy did you pick the right week to ask this question. I say this because I’ve just looked and Tesco has a sale on. I’m kidding. I actually say it because, after reading this article on soaring nursery fees, I’ve been doing quite a lot research into the cost of raising a child.
So what have I discovered – how much do children cost? Warning: you might want to sit down for this. According to a survey completed by the Centre of Economic and Business Research (CEBR) in 2016 and reported in The Guardian, the average cost of raising a child from birth to the age of 21 is an astonishing £231,843.
Wowsers. Still, the majority of these costs probably ramp up during the teenage years, right? Wrong. The Guardian very helpfully breaks this total figure down into the average annual cost for different age ranges. It states that between 0 and 1 children cost an average of £11,498; between 1 and 4 they cost an average of £15,806 annually; between 5 and 17 they cost an average of £8,640 annually; and between 18 and 21 children cost an average of £17,815 annually.
Blimey, so where does all this money go? Well, according to the survey, £74,430 of the £231,843 total goes on education, £70,466 goes on childcare, £19,004 goes on food, £16,882 is spent on holidays, £10,942 goes on clothes, £9,307 is spent on toys and hobbies, £7,464 is taken up by leisure and recreation, £4,614 goes to the child as pocket money, £3,408 is spent on furniture, £1,130 goes towards the tag ‘personal’ and £14,195 goes on ‘other stuff’.
Actually, wait. Maybe this is an overreaction? Perhaps this is the moment to forget about national studies and get personal? And by this I mean… it’s time to calculate the money my wife and I have spent on our 2-year-old son over the last year in a bid to see whether the above figures are realistic or massive exaggerations.
At present, my 2-year-old son goes to nursery three mornings a week for 50 weeks a year. This costs £462.50 per month or £5,500 per year. Add in the sports and music classes he takes while at nursery and this cost rises to £6059.20. He also does IT classes, which cost £75 per term. Multiply this by the three terms in each year and our final nursery bill comes to £6,284.20.
My gut instinct is that this is a category where we’re going to claw some cash back. I say this, because we tend to cover his dinners by buying meat in bulk, cooking it in a sauce, splitting it into portions and then serving each portion with vegetables and rice or couscous. Each bumper pack of meat (we buy lamb mince and chicken) costs no more than £15, and when combined the two packets make a month’s worse of dinners. That gives us a base cost of £30 per month, or £360 per year. Add in the veg (bought fresh from Lidl or frozen from Iceland), which costs around £15 per month, and the rice or couscous (bulk bought from Costco for at most £5 per month), and you have an additional £240, taking the running total up to £600 per year.
On top of this, we also eat out an average of 10 times a month (10 x £6.95 = £69.50), buy 6 big cartons of blue milk (6x80p = £4.80), four loaves of bread (4x79p = £3.16), loads of cucumber (£6 in total) and plenty of soft fruits (£12). Throw in £30 per month for snacks and this paragraph of goodies adds up to £125.46. Times this by 12 and combine it with the £600 we spend on the little man’s dinner and the Bubster’s annual food tab comes in at £2,105.52.
Hmmm. Two categories in and this is already looking pretty bad…
In the last 12 months, we’ve been on two holidays. The first was to Dubai last December. At that point, my son was still one, so we didn’t have to pay for his flights or accommodation. This meant his holiday costs consisted of food, drink, swimming costumes and equipment and suntan lotion. And this meant his bill came in at approximately £200.
The second was to Ibiza this summer. We booked late and got an all-inclusive deal, but the fact we went fairly upmarket and had to pay for the Bubster’s (peak season) flights and accommodation was a bit of stinger. Combine this with the food, drink, swimming costumes and equipment and suntan lotion costs and his price was around £850, taking our yearly holiday spend on the little man to £1,050.
Fortunately, the Bubster is still at an age where people gift him clothes on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the good news ends there. He’s now at a nursery that requires a uniform (bye, bye £84). His shoes seem to come and go quicker than his tantrums (six this year at an average cost of £20 each = £120). Potty training meant we had to source lots of ‘big boy’ pants (£16). And my wife seems to be obsessed with buying him brightly coloured trousers (6 pairs @ £10 each = £60). Top this off with two £150 Primark “pyjamas, socks and other essentials” binges and what do you get? The answer is £580.
Toys and hobbies
Much like clothing, toys tend to be something the Bubster gets given. That said, we did follow the crowd and purchase one of those Mini Micro Scooters (£79), we have bought a few footballs (£12 in total) and I did get him a swish helmet for his hand-me-down balance bike (£14).
And hobbies? Well, his main hobby is hitting me on the head, which costs nothing, but a few brain cells. Thus this category’s total is a respectable £105.
Leisure and recreation
The good news is I’m pretty good at coming up with cheap ways of entertaining toddlers. The bad news is, during term time, my son goes to at least three classes per week (current rota: gymnastics, football and swimming). These classes average out at around £8 each (so £24 per week), and when you mutiply this by the number of classes in a year (36) it gives you a grand total of £864. Then there are toddler staples like soft play (£5 per week) and the local trampoline park (£5.50 every second week), and treats like Santa’s Grotto (£10) and the RAF Museum (£3 for parking (visited four times in last year)). Chuck these into the spending mix and my son’s yearly leisure and recreation tab totals an eye-watering £1,289.
Does chucking daddy’s spare change into places where he has no possibility of ever getting it back count as pocket money? If it does, then I gave the Bubster £8.34 last year. If it doesn’t, then he got £0.
I was about to smugly announce that we hadn’t spent anything on kids’ furniture this year. Then I remembered that we are in the middle of Operation Big Boy Room (i.e. moving my son into a double room), and that this process has seen us purchase a £17 bean bag, £25 worth of wall stickers and £37s of PAW Patrol duvet and pillow sets. So stick us down for another £79.
As far as I am aware, the Bubster does not have any personal expenditure. But he does know my PIN number and how to order extra episodes of Blaze & The Monster Machines on Amazon Prime, so I will be keeping my eyes peeled. £0
I can’t imagine what else a 2-year-old would spend cash on, but I am going to add on £200 for the petrol I’ve chugged into the atmosphere while attempting to drive him to sleep, £100 for the electricity it takes to power the fan in his bedroom (white noise helps him snooze) and £20 for the ice creams I forgot to consider in the food section. £320.
And my grand total is: £11,817.72
So there you have it. That, in my experience, is how much children cost. Positively, my figure is less than the national average published by the study. Negatively, it’s nearly £12,000 for a 2-year-old! No wonder six out of ten parents claim they are struggling to cope financially.
Until next time…