The cost of bringing up a child runs well into six figures. But where does all the money go?
Parenthood doesn’t come cheap. From newborn baby essentials through childcare costs and pricey teenage social lives, to bankrolling higher education, first-time parents can be shocked to find that while the love of their children may be priceless, it’s just about the only thing that is.
Research in 2016 by the Centre for Economics and Business Research put an average price-tag of £231,843 on raising a child to the age of 21 in the UK. Given that the average home was then worth £196,930, the figure is an eye-watering one.
Clearly, children can be expensive. While it makes sense to plan ahead, with common sense, a few economies here and there and sound preparation, it’s possible to make the costs more manageable.
How much should you expect to pay out over the years – and when do the major bills arrive?
A stroll around a smart store’s nursery department might suggest you need a mansion just to house all that kit. The most recent research by parenting website NetMums.com, in 2014, found the typical new parent spent around £1,000.
The essentials could set you back a lot less, though. Joanna spent around £600 getting ready for the arrival of her now 10 month-old baby, Benjy. “I used price comparison sites and shopped around, really trying not to be seduced by the priciest versions,” she says. “The biggest costs were the buggy at £250 and the car seat and cot, both around £100. I saved about £100 as friends with older children gave me a baby carrier sling and monitor, and then my work colleagues gave me vouchers totalling £150, which I used for clothes – sleep suits, vests, a cardie, hats and a pramsuit – and bedding.”
Making the most of sales, borrowing from family and friends – people are often keen to offload – looking for good-quality second-hand or giveaways will cut costs significantly.
The first year
You may spend a lot of time changing nappies, but research suggests you shouldn’t expect much change from buying them. Assuming potty training happens between two and three years of age, by that time parents will have spent around £1,250 on nappies and wipes according to research carried out by an Environment Agency study and consumer group Which?.
As your baby approaches his or her first birthday, new costs arise: food and weaning equipment (including a high-chair); clothes to accommodate rapid growth; toys and more.
The Money Advice Service estimates that the average family will need nearly £4,000 to cover the cost of a child in its first year .
If you choose to head back to work, childcare costs can be the biggest outlay.
The Family and Childcare Trust puts a part-time nursery place at £116 per week under the age of two (after which children are entitled to some free provision). Parents opting for a full-time nanny will spend £512 a week plus tax, says the Money Advice Service
A 2016 study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that just under 34 per cent of the average British couple's net income goes on childcare. Figures from the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggest the total lifetime cost of childcare and babysitting averages £70,466.