Help! Do kids really cost this much to raise?
5 min | 21 September 2021
The day-to-day expenses of having a family can really mount up. Spend smart and you’ll not only feel less stretched, you’ll also set a good example for your kids.
In 2020, the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 was estimated to be between £71,611 and £97,862. And that’s not including childcare.
At first, it’s easy to predict where that extra money will go: new families usually budget for the essential kit for a newborn.
But as babies turn to children and children to teens there are many unexpected expenses: school trips, hobbies, uniforms... not to mention fridge-raiding teens.
Of course, you can’t put a price on the joy of parenthood, and most parents would give their kids every last penny if they could. But the reality is that bills need to be paid and families need to save.
Whether it's for essentials like childcare, or extras like supporting hobbies, being smart about spending can help you stop feeling stretched.
First off, check what you can get
Gov.uk has lots of helpful calculators (Opens in new window) to check whether you qualify for Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits and other financial help, including if you're a student or your child is disabled. If you're eligible for help, claim it.
If you don't need that extra help day-to-day, think about popping it in a savings account or a Junior ISA. Even £10 or £20 put aside every so often and left to grow for a long time can become a decent contribution to your child’s early adult life, because of compounding interest.
The big one: childcare
Childcare really makes a dent in parents’ pockets. On average, parents pay £7,000 a year for a part-time nursery place, and more than £13,000 for a full-time place. So it can be really important you take advantage of tax-free childcare for 0-11 year olds and 30 free hours for 3-4 year olds by registering for an account with gov.uk (Opens in new window).
Tax-free childcare (Opens in new window) is an account you add money to, and it can help with childcare costs if your child is under 16 (or under 17 and disabled). Tax credits and childcare vouchers won't be available if you go down this route, but you can use the calculator on the gov.uk website to check which option helps you more.
For every £8 you save, the government will add £2, up to £2,000 a year, possibly more if your child is disabled. There are a number of other requirements to qualify, and you can only pay a registered childcare provider (meaning grandparents may not count). But it's still potentially £22,000 off childcare costs over 11 years.
Dressing to impress
Children grow at a rate that will catch many a busy parent off guard, and the costs can really mount up.
As your kids get older, there can be extra pressure for them to have the latest brands and styles, but there are some smart ways to diminish the impact on your wallet.
First, buy new only where it matters. For everything else (especially those early years of growth spurts and messy play), go secondhand.
Second, when you or your teens start looking for brands, consider using sites like specialist clothing resale sites before going in-store. Check out outlets. If you live near a city, search online for pop up ‘sample sales’ where brands sell old stock at reduced prices.
Third, and this is more of a mantra than a tip: ask yourself why you're buying expensive shoes or clothes for kids under 10. You may well regret your choice when they mess them up or simply grow out of them.
Food: don’t throw your money in the bin
Everyone wants to feed their kids fresh, quality food. But when time is short it's easy to end up reaching for quick favourites until those well-intentioned carrots go straight in the bin.
Meal planning and prep shouldn’t be a full-time job (you probably already have one of those). If it feels like a lot of work then figure out a list of easy go-to recipes that you can rotate through the month. Be realistic about how long you have to cook - there's nothing wrong with 10-minute pasta and veggies or a quick stirfry - and save the complex stuff for the weekend.
If you make too much (or don't quite make it round to using something up), toss it in the freezer and use it later.
Getting the heck out of dodge
After the last few years, novelty is in short supply. So while we're all desperate to get out of the house, how can we do that without blowing the bank?
As with meals, days out can benefit from a little planning. Most places are cheaper if you book in advance rather than just turn up on the day. Involving your kids in budgeting for a day out can be a good learning opportunity too.
If you’re planning to go anywhere by train, ‘ticket split’ sites can save you money. They split up journeys on the tickets to give the cheapest combination, while leaving the actual trip unaffected. If you go out by train all the time, railcards can reduce adult fares by up to a third and children’s tickets by 60 percent.
Want to get away-away? Check out creative and cheap ways to go on holiday. Beyond the obvious holiday rental search filters, have a look at sites that offer homes for housesitting. You usually have to water the plants and feed the fish, but some of them will even pay you for staying! If your kids are always asking for a dog, check out petsitting services too!
There's no getting away from the fact kids are incredibly expensive. But some forward planning, simple swaps and lucky breaks can soften the blow.
- CPAG.org Article on "Cost of a child"
- Moneyadviceservice.org.uk Article "Average childcare costs"