From mobile phones to nursery fees, mums reveal the cost of raising a child

Everyone knows having a baby and bringing it up for 18 years (and beyond) is going to be expensive – but according to recent research, today’s parents looking at nearly a cool quarter of a million.

To be precise: £225,521,35 – according to life insurance broker Reassured. That works out as £12,540.02 a year, or £1,045 a month.

But what exactly is all that money going on?

While it’s a given some of it will get spent on food and clothes, we asked four mums of children at different ages to keep track of their spending for a month, to find out what other costs are involved.

From broken thermometers to birthday parties, here they give a snapshot of just four week’s worth of spending.

Baby: £631.37

‘I’m learning already that there are lots of unexpected costs’

Julia Kyriacou, 36, is a complaints manager in an automobile company and lives with her partner Paul Kay, 35, a naval officer, and their baby, Roman, seven months, in Manchester

Just five months in and we’re already spending a lot of money on Roman. Well, in fact it all started before he was born. We were really lucky because we had a baby shower and everyone was so generous. They bought us our Moses basket, hundreds of nappies and lots of gorgeous clothes. But of course, there was still lots of things left for us to get, like the pram and the travel system.

This month, we’ve spent a lot on clothes, as we were going on holiday and, judging by the way Roman gets through clothes, we could need about 50 or 60 outfits for just one week. I’d like to think that this was going to be unusual, but I know that even if we weren’t going on holiday, we’d still need new outfits for him, because he just growing out all of his most recent size. At this stage, they are constantly growing out of clothes.

I’m learning already that there are lots of unexpected costs – like the £12.99, for the bath thermometer we bought in week one. It’s our third one in five months, as they keep breaking. And the £12.99 teething medicine in week three. You just can’t predict or plan for these items.

We’ve just started going to a parent and baby sensory class, that’s £12 a week but it’s definitely worth it to help Roman socialise. We were sitting next to a little girl who was sitting up and it was the first time he sat up too. He’s also now big enough for a jumparoo, which was the £89 we spent in week two. 

Although we’re just starting weaning and we don’t spend a lot on food, his formula is more expensive than the usual one, as he needs the reflux and regurgitation one, so that’s about £18 a box.

And of course, I’ve just gone down to statutory maternity pay, which, at £156.66 a week, pays less than what we’ve spent this month. The first time my pay went down, I called my boss and told her I would probably need to return to work earlier than we’d thought. The only thing is, I underestimated was how expensive childcare would be. A family member has a nursery but even with the discount I’ll receive, it will be £700 a month.

It will be a real juggling act to keep on top of our finances but we’ll make it work. 

Toddler: £1,537.18

‘Nursery is by far our biggest expense’

Sarah Pearmain, 37, is a freelance writer and lives with her husband, Tom, 42, a music administrator and their two children, Theo, four, and Immy, two, in Gateshead

I always knew having children would be expensive but seeing the actual numbers does make me wince a bit. Nursery is by far our biggest expense when it comes to Immy, even though she only goes three days a week. She turns three in October and so that cost will go down dramatically when she gets her 30 free hours the following January – we currently pay between £230 and £250 a month for our son Theo. My parents have both Theo and Immy on Monday, so I haven’t included the costs they pay for the soft play they take them to regularly, or the snacks they get them there.

I don’t work Fridays and I generally take Theo and Immy to toddler club at our local community café, which at £2 per family is a total bargain. But our costs creep up when we go for lunch at the café downstairs. By the time we all get a drink and lunch, then a cupcake for the little ones to celebrate the start of the weekend, it’s always over £20.

I actually thought the activities wouldn’t be as expensive this month because my husband was away seeing a friend one weekend, then had Covid the next, so it has been a quiet month – but paying for three of us to go to the cinema to see Sonic 2 cost £39.93 and a day in our local park added up to £31.10, by the time I bought them a lunch box from the café, paid for a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine train and treated them to an ice cream.

I’m quite organised when it comes to clothes, so I buy bundles of the different ages when I see them come up on Marketplace, then add to them. This month, Immy wouldn’t have particularly needed anything, but she spotted a new pair of shoes when she saw her brother getting some tracksuit bottoms in Tesco and we bought her a new T-shirt from H&M when we went shopping. We also got her her first set of bobbles and hair clips, now that her hair is getting longer.

I’m a bit of a fiend for a charity shop bargain, so we tend to pop into our local one to look for new (for us!) books and we also found a jigsaw for Immy, which she is currently obsessed with, which accounts for the £8.35 in week one. In week four, we took them to the shops when my husband Tom and I needed to upgrade our phones and we used the opportunity to replenish their craft items – as well as treat them to a new Sonic toy.

The one item I know we can cut down on is eating out – especially as the children rarely eat any of it. But, as Tom and I rarely get the chance to go out together, it’s nice to treat ourselves to a meal when we’re out. It’s a luxury we’re prepared to splash out on.

Tween: £1,672.01

‘School is also very dear at this age’    ‘

Tara Hanna, 41, manages the Exodus Youth Worx UK and lives with her husband, Rafat, 47, a night bus driver their two daughters, Demiana, 16, Gabriella, 11 and their two foster children, in Enfield

This month has definitely been one of our most expensive ones of the year, as it has been Gabriella’s birthday and we’ve let her buy some extra clothes to wear. She’s about to start secondary school and her style is changing, so we’re buying more outfits than usual.

For her party, we took her and six friends bowling and for burgers afterwards, but although it was nothing extravagant, it ended up being expensive.

School is also very dear at this age – this month, we spent £100 on a residential trip she’s going on. It’ll be the first time she’s stayed away overnight anywhere apart from my parent’s house and she’ll get the chance to try zip-lining and archery, so we think it’s a really good thing for her to do, despite the cost. Plus, we also bought her prom dress in week two.    

We don’t have a strict budget but we’re always very aware of money. In the school holidays, I work in a food hub and I know how hard it is for everyone the minute. We can live comfortably on mine and Rafat’s wage but we’re careful too.

I’ll bulk buy items in Costco, but I’ll always check we can’t get a better deal elsewhere. We do our regular grocery shop in Lidl and Aldi, I’m the voucher code queen and we always check for offers on days out. We’ve always worked opposite shifts – me during the day, and Rafat at night – to save money on childcare.  

The toys that we bought in week one were sports equipment for the garden that I know will last for years. And in week four, the £4 was a Prime movie rental that was far cheaper than all of us going to the cinema.

Other weekends, we’ll go to my parent’s house, outside of London. There we’ll barely spend anything. So although the last four weeks did cost a lot, it isn’t like this every month.

Teen: £3,723.25

‘A teenager is very much a mini-adult – but without an income’

Betsy Benn, 47, owns her own personalised gift company (betsybenn.com) and lives in Cheltenham with her husband Andy Williams, 50, a director of software company, and her son Ben, 15

A teenager is very much a mini-adult with adult aspirations, needs and wants – but without an income. Gone are the days when we could take Ben out for lunch and pay £6.95 for two courses, a side and a drink. Now he needs a full meal, which costs two or three times the price. It’s a really expensive time of Ben, and our, lives.

Our biggest expense is Ben’s school, which is £9,429 a term – and works out at around £2,375 a month. It is extremely expensive but we’d do anything to keep him in it. When he was seven, he was diagnosed with dyspraxia, dyslexia and ADHD. Not only did his state school not have any provision to deal with his moderate needs, the other children soon began to notice the fact he was different and he began to be bullied.

I’d never seen our son so anxious and upset. And when he started to feel he didn’t deserve to go to school and told I should his burn his uniform, I knew we had to do something. We tried another state school but that was no better, so we eventually started him at the school he’s at now. Nearly all of the children there have additional needs and all of the teachers are SEN-trained. The fees used to be about half of what they are now, but over the years, they’ve crept up and we’ve had to budget to keep up with them.

The school has made a huge difference, though. He has really good friends, who he had round in week one. We spent £19, ordering in pizza for them but they often take turns in going to different houses. Also, in week three, Ben chose a shirt for £45. As he never really asks for any clothes and he’d spotted one in a Hawaiian style that he liked, we agreed to buy it for him. But then he remembered it was his friend’s birthday and he said he’d like to get one for him too.

He gets through clothes extremely quickly. I had to buy him new school shoes in week one, after he’d managed to cover his old ones in paint. Thankfully, we found a pair in the sale for £26.60, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

But in week two he also needed new shorts, as it’s getting warmer and I treated him to a hoody too, so that was £57. I also needed to get him some new items for his school uniform, but the children’s shirts in his size were sold out, so I had to buy him adult ones – at £39 for a pack of three, it made a huge difference to the price.

We also have regular costs for Ben, that an adult would usually pay for themselves, like a £25 dental plan, £13.60 for his mobile phone contract and £20 at the barber.

We also give him £50 a month pocket money, so he learns how to manage money. He usually buys a new game for his computer – although we often end up supplementing that through the month, with add-ons.

Having a teenager, especially one with additional needs, is extremely expensive. But we wouldn’t have him any other way.

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