How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child in the UK 2020?
Budgeting when you have a family to look after is far more difficult than it is as a single person. With two children, a simple casual buy like an ice cream starts looking more like a £10 spend than the change in your pocket, and a weekend away can quickly soar by hundreds of pounds.
Food, education, clothing, travel, entertainment, childcare – it all adds up. We’ve crunched the numbers to figure out how much it costs to raise a child in the UK.
The average cost of raising a child in the UK
The simple fact is that the cost of raising a child is going to depend a lot on your personal circumstances and no two families are alike - average numbers give us some idea, though. According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the average cost of raising a child (excluding housing and childcare) from birth to 18 is:
£75,436 for a couple
£102,627 for a single parent
Of course, it’s easy to end up weighing in well above ‘average’ – and those figures don’t include the costs of housing and childcare which can easily double the totals!
From birth to pre-school – the home years
For many people, the most expensive time when raising a child is prior to free school education. If you choose to return to work in this period, then childcare costs raise their ugly (and expensive) head.
The average cost of childcare in the UK comes in between £220 and £250 per week, per child under two-years-old (the amounts vary whether for a registered childminder or a day nursery) and while government schemes such as child maintenance or tax free childcare can shave some off this amount, it’s still a hefty cost.
£1,000 per month is a lot to budget for and it can easily feel like you are returning to work only to keep your hand in while the majority of the money goes to pay for childcare. Plus there are all of the additional costs – a new baby needs a new cot, new mattress and clothes (though those can be hand-me-downs).
Did you know that nappies for one child alone put the average family back £260 per year? Give some thought to the parents dealing with twins!
Top five tips for the early years
#1 – Don’t have any expectations
It’s too easy (especially with a first child) to try to fit yourself into a pre-conceived expectation, whether that be with parenting in general or your finances – and it can lead to feeling like you are not managing. Get rid of your expectations and accept that you’re learning something new!
#2 – Accept help
Whether it’s some passed on baby clothes or a friend willing to pay for takeout, everything helps. Don’t be too proud to say ‘thank you’ and take what’s on offer!
#3 – Remember that your baby doesn’t need as much as you think
New parents love to splash out on getting everything perfect – but the truth is that, as long as your baby is happy and healthy, fed and watered, then you’re doing a great job! There’s no need to buy everything new and that video-monitoring gadget with a heart monitor, soothing nighttime sounds and voice activated app really isn’t needed where a £10 baby monitor will do!
Tip: While accepting hand-me-downs is a great way to save money, there are some things which – for hygiene reasons – we would recommend buying new. For example, a crib mattress.
#4 – Be willing to adapt
You might plan to go back to work after a year, but find that it’s not right for you when the time comes and you would prefer to spend another year being a full-time parent. Do what feels right for you, adapt your plans and don’t just do something because that was the original idea.
#5 – Budget meticulously
Write down how much you plan to spend and stick to it. Budgeting as a parent is a little different to being responsible for just yourself, but as time goes on you’ll get better at getting it right and can keep your finances in check. If you do run into difficulties, you should try to communicate with anyone you are struggling to pay and see if you can reach a better arrangement.
The primary years
While school shouldn’t be thought of as just free childcare, there’s a definite moment of being able to breathe when you know your child is looked after for the majority of the day and the state school system means it is costing you nothing – all of a sudden the average cost of your child per month can drop by hundreds of pounds!
Childcare costs per day fall to little more than £12, with nursery costs or childminder fees replaced by school and after-school clubs. Don’t start planning to splash out with that extra money though, because your sweethearts are probably eating enough to feed elephants!
The average food bill for a family of four in the UK in 2020 is between £80 and £100 per week, whereas the ONS (Office for National Statistics) shows that the average weekly shop across all families is a much lower £60.60. Anecdotal evidence, including reports from discussion forums such as Mumsnet, put the number much higher, and many families suggest a weekly supermarket shop of £120 or more.
The period while your children are pre-teen is the cheapest they are likely to get, with occasional trips out and time on holiday likely to be your biggest expenditures.
That and shoes, of course! How do children go through so many pairs of shoes?!
Top five tips for the primary years
#1 – Remember children are happy with a lot less than you think
As long as they are warm, dry and fed, children tend to be happy with whatever is around them. Expensive toys and gadgets are a great bonus but by no means necessary with a child’s imagination, where a stick can be a wand, sword, bridge, flagpole or even sleeping snake!
#2 – Plan meals
Takeaways and restaurants are an expense you just don’t need – plus the pain of taking children out means you are often unable to relax! Enjoy meal times at home and cook from fresh as much as possible to save on money and enjoy a more nutritious meal.
#3 – Utilise Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and Freecycle etc.
These used marketplaces are a godsend. With everything from toys to furniture, you will spend less, have more and care less when things get wrecked! Just don’t get too addicted!
#4 – Be part of your community
Friends with children in a similar age bracket can lower the cost of a child as well as provide them with a more varied life. Having an extra child over for a sleepover costs little, but an evening to yourself when the favour is reciprocated has untold value!
#5 – Holiday in the UK
There’s no need to splash out on expensive holidays abroad when the UK provides so many options that are just as exciting and new for your children. Camping and caravan holidays can be very cost effective and will stick in their memories for a lifetime – even in the rainy season!
Teenagers and beyond
The average cost of raising a teenager per month in the UK comes in at over £400; it’s no wonder that many parents struggle!
Like the other average figures obtained by CPAG, the cost of raising a child for a parent can alter wildly depending on many factors, and with teenagers one of the biggest costs becomes transportation.
Teenagers like to go out. They are discovering and stretching their freedom and in cities this might mean little more than a bus pass, but for those in more rural areas, the constant demand from teenagers for being driven around takes its toll – not only in terms of actual money but time, too.
Plus, teenagers eat more than many adults – they expend more energy, are still growing and need a substantial amount of ‘brain food’.
Then there’s phone bills, Xbox subscriptions and their profound inability to turn off a light when leaving a room! Overall, there’s no doubt that teenagers represent the greatest impact on your finances. CPAG estimates that it’s more than £28,000 to raise a teenager from 13 to 19.
There’s a good chance that it doesn’t end when they leave home either – requests for money to help them in any further education become requests for rent deposits, first cars, getting married and buying a home!
Learn more: How Do Student Loans Work?
Top five tips for the teenage years
#1 – Teach them financial responsibility
Explaining the realities of financial life and helping them understand the value of things is an important stage of a teenager’s education and can save you thousands of pounds in the long run! Get them a bank account by the time they’re 13 and let them experience the highs and lows of saving and splurging. Hopefully, many of the important lessons will be learned before they turn 18 and get access to credit!
#2 – Limit their expense
Talk to your teenager and limit the activities and other expenses that can rack up. Explain to them that there’s only a certain amount of money available and they can’t have it all. This may mean having to choose between a phone contract and a monthly trip out, or choosing one hobby over another.
#3 – Take them on the weekly food shop
Though it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting trawling around the supermarket with your teenager, making them participate in the weekly shop will help them understand the hard choices you are having to make regarding food and budgeting, as well as giving them a good grounding into what goes into each meal.
#4 – Offer extra money for jobs around the house
Being paid to do chores gives teenagers the ability to get themselves a little more as well as introducing them to the real world concept of working for their money. Children are also far more likely to appreciate and look after something (like an item of clothing) that they have had to work for to buy, rather than given to them.
#5 – Remember they are not adults
It’s all too easy to see our teenagers (especially the older ones) as near-adults rather than still-children, but that’s not always the case. Teenagers will make the same silly mistakes as younger children and shouldn’t always be expected to know better – after all, they’re still learning (despite their protestations that they know best). Anticipating their mistakes and planning for them can help save cash in the long run!
How much does a parent spend on a child? – The reality!
The real cost of raising a child, whether you’re a single parent or a couple, is everything you are able to give! Like a fish that will grow to the size of its environment, a child will spend to the size of your bank account! And, through love, a feeling of responsibility and the pure joy of it, you will enable it.
If you are struggling with money, then your children will understand and they will learn to appreciate the small things you are able to give. If you are more comfortable and can afford to give them more, then you will find yourself doing exactly that – despite the best intentions and strict budgeting.
Eighteen years is a long time, and you will inevitably experience both periods of difficulty and (hopefully) times of financial stability. Adapting is key and making sure you don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard will make sure that you come out of the other end solvent!
Try to avoid:
Taking on unnecessary debt to fulfil a child’s wants rather than their needs
Caving in to keep up with friends, neighbours or advertising
Living beyond your means
We all want to give our children the best we can manage, just be realistic and say no when no is the right answer.
Other financial products worth considering
At Compare UK Quotes we offer comprehensive financial advice across a range of products and strongly believe that preparing and keeping a close eye on your personal finances is important. Some things to consider when you have children are:
Whether you rent or have a mortgage, life insurance is a valuable product that will protect your children should the very worst happen and secure their home and comfort after your death. The average life insurance cost in the UK is lower than most people suspect and affordable for almost every household. Why not have a read through our life insurance articles and see what’s right for you and your family?
If you can put a little bit aside each month, you can help secure your children’s future should anything go wrong. For information on savings and interest rates, take a look at our library of articles here.
If you don’t already have home insurance then you should consider it – it works out at just a few pounds per month and can make the difference between losing everything and being mildly inconvenienced when disaster strikes.
Find more home insurance advice in Compare UK Quotes’ articles here.
Not just for the wealthy or businessmen, car leasing provides a cost effective way to keep a car on the road within a tight budget. Through leasing, you never have any worries regarding repairs and have the enjoyment of a brand-new family car on a stable monthly contract. Far better (and cheaper) than trying to keep an old banger on the road!
App-based bank accounts
Keeping an eye on your credit throughout your child’s life (and yours!) will help you keep your finances under control and make sure you never fall into the dreaded spiral of debt.
Personal financial advice with Compare UK Quotes
Knowing what the cost is of raising a child to 18 is just the start, but this guide will help you plan and hopefully, you’ll get it all right!
Here at Compare UK Quotes, we have a massive library of helpful personal finance articles to make sure that remains the case. Why not take the time to read through our guides and make sure your money is put to the very best use!