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The true cost of parenting

Parenting can cost up to £194,000 for each child.

There’s nothing in the world more joyful than the news that you’re expecting the pitter patter of tiny feet. But the fact that bringing up a child to the age of 21 now costs £194,000 – a rise of £14,000 in just three years – is enough to take the gloss off our tiny bundle of joy.

Even if you haven’t been drawn in by unnecessary accoutrements such as cribs and change tables, you’ll have no doubt already spent thousands on the other must-haves for new parents, including a cot at an average of £150 and pram at around £400-£500. Most of us have little awareness of the lifetime of pin-punching we’re looking at when we have children.

The baby years, in many ways, are the cheapest – when your children can’t talk they can’t demand the latest trainers or a Wii – although the growing child does demand a new wardrobe every six months and the pressure for your beloved bubble blower to be kitted out in Baby Gap at all times is all too real. But ask any parent and you’ll hear how things change once uniforms, school trips and extra-curricular activities take hold.

Think back to your own childhood and you’ll probably recall day trips to the museum, a place at Art Club and Freeman Hardy and Willis shoes. Not so in 2009 when kids play guitar in a band, go on skiing trips and have very specific needs when it comes to shoes, socks and PE T-shirts. Those expenses your parents never had, from games consoles to mobile phones (and the accompanying bills), iPods to laptops, are a must in the 21st century when looking good and being connected are important parts of childhood. And just when it looks like it’s all over, 18 hits. With grants long disappeared in to the annals of history the average cost of sending a child to university is around £40,000 for a three-year course, taking in to consideration travel, living costs and tuition fees. And while for many new parents the yearning to see the world before committing to a lifetime behind a desk was only a pipe dream, for today’s students it is a given. And what parent wouldn’t want to give their child the opportunity to experience freedom, fun and culture?

Of course it’s impossible to put a price on the joys of parenting, even if you seem to have had your hand firmly in your wallet for over 20 years at the end of it. There’s much pleasure to be had in buying the first stroller and the first car, the first teddy bear and the first uni text book. But now that more parents than ever before are helping their children get on to the property ladder by paying the deposit on, or even buying outright, their first home it obviously pays to go in to parenting with your eyes, and your purse, open.
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