Debating the financial impact of having children or the realisation of how much they cost once you have them can be enough to knock you off your feet (of course the benefits usually outweigh the costs!).
The cost of raising a child will depend a lot on your personal circumstances, and no two families are alike. In 2022, according to the Child Poverty Action Group, the average cost of raising a child in the UK from birth to age 18 is between £150,00 and £180,00 (including food, housing and childcare and excluding vacations, gifts and hobbies).
Figures show that the total cost of raising a child is the highest it has been since calculations started in 2012. Since 2012, the total cost has risen by 13% for couples and 25% for lone parents. The rise in the last year has been particularly large - 3.6% for couples and 3.3% for lone parents. The key driver in the rising cost of a child is higher prices (inflation) as opposed to a change in the basket of goods needed to raise a child.
However, there are ways to save money when you have children, and while they may seem like common sense now, many parents often get caught up in the moment and circumstances and lose sight of them when the time comes.
Below you'll find seven ways to save...
Become acquainted with the question, do I need this? Or do I want it? We all need to treat ourselves now and then, but when you add children to the mix there aren't always the same number of pennies to go around!
Avoid impulse buying - make a list and stick to it! This will help you budget your shopping list and you won't be shocked when you get to the till. Having a list means you aren't under pressure to decide what you need and what you want while you're putting things in your basket! If the bottle of wine and the bag of chocolate buttons are not on your list, then the answer is you don't need them this week.
Shopping in between activities is also a good way to stick to your list as you'll have a reason to get in and out of there as fast as you can.
Top tip: Having a list is also a great way to engage children at the supermarket. Have them looking out for something on the list and they are less likely to pop the expensive sugary cereal into your cart.
Brand Names - As we all know, big name brands are more expensive than their lesser-known counterparts, so avoiding brand names can save a lot of money. If your child needs a pair of trainers, and they're desperate for the flashy new Nike ones in the shop window, compromise by going for last season's design or searching places like Sportsdirect.com or TK Maxx where brand names can be found at a discounted price.
Think about how fast your children grow, do you need everything to be brand new? No. Of course, there are varying degrees of second hand but just like driving away in a new car, items depreciate in value very quickly. Even an almost new item is cheaper than its brand new equivalent. With sites like eBay, Vinted, and Facebook Marketplace, there are loads of bargains to be had!
There will be times when you insist on buying new, like a breast pump or reusable nappies, but it's important to remember that you'll need some items for a very short time. In this case it pays to evaluate the situation before buying new.
Buying in bulk only works if you have the space, but if you have cupboards or fridge space to spare, it will save you money on food and household products. Look out for the £/kg(lt) that appears on the shelf label in front of a product to make sure you are getting a better deal.
For example, at Asda, if you buy 2 pints of semi-skimmed milk it will cost you £2 p/lt, if you buy 4 pints it costs £1.45p/lt, but if you have the space for 6 pints the price drops to 2.10p/lt. While not every product will save you quite so much, having a keen eye can help you save pennies every time you shop.
We live in a ready-made society where we can buy anything from prepared meals, clothes and most often our morning coffees. Historically most of these things were made by hand or at least at home. Time restraints and a lack of knowledge or skills may limit our ability to make our own clothes, but making our own meals is a good place to start saving money. If you have bought in bulk, when you make something like spaghetti bolognaise or chilli, make double and freeze one batch so that you have homemade meals ready for another day.
Think about your morning coffee, invest in a good thermal mug and buy yourself some decent instant or filter coffee and start making your own. Buying a coffee every morning can cost between £10 and £20 a week depending on whether your outlet of choice is a local café or a multinational like Starbucks. Even if you drop it down to one a week, after the first week you'll already be saving lots that can be put towards something else.
Taking a packed lunch to the office can also save you. A sandwich meal can cost you between £3.50 and £5 in a shop, that's up to £25 per week! A loaf of bread (~£1.50), butter (~£2), sandwich meat (~£5) and lettuce (~£1) provides sandwiches for a week, for under a tenner and some of those ingredients will last for weeks!
We live in a generation that wastes a lot of food. Portion sizes are too big, and we buy perishable food that we don't use and end up throwing into the bin. With the help of a blender, a freezer, a frying pan, and a little imagination, there are so many ways to make them last a little longer.
Are your vegetables on the verge of turning? Roast them and pop them in the freezer to be used for sauces or stew, or boil them and turn them into a soup. Fruit going too soft, why not blend it into a puree and freeze it, or warm it up and drizzle over vanilla ice cream for a winter treat. You can also turn your fruits and vegetables into a baked loaf. Be it banana bread or carrot cake, baking them gives them another 3-7 days shelf life.
Why not have a mystery meal night, usually the night before you go shopping, and a chance to be creative and use up some of the odds and ends in the fridge. Whether you turn it into stew or a pasta bake, the leftovers can come together to make many surprisingly delicious dishes. This is a great night to get the kids helping in the kitchen, as it's one big experiment!
Make use of family days out while the family is eligible! There are so many websites offering deals and vouchers that it seems silly to pay full price to do anything. For days out with the family, look at websites like Moneysavingexpert, Kids Pass, and Days Out With The Kids, as they often offer discounts, advice, and offers to their communities.
Alternatively, take a look at memberships you already have, for example, if you collect Tesco Club Card points, you can use your points for free or discounted entry to different attractions. Websites and membership schemes are also a great place to find dinner deals or even 2 for 1 cinema tickets with Meerkat Movies if you are lucky enough to have a date night! If you have people lining up to take care of your little cherub(s) for the night that's brilliant, but if not these deals will help offset the cost of a babysitter.
Do you have multiple credit cards, loans, or bank accounts? Having money coming in and out of one place makes it easier to budget and keep an eye on how much you're spending. Some people are good at checking their statements regularly, but a lot of us go from month to month without really knowing the state of our finances, especially if we've done our bit for the environment and turned off our paper statements from banks and other service providers. Without an envelope coming through the letterbox, one needs to consciously remember to download them. Making sure that everything is together, in one place means you only need to check the one place, and in an instant know if you can afford that cute plush toy you saw in the window or if you need to wait till next month. This also helps you to keep track of what's coming in and going out on a regular basis, as well as discovering anomalies.