Got a spare pounds 100,000?

The cost of child-rearing, from conception to coming of age, can be staggering. Emma Haughton adds up the most expensive decision you'll ever make
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Indy Lifestyle Online
So you've got the mortgage, bought the car, maybe even splashed out on a new washing machine. If you think you're hard up now, it gets a lot worse once you start to reproduce. Having children is probably the most expensive decision you'll ever make, and a large part of that expense will be paying someone else to look after them while you work. A report from the national childcare charity, Daycare Trust, shows that the British pay the highest childcare bills in Europe, typically about pounds 6,000 a year for couples with two children, compared with the pounds 4,000 most families spend on housing or food.

"For more and more families child care is a key expense," says Colette Kelleher, the director of the trust, which is pushing for measures to help lone parents and low-income families afford decent child care. The peak birth rate is among women of 30-34. Many of them will already have established careers which they are unwilling, or unable for financial reasons, to give up. "With fewer mothers staying at home, the majority of families now use child care, but get little help with the costs."

Full-time care typically costs pounds 70-pounds 180 a week for a nursery, pounds 80-pounds 260 for a nanny, and pounds 50-pounds 120 for a childminder, excluding the bills for ferrying children to and from daycare, food for the nanny or heating the home all day. "If you want quality, which we all do, you have to pay for it," says Ms Kelleher. "Child care is not overpriced, but it's difficult for parents to meet all the costs. More and more women are having pay out most of their salary for the sake of their long-term earnings and promotion prospects."

Julia, an advertising executive who takes home pounds 1,400 a month, pays pounds 600 to a private nursery in Chiswick for a full-time place for her three-year- old. "If I had two children, it would cost me twice as much and wipe out my salary entirely," she says. "I don't know if I could still have worked, although I'm not sure I could cope with looking after children all day. It's awful, but I'm just grateful that as things stand I can afford it."

But childcare costs, though high, are just the tip of the iceberg. A series of three reports produced by the supermarket chain Asda puts the typical price tag on a child from conception to coming of age at a staggering pounds 100,000 - although if you have more expensive tastes you can probably double that.

What broodiness tends to obscure is the hidden costs of parenthood. With one in six couples needing help to conceive, even getting pregnant in the first place can prove expensive. According to Asda's What Price a Child? report, 42 per cent of couples with problems end up at an IVF clinic, with 90 per cent of those funding their own treatment at about pounds 2,400 a go.

Once pregnant, the pounds 7 or so you'll spend on a pregnancy kit to confirm it is just the beginning. We fork out an average of pounds 373 from conception to contractions, including maternity clothes, antenatal classes, pregnancy books and magazines. Mothercare puts the average bill for baby equipment at more than pounds 900, but Asda estimates that if you go to town on nursery equipment it can cost you up to pounds 1,851.

After the birth you may need a whole new wardrobe when your midriff stubbornly refuses to return to its pre-pregnancy dimensions, and that's not to mention the bras. Forget the lacy collection you built up before motherhood; you'll need bigger, more robust models as your bust swells during pregnancy, even bigger and more robust ones with flaps on for breastfeeding, then it's back down to a teen-size AA fitting once you've given up feeding and your breasts disappear entirely.

By the time your pride and joy has reached his or her fifth birthday, you will be some pounds 20,000 out of pocket - if you're more extravagant, pounds 50,000. Besides child care, the single biggest cost is usually moving house. Upping sticks from a small semi to a three-bedroom detached, for instance, will cost you some pounds 10,000 in extra mortgage payments and moving costs over five years, says Asda.

And if you want to get away from it all, expect to pay up to pounds 4 an hour for baby-sitters before you even think about those theatre tickets or dinner for two.

You could be forgiven for thinking it gets easier once they start school. Think again. Asda estimates you'll spend about pounds 63,000 getting your child from five to 16 years old. According to Family Circle magazine, the average family spends pounds 663 kitting out a child for school in September, then a further pounds 111 topping up supplies during the year.

Nor will child care be a distant memory. You may find yourself paying up to pounds 60-pounds 80 a week for someone to look after your child after school, not to mention the cost of care during all the school holidays - about 13 weeks a year.

Frightening amounts will go on items such as taking your child to the zoo or cinema - combined with annual holidays, expect to pay about pounds 4,741 in total. Add in hobbies, out-of-school activities, the occasional meal out and sport and you'll be coughing up around pounds 11,137 just to keep them entertained. And that's not counting the pounds 2,000 you spend on their pet cat, pounds 3,562 on clothes, pounds 1,350 on pocket money, or the pounds 10,764 on food just to keep them cheeky.

Just when you think it's all over, the five years from 16 to 21 weigh in at a hefty pounds 24,626 on average. Getting them mobile will cost you about pounds 1,155 for driving lessons and a second-hand car, while putting a child through university can cost pounds 6,000-pounds 7,000 a year.

And all that's just for number one ....

Bulging figures

Connie, 30, and Brendan Magner, 31, work as sales managers for Farmer's Weekly magazine and Scottish Courage brewery. They have a two- bedroom house in Tonbridge, Kent, a mortgage of pounds 60,000, and a combined income of about pounds 50,000. Connie is 24 weeks pregnant with their first baby.

Connie is worried that the costs are already mounting, even before the baby is born. Their foray into the world of baby equipment left them reeling: typical prices are pounds 300-pounds 400 for a pram, pounds 250-pounds 300 for a cot, pounds 100 for a high chair, pounds 50-pounds 60 for a car seat.

"Then there's the sterilisers, clothes, toys, the cost of doing up the nursery and a sofa-bed to put up guests," she adds. "We looked in Gap at the baby clothes, but just a tiny pair of denim dungarees are about pounds 25 - beautiful, but so expensive. Once you get into it and you start talking about all the different things you need it can be frightening."

But Connie and Brendan are luckier than most. Her company provides a good maternity package, with 20 weeks' full-paid leave, pounds 100 towards looking for child care and pounds 50 a month towards the cost. But Connie plans to take off the full 29 weeks after the birth - the statutory limit before she forfeits the right to return to her old job - and to give up work a month before her due date. That's 13 weeks with no salary - equivalent to pounds 5,000 in lost income.

"Money didn't really come into our thinking at first, but now it's something we're more and more aware of," she says, "It's very worrying. The most expensive thing seems to be child care."

Connie has looked into childcare choices in her area, and expects to pay about pounds 80-pounds 90 a week for a nursery - if she can find somewhere which isn't fully booked - or pounds 120-pounds 150 a week for a nanny. "Childminders are cheaper at around pounds 60 a week, and you can get an au pair for around pounds 50 a week," she says, "but do you really want someone without childcare experience looking after your newborn baby? It's unbelievable my company doesn't have a creche on site. There are so many women who would come back to work sooner if there were."

Ultimately, however, Connie would like the state to provide benefits to let her stay at home while her child is young: "Scandinavian countries have these amazing deals where men can take leave as well women, but here if you work nothing is done to help you. You pay your taxes and when it comes to it there's no support - you either give up your job or spend a hell of a lot of money on child care."

"As it is if I gave up work our lifestyle would change dramatically. I don't want to have to worry about being able to afford holidays or nice clothes for the baby, that sort of thing. It's horrendous," she groans, then laughs, "I suppose this is the time when you find out if any of your friends can knit".

Totting it up

0-5 YEARS

Pregnancy test pounds 7

Books/baby magazines pounds 42

Maternity wear pounds 148

Antenatal classes pounds 70

Hospital bag pounds 8

Birth announcements pounds 7

Equipment pounds 2,000

Clothes pounds 1,226

Food pounds 2,090

Nappies pounds 650

Christmas/birthdays pounds 425

Toys pounds 350

Toiletries pounds 98

Laundry and heating pounds 826

Photographs pounds 219

Babysitting pounds 486

Classes/entertaining pounds 223

Holidays pounds 259

5-11 YEARS

Pocket Money pounds 1,350

School pounds 4,380

Clothing pounds 3,562

Food pounds 10,764

Babysitting pounds 468

Hobbies/activities pounds 3,948

Holidays/entertaining pounds 7,188

Birthdays/Christmas pounds 4,614

Grooming/hygiene pounds 730

Pets pounds 1,981

16-21 YEARS

Transport pounds 3,289

Gifts/birthdays pounds 850

Clothes pounds 1,815

Toiletries pounds 570

Holidays pounds 517

Food pounds 5,463

Selected figures from Asda's

`What Price a Child?'

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