Bad news for parents: Teenagers cost pounds 36 a day

Price of youth: Telephone pounds 340.45, mobile phone pounds 910, food pounds 7,259, motoring pounds 2,084.80, university pounds 17,400
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The Independent Online
Teenagers are not only rude, rowdy and rebellious. But now they are also, it turns out, very expensive. Bringing up your adolescent can cost nearly pounds 67,000, according to a new study, because of the rising costs of everything from education and driving lessons to CDs and mobile phones. Even for parents on average incomes prepared to face down teenage tantrums, the cost is still likely to average pounds 25,000.

What Price a Child Volume II, commissioned by Asda, looked at the costs of keeping a 16- to 21-year-old, including food, transport and education and concluded that for more wealthy parents the cost over five years could be as high as pounds 66,990.

Parents blanching at the thought may like to reflect that the same sum would have bought them a quiet country cottage instead; or 30 round- the-world flights; or 11 Versace dresses; or half of Damien Hirst's sheep suspended in formaldehyde. (Parents avoiding two expensive teenagers could, of course, have the whole sheep.)

An earlier report by the same team concluded that a baby's first five years of life would cost parents an average pounds 20,000 and warned that having a child "could be the most expensive decision of your life".

But as children fly the nest, parents may have been forgiven for thinking that the approach to adulthood would equal financial independence.

Maybe so, but there are some significant expenses to be got over first.

The cost of the food that teenagers will crunch their way through in that time comes to pounds 5,463, with the more generous parents spending pounds 7,259. Electricity to keep them warm, and fuel the hairdryer and CD player will come to an average pounds 340.45.

One of the frequent causes of rows between parents and children is the telephone bill. If parents are lucky, they manage to restrain their offspring from ringing their current inamorata until after 6pm.

But an average estimate will still set you back pounds 132.60 with high users spending pounds 374.40. For parents of yuppie children or those worried for their safety out on the town, a mobile phone will cost pounds 910.

Then there is learning to drive. This includes an average of 30 lessons at pounds 13.50, plus a provisional licence (pounds 21) and the test itself (pounds 28.50) - pounds 454.50 if they pass first time. Until they pass their test, they will be leaning on parents to act as their own private taxi service. Allowing for two pick-ups per week until the age of 18 and then six train tickets a year after that, plus a few taxis, the average cost is pounds 439.80.

Parents who buy a second-hand Ford Fiesta for their child not only pay the pounds 750 asking price, but may well end up forking out for insurance as well - typical cost pounds 1,645.

Christmas and birthdays come to pounds 700 over this five-year period and maybe as much as pounds 1,050.

With one in three teenagers now going on to higher education, parents are expected to help with grants. If the parents' joint income exceeds pounds 60,599 they will be expected to pay the full amount of grant and tuition bills, totalling pounds 5,800 a year. The average payment by parents is still pounds 880 a year.

They finally leave. You shed a tear. But there's one more cheque to sign. It may not happen when they are 21, but the chances are your child will one day get married. The average cost of a wedding is pounds 9,247.

It is all, of course, rather good news for teenagers and for people who do not propose to have any. On these figures, childless adults save around pounds 36 a day, which would buy a thoroughly dissolute lifestyle.

Just think: around 240 cigarettes every day, or three bottles of champagne a day, or a slap-up meal at a restaurant, with partner, every two days, year after year after year. And for those with a sweetish tooth and a robust digestive system, it would pay for 141 Mars bars every day for five years.

Enjoy!

Leading article, page 13

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