The cost of bringing up a child has risen to more than £200,000 for the first time, according to a survey released today.
Figures show the average parent is likely to have forked out more than £201,000 per child by the time their offspring has reached the age of 21. The cost has increased 4 per cent over the past year and 43 per cent in the seven years since the survey was first launched.
The biggest cost is childcare at £54,696 – which includes nursery fees, after school and holiday clubs – and education at £52,881. However, there were some signs that childcare costs are beginning to peak as they only went up by 1.6 per cent over the past 12 months.
The cost per year of bringing up a child is now highest during the university years – aged 18 to 21 – following the introduction of tuition fees. It works out at £13,677 a year.
Campaigners said they were "not surprised" at the results of the survey. Margaret Morrissey, from the pressure group Parents Outloud, said: "Historically, you didn't have to expect to keep on raising a child until they were 21.
"You saw them through their schooling and that was it. The cost of them continuing with their education is extremely expensive."
She added that the cost did not always end at 21, either, as "more and more youngsters were now returning to live with their parents after university as a result of the debts they had run up".
Aggressive advertising aimed at children had also made its mark on parents' pockets. "Ten-year-old children are totally aware of all the things that you have to have to keep up with the other children and it's very difficult for parents to stand out against them," Ms Morrissey added.
"Even if a school encourages its pupils to cycle to school in the interests of the environment, it costs in terms of the latest designer bicycle or scooter."
There is some good news for parents from the survey, carried out by investment and insurance group LV=.
One in eight parents report their children specifically asking for less pocket money to ease the financial burdens on the family during the recession. Despite this, though, pocket money crept up by 5 per cent during the past year to a lifetime total per child of £4,338.
In addition, 77 per cent of all parents said they were forced to cut back on expenditure during the past year because of the economic situation. However, "tightening your belt" was slightly on the wane as this compared to 81 per cent the previous year.
Spending on holidays and fun family days out had been worst hit with almost half of all parents saying they had to reduce spending in these areas.
A "make do and mend" mentality had spread to the purchase of clothes with, again, half the parents surveyed saying they had reduced spending in this area.
Parents were shopping more wisely, too, with a third buying more second hand goods to make ends meet and 37 per cent selling unwanted items through eBay, other online sites, via their local newspaper or car boot sales to raise money.
Some (19 per cent) were cancelling spending on insurance products or income protection cover.
Mike Rogers, LV= insurance group chief executive, said: "It's always tempting to look at short-term measures when trying to save money. While it may seem that cancelling insurance policies or protection plans is a good way of stretching the budget, it's really important to keep the bigger picture in mind – to ensure your family's financial security would be protected if a parent were unable to work due to accident, illness or unexpected job loss."
The survey covered nearly 4,000 adults and was carried out during January. Perhaps unsurprisingly, parents in outer London faced the biggest cost is raising a child – £220,769. Yorkshire and Humberside was the cheapest place at £177,706.