pounds 200,000: the true price of a child

The cost of growing: Schoolchildren need huge sums. The best days of their lives are the most expensive for parents
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The Independent Online
For the tens of thousands of tearful parents who will soon wave goodbye to their chubby cheeked, gap-toothed offspring on that momentous first day at school, a cheering thought to console you: The best days of their lives are going to be the most expensive of yours.

Little Jessica with her too-big satchel, or James, whose ears just disappeared under that outsize cap, will set you back an estimated pounds 62,692 during their years at primary and secondary schools.

For the "spare no expense" parent, the figure is almost pounds 200,000.

A report on the cost of modern schoolchildren and their accoutrements as they grow into their teens makes dismal reading for parents. Deep pockets are a must for essentials such as the themed duvet cover (Thomas the Tank Engine, Power Rangers, Postman Pat) and the visit of the tooth fairy. (The going rate is between 40p and pounds 1-plus, per tooth, with the potential for up to eight visits.)

With puberty comes vanity and parents are expected to pay for the hair- gels and mousses and other expensive toiletries and cosmetics which advertisers successfully convince teenagers are essential for their social success. This expense is in addition to the stylish and more costly clothes that they assure them they just cannot live without.

The report, What Price A Child - the School Years, produced by Asda, concludes that the combined cost of primary and secondary school uniforms, sports gear, equipment (lunch box, school bag, etc), field trips and a school holiday or two, is typically pounds 4,662.

A similar sum (pounds 4,514) accounts for parties and Christmas and birthday presents between the ages of five and 16 - including big items such as that first bicycle or computer - and the occasional impulse buy such as a new outfit for Barbie or the latest high tech weaponry for Action Man. The parties, ranging from a simple candle-and- cake affair at home to a burger bar or pizza house event, or a trampolining/swimming extravaganza, cost between pounds 144 for low-spending parents while the big spenders will blow almost pounds 600 in this six-year period.

Your child's appearance in Christmas concerts and school plays is also budgeted for - parents are often expected to provide the costume which can range from angel's wings to pixie outfits. One high-spending mother found the "perfect" angel outfit for her daughter in the Marks and Spencer silk lingerie range, price pounds 30. Others make do with a bit of kitchen foil and crepe paper.

The secondary school years cost slightly less than your child's primary school career, pounds 26,779 versus almost pounds 29,100. Apparently parental expenditure is off set by the child's own contribution from part time work, something that will come as a surprise to many parents who regularly feel squeezed dry. Major outlays for this age group may include a music centre, a bigger and better computer and even a telephone in their room for the better- off. Good quality sports gear is now needed, costing low-spending parents just under pounds 400 and the high spenders more than pounds 1,000 between the ages of 11 and 16. Parents of the couch-potato teenager do not escape; a television, if not a video, in the bedroom is not uncommon.

Overall, your growing child will cost pounds 10,674 to feed between the ages of five and 16 and pounds 3,562 to clothe. The annual holiday, trips to the zoo, theme parks and cinema trips add up to pounds 4,741. Take into account hobbies, the Brownies or Cubs, keeping a pet, out-of-school activities, sports and the occasional meal out, and the total bill for entertainment tops pounds 11,130. And don't forget pocket money. Typical costs are pounds 1,350 but this depends on your child's negotiating skills and the potential for emotional blackmail.

This report, the third and final of three which analyse the cost parents face throughout their first child's life from conception to 21, shows that most parents can expect to pay out more than pounds 100,500 based on typical spending. It is something that Mandy Allwood and Paul Hudson, the would- be parents of octuplets, would do well to have considered in negotiating their six-figure deal with the News of the World.

The primary

years, 5-11

Typical cost (pounds )

Birthdays 240

Presents/Christmas 840

Extras/play equipment 920

Fancy dress 29

Pets 1,981

Food 5,304

Eating out 2,448

Out-of-school activities 1,596

Petrol/transport 194

Day trips 319

Holidays 597

Camera/video/photos 232

Baby-sitting 468

Clothing/shoes

including uniform 1,706

Accessories (hair,

jewellery) 270

Pocket money 381

Private school 0

School travel 360

School photos/frame 120

School dinners/packed

lunch 981

School day trips 162

School field trips/

study weekends 200

Charitable projects 25

Tooth-fairy 1

Redecoration of

child's room 64

Character duvet cover 20

Friend's

stopover bedding 65

New furniture for

home & re-decoration 250

New washing machine/

tumble drier 210

Electricity/fuel bills 346

House contents

insurance 198

Life insurance

premiums 1,156

Increased mortgage 10,754

Total 32,437

The secondary

years, 11-16

Typical cost (pounds )

Pocket money 970

Christmas/birthdays 1,835

Birthday parties/

outings 150

Additional purchases 500

Eyecare/glasses 0

Clothes including

uniform 1,586

Private education 0

School equipment/

bags 82

School meals/packed

lunch 1,200

School trips & pocket

money 590

Sports gear 660

Sports activity/ viewing 1,852

Couch potatoes TV/

video 500

Telephone in room 0

Redecoration/study

equipment 230

Grooming/ hairdresser 270

Toiletries inc. shaving 350

sanitary protection 110

Entertainment/

eating out 1,981

Travel/petrol 162

Outings eg theme park/

zoo 400

food bill 5,460

UK/foreign holiday 855

Electricity 418

Contents insurance 165

Life insurance 964

Increased mortgage 8,962

Total 30,252

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