Children are expensive. But do you know exactly how expensive?
According to the annual Cost of a Child Report, it costs more than £160,000 for couples – and £200,000 for lone parents – to raise a child from birth to age 18. That's an average of approximately £9,000 to £11,000 a year, which works out at over £200 per week – or £30 per day.
Given that the average UK family still has two children, the average cost of bringing up a couple of kids could be closer to half a million pounds from birth to age 18 – and beyond.
These figures refer to the minimum cost of raising a child in the UK at a socially acceptable living standard, and don't include holidays, gifts, and all those expensive extras children need and want.
According to new research, these cost implications are the main reason why UK people under the age of 35 are hesitant about starting a family; more than half (59%) of respondents said money worries were the number one reason why they would consider delaying or deciding not to have children. It’s not surprising when, at one end of the scale, the average weekly cost of a full-time nursery place is £285.31 for under 2’s, and at the other end, university is likely to set you back £60,000 plus.
In between there are thousands of other costs, from extra-curricular clubs to school uniforms, Christmas, birthdays, clothes, shoes and the weekly food shop – and kids can really eat a lot!
What's included in the cost of raising a child?
If you have children under school age, you'll already know that the cost of childcare can hugely impact your finances whether you decide to use a childcare provider or stay at home and factor in the lost income. The Cost of a Child Report shows childcare is the key driver of increased costs for in-work families and now comprises around 60 per cent of the lifetime cost of a child for a couple working full time. According to the Coram Childcare survey, the average cost of part-time childcare in the UK is £138 a week, equal to £7,176 a year.
Going to school may cut back on some childcare expenses, but if you are working full-time, you may need to pay for breakfast club and after-school club. The average weekly price for families using an after-school club for five days per week is £66.52 per week, that's £2594.28 per school year. And school uniform doesn’t come cheap. It costs families £300 per child per year, according to a report by The Children's Society. The cost of school dinners is also higher than you may think. Prices vary, and the school usually sets them, but you can expect to pay around £2-£3 per day in primary school and £3 -5 in secondary school. This equates to an average of £195 a term (£585 per child).
Housing is, of course, one of the biggest household costs – and the more kids you have, the more space you need. The latest statistics show the average monthly rent in the UK is now around £895 for private renters, and the average spent on mortgage payments is around £902 a month.
Food and utilities
UK households also spend an average of £4,805 a year on food per year per child, a cost that is rising thanks to the cost of living crisis. A typical household pays close to £182 per month for gas and electricity (£2,500 annually), with energy costs accounting for around 5% of the average UK household budget.
Transportation takes up 15% of a family's child-raising budget. These expenses include a car loan and insurance payments, petrol and oil, car maintenance and repairs, as well as public transportation. There are also knock-on expenses that are related to having more than one child, with two-fifths (40%) of parents buying a new car as their kids grow.
Half of all parents said that the overall cost of university was more than expected. Tuition for most students in the UK is £27,750 for a three-year degree, with living costs of around £24,000 for three years. Add this together, and you are looking at £60,000 more if your child has a more extended degree. However, our latest Youth Economy Report found that 64% of young people don’t expect their parents to help foot the bill for their education.
Total cost broken down by age group
Age Total average cost
0-3 years £44,097
If you break the costs down per age, childcare and university fees are the costliest part of raising a child – but kids aren’t cheap at any age.
Babies are cute, but expensive. Families can expect to add an average of £300-500 to their monthly spending in the first year of their baby's life. Of course, many families choose to spend less, and this cost tends to depend on whether it's your first or second child and what you decide to buy. Yet, nappies, feeding equipment, car seats, stroller, clothes, food, cot and baby essentials add up.
Uniform and school meals aside, you're not alone if you sign your child up for extracurricular activities such as music or sports classes, school trips and day trips. UK parents pay, on average, £28,000 for childhood extracurricular activities until their kids leave school. The study from Oxford Home Schooling also found 77% of parents admitted they feel immense pressure to find extra weekly cash for activities, sports, tuition and clubs.
When young people hit their early teens, it can get easier to regulate spending costs as you no longer need expensive childcare. You can also start to encourage your child to earn extra money of their own. However, there are still additional expenses for this age group with digital equipment, subscriptions, and higher household and food expenditures. Not only do teens tend to have large appetites, but clothing is more expensive as they move out of the VAT-free zone of kids' clothes.
Aside from increased spending on food and utilities, you might want to contribute to the cost of driving lessons, a first car, and university fees – all of which can seriously ramp up parental spending. The good news is teens want to contribute. Our latest Youth Economy Report shows that 7 out of 10 kids even say it's important to earn their own money, and a total of £148 million was earned in 2021. This represents a 9% increase in earnings per child since 2020, more than double the average weekly wage growth for adults.
The best investment?
Even though raising a child is a big investment, it is also incredibly rewarding. Yes, the financial costs are significant, but there’s nothing like seeing your child happy and thriving.
Don’t forget, there are also some financial benefits to raising a child. For example, you may be eligible for tax breaks and other government assistance programs. And there’s more help on the horizon for parents of younger children. From September 2025, all eligible working parents of children aged nine months to three years-old will be able to access funding for 30 hours per week (up from 15) of education and care for 38 weeks of the year, bringing their eligibility in line with what parents of three and four year-olds are already entitled to.
This, combined with our latest research, which shows that older kids are now less likely to rely on the Bank of Mum & Dad, means that the cost of raising a child to adulthood may not seem quite as daunting.