Caitlin – our guinea-pig
Ok, so Natwest have created an interactive calculator which maps out the cost of raising a child in this wondrous time. The first, most important thing to say to anyone out there considering using it is this: for the love of God don’t go on it before you have kids. For me, weighted down with hundreds of my own children (well, it seems like that sometimes) the calculator was an interesting and useful tool; for anyone who uses it in order to see whether they can afford kids it will be nightmarish! Here’s one example: with a weekly spend on food of around £40 the average couple will end up spending £18,783.90p by the time your beautiful, yet costly child is nine.
18 grand in 9 years, you might say with a slight whistle, that’s not so bad. But then you see that the calculator has many other fields to explore. Childcare (massive), nappies (more than you think), clothing (shocking), books (necessary), toys (don’t talk to me about toys), pocket money (sigh), furniture (keep ’em in a box!) and that’s before your kids turn 13 and you have transport and technology. I’m a teacher on a good-ish wage, but still nearly all of the kids in my class have better phones than me, and who paid for those do you think!
Being curious types we decided to see how true this cost of raising a child malarkey all was and started with the basics. £40 for food for a week is the average and so we wanted to test this. Using Caitlin (our 4 year old daughter on the verge of Primary and with an appetite for croissants like you would not believe) and Harry (5, going on 6 in body, going on 13 in attitude) as our test models we duly went to our local shop with 4 crisp tenners apiece in our wallet and hope in our hearts.
Working on the principle of 3 meals and 2 snacks a day (with occasional mini-snacks in the case of Harry who will regularly wander into the kitchen now and bellow ‘A basket of grapes please!’) we divided the food-groups into categories: fruit, vegetables, cereals, mains, snacks. Caitlin loves a croissant but the one thing having kids does is impress upon you how you can never, ever take anything for granted. She will eat them all week until the one day when Harry has wiped out all the weetabix and then announce, ‘Weetabix for breakfast please!’
‘What about a nice croissant?’
‘No. I hate croissants now.’
So, breakfast. On this particular week we bought croissants, eggs (nice weekend treat) and the usual suspects in the cereal line. Of these, the croissants, were the most pricey – coming in at around 35p each though eggs and toast came in a close second. Buying in bulk (3 for 2 offers on cereals for instance) means the shop is cheaper and you have the added bonus of never having any room on top of your kitchen cupboards.
Lunch this week would feature some regulars: fruit, squeezy drinks / fruit, sandwich fillers, crisps. Ours like a bit of variety in terms of crispage and so we get Wotsits and the perennial favourite Pom Bears. Again, bulk buying is great for anything other than actually being able to open a cupboard without drowning in rustling plastic, so this is what we do. Innocent make some lovely squeezy things that not only get some goodness into the kids but which also distract them as they continually fail to get into the packet. Also, fruit plays a big role here and although berries (blue, straw, rasp) are seemingly more expensive than your single pieces like bananas or apples these are worth it for the share-factor. Bread for sandwiches and then fillers like ham, cheese, mackerel or humous push the price of this meal up to around £3 per kid, by far and away the most expensive meal of the day as it happens. Tasty mind.
Our main meal at dinner has more variety day by day, but as we eat together we all have the same thing. On this particular week we have at various points pasta, salmon, chops, sausages, escalopes, all teamed with mash or chips (other than with the paella which the kids would probably love but which would be bloody disgusting. Actually, that’s probably why they’d love it!). Vegetables include peas, broccoli or carrots and then there is usually a meal or three featuring salad or a nice cheese sauce. The cost for this meal comes in surprisingly cheaply for all of us, and Caitlin’s would be set at around a maximum of £1.55, this most expensive meal being lasagne, chips and salad.
Two snacks in the day, around 11am and 3pm, would feature fruit again, maybe mackerel with breadsticks, crispy snacks or even a bit of toast. This would be relatively pricey for what it is as both kids can demolish a punnet of grapes in less time than the average piranha school takes on a medium-sized guinea pig. Many’s the time when Sarah has bolted up the stairs waving an empty bowl of plastic at me, yelling, ‘You gave them the whole punnet!! Are you insane!!!!’
Caitlin & Harry together
All of this included meant that the days’ food came in for Caitlin and Harry at somewhere between £4.30p and (our old nemesis paella again) £5.75. Were this highest price the average then £40 would actually be pretty spot on, but in actual fact this week’s shop for Caitlin came in at £34.55, which, it has to be said, gave us a nice surprise.
This was a fascinating little experiment and we were quite impressed at the general accuracy of the Natwest calculator. I’m sure there have been times when our weekly shop has come in over this week’s price as I know that Sarah has spent years analysing shopping bills and lists, deliberately seeking out bulk buys or weekly deals. And so I guess that a £40 average is fairly accurate, all of which means that the rest of their categories are probably spot on too. Interesting for parents and, as I have already stated, absolutely terrifying for anyone about to start out on a family. All the same, do it! Start a family and hang the cost, you might as well. After all, what else would you spend your £18,783.90p on?
See more from Dave The Dad!