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Opinion: Mum About Town – Budgeting and the Cost of Raising a Child

Published on: 13 Jun, 2013
Updated on: 13 Jun, 2013

Mum about TownThe latest of our Mum About Town opinion articles written by “Towny Mummy”. This time she writes about budgeting and how much it really costs to raise a child.

I remember when I was younger, blissfully ignorant of the realities of having children and announcing at work that I was broody and couldn’t wait to start having babies.

I was only about 23 when I said this, working as an underpaid bookseller in Surrey. It’s no wonder that my boss at the time, who was caught up in the throes of having grandchildren said: “Oh gosh, it’s awfully expensive!’”

She was trying to put me off because she said she couldn’t afford my maternity pay. I tried not to pay too much attention.

Obviously, the most expensive part about having a baby is losing a wage, at least for a little while, but raising children can cost hardly anything! We’re in danger of becoming so hemmed in and restricted by the news that everything starts to seem terrifying. These days falling pregnant in a recession seems about as crazy a thing as you can do, or that’s what the media would have us believe. The best advice I had before we started our family was from a friend at church. “It’s never going to be the right time and you’ll never have enough money. My husband was unemployed when I fell pregnant and we were okay.”

Now that’s refreshing. “You’ll be okay.”

Opinion Logo 2All sorts of tosh is written about how much it costs to raise a child and the latest Cost of Child report by protection specialist LV– released earlier this year puts the estimate at £222,458 from birth to 21 years. Really? This works out as £10,593 per year. Of course, some people probably really will spend that on their children but I am pretty sure that I don’t.

I am lucky enough to belong to a church, a wonderful group of supportive and loving people who are kind (and who also have a lot of babies). I went into labour four weeks early with my first child and was not prepared! Friends rallied round when I was at the hospital and lent baby vests and babygrows, muslins and a car seat.

They also cooked us meals for the first two weeks after the birth, which was a lifesaver and a real blessing to us. All I had to buy for the baby was nappies and a pot of Sudocrem. Everything else, and I mean everything else was given to us – a travel system, a cot, a baby monitor, travel cot, Moses basket, bouncy chair, clothes and clothes, sheets, toys… I was overwhelmed. And then it kept coming, and I began to join in the circle of giving.

Baby things are very transient you see, they last for about three months and then are passé. Take the Bumbo for example. A plastic moulded seat that holds a baby of about three to four months, and then by about seven months is useless because bouncing beefy babies have learnt to launch themselves out of it. And Moses baskets; useless! They last for about a month.

And considering that my two wouldn’t sleep unless they were in the bed next to me for the first month or so, they probably only went in it once or twice before being put in a cot instead.

Admittedly, there are some things that cost a fortune and that you can get second hand but it’s a bit tricky. Buggy boards are brilliant but they cost £50 new and aren’t much less on eBay.

And pushchairs too. We had our first two quite close together and were desperate for a double buggy and bought one, rather rashly, again on eBay for a sum that I fear was too large. It did the job but was really quite useless. I’m not sure that I really get on with eBay, or maybe I don’t do enough research beforehand.

NCT nearly new sales are also fabulous and as so much stuff is used only for a few months, the vast majority of baby stuff does not need to be brand new. Don’t go out and buy loads of new clothes if it’s your first baby because as soon as the little one has arrived, the world and his wife will turn up on your doorstep with gifts of baby clothes and toys.

In terms of entertainment, the charity shops are crammed full of unwanted and as-good-as-new toys and books. And although pre-schoolers might have a tantrum and a whinge every now and then, on the whole, they are remarkably easy to please.

Take my two for instance. A three-year old boy with bags of energy, and a two-year-old who thinks she rules the world. They can get cranky and bored at home, but get them to the playground (the one they have been to a million times), or for a walk in the woods and they are as happy as anything.

If it’s raining, they will happily do cutting, sticking, making junk robots, cooking, homemade soft play, play dough, dressing up and so on and so on.. So much inventive energy means that I am the one struggling to keep up.

After starting a family, all the decisions you have made in life are brought to light and re-evaluated in the light of your children, for example, where you live, if you go to work, where the children will go to school.

There are new decisions to make, time with your children versus luxury, time away from them versus going insane! (joke). But I am mostly convinced that although we all like nice new things (adults included), young children do not need them, and they would probably much rather have a cuddle and a story, a walk in the woods and a go on the swings.

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