Can you afford your kids?

Putting a pound-value on parenting might seem a bit hard headed but it does help to have at least a rough idea of how much more money you might need. That way, if your budget is tight, you will be better equipped to spread the burden or cut your spending.

To start at the beginning, pregnancy itself brings various costs that might not spring to mind immediately.

First there are the new clothes you’ll need as your bump swells. How much you spend will depend on how soon you need or want to buy bigger clothes and whether you opt for maternity clothes or just larger sizes. If your work means you have to dress smartly, your costs will probably be higher.

You will also need extra money for food as your appetite expands to match your waistline. You may also want to sign up for some exercise classes to ease your body’s progress into pregnancy. If you are unlucky and the strain of your extra burden proves too much for your back, there may be some visits to an osteopath without a referral from your GP. You might also choose to splash out on some new pregnancy books or videos.

Offsetting these costs are perhaps the savings made by giving up smoking, drinking and going out every night of the week.

Adding it all up is tricky not least because no organisation has yet worked out the costs of a modern pregnancy. A survey into the subject is underway and the results will be out in the middle of next year. Meanwhile some guide comes from the legal sector. In cases of unwanted pregnancies where, say, a sterilisation has failed and the woman goes on to have the baby, she has to estimate the cost of the pregnancy. It is mostly made up of fares to the hospital and new clothes. According to one solicitor in the business, the total usually comes out at upwards of £300.

The next round of spending comes with the arrival of the baby – or a bit before, if you are well organised. How much you spend at this point will vary hugely between families. If you are on a tight budget, you could easily be out of pocket by more than £500 once you fork out for a pushchair, cot and bedding, changing equipment based on using disposable nappies in hospital and terries at home, nursing bras, bottle feeding equipment and basic clothes. You could easily spend over £1000 on essential items to get your baby through his or her first year. You may be able to buy them more cheaply elsewhere or save by getting them second hand. You may also get a lot of what you need either as presents or hand-me-downs from friends and family.

There is also the cost of nappies, food and clothing. Into the cost of food comes formula milk if you do any bottle feeding and the extra food you will eat if you are breastfeeding.

If you are looking to cut your spending, using cloth nappies might be a solution. It costs £1000 on average to keep a baby in disposable nappies until they are two and half years old, reckons the Real Nappy Association. The total for terries is £400. This includes all the associated costs such as wear and tear on your washing machine. If you opt for a more luxurious but still non-disposable alternative to the terry, the total goes up to about £600.

Written by Claire Preston

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