Whatever your income, your kids can spend it. From outgrowing their clothes every four weeks to school trips and music lessons, it soon adds up.
In fact, analysis by the insurer Liverpool Victoria shows that UK parents spend an average of £210,000 raising a child from birth to 21. That’s more than eight times the average salary.
But, while some spending is necessary, many of us waste a small fortune on our children. Here are some of the ways you could be squandering serious money on your kids.
Buying for baby on credit
There’s incredible pressure on expectant parents to buy a whole range of kit for their baby before it’s even arrived, and this can be extraordinarily expensive.
And so sometimes they turn to store and credit cards in order to defer payment. In fact, some shops advertise this as a way of spreading the cost.
Perhaps for some people, this is the best way to afford the things they need, but for many more this is an emotive credit trap. The interest you pay on these cards or store credit agreements will be yet another expense at one of the most financially challenging periods of your life.
Even if you can afford the interest payments, wouldn’t that money be better spent elsewhere? Like saved into a Junior ISA, for example.
There are plenty of ways to save money on the things you’ll need for your newborn. Shopping at supermarkets instead of dedicated baby stores can help you find real deals, while local classified ads and nearly-new sales are always crammed with bargains.
You can also find plenty of decent baby things on free sites like Freegle and Freecycle. You might want the best for your new baby, but in the long run he or she will be better off if you steer clear of debt.
Finally, if you absolutely have to turn to a credit card, at least make sure it is one offering 0% interest for a decent period, so that you have time to pay it off before getting whacked with interest payments. Check out There's never been a better time to get a credit card.
Overinvesting in kit
Speaking of spending too much on newborns, many new parents waste a small fortune on things they never use.
From labour-saving devices to educational baby DVDs, mums and dads can feel browbeaten into spending more than they intended on items they simply don’t need.
There are some basics you will need to have ready – somewhere for the baby to sleep, bottles if you’re not breastfeeding, nappies, a car seat, some clothes and a few toys. But hold off on buying changing tables and feeding chairs until your baby arrives - that way you'll have a better idea of what's really necessary, and what's just an expensive indulgence!
[ See also: Are re-usable nappies worth the effort?]
Wasting pocket money potential
The average child gets £6.25 a week in pocket money, according to the latest research from Halifax. That’s £325 a year, so it’s not unreasonable to ask for some labour in return!
Ask your kids to run errands and do chores to earn their cash. This will help then understand the value of money better, helping them to become more financially astute adults.
If they’re old enough, you could even save money by asking your children to do jobs you might normally pay someone else to do, like washing the car or mowing the lawn.
Saving into a useless account
Are you paying money into a child’s savings account each month? Maybe you hope the cash will be spent on a university education or driving lessons one day.
Unfortunately, if you haven’t opened an account with a competitive interest rate then you’re just wasting money. You’d be better off keeping the cash in your own ISA and taking it out when your offspring needs it.
Many children’s savings accounts pay a pittance in interest, relying on gimmicky money boxes and cartoon newsletters to attract new business.
But there are some accounts out there that pay as much as 6% on junior accounts, so find the best home for your child’s savings.
Buying cartoon-branded food
Marketing at children is far too easy – whack a cartoon cowboy on the packet or shape the ham like a teddy bear, and kids will want it. What’s worse, they might want it so badly that you face a full-blown meltdown at the supermarket.
But resist buying these child-targeting brands; eventually your kids will stop pestering you for them and you’ll notice the difference to your pocket.
For example, one of the biggest supermarkets sells a small can of beans and sausages for 44p. A near-identical product with a more child-friendly design on the tin costs 75p.
That doesn’t mean that kids should never be allowed Bob The Builder-shaped spaghetti or pizzas in the shape of a famous cartoon mouse. Just make these products treats and not the norm.
Paying for designer clothes
Baby Boden, Baby Roche, Baby Gap… There are some beautiful clothes out there for babies and toddlers. In the same way that you might feel pressured into buying mountains of expensive equipment, it can also be hard not to get competitive about how you dress your children.
There’s certainly no harm in having a few expensive outfits, perhaps bought for weddings or birthdays, but there’s just no need to dress your youngster better than yourself.
Many supermarkets have cheap but sturdy baby and toddler clothes – some of which look so similar to Boden that you start to wonder if they’re going through the catalogue!
You can buy your kids fashionable clothes once they’re old enough to care, but resist the urge to make your child a label junky from birth.
Stockpiling unwanted toys
Kids can be very possessive of their stuff, even if they don’t play with it anymore. But that can lead to mountains of unwanted toys and unused equipment piling up in every corner of your house.
Unless you’re planning on adding to your clan in the future, it’s worth having a clear out every year or so. Your home will feel decluttered and you can sell the stuff you don’t need.
Car boot sales, websites like Preloved and eBay, workplace intranet ‘market places’ - with a little bit of effort, you can turn unwanted junk into hard cash.
Get the kids on board by getting them involved. They can choose the toys they want to sell and help you do so. Let them keep a portion of the money raised and put the rest towards something everyone will enjoy, like the family holiday.
These are Felicity's seven tips, but there are plenty of other ways you can cut the money you spend unnecessarily on your children. Why not share your ideas via the comment box below?
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