What are the financial costs involved in raising a child? Gay or straight, if you are thinking of starting a family through the variety of new options now available, plan your finances carefully. You don’t want the tide of love that carried you to parenthood seeing you washed up on the beach of debt...
Last year, a survey conducted by LV= insurance discovered that the average cost of raising a child up to the age of 21 was almost £230,000 – up by £4,000 on the previous year! The most expensive years are from the ages of 18-21, closely followed by the first five years of life. But how many same-sex parents really know what to expect? Couples may spend time discussing emotions, parenting styles and time allocations but rarely envisage the ever-increasing costs and the strain they can put on their relationship.
Stuart Franklin, who adopted three boys aged six, seven and eight years old with his partner, Neil, says the shock cost was holidays: “We never went on holiday in school holidays before [flights are more expensive]. We also didn’t plan getting rooms for five; we now need to take two rooms,” he explains. But holidays may not be essential if you are short of cash, yet basic items are.
“I never planned for the cost of so many pushchairs,” admits Gordon Royland, father of one. “The damn things are so easily broken.” So how many pushchairs did he need? “Four in the first two years! The second one was expensive, but the high kerbs and weight of the shopping and child soon did for the wheels! After that, I bought second-hand on eBay.”
There are regional differences to the costs of rearing children, with London proving the most expensive. However, the rise of technology means that children everywhere are bought items that enhance their connectivity, yet this is an expense unheard of 15 years ago. Brian Wharton, whose kids are seven and nine respectively, admits: “We were determined not to indulge our kids with gadgets before we had them and had set our hearts on encouraging them to read more. But now they have a Kindle and an iPad each simply because we felt they were disadvantaged without these items.”
Though many savvy parents buy from the internet at competitive prices, for Stuart and Neil, the initial cost of a ready-made family was high, with new furniture, toys and clothes.
“They had a bedroom each and a playroom, and we spent about £4,000. We also needed a family car, and we spent £15,000 buying this.”
Stuart and Neil did not seek financial planning and say that they do not row over money as they are relatively high earners, but they have taken out a life insurance policy to ensure their children are taken care of in the event of their demise. This may be last item on the minds of gay men planning for kids but is an important part of a family’s ongoing care.
The cost of schooling is now estimated at over £70,000 per child and will include transport costs, uniforms, books, equipment, activities and clubs, and university costs, should your child go into higher education. This has risen, up 124% in the last 10 years, and does not include private school fees, which can inflate the costs by more than £100,000. But there are many good state schools and academies now, and many famous people, such as Sandy Toksvig and Paul McCartney, have sent their kids to state schools.
Then there is the question of pocket money, and perhaps here, the most challenging part of parenting is the setting up of expectations. When you indulge a child, there is a chance that you will ingrain a sense of entitlement. Asking the child to save pocket money or do little jobs in the house to earn that special treat is an important part of teaching them the value of things, but as children grow they will no longer be content with one or two pounds. Research shows that two-fifths of children in the UK receive a weekly stipend averaging £6 and most are given it as a reward for tasks done. But when budgeting on a yearly planner or spreadsheet, parents often forget to include this annual figure of £312 per child.
Having more than one child will obviously be more expensive, but there are plusses: “We use lots of hand-me-downs as all three are boys with only one year between them. The cost of food is also cheaper per head, as we can bulk-buy,” says Stuart. But how many gay fathers will feel a subtle pressure to go that extra mile in providing for their children – in order to prove to society that they are just as good
at looking after kids as their straight counterparts?
“I always planned to dress my child superbly so I could show her off to my disapproving family,” says Gordon Royland, “but my daughter is only eight, and I am already being pressured by her to buy expensive shoes and clothes – not to mention a mobile phone, which she says all her friends have, and I can see that this will be a cause of great stress in future as I cannot meet her expectations.”
The general rule for most parents has been to jump first and worry about costs later, and it’s important to realise that for the first seven years of life, the basics can indeed be covered from an average wage. But gay fathers-to-be should plan ahead, says Stuart, recommending to: “Make a budget, and take into account that you may be working less. Both my partner and I reduced our work after our one-year adoption leave.”
Obviously, the greatest costs are childcare and education, and in the last 10 years, childcare costs have risen by 61% to an average of £63,738. If you can avoid paying for childminders by using family and friends, you will be considerably better off than those with no support mechanism. Yet, despite the privations and squeeze on the purse strings, all fathers we have interviewed say what a rewarding and fulfilling experience parenthood is, and that, regardless of the challenges, they would not have missed the opportunity.
* Some names have been changed