How much does raising a child actually cost?

According to the latest Suncorp Bank Cost of Living research report*, Australian parents spend on average $1,370 per month on each of their children. On average this equates to more than a quarter (27%) of their household income per child and $297,600 over a child's life from birth up to age 18.

"Monthly food expenditure per child peaks at $324 when the average age of children is 9-11 years.

Helping children live their 'tween-age dream' comes at a hefty price for Australian parents."

Food, housing and education are the biggest monthly expenses, costing $262, $160 and $142 per month per child respectively.

The average spend of $1,370 per child per months breaks down as follows.

Food

Food is the highest average monthly expense and also appears to be the biggest 'budget blower' with 53 per cent of parents claiming their household "often" or "always" overspends on food for their children.

Monthly food expenditure per child peaks at $324 when the average age of children is 9-11 years. Food expenditure per child also increases with the number of children in the household. Whilst the relationship between the age of children and the number in the household may again be at play (2 and 3+ child households are more likely to have children of a more 'dependent' age), this is still a surprising result given the common thought of 'bulk buy and save'.

Education

Unsurprisingly, the survey found the average monthly educational costs increases as a child progresses through school. A positive relationship between the average age of children and monthly educational costs as well as household income and monthly educational costs.

Curiously, the educational costs by average age trend peaks at ages 9-11 and 15-17. This corresponds with the last years of primary school/the first years of high school and the final years of high school.

Communications, connectivity & technology

There's a definite spike in mobile/smartphone ownership amongst children once they reach ages 9-11. More than half of households with children aged 6+ claim their children have non-school related personal gadgets for entertainment at home such as an Xbox, PlayStation or iPad.

Excessive gaming, streaming and use of social media may be a key concern for parents of children aged 6-11 with more than half saying they limit the amount of time their children spend on online.

Tips to be a financially fit family

  • Create a realistic budget and stick to it: We want the best for our children, and we are all guilty of an impulse buy. However, with more than 40 per cent of parents claiming they 'often' or 'always' overspend on food, clothing, entertainment and social activities it is important to be mindful of spending and prioritise needs vs wants. This can also be an important lesson for kids to learn.
  • Teach kids early: We learn a lot about good money management when we are young. Our parent's attitude towards money, savings and budgets can have a huge influence on our own spending habits later in life.
  • Understand the different life stages: As the report highlights, there are significant variances in expenditure for children as they get older and it's only natural you'll want different solutions for the different stages. Talk to your financial adviser about the best way to get the most from your savings.

*The Suncorp Bank Cost of Living Report was compiled from an online survey conducted between 26 February and 9 March 2016 of 4,000 Australians parents or legal guardians aged 18-64.


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