Parents today face bills of almost £250,000 to raise just one child to the age of 21, new research shows. Surging childcare fees and expenses linked to education mean the basic cost of bringing up a child in the UK has risen 50% faster than inflation over more than a decade.
The study, carried out by the Centre of Economic and Business Research (CEBR) for the insurer Liverpool Victoria, suggests that parents have cut back spending on toys and even food, but any savings have been swallowed up by other rising costs.
But for those of us born in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, child-rearing costs weren't quite as hefty for our parents, with an increasing number of working mums nowadays having to fork out for childcare - one of the main anomalies between current expenses and those facing stay-at-home mums several decades ago.
We talk to four well-known names who tot up roughly what it cost their parents to raise them in the last five decades.
Stephen Nolan's side-kick Vinny Hurrell (33) started working with BBC NI in 2008, after returning from backpacking across Australia. The Nolan Show producer previously presented The Clinic on Blast106, Belfast's community radio station. Now fronting his own slot, The Vinny Show, at 10pm on Mondays, his format is a departure from traditional evening programming on Radio Ulster, which usually focuses on music. Vinny grew up in Randalstown and Co Longford with his elder sisters, Donna and Emma, and younger brothers, Donal (32) and "wee surprise" Patrick (24). Vinny says:
I left home for good at the age of 19 when I moved to England to start university. I moved home again for nine months when I was saving to move to Australia at the age of 23. Apart from a few weeks here and there, that was me out of the nest. There's always a bed for me at home and that's a comfort I forget about sometimes.
My parents helped support me through university, even though I did work, as well. But I couldn't have done it without them. I would say I became completely financially independent when I was 22. I'd finished uni and stayed in England for another year doing random jobs like testing toilets (seriously), and in call centres where people struggled to understand my accent.
I'm beyond lucky with my parents in a whole range of ways. They supported me financially as I was growing up and I wanted for very little. Though I'd say I wasn't spoilt, they may disagree. There are five children in my family, so it must have been tough for them at times. I even got the chance to go on a foreign school trip and that was a real treat.
When I went to university they paid for flights and my rent. I did work to support myself as well as I couldn't get a student loan. Having lived in the Republic of Ireland for the three years before the start of my course, I didn't qualify. My parents would regularly have to help me out with unexpected bills and some other university expenses though.
After university, when I went travelling to Australia, they continued to help me financially. They let me move back in to help me save and gave me some money towards the trip. I remember when I wanted to extend my stay, I had to call and ask for some help. Now that I think about it, there were so many times they helped me out and, looking back, I maybe didn't realise how lucky I was at the time.
Even now they help out. I recently bought a house and they've bought me some bits and pieces - even my first plant for the garden last week. A sure sign I'm getting old, as I was far more excited than I should have been.
How to repay my parents? Maybe one day they'll just send me a bill. Until that day I'll just try and spoil them rotten.
The broadcaster’s estimates
Childcare & baby-sitting: £500
Education: Hard to say. Guess would be £1,400 for school uniforms, £7,000 student rent, plus another £2,000
Food: £45,600 (£200 a month for 19 years)
Clothing: £10,200 (£50 a month for 17 years)
Holidays: Republic of Ireland or Birmingham to visit family — £1,500
Hobbies & Toys: £3,000
Leisure & Recreation: £3,000
Pocket money: I didn’t get a lot. I would’ve worked with my dad or around the house
Furniture: University — £400, home — £1,500
Other (driving lessons, birthday and Christmas presents): £4,000
Total £81,100 approximately
Former Miss Ireland Rebecca Maguire (23) recently graduated in pharmacy from Queen's University, Belfast. The model lives in Andersonstown, Belfast, with her parents, Charlotte (41), a bank clerk, and Declan, who has a tiling business, and her 12-year-old brother, Mitchell. She's currently combining modelling with her pre-registration training at her local Woodburn pharmacy. Rebecca says:
The first half of my life I lived with my grandmother and mum, as my mum was a young mother and needed all the help she could get. She left school at 17 to work to look after me; my mum is a credit to herself.
I think I definitely get my work ethic from my parents. I'd say, like any young parents, getting by wasn't smooth sailing and my mum and dad worked hard to support their family. We are lucky now that my parents continue to work hard and as a family we are very spontaneous - me and my dad particularly. We go out together at the weekends or go on holidays together at the drop of a hat.
I am very lucky that I still live with my parents at home. We have a very good relationship, and when I was studying at Queen's, it made sense to stay at home. When I'm modelling in Dublin, I can stay with my boyfriend, who's a photographer, so rent is not a worry for me - yet.
I was financially independent from the moment I could start working, although I am very lucky to have very generous parents and I can remember wanting for nothing as a child, or even now. Although I am financially independent, my parents spoil both me and my brother. We're both hard-working, although at this stage, if PlayStation was a subject in school, Mitchell would be top of the class.
I think the best way I can repay my parents is to be successful and happy in what I do.
The modelling graduate’s estimates
Childcare & baby-sitting: Nil, because of granny
Education: Nil — modelling paid for my university fees over four years
Food: No idea — about £30,000?
Clothing: Hard to say — I love shoes and it cost £1,200 for a pair of Louboutins (right), once
Holidays: About £10,000 a year overall but £180,000 sounds crazy!
Hobbies & Toys: Thousands; it cost at least £1,000 in the run-up to Miss Ireland, if beauty contests count
Leisure & Recreation: That would be included in the holidays figure
Pocket money: Nil but if I needed something I’d do chores to earn it
Personal: Dad bought me a Mulberry bag I really wanted — they cost from about £850 upwards
Other (includes driving lessons, first car, birthday and Christmas presents): A new car for my 21st — no idea of the cost
TOTAL: £230,000+ Probably above average
Writer Leesa Harker (37) grew up in east Belfast with her younger sister, Samantha and parents Sandra, a full-time mum, and Gordon, a factory supervisor. The family moved three times when the Maggie Muff creator was young, to three-bed terraces and a semi-detached. Leesa left home at 23 when she was made a bank manager in Worcester, England and bought her own house there. Since the success of 50 Shades of Red White and Blue, and Dirty Dancing In Le Shebeen, Leesa has lived near Belfast city centre, with her two young children, Lola (7) and Lexi (4). Leesa says:
It's tricky to work out when I became financially independent of my parents. I left school at 16 and went straight into work. I got £80 per week working in an accounts office.
So, I suppose I was financially independent then but my mum didn't take any money from me for living costs until I was earning much more, possibly aged 19 or 20, and she still bought my toiletries and things like that. I would say I was pretty independent, though, at a young age - I bought my own car when I was 19 (it was £900) and I booked and paid for my first holiday myself, at the age of 17.
I have massively supportive parents and consider myself very lucky.
My mum stayed at home when my sister and I were young and she was always at home when we got back from school.
We had a family dinner together every single night and always had healthy home-cooked meals - roast dinners four or five times a week - not just on Sunday.
Financially, my parents always supported me. They weren't very well-off; my dad always worked over-time and when I was at school, he sometimes worked a 60-hour week so we could afford a holiday abroad in the summer.
You don't appreciate things like that at the time but, now, when I see my dad holding his knackered back because he has worked so hard over the years, it really hits home. My dad retired two years ago and was still working long hours up until the day he retired.
I don't think I could ever repay them - because you couldn't put a price on it!
My mum now looks after my kids when I have to work, so she is still doing it. But I have sent them on holiday a few times in the last two years."
The writer’s estimates
Childcare & baby-sitting: Nothing.
Education: Aside from school uniforms/dinners and normal school fees — nothing. My sister and I both left school at 16
Food: (very rough) £1,000 per year (this is just my portion) — my mum always cooked roasts
Clothing: £600 per year
Holidays: £800 per year average for whole family
Hobbies & Toys: £400 per year
Leisure and Recreation: £100 per year
Pocket money: £3 per week from about eight years old and £5 per week from 13 to 16 — then I was in work.
Furniture: £1,000 in whole childhood — furniture was so well made then it didn’t need replaced so often
Other: (includes driving lessons, first car, birthday and Christmas presents) £150 per year between birthday and Christmas — paid for my own driving lessons and car
TOTAL: £40-50,000 approximately
UIO5 programme controller Maurice Jay (47) grew up in a rented council house in Holywood with his older sister Julie (58) and his parents Maurice, a store-man, and Shirley, a shop assistant. He started his career as a teenager, hosting school discos and presenting his first radio shows on Ulster Hospital Radio. In 2005, he joined UTV as head of music for their new radio station U105 and in May 2008 he took up the job of boss. He currently hosts the Breakfast Show at U105 with Belfast Telegraph columnist Lindy McDowell. Also a music producer, the multi-talented Jay has played lead roles in Grease and more than 100 UK-wide performances of West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. Maurice says:
I became financially independent of my parents in 1993 but I still get £100 for Christmas from my dad. I moved out of home in my early 20s and into several rented flats from 1990 to 1993, then bought my first home - a two-up-two-down terrace for £10,800.
In comparison to today's children most kids my age had very little, although I wanted for nothing. I had a bike, I had an Evel Knievel set, three golf clubs and when I became a teenager, I got a record player. What else could a boy need?
I always remember hankering for some weird coat when I was about nine, that I was convinced your hand stuck to when you touched it. Thinking back, it was probably PVC, but bless my mum, she traipsed around a dozen shops trying to find this non-existent coat.
My mum passed away a few years ago, but was always hugely emotionally supportive. When I was a child, my dad was very much the old fashioned dad, the provider, and when I took a liking to golf, he encouraged me, buying me my first half set of clubs.
Very few could ever hope to repay their parents. Nor, I guess, would most parents expect to be repaid.
The best we can do is to be there for them as the years progress and help as best we can."
The radio chief’s estimates
Childcare & baby-sitting: Was very rare, maybe once every three months, so I would say £100
Education: School fees circa £250
Hobbies & Toys: £3,900
Leisure & Recreation: £3,900
Pocket money: £2,500
Other: (includes driving lessons, first car, birthday and Christmas presents)