Cost of First Holy Communion reaches a record £568
The cost of First Holy Communion has reached a six-year high, with Northern Ireland families forking out over £560 on average this year, new statistics show.
According to the Ulster Bank's annual survey, local Roman Catholic families spent an average of £568 on their child's First Holy Communion in 2018 - an increase of £30 on 2017.
But the value of gifts received by children going through their First Communion dropped by £22 over the same period, with cash gifts from family and friends totalling an average of £328.
Nevertheless, a fifth of children were given more than £400, and a tenth reported that their lucky offspring had received over £500.
Just over a third of the total spend (£205) went on parties, celebrations and food and drink, a decrease of £40 compared with last year. The cost of the child's outfit also reached a five-year high at £170.
Meanwhile, family members' outfits cost £184, while children's entertainment accounted for £103.
And the spending on make-up, tan and hair reached £54 - a climb of 13% compared with last year.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, families of girls taking part in their First Holy Communion incurred a much higher expenditure, spending 28% more than families with boys celebrating the sacrament.
While parents of daughters could expect to pay £634, those with sons paid £495.
Last year, the average spending on girls was £609 and £473 on boys.
To cover the cost of their child's special day, 5% of the 100 parents surveyed claimed to have taken out a loan, while 15% received financial support from family or friends.
The remainder were able to use their own savings to make payments.
On average, children spent 46% of the money they received, with the largest amount being splashed out on toys (41%), followed by clothes (22%) and computer games (13%). Only 7% of kids chose to purchase books with their money.
Encouragingly, almost three quarters (73%) of children will place a proportion of their First Communion money in a savings account opened in their own name.
Head of Personal Banking at Ulster Bank, Terry Robb, said that he was pleased to see positive saving habits being introduced to children at such a young age.
He stated: "For many children, making their First Holy Communion is the first big occasion they experience and while it's nice to buy a new toy or computer game to mark the event, we're pleased to see the majority of children putting all or part of this money into a savings account.
"It's never too early for children to get into the habit of saving for the future and we believe parents play an important role in teaching their children to be responsible with money."
He also urged families not to put themselves under financial strain to cover the costs.