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SMH – Spending on Children

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By Mark Bouris

The University of Canberra estimated that it cost an average-earning household $812,000 to raise two kids from birth to leaving home; for a higher income family, the estimate was $1.09 million while a lower income family would spend $474,000.

It’s not cheap but there are ways to make your dollar go farther:

  • Don’t compete: you are raising children. Rather than compete with other parents, get back to the basics: food, shelter, security, love. It’s about what they need, not how you want to be perceived.
  • Prioritise: parenting means prioritising. What’s crucial, what’s really wanted and what would be nice to have? A home and food on the table, are crucial; a holiday in Bali would be nice. In between are the things that could make family life better, such as vehicles that work, belonging to sports teams, fresh fruit and vegetables and private health cover. Devote your resources to the things that really matter.
  • Gold plating: whether you’re looking at car seats, soccer boots, counting blocks, or a laptop, what do you really get for paying three times as much for a brand name? Child seats can only go on sale if approved by the government, so what does your child get for the extra $300 that the flash one costs? Don’t get trapped in over-priced stuff. Research it and perhaps buy it online for a fraction of what it costs in a shop.
  • Know the benefit: structured time such as private tuition, tennis coaching, music lessons etc., can cost a lot of money. But just playing with friends might be beneficial, too. The same goes for private schooling: it might be important to you, but know the benefit to your child.
  • Provision: some child-costs are predictable. Christmas and school holidays burn up the cash, so why not put aside small amounts each a week to cover this? You can join an education fund for secondary schooling, or save your tax refunds and bonuses for their tertiary education: investing in university and TAFE is valuable because it sets up children for life.
  • Offset: every time you make the sensible purchase within your budget, take the money you’d have otherwise spent and invest it in a savings vehicle for your holidays or kids’ education etc. That way you’re not feeling guilty for buying the non-organic veggies or the cut-price laptop: it’s an investment in their future.
  • Delegate: one way to cap your child budget is to use an allowance – or money from chores – as their walking-around money. If they want to go to the movies or top up their phone accounts, get them focusing on their budgets. It saves you money and it’s educational for the kids.
  • Separate: you do most of your savings week-to-week by not overspending on your kids. But for savings, use separate accounts or managed funds, not just your ATM account.

Finally, your kids are precious no matter what you spend on them. You want them to remember you for the quality of your parenting, not the price tag on your purchases.

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