A dad I know once gave me a fascinating insight into the true cost of family life. He was reeling off a list of items he was buying his teenage kids for Christmas.
I listened intently as he mentioned MacBooks and other items running to hundreds and hundreds of pounds. For a brief second, I felt the list of items was excessive. When I was in my teens, there was never even any mention of me receiving a laptop or a computer for Christmas.
This was, of course, a ridiculous comparison. In the intervening years tech has become such an integral part of our lives that it would be ridiculous to begrudge a 16 or 17-year-old being given a laptop for Christmas. Once my brief journey on my trusty steed, the Moral High Horse, had come to an end, this more experienced father made me realise that my future life was going to get expensive.
As parents, we’re all told that babies are expensive. We expect the cost of family life to be high once a newborn is on the scene. Babies need highchairs, sleeping baskets, prams, pushchairs a constant merry-go-round of clothes and an array of disposable items like nappies and wipes. All of these items eat into the family budget.
I’m not sure, however, that anything has quite prepared Mrs Adams and I for the expense of having two school kids. There are the obvious expenses such as school uniform, school shoes and in Helen’s case, school meals to pay for. Izzy is having swimming lessons and I imagine she will continue to have them for another couple of years.
Added to this, both kids have developed a keen interest in gymnastics and developing some brilliant skills, not to mention the fact they’re beginning to form friendships with their gymnastic-loving peers.
At the weekend I took both Helen and Izzy to a training session. Some kids from a more advanced gymnastics group were running through some tumbles and it was jaw-dropping. Not only were they pulling off the most amazing moves, but they all looked so happy as they were doing it.
Sure, having gymnastics-loving daughters comes with a financial cost. If they learn to pull-off handsprings and backflips half as good as I saw at the weekend then the money spent on leotards, club membership, competition entry fees and so on will be an investment!
Oh, and don’t underestimate the cost of a good leotard. I could buy myself a pair of shoes for the amount I’ve paid for some leotards over the years.
Moving on from the extra-curricular clubs my kids like, there’s also the tech that both kids are beginning to need for school. In Helen’s case, she needs access to a computer. A fair chunk of her homework is computer based and there are other skills I am encouraging, such as coding, that she can only learn by using a computer.
At this point in time she shares a family machine. This, however, is causing all sorts of problems and when we move house, I see a great opportunity to get Helen a basic laptop that she can keep in my office and use under the supervision of Mrs Adams and I.
The realist in me knows that as soon as Helen has a laptop, it won’t be too long until Izzy also needs one.
I think our planned house move has made me reflect on our outgoings. We’ve already invested money in the move and the most expensive time is yet to come so I’m keen to cut costs wherever we can.
I know as a family we could sometimes be better at watching the pennies. I can definitely list occasions where we’ve spent money needlessly or spent money unwisely. When you want to help your kids at school and nurture their talents, well, that’s a very different thing.
With hindsight, I’m beginning to think that having babies wasn’t that expensive. Babies certainly aren’t cheap, but school kids, they are expensive.
Of course, my kids are still at primary school. I have a funny feeling that when they hit secondary school and then enter higher education, the cost of family life will increase further still.
Does this sound familiar to you? Should I start selling everything I own to support my kids when they start secondary school? Maybe you have teenagers and can tell me exactly what the future holds for me?