You want two children? That’ll be €500,000 please

Irish parents of two children will have to spend an estimated half a million euro over 25 years as a direct consequence of their offspring

Last week we looked at the high cost of being single compared with being part of a couple. Higher taxes, higher accommodation costs and dearer utilities will all come together to leave single folk worse off by more than €400,000.

A different life step will leave another cohort even worse off – financially at any rate. When all the bills are totted up over the course of a quarter century, Irish parents of two children will have spent more than €500,000 as a direct consequence of having their offspring.

And that is before any contributions towards buying a home or getting married are factored in.

A study from the UK, published this year by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, suggested that a typical parent in that jurisdiction will spend £231,843 (€271,950) raising a child born in 2016. That figure is for a child attending a state school, and British parents who choose to send their kids to a fee-paying boarding school will spend more than double that by the time the child hits 21.


This jurisdiction is not much different – if anything, it is dearer, Using those figures, Irish parents of two can expect to spend more than €540,000 on raising a family. An to do that they will need to earn more than €1 million during just over two decades. Let’s break down those numbers into 13 sections.

1 The cost implications of children begin before they are born. First there are the medical costs incurred by the mother. It is possible to have a baby without paying anything as under a long-standing State health policy antenatal visits, labour and delivery costs and postnatal care are all covered, regardless of whether a mother has health insurance or a medical card. Yet many Irish parents still opt for private care, and it is at this point costs start mounting up. The fees charged by consultant obstetricians vary quite significantly, even within the same hospital, and parents could end up paying anything between €3,000 and €5,000. Taking an average then, the cost of having two children in the private system is €8,000.

2 Baby one will cost a lot more than baby two because, before a first child makes it into the world, its parents will have nothing they need. One survey suggested that Irish parents spend up to €5,000 on getting their house – and life – in order ahead of their first child's arrival once the cost of buggies, car seats, cots and all the rest are paid for. A Mothercare pricing survey found that it was possible to get all the essentials for the significant sum of €1,300. Using both these numbers, it should not be wildly off the mark to suggest that all the kit for a first child will set many parents back €3,000. We will allow half that for a second child, taking the total cost to €4,500. Obviously the living arrangements for a family unit that includes two children has to be bigger than one that does not include two children. And heat, light and – eventually – phone costs will also climb. Trade up from a two-bed to a three-bed home and the monthly cost of keeping a warm, dry and adequately lit home will cost, at a minimum, €300 more. That's €72,000 over the next 20 years.

3 When it comes to costs, childcare can be a real killer. While prices charged by creches vary depending on which part of the country you are in, few parents sending two children to creches will have much change out of €2,000 a month. Assuming there is a requirement of four years' worth of creche fees per child, and even allowing for a small amount of cash support from the State, the total cost of out-of-home care until the kids reach primary school comes in at an eye-watering €90,000.

4 Unless a parent wants to return to the era of cloth nappies – and to be fair, recent advances have made that world a lot better than it once was – they are likely to spend about €30 a month on nappies from birth until a child is toilet-trained. Obviously every child is different, but the total cost of keeping just one clean and dry and smelling baby-fresh until they are able to use the loo themselves will come in at about €1,000, which we double to €2,000.

5 Childcare costs fall once kids go to school, but that does not mean it is cheap. The average cost of sending a child to a State-run primary school is just under €1,000 per annum, while the cost of a "free" education in any of the State's secondary schools is almost €1,500 per annum. Add up the costs of eight years of primary and six years of secondary education and you are looking at €17,000 per child, or €34,000 for two children.

6 If both parents are working, then children will need to be taken care of when the school day ends – at least until they reach 12 or so. If we allow a pretty cheap €100 a week for after-school care for 34 weeks a year for the eight years a child is in primary school, the total cost comes to €27,200.

7 And it gets worse. Research published by Laya's life insurance arm last year suggested that the cost of university and third-level college fees was just over €4,000. That seems on the low side to us – and it will certainly be much more in the years ahead. If we add just 20 per cent on to the Laya figure, and assuming both children spend four years at third level, parents will not have much change out of €40,000 when all of the bills are totted up.

8 Children will also most likely need presents when their birthday and Christmas comes around. Luckily Santa Claus takes care of some of the expense (bless his big white beard) but parents have to pick up the tab for the rest. A slew of surveys published in the run-up to Christmas last year suggested parents would spend €200 on presents for their offspring. Assuming a similar spend on birthday presents, the total cost of gifts for a child born in 2016 will come in at €9,600 by the time the champagne corks are popped for New Year's Eve 2040. That's per child – the total, then, is €19,200.

9 Summer camps are big business in this country, with many parents sending their primary school-going children to two camps every year. At a cost of €400 a year for two kids for eight years, the total cost of that one summer pursuit alone comes in at €3,200. A three-week spell in the Gaeltacht for each child once they hit secondary school will cost about €1,000, taking the total cost of summer pursuits for two to €5,200.

10 And what about holidays? First there is the added cost of flights and accommodation – a conservative estimate would put that at €800 a year until the children reach 16 and don't want to go on holidays with you any more. Parents who start taking their young on one overseas trip a year from when they are two years old will spend €11,200. But there is more to it than that. Prices in child-friendly locations spike in the summer months, so having to take holidays in July and August – as opposed to June and September – will add a further €1,500 to the annual cost from the time they are in primary school until they do their Junior Cert, so we have to add a further €16,500 on to the bill. The total comes to 27,700.

11 Then there are clothes and shoes and all the rest. Allowing an average of just €500 a year per child, between 2016 and 2040 parents will need to find a further €24,000 to cover those costs. Health insurance will cost an additional €300 per year per child. The total cost over a 20-year period will be about €12,000.

12 Children have to eat, too. While smaller children don't tend to eat a lot, teenagers most certainly do. So if we allow an average weekly food budget of €50 per child per week from birth until they reach their 25th birthday, the total spend comes in at €124,000.

13 And they are going to need pocket money, too – not from birth obviously, but the amounts they will need climb as they get older. Even if we average it at a fairly mean-spirited €20 from the age of seven to 22 (by which time we would hope they are earning their own money) we reckon few parents will have much change out of €31,000. And if we add a fairly mean €200 per year per child to cover trips to the cinema and all the other random spending, you would have to add a further €4,800 on to the bill, giving us a total of €35,800.

Grand total

When all these expenses are added up, the total bill comes to €497,100. This sounds alarming, but on the plus side it is spread out over a quarter of a century – and it is worth every single cent.