Spend vs. Save – The true cost of kids being at home during lockdown


Spend vs. Save – The true cost of kids being at home during lockdown


Since the UK lockdown was first announced on 23 March, families across the country have found themselves trying to juggle working from home with homeschooling young children. The overwhelming consensus? It’s not easy.

And if you are one of the many parents forced to find room in your routine to become a part-time teacher as well as a full-time worker, you may not have had time to notice the impact this is all having on your finances.

You might have a rough idea of the extra expenses already, from seeing extra electricity use in your meter reading, and bigger supermarket costs at the till. But to stay on top of your finances during lockdown – and beyond – it’s important to understand exactly where your money’s being spent, even if some of it is offset by lockdown savings. Here are some of the top factors – the good, the bad, and the unexpected – that will impact your household finances if your kids are home during lockdown.

Spend: Nursery fees

Hoping to save money on nursery fees during the pandemic? You might be in for a shock. According to one poll, some parents have been asked to pay over 50% of their child’s nursery fees, even though most nurseries are closed for the foreseeable future. Another survey by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has found that 30% of nurseries are still changing fees – in many cases, while tots are still at home. Other households are being pressured to continue their monthly payment to retain their child’s nursery place. At a time when every penny counts, this could feel an awful lot like money for nothing.

Save: Extracurricular clubs and days out

On the other hand, if you have older children, you could find you’re saving a lot on after-school care, extracurricular activities and extras like music lessons and school days out. Last year, a UK study revealed that finding money for extra activities is one of the biggest financial pressures on parents. Titled ‘Out of school, out of pocket’, the piece by Gerard Kelly & Partners showed that, parents spend around £260 per year on sports clubs, £208 per year on dance lessons and £312 per year on swimming lessons, on average spending £29 per week. What’s more, the average parent spends 156 hours ferrying their children to and from activities. The good news is, this could all add up to a significant saving on fuel if you’re having a break from the revolving door routine.

Spend: Outdoor toys

It’s only May, but the weather has already been uncharacteristically sunny since lockdown was first announced in late March. If you’re lucky enough to have access to an outdoor space, you’ll know the pressure’s on to provide little ones with something to do in the garden. Whether it’s a paddling pool for cooling off or a trampoline to channel all that extra lockdown energy, you might find yourself investing in big, fair-weather purchases to appease the little ones. But before reaching for your credit card, it’s worth asking yourself how much use these purchases will get in the long term. Will that paddling pool be filled up once or twice before being relegated to the back of the shed? After the first few weeks of use, could that giant trampoline end up in the corner of the garden gathering rust? It’s never worth getting into debt for a short-term splurge.

Save: School uniform and washing

School uniform (and keeping it clean) doesn’t come cheap, so you could well find that you’re spending less during lockdown on keeping your little ones clothed. According to a Department for Education study (adjusted for inflation) the average spend on uniform every year is £230 – and this doesn’t include PE kit. With fewer reasons to leave the house (and more time in the garden), it’s easier to wait longer between washes, and over time, this early summer break from school uniform might be reflected in your bank balance.

Spend: Extra screen time

Flicking on the TV isn’t exactly going to break the bank, but all that extra screen time could come at an indirect cost. Think about your streaming subscriptions before and after lockdown. One or two might have crept up to become three or four. Then there’s gaming. From in-game fees and extras you might find yourself forking over more often. And then there’s the advertising. How many times have you been nagged for the latest must-have toy or treat that’s been show on kids’ TV? Don’t let free TV turn into costly toys and gadgets.

Save: Fuel costs and public transport

If you’re the parent who usually does the school run, you probably won’t be missing the chaos of the school gates at 8.30am every day. But as well as a welcome break from the stresses of gridlock traffic and forgotten schoolbags, the likelihood is you’ve seen your fuel costs dip dramatically in the last few weeks.

Spend: Snacks and eating costs

There are no surprises here, but having to create three nutritious meals a day for little ones, as well as snacks, will take its toll on your finances, especially if you’re trying to embrace healthy eating. One report by Kantar Worldpanel has found that the average household spent an extra £63 on shopping since lockdown. The ONS has highlighted that in April, essentials like pet food and rice have risen by 8%, while the cost of nappies has soared by a whopping 3.4%. Everyone’s spending more on food just now because we’re all shopping around less and buying more. But with a bit of sensible food planning, you could redress the balance.

Save: Primary school lunches

If you have young children in primary one, two or three, they’ll be entitled to free school lunches in Scotland. Some local authorities are even giving parents the opportunity to claim this money back and use it towards food costs during lockdown. This benefit isn’t means tested either, so any child within these school years is eligible. It could amount to around £12 per week, per child, so make sure you claim it. If your kids are older than this, help could still be available, especially if you’re on Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s allowance. Check your local council’s website to find out what’s available to you.

When times are tight and you have kids to look after, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. If you’ve found yourself in debt or dealing with spiraling costs due to the Covid-19 outbreak, don’t face it alone. Speak to a Carrington Dean debt specialist today for free, confidential debt advice and support. Call the team on 0808 2234 102 to start dealing with your debt.

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