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The Cost of Kids

Kids - we can't do without them but they do cost a lot to keep!

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

Kids – we can’t do without them but they do cost a lot to keep! Exactly how much is something most of us would be too afraid to ask – and it’s not all that simple putting an exact figure on it because there are so many what ifs, and maybes. It seems how much we spend on our kids depends a lot on how much we have available to spend on them.

A number of studies here and overseas have tried to pinpoint a figure. Just taking the averages, it looks like the cost of raising two children to the age of 18 is between 20 to 25 percent of a two income household. In dollar terms that’s somewhere between $13,000 and $16,000 a year for the average New Zealand household income of $64,000 a year.

This percentage looks to be fairly consistent across the different income levels with accommodation, education, healthcare, childcare, and transport costs all increasing, with higher household incomes. The most expensive years are when the kids are between the ages of 12 and 14!

Here are a few oily rag tips for keeping the cost of kids down:

  • Plingie from Christchurch says, “Car seats can be expensive! Instead of buying a capsule, then toddler seat then booster, the best seat I have found is the Cosco Scenera. It goes from birth to 18kgs and can rear face till 16kgs, meaning baby/toddler can travel rear facing (and safer) for longer! Plus… it's only about $150!”
  • S.K. says, “My savvy sister has saved me heaps on buying baby bibs. As the proud single mum of a beautiful nine month old, I was finding the costs were really adding up! So my sister (who has three children of her own) came to the rescue. She used some old towels, cut them up and made them into bibs! She just bought some 'cuffing' from Spotlight for around the neck, and some velcro to fasten at the back and they are great! Much better than the shop bought ones, as they soak up more of the mess and are much longer lasting and harder wearing. My sister jazzed them up with some little motifs sewn on the front and no one would ever know they were made from unwanted towels. I've had so many comments from people saying they look great and I always proudly reply 'my sister MADE them!”
  • Encourage children to earn their own money by taking on a job after school or in the weekends. Tell them it is a sign of maturity to work. Make sure they contribute some of their own money towards the cost of their wants, and make sure they save part of everything they earn
  • There are heaps of money-making opportunities. Money-spinning jobs include collecting bottles and aluminium cans, jobs around the home, making Christmas and birthday cards for friends and relatives, delivering papers or pamphlets and of course lawnmowing.  All they need is two or three jobs and they will have a nice little earner.
  • Kids can also help cut costs around the home by chipping in and doing their fair share of the work. They should earn their pocket money by doing the dishes, cleaning, washing the car, mowing lawns and so on (the jobs parents hate!). 
  • Even babies can live off the smell of an oily rag. The baby doesn't know the difference between a new pushchair and a second hand one. In most cases baby gear can be picked up in very good condition for a fraction of the new price. Better still, borrow. Many people don't sell their baby gear (they may be between babies!) but they may be happy to lend it to you.

Share your tips on keeping the cost of kids down with others by visiting the oily rag website ( or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at