Would you rather have a child or buy a house?

The incredible cost of raising children now means it's cheaper to buy the average semi-detached house than it is to start a family. The study showed that the cost of bringing up a child to the age of 21 has now hit an incredible £231,843 - and absorbs more than a third of the average household's income.

The study, by LV=, shows just how fast the cost of having a child has risen. It is up £2,500 from last year - and has risen an incredible £11,000 in the past five years. When we're tightening our belts in all other aspects of our finances, it begs the question whether any of us can really afford to have children any more.

In London, the cost of raising a child is even more extreme - it has topped a quarter of a million pounds, and now stands at £253,638. It's hardly surprising that 59% of parents say they struggle to manage their outgoings.

Most expensive

The second biggest expense of all is childcare, so it's hardly surprising that the financially crippling years are between the ages of one and four - which together come to 30% of the total cost of raising a child. Childcare costs have also rocketed, and are up 4.3%. Of course, the costs don't end when children get to school, because many also need after-school care and babysitters. The study found that over a typical childhood, parents will spend £70,466 on childcare and babysitting.

This area of expenditure has seen the most incredible increase since LV= started doing this research back in 2003. The cost of childcare is up almost 78%. However, this is a drop in the ocean compared to how the cost of the most expensive part of child-rearing has increased: education costs are up 128% since 2003.

Education now costs a total of £74, 430. This isn't private education; it's all the associated costs of schooling - plus the incredible cost of going to university. If you added private school to the mix, you could expect to spend £141,863 on your child - or £260,927 if they went to boarding school.

Other surprisingly chunky costs are food (at a total of over £19,000); holidays (at almost £17,000), clothing (at almost £11,000), hobbies and toys (at more than £9,000) and 'other' - which takes in everything from driving lessons to Christmas presents and comes to over £14,000.

Myles Rix, Managing Director of Protection at LV= said: "The cost of raising a child is at an all-time high and, with the price-tag of childcare continuing to rise, family incomes are being stretched even further. An unforeseen illness or accident could have a huge impact on family finances and we would urge parents to ensure they have a plan in place to guard against a sudden loss of income, for example taking out an income protection product."

Changing costs

The areas that have seen the fastest growth in the past 13 years (after education and childcare) are the cost of furniture, 'other extras', holidays and pocket money - all of which have become at least a third more expensive over this time. The cost of the holidays we take our kids on has risen an astonishing 47%.

In the past year, the cost of some things has actually fallen, including food, personal spending, furniture, hobbies and toys, and leisure and recreation. However, the hikes in the price of childcare and holidays has more than made up for this - so having a child is now more expensive than ever.

But what do you think? Can anyone really ever afford to start a family nowadays?

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Would you rather have a child or buy a house?

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