Parents spend more on boys, or boys cost more?

// 21 July 2008

Survey finds parents spend:

£32,000 on raising boys

£24,739.03 on raising girls

Hmmm, interesting. The Times reports this as simply girls costing less, or boys “asking” for more money during their school years. (This is all based on a study of 2,000 parents by a company called GE Money, which most likely has a product to hawk – I couldn’t find the original data, but we’ll go with what we have).

Some of the difference is down to what you might call outside factors – parents apparently spend £3,933.86 on clothes for boys, compared to £3,173.66 for girls – not that big of a difference. However, when it comes to school uniforms, the gap widens to £2,606.10 – nearly £1,000 more than is spent on a girl’s uniform – £1,652.70. There is frustratingly little information about this, but you might speculate that unless uniform makers are taking parents of boys for a ride, this could be to do with extra uniforms for sports activities, or even just boys being socialised to be more rough and tumble, while girls are at least encouraged to sit quietly and read books. Less wear and tear?

Then we come to “gadgets”. Surprise, surprise, parents trump up £3,027.22 of gadgets during a boy’s childhood, compared to £1,502.34 for girls – about half the ipods and games consoles, I presume.

What about after-school activities? Well, the figure for boys is £2,765.84, plus £1,322.58 for club memberships and £1,584.66 for sports equipment. We don’t even get to see a figure for girls.

However, we do learn the amount that parents spend on girls’ shoes (£1,406.86), toiletries (£2,373.84) and “accessories” (£855.96 – I wouldn’t if that counts as ‘clothes’ for boys, see above).

Meanwhile, I point out the comment left on The Times’ story:

Is this because, despite the “sexual revolution” people are still more likely to spend money on boys than girls? Why are dance classes or tennis lessons seen as an expensive extra, but football as a necessary part of development for a ” normal” boy?

Thanks to the reader who sent in this link!

Photo by Nadia308, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

InnerBrat // Posted 21 July 2008 at 11:48 am

Things might have changed in the last 20 years, but when I was at primary school, for at least some of the year, the respective uniforms looked like this:

Boys: school trousers, smart white shirt, school regulation tie.

Girls: a checked dress, that cost about the same as the shirt, and less than the tie. The tie was also optional for girls during the winter months when we wore a white blouse.

I then went to a mixed Grammar school, which had unusually strict uniform regulations, including a blazer that was only available from one shop and cost upwards of £80.

The girls’ high school I went to during the sixth form, also had a blazer, but it wasn’t a compulsory part of the uniform. They also had no tie.

And I know my male friends had to spend more on clothes during the sixth form than I did. They had to maintain a collection of suits, I was happy in slacks and a selection of £5 tops.

The school-specific parts of the uniform – tie, blazer, a ridiculously unique skirt at the Grammar school – those are where the clothing budget gets fleeced, and those are more common in boy uniforms than girls, in my experience.

I’d be interested to hear of everyone else’s uniform experience.

magic_at_mungos // Posted 21 July 2008 at 1:46 pm

From what I can gather on a local basis, it’s so much more expensive for girls to buy school uniform than it is for boys. It’s a lot easier to get plain white shirts and black trousers from somewhere like tescos rather than a specialist uniform shop where as it’s harder to find things that are equilvent for girls. Blazers are stupidly expensive and brander jumpers and the such are as well. At my school, girls were only allowed to wear trousers that were sold at a certain shop. Nothing else was allowed. Is that fair?

BareNakedLady // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:10 pm

Jess – you got into ‘Best of the Web’ on the Guardian website for this one :)

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:12 pm

Tesco is insanely cheap for school uniform bits, from age 3 upwards. There are always extras, though, that can only be bought through the school or one shop miles away or something like that.

As the parent of a 12 year old boy and a 2 year old girl, might I offer two points which could possibly explain this disparity with clothing? Firstly, with the exception of T shirts, girls’ clothes tend to be cheaper than boys clothes at every age, I don’t know why this is. Secondly, when you have a girl, girls’ clothes in the shops are somuch prettier and cuter than boys’ stuff that people kind of shower you with girl-clothes gifts, meaning that the need to actually buy them clothes is much reduced.

Apart from a questionable leather waistcoat my mum got him on holiday in Turkey, no-one’s ever given my son clothes.

Anna // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:18 pm

mungos – at least you were allowed to wear trousers; skirts were rigidly enforced in my school. When trousers were finally allowed, they were one pair of ridiculously expensive (70 quid+), really uncomfortable, nasty trousers.. so everyone stuck to the skirt, which was at 30 quid much cheaper.

Sian // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:22 pm

As far as I can tell, blazers seem to be a unisex part of the uniform at the schools round here. Theoretically, if the uniform is white shirt, black trousers, blazer, then the cost should be the same for both. But when fashion and peer pressure comes into play girls may not want trousers designed for school uniform, when I was in school in the late nineties/early noughties you were skitted for wearing ‘boy’s trousers’ instead of bootlegs, nowadays I see lots of kids in skinnies for school (although that’s possibly more unisex).

Could also be that boys want/get branded clothes more than girls, with whom Primark etc is perfectly acceptable these days.

I think that comment on the Times website could be very right, I seem to remember far more boys than girls having hobbies when I was in school, though I don’t know how much of that was a value judgement on the parents side and how much was the girl’s decision (based on cultural stereotypes-how many female celebrities are famous for what they do (e.g. football) compared to male?).

SM // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:43 pm

At my school the girls’ uniform is much more expensive than the boys’. Everyone has to wear a shirt, tie and blazer but the girls have to wear special school kilts which are about £70 (and obviously you need at least one spare), while the boys wear trousers which can be got anywhere for a fiver. The girls aren’t allowed trousers because it is “cross-dressing” which is outlawed in Judaism. Thank God for sixth form- own clothes!

Alicia // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:44 pm

“I think that comment on the Times website could be very right, I seem to remember far more boys than girls having hobbies when I was in school, though I don’t know how much of that was a value judgement on the parents side and how much was the girl’s decision (based on cultural stereotypes-how many female celebrities are famous for what they do (e.g. football) compared to male?).”

That is my memory too, Sian. My female friends would say “Can I do ballet?” and be turned down because it was too expensive, my male friends would say “Can I play cricket and rugby and have a new bike?” and that was OK.

Does anyone know what the cost of having music lessons is compared to playing a sport? Most of us (girls) seemed to be encouraged to play an instrument.

Aimee // Posted 21 July 2008 at 4:44 pm

I went to an all-girl’s school, but we had boys in the sixth form, and their uniform was pretty similar to the sixth form girl’s uniform other than the girls had to wear a skirt. Speaking of which, we campaigned throughout our entire time at secondary school to be allowed to wear trousers. We were never EVER allowed, despite us having to walk through a rather disreputable area of town in freezing conditions – we weren’t even allowed to wear trousers to school and then change once we got there. Quite frankly, I considered not being allowed to wear clothing appropriate for the weather to be a violation of my human rights, but trousers were deemed ‘unladylike’ and therefore were, and still are, I believe, forbidden.

I’m quite shocked at these statistics, really, although I doubt their validity. I’m especially concerned about the after school club one. At the school I work in there are numerous sporting provisions for boys.. there’s a boy’s football team etc. but no girl’s team. It might well be a case of there being far fewer options open to girls whilst schools are still allowed to maintain boy’s only clubs. I know that there are many girls at my school who would LOVE to be on a football team… the oppurtunity just isn’t there for them.

franks // Posted 21 July 2008 at 5:12 pm

The difference in the cost of uniforms over a school career is probably because boys grow significantly more during their secondary school years, when uniforms probably cost the most – think of all those trousers and shoes etc

The amount spent on boy’s sport seems excessive – makes me wonder if their was a strong middle class skew to the survey. I also wonder if boys recieve more private tuition.

naath // Posted 22 July 2008 at 1:09 pm

At my (girls only) 6th form I got to wear pretty much anything (no spike heels, no wearing lingerie and claiming it was clothes, no offensive/rude slogans on shirts) so I could dress myself for a tenner from Tesco (or much less from a charity shop). My brother’s (boys only) 6th form required the boys to wear suits, with ties – yes, you can get such items second hand but even then they are much more pricey.

Before then we had pretty equal uniform costs; basic slacks (or skirts), plain shirts and ties and basic blazers (cheap ones) at secondary. At our (private) primary school we had to have shirts in “school colours” (blue) that were only available from a specific shop along with similarly specific blazers, socks, ties, hats and so forth… all much more pricey but similar for girls and boys (also the school had a second hand shop for uniform).

I think my brother probably cost my parents more than me because he went to secondary school 50 miles away by bus whereas I went to the school my mother taught at…

Outside of school costs… well brat did get better toys (but not really more expensive – it’s just that girl toys are crap) and more gadgets (although he paid for his computing gear himself); on the other hand I got pricey clothes (Mum is a bit of a clothes snob) and I even got my first computer paid for. He got football boots and a Nintendo, but I got a violin (3, in successively larger sizes) and a piano (well, it’s not *my* piano, but it was bought for my use). I think we probably came off roughly equal.

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 22 July 2008 at 1:57 pm

Boys come to an age when they suddenly begin to curiously ‘lose’ pyjama bottoms and pants. That could explain some of it…

Alex T // Posted 22 July 2008 at 7:09 pm


I live with a couple of music teachers so here goes:

Instrumental lessons cost about £15 per week privately (so let’s say 12 lessons per term, 3 terms per year, I make that £540 per year. Plus the cost of an instrument, probably anything from £100 to £1000 for a kid).

If lessons are had at school, they’re about £45 per term, so I make that £135 per year. Any you can hire an instrument for about £50 per year.

Sorry, that’s not terribly helpful, is it?! It varies a lot. I don’t know about sports costs so can’t even compare those but thought I’d contribute the information I did have!

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 22 July 2008 at 10:42 pm

Ha ha ha! At my son’s school music lessons are £135 per term. Fencing (etc) is much cheaper coming in at £50 per term.

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