There was a huge kerfuffle when George Osborne said he'd axe child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers in 2013. But there are rumours he may go further. Child benefit, people say, may stop for older children altogether.I despair. I really do. Arguments rage about who deserves what from the welfare state. But it just doesn't seem logical to suggest that a 14-year-old costs less than a two-year-old. Teenagers cost a fortune.
You're not shelling out for nappies and nannies any more. But you are completely responsible for everything a young adult needs.
Take food. I remember the days when scraping the remains of last night's shepherd's pie into a teacup made a substantial lunch for a toddler. Nowadays whole cows lay down their lives to make a small dent in my teenagers' ravening appetites.'Where are the chocolate biscuits?' I say, rummaging through the cupboard. 'There were two packets in here yesterday.' 'Ah,' says my 17-year-old vaguely. 'That might have been me...' When your fast-growing teenagers start wearing adult sizes, the household budget disintegrates completely. I bought my sons some socks from M&S the other day and had to go and stand by the frozen chickens until my heart rate returned to normal. Child discounts have disappeared - it's now adult train fares and full-price cinema tickets. On top of this, teenagers need an extraordinary amount of expensive equipment - a computer, a mobile phone, sports kit - just to get through the school day. (We're not talking state-of-the-art iPhones and Blackberrys here - just bog-standard stuff.)
Of course they can earn money to pay for the non-essentials (nail varnish, downloads, hair straighteners). But you can't expect them to cough up for too much. The gleanings from babysitting and a paper round just don't stretch that far.'Don't worry,' says my 16-year-old daughter as I stare with horror at our enormous electricity bill. 'We'll be leaving home soon.' Oh, joy. An empty nest and university tuition fees....
Do you battle to fit your T-shirts in between the huge pairs of jeans?
Do you buy at least one loaf of bread a day 'for snacks'?Please share your own living with teenagers' tales.