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The Changing Shape of Family Finances

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It seems that the proof of maternal efforts is no longer found in the pudding ? it's in the spending. Women are increasingly outsourcing personal grooming tasks and the pressure of looking good, feeling healthy, maintaining a tight ship and IQ level has meant that housecleaning and gardening are again fashionable methods to promote the family brand; housewifery is now a career, with all the attitude of 21st century post-feminism. It emerged in a recent BBC report, that a new type of parent was surfacing?.the "manager mum". Manager mums tend to use the internet to save time on tasks and streamline activity, using the Web to undertake jobs such as grocery shopping or banking.

Once they've got their partner, it doesn't seem women can relax about their appearances, with women in relationships spending more on their appearance than their single counterparts. UK housewives spend a massive ?5 billion on 'keeping up appearances', in terms of gardening, home furnishings and personal grooming, according to a study by Virgin Money Credit Cards. UK women are splurging out an average of ?3,488 each on personal appearance and their home and garden. Of the ?3,488, 47% is spent on the home and garden, whilst the remainder goes on clothes, haircuts, beauty products and treatments.

The pressure to look good may be a factor in women being labelled as the worst savers, as reported by Guardian Unlimited. In an annual study by IFA Promotion, 63% of the women who stated that they were unable to put aside further savings, admitted to spending their spare cash on costly and unnecessary luxuries, whilst 28% of women get themselves into debt with expensive purchases. Women apparently seem to be content with spending up to 75% of disposable income and saving less than 20%, in contrast to men who save over 25% of their income and invest 8%.

Peter Pan fathers

Whilst fathers are not physically getting any younger, there is evidence that their mental age may be falling. The BBC recently reported that a new type of dad had emerged ? the "gadget dad", whilst in November last year, the Guardian reported that men were significantly delaying fatherhood. In a study by Panlogic, "gadget dads" love technology and have all the latest tech toys, from Sky TV to a car navigation system. Perhaps this love of tech toys is also the reason inhibiting men from diverting funds to babies. According to the Guardian, 81% of men admitted that financial fears would make them postpone having children and if current trends continue, the average age of men becoming fathers will rise to 40 by 2065. Virgin Money Life Insurance also reported in their studies that new fathers were waiting longer to start families and that UK fathers are working the longest hours in Europe.

Savvy kids

A recent investigation by Halifax found a positive attitude towards saving is increasing amongst children. Whilst in 1998, a third of children saved more than they spent; now that figure is over fifty percent. The bank discovered that most children are prepared to save for an expensive item, though parents of younger children faced more of a struggle, as 22% of seven to eleven year olds pestered their way towards getting what they wanted. Piggy banks, it would seem, may become sentimental souvenirs, as more children save their money in a bank or building society.

This trend of 'keeping up appearances' seems to induce individualistic behaviour in families, reducing co-operation on financial issues. This erodes family values in society and discourages future generations from investing in children. Without the motivation to invest in sustainable communities or even a sustainable standard of living, (currently supported by ?1.1 trillion of debt), the issue of successful management of family finance remains trivial.

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Rachel writes for Cashzilla, a personal finance blog.

Through Cashzilla, she expresses her frustration on financial matters and explores her alter-ego as a fictitious, money-wise dinosaur. If anyone is interested in this article or can offer professional counselling, please visit

Cashzilla is an Aries. He has a flamboyant character and a tongue that could heat up any conversation. If Cashzilla was an A-Team character, he'd be Murdock. In the words of Cashzilla, "I'm hairy, scary and lairy."

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