What do children in the UK spend their money on?

Children aged 15 years spent more than three times that of a seven-year-old, new data have revealed.

Spending data for the financial years 2015 to 2017 show that, on average, 15-year-olds spent £25.00 a week, compared with seven-year-olds, who spent £7.40.

Children aged between 7 and 15 years were asked to keep a diary of everything they spent their money on within a two-week period, from pocket money, gifts or through a job such as a paper round.

The information collected and published as part of Family Spending shows for the first time since 2004 how children behave as consumers.

Age and spending preferences

On average, children aged between 7 and 15 years spent £12.40 a week. Broken down into single age years, the amount they spent increased with age.

Expenditure by children by single year of age, UK, financial year ending 2015 to 2017

Download the data

Toiletries and cosmetics separate the sexes

Girls and boys aged 7 to 12 years spent broadly similar amounts, but the gap widened as children entered their teenage years, where girls spent an average of £2.80 a week more than boys.

Boys and girls spent differing amounts on different things.

One area that separated the sexes was toiletries and cosmetics, which includes items such as soap, shampoo and makeup.

Boys of all age ranges spent less than 10 pence per week on toiletries and cosmetics, with only 2% buying at least one of these items, compared with 17% of girls.

In contrast, spending on toiletries and cosmetics by girls increased with age; seven-to-nine-year-old girls spent 20 pence a week, rising to £1.70 for girls aged 13 to 15 years.

Overall children’s spending by category

Children spent the most on clothes and shoes, followed by school dinners and soft drinks.

Top spending categories for children aged 7 to 15 years old, UK, financial year ending 2015 to 2017

Download the data

The analysis shows that 56% of 7-to-15-year-olds bought at least one soft drink in a two-week period, and mainly drank them away from home.

The older children were, the more likely they were to buy soft drinks; 75% of 13-to-15-year-olds bought at least one soft drink, compared with 58% of 10-to-12-year-olds and 38% of seven-to-nine year olds.

The data also show that almost half (48%) of all children spent money on confectionery, which includes chocolate, in a two-week period.

Games, toys and hobbies was the top spending category for seven-to-nine-year-olds, who spent £1.30 a week on average, on items such as jigsaw puzzles, teddy bears and card games.

A quarter of children aged between seven and nine years bought at least one item that fell into this category, compared with 14% of 10-to-12-year-olds and 5% of 13-to-15-year-olds.

How well do you know the spending habits of children living in the UK? Take our quick-fire quiz to find out:

Children’s spending quiz


  1. The figures provided in the quiz are correct for the financial years ending 2015 to 2017.
  2. The estimates in this article are based on data from the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF).
  3. These data focus on spending by children only. Therefore, when reporting on food items the previous figures represent spending on food and not the consumption of it.
  4. Any money given by an adult to a diary-keeping child in the same household is subtracted from household expenditure totals to avoid double counting.
  5. Each responding child was allocated the design weight of the household, which was then adjusted for non-response. This was then calibrated to the 7-to-15-year-old population totals. More information on how this weight was created can be found in the LCF technical report.
  6. We combine three years of data when presenting child spending (financial year ending 2015, financial year ending 2016 and financial year ending 2017). This is done to increase the sample size and therefore improve the robustness of results. The average for each year is summed and then the total is divided by three where the averages do not use deflated data. Estimates are rounded to the nearest 10 pence.

For more information, please contact: LCF_Enquiries@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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