Are your family finances squeezed?

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will face few worries about meeting the cost of their new baby, George, but for lesser mortals dependent on more modest incomes, bringing up their little prince can present some royal financial challenges - and the bills just keep soaring.

The extent of the strain on the family budget means one in 20 parents admits they would not have had a child if they had known how much it would cost to raise it, according to a recent survey by Santander.

And no wonder - every year for the past decade insurer LV= has published the sobering figures in its Cost of Raising a Child survey, and every year it has shown the financial burden has grown steadily. The estimated cost of bringing up a child from birth to age 21 is now around £222,458 - a 58.4% leap since 2003.

More worrying still, Mark Jones, head of protection at LV=, suggests: "If the costs associated with bringing up children continue to rise at the same pace, parents could face a bill of over £350,000 in 10 years' time."

The figures are even more daunting when taken against the backdrop of a weak economy and other squeezes on family budgets, including spiralling energy bills, wage freezes and cuts to child benefit.

Child benefit payments, worth £20.30 a week for your first child and £13.40 a week for any further children, add up to a useful £1,000 a year if you have one child and an extra £700 for subsequent children. But, since January 2013, families with one earner on a salary of more than £60,000 a year are no longer entitled to the money (they either agree not to take it or it is clawed back through the tax system) and it is reduced for families with an earner on more than £50,000 a year.

So many families are pretty much on their own when facing the bumper costs of raising a child, which include everything from pocket money and holidays to hobbies and education. While LV='s estimates include university costs, they exclude private school fees. If you add them into the mix, parents need to find an extra £85,000 for day schooling or £195,000 for boarding for the seven years of secondary education, according to the Independent Schools Council.

Childcare costs

The biggest cost for most families, education aside, is childcare. The Daycare Trust charity says that a full-time place for a child under two costs £11,000 a year. Families who rely on nannies to help can expect to pay as much as £32,216 a year for a daily nanny in central London, according to payroll firm NannyTax.

Some families receive help through the working families tax credit system (up to a maximum of £122.50 a week for one child or £210 a week for two or more children - but that depends on income, and generally if you are in a couple, you must both work).

The government has announced plans to ease this cost for parents, with tax breaks promised worth up to £1,200 a year for each child, but this is not due to apply until after the next election, so there are no guarantees it will even happen.

In the meantime, families must foot the majority of these significant bills themselves.

Some families can cut their costs by using childcare vouchers provided through their employers (the self-employed are excluded), which allow you to get up to £55 worth each week free of tax and National Insurance if you are a basic-rate taxpayer or £28 a week if you are a higher-rate taxpayer.

Parents who decide to help out their children with their university fees rather than see their student offspring saddled with student loans would have to find an estimated £43,500 on average.

Such mind-boggling sums may simply deter action on financial planning because it feels like too high a mountain to climb, but mums and dads who start saving sooner rather than later can take some of the financial sting out of parenting bills.

Salting away a little amount regularly is probably the best way to achieve this goal, whether you use a savings account where your initial sum of money remains the same (although inflation reduces its real value over time) and earns interest or you invest in shares, bonds or other assets, which can rise or fall in value.

Which you choose will depend on how much time you have on your side, how much you can afford to save and your attitude to risk.

Moneywise shows you some of the key options, from looking at how to save tax-efficiently with savings accounts and collective investments towards your child-related goals, whether you are aiming for a lump sum towards university costs, a deposit on a home or a wedding - or even your child's own retirement through a pension.