The great swine-dle: parents raid kids’ piggy banks for loose change

30 May 2017


  • Annual poll shows six in ten parents raid their children’s piggy banks to cover costs
  • Average amount taken over the course of year is £46.20 – more than double 2016’s £21.41
  • Three quarters of parents admit feeling guilt when dipping into their child’s money
  • More than a third admit they don’t always pay money back, with dads worst offenders

Parents are plundering children’s ‘piggy banks’ to the tune of nearly £50 a year, according to an annual poll that shows a significant rise in the amount borrowed by mum and dad.

The Nationwide Financial Planning survey into ‘piggy bank raiding’ quizzed 2,000 parents of children between four and 16. It shows three in five (60%) admit taking money from their offspring – a 14 per cent increase on last year’s study.

How much is taken?

According to the Society’s poll, the average amount taken by parents over a 12 month period is £46.20 – a sharp rise of 115 per cent on the £21.41 indicated last year – while one in five (20%) admit to pilfering £60 or more annually. Just over a fifth (21%) admit to raiding the piggy bank twice or more times a month. And when it comes to the parental divide, dads (£51.12 per annum) take more than mums (£44.52).

I need the money for…

Paying the school lunch money (32%), needing loose change for parking (29%) and covering school trips (24%) are the primary reasons parents need to dip into the ‘Bank of Child’. Other reasons include donating to school charity days (21%) and paying for clubs and societies (20%).

In terms of mum and dad, it’s women who need the cash for school charity days (23% v 16% for men), school lunch money (33% v 30% for men) and school trips (24% v 20% for men). Men, on the other hand, will take money to pay a bill (16% v 12% for women), buy Christmas presents (14% v 10% for women) and to cover any doorstep charity requests (10% v 7% for women). However, both mum and dad are prone to raiding their children’s piggy banks to get a takeaway (12% of men and 10% of women).

Guilt or no guilt

While the reason for borrowing money may be genuine, three quarters (76%) of parents feel some sort of guilt, with a third (33%) admitting they feel bad each time they do it. East Midlands (82%) parents and Londoners (81%) are most likely to feel a level of guilt.

However, a quarter (25%) of British parents say they have a clear conscience when they dip into their children’s savings. Those in the North East (32%) and Scotland (33%) are least likely to feel any guilt.

You’ve been caught

Children aren’t oblivious to this parental piggy bank raiding, however, as around two in five (39%) parents admit their children had noticed the money had gone missing – the same percentage as in 2016’s survey. Across the regions, it’s North East children (51%) who are most likely to notice their cash vanishing, with Welsh children least likely to cotton on (26%).

Paying it back

More than a third (34%) parents say they don’t always pay the money back and it’s dads who are the biggest culprits, with 43 per cent admitting to this versus just 30 per cent of mums. Midlanders are most likely to pay the money back (East Midlands, 45%; West Midlands 40%) whereas parents in the North East (22%) and Yorkshire and Humberside (26%) are least likely, the poll shows.

As a direct result of not returning cash owed, the poll highlights how levels of outstanding debt build up. A quarter (25%) owe their children £25 or more, while one in 20 (5%) admit to being in debt to their offspring to the amount of £100 or more.

Regional raiding

The survey shows that the increase has created some significant regional differences year on year. Nearly two thirds (65%) of parents in East Midlands and Scotland confessed to taking loose change. Yorkshire and Humberside, which was last year’s top region for this activity to occur, is bottom of the pile this year (51%).

  • Regions most likely to raid: East Midlands / Scotland (65%); West Midlands / London (64%).
  • Regions least likely to raid: Yorkshire & Humberside (51%); Wales (52%); Northern Ireland / South West (58%).

Across the regions, it is Londoners who take the most money per year (£56.76), with parents across East Anglia taking the least (£28.20).

  • Regions with most taken: London (£56.76); South West (£56.40); Scotland/East Midlands (£51.48).
  • Regions with least taken: East Anglia (£28.20); South West (£30.72); Wales (£35.40).

Larry Banda, Nationwide’s Director of Financial Planning, comments: “At a time when increasingly fewer people carry cash, we can often get caught short when scrabbling around for change. And quite often it’s children who have more loose change than anyone, as it’s often nicely tucked away in a money box. So, it’s no surprise that parents take the opportunity to raid their kid’s piggy bank for things such as parking or the school lunch money.

“We would always recommend putting savings aside for a range of purposes. For the big-ticket items, an ISA or regular savings account can be a great way to save money over time. But why not try and emulate your children and keep a small kitty at home for those day-to-day costs, whether school lunch money or to pay the milkman. It could save you an awkward moment of explanation should you forget to return your child’s investment.”

Notes to Editors

The poll of 2,000 UK parents with children aged between four and 16 was carried out by online market researchers, OnePoll.com, and took place 5 and 11 May 2017.

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