How much does it cost to raise a child and how to save?
From clothing to housing, two resourceful moms share their tips on how to save.
A s all parents can agree, having a baby changes everything! While most parents will shamelessly share every child milestone no matter how small with their family and friends, not a lot of them are ready to open up about the consequences of childrearing on their finances.
Talking about the financial impact of having kids with other parents can be a delicate even taboo subject. That’s too bad, because raising a child represents a significant financial commitment and being informed means being prepared. For those parents who are reticent about discussing the topic with family or friends, we calculated and analyzed how much it would cost to raise a child from the cradle to 18 years of age.
Also, there are a lot of ways to lessen the pinch on your pocketbook. Marie-Pier, mother of a 5-year-old, and Julia, mother of two children 4 and 10, share their saving tips with us.
So how much does it cost to raise a child?
The cost of raising a child varies with the kind of lifestyle people lead, the child’s individual needs and the size of the family. What’s more, while the cost will vary for every year of their life, the most exhaustive Canadian studyAttention, this link will open a new tab. on the subject came up with an average annual cost of childrearing of over $14,000 per year!
The first year
For a lot of parents, it’s those first years in the life of a child that hit the wallet hardest. The expenses surrounding the birth of a child pile up fast, from new furniture for the baby’s room to a wardrobe including sizes 0 to 24 months! Today, a good stroller can cost over $1000.
After the baby’s arrival, you probably want to enjoy your parental leave and spend some time at home with your newborn that first year. So you’ll need to keep in mind the income loss that comes with parental leave, because the Régime québécois d'assurance parentale (RQAP) only covers 55% to 75% of your salary, depending on the leave option you choose. Using the average salary in Quebec, for one year that loss rings in at an estimated $21,135.
The cost of daycare and schooling
Then comes the day when you go back to work and Junior goes off to daycare. That will set you back about $2000 a year in a subsidized daycare. And, even with free schooling in Quebec from kindergarten through high school, in-school daycare costs and transportation costs can add another $1000 a year. If you choose to send your child to private high school, count on spending up to $6000 per year in addition.
If you also want to help your child pay for their post-secondary education, be aware that tuition can add up to $16,800 all told. A semester at CEGEP costs roughly $500 including materials, while at university this amount rises to about $2000, not counting books and other necessities. And the cost varies with the degree you choose.
Leisure activities and sports
Of course, you will also want to sign your child up for leisure activities like swimming lessons or soccer, for example, and this can cost $250 per session.
According to the same study, the total estimated cost of raising a child to maturity is $272,384. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save on these expenses. Here are a few tips on how to reduce your costs of childrearing.
Tips on how to save when raising a child
Annual cost: $1931
Food is a big expense for all families but there are a lot of ways to lower the cost.
By using the weekly flyers to hunt for bargains, you can save 20% to 30% every week. Also, cooking your own meals instead of buying ready-to-eat foods can make a big difference in the cost. There are also collective kitchens across Quebec where families cook together and save by buying ingredients in high volumes. Choosing vegetarian meals a couple times a week can also save you money.
“I don’t buy any processed foods for economic and health reasons so we often cook at home. For example, I choose dried chick peas over the canned, ready-to-eat variety because I think every little bit you save counts and it makes a real difference at the end of the day,” said Marie-Pier, mother of a 5-year-old boy, for whom cooking at home comes out cheaper than buying prepared foods.
Additional housing costs
Annual cost: $3041
Having a child requires more space in a house or apartment. You also need furniture for the baby’s room and you need to decorate it. Choosing used furniture can make a difference in your budget, versus buying a complete bedroom set which can cost upwards of $1500.
Julia, mother of 4-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, doesn’t hesitate to buy used items whenever possible. She looks for opportunities by programming alerts on classified adswebsites to help find what she’s looking for more easily. “I like the rush of finding exactly what I want at the best price possible, it’s fun! It’s a way for me to save, but I also do it just to keep down my consumption of stuff,” she said.
If you need to move to a larger home or you want to change neighbourhoods like Julia, who moved from Montreal to the suburbs, you can look into municipal aid programs that often offer subsidies to attract or retain families. Whether it’s through a municipal tax break or a cash refund upon purchase of a property, there are thousands of dollars in potential savings available to you. You can also benefit from the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) to help you buy your first home, whether you are already a parent or not.
There are other unique ways to save depending on your situation. That was the case with Marie-Pier, who decided to take on a roommate in her condo for a few years with a view to making her mortgage payments easier. This helped her reach financial independence more quickly despite having only her salary to count on to pay the mortgage as a single parent.
Annual cost: $4443
The fees at subsidized daycares start at $8.25 a day, but can rise to over $20 if you have a higher income. If you choose a private daycare, you can benefit from a tax credit of 26% to 75%Attention, this link will open a new tab. depending on your family income.
This subsidy also applies to all fees paid for pre-K, day camp, stay-away camp or employing a nanny at home. You can request that the credit be paid in advanceAttention, this link will open a new tab. (in French) so you can get a monthly amount instead of waiting until you make out your tax return.
Of course, family support and mutual help from other parents and friends can make a big difference, since you don’t have to pay a cent when you are helping someone in return! Marie-Pier’s family and friends make a big difference for her when she needs a helping hand for minding her child. “When I had my son, I had a lot of help from a neighbour for different things. My mom has also been there for me in a big way, whether it’s for minding my little girl, doing housework, painting, gardening, etc. I have a great group of friends and we share babysitting duties. I only had to pay a sitter twice in my life!”
Additional transportation costs
Annual cost: $2308
That’s what Marie-Pier decided to do after trying for a year to live without a car. It was difficult for her with a baby, especially carrying around the baby seat which you need to do for car sharing services CommunautoAttention, this link will open a new tab. or car2goAttention, this link will open a new tab., or when using public transit. So she has a used car to make getting around easier. “I think people living in town can get along without a car more easily, but you need to be organized,” she said. Julia doesn’t have a car and finds it easy to use the bus and Métro in Montreal, even with kids. “Often what people ignore is that public transit is free for kids on weekends and all summer long!”
Health and personal care costs
Annual cost: $554
We love our children and want to take care of them. So you need to plan on paying for medication when they’re sick, some dental costs like braces and cleaning, or eyeglasses at the optician when needed, but also everyday needs like diapers and haircuts.
You can deduct medical expenses for kids, above a certain threshold amount, when you file your taxes and get a refund on both your federalAttention, this link will open a new tab. and provincialAttention, this link will open a new tab. taxes. In addition, the RAMQ covers all dental check-ups 100% for children under 10, as well as other servicesAttention, this link will open a new tab. such as fillings and x-rays. Annual eye exams by an optometrist are also free for children under 18.
For babies, there’s no question one of the biggest expenses is diapers, which may need to be changed multiple times in a single day. By choosing washable diapers, you’ll save in the long run over disposable, while also reducing your environmental footprint.
Leisure and school supplies
Annuals cost: $1122
Every year for families, back to school time means it’s time to spend money. By buying school supplies in advance when you see they’re on sale you can save significantly.
You can also join groups of parents on social media where you can exchange things or buy things second hand. That’s what Marie-Pier likes to do, who also takes advantage of book exchanges and garage sales in her neighbourhood to find books and toys cheap and in good condition.
When the time comes to introduce your kids to sports or other activities, you can often register a child for a free trial session to make sure they like the sport before paying the full registration fee for the season. What’s more, you can also benefit from a Quebec tax creditAttention, this link will open a new tab. of 20% on registration fees, up to a maximum of $500 per year per child.
Annual cost: $939
Kids grow fast and you’ll be constantly buying them new clothes! So take advantage of end-of-season sales where you can sometimes save up to 70% on clothes, like boots and winter coats. Just be sure to buy them a size or two bigger so your child can grow into them.
The best option of all bar none is getting used clothes from family and friends. Don’t be shy to ask, every parent does it! At the speed kids grow, the clothes are often like brand new.
Our life choices vary greatly between families and have a huge impact on the cost of raising a child. By using eligible tax credits, you can lighten your family’s financial load. Also, by keeping track of your expenses, it’ll be a whole lot easier to see what your money is being spent on so you can reduce your consumption and save.
Source: Costs were sourced from 2015 MoneySenseAttention, this link will open a new tab. data and rounded and adjusted for inflation.