Parenting on a Budget

Kids are expensive. Never mind what some people are prepared to spend to get them here, getting them to “independent” can cost a small fortune.  You may need a bigger car. You may need a bigger home. And then there are all the costs of keeping your mini-me fed and clothed: dental bills, school supplies, hockey, ballet, soccer, karate… the list can seem endless.

Estimates from the economics section of Manitoba Agriculture put the cost of raising a daughter to age 18 in 2004 at about $166,500. Boys were a tad more expensive — $166,972 – mostly due to their bigger appetites.

The first year of a child’s life is often the most expensive. Not surprising really when you think of all the gear we have to get to bring baby home. And the cost of diapers! In 2004, Canadians spent $10,000 in baby’s first year.

It’s also comes as no surprise that costs go way up when kids hit their teenaged years. So how do you get your kids to self-sufficiency without going broke? You make a budget!

While many of the hard costs of kids – food, the roof over their heads, their transportation – naturally fall into your budget, there are costs that are uniquely associated with the children themselves. One kid is happy to live in jeans and T-shirts, while another won’t wear anything but American Eagle. If Junior is a sports maniac there are league fees, equipment costs, and transportation costs getting them to their next game. Never mind all the eating out the family seems to do on the road.

The trick to not letting kids’ expenses get way out of hand is to allocate a specific amount to each child’s activities and needs, and stick with the plan.

Start by listing all the things your children do for which you must lay out some of your hard-earned bucks. Your list might look like this:

Mark – 11 525.67
Lacrosse 25.00
Scouts 16.67
Swimming 25.00
Tutoring 240.00
School 25
Clothes 75.00
Allowance 44.00
Gifts 50
Incidental 25
Tori – 9 273.50
Gymnastics 41.67
Bownies 20.83
School 25
Clothes 75
Allowance 36
Gifts 50
Incidental 25
Demi – 1.5 100.00
Swimming 25
Clothes 75
Total costs 899.17

Your children’s needs won’t be the same, and spending equally on them won’t be more “fair.” Giving them what they need when they need it is the goal. Over time, as the children’s needs shift, so too should how you allocate the money. And over time, it should all come out even to be fair. So if in the early years one child gobbles up far more resources, then in the later years the other might receive more help with post-secondary education.

But let’s say you don’t have $900 a month to spend on the kids. What then?

You have three options: you can cut back on the less-essential spending, find ways to make your dollar go further, or make more money. Some moms and dads choose to take on a part-time job just to be able to pay for a child’s passion for hockey, dance or horse-back riding. Some parents look for ways to reduce the costs of their kids’ activities by taking advantage of free or subsidized programs offered in their communities. And some parents just cut back.

This is where talking to your kids is really important. Would Mark be willing to give up swimming or lacrosse? If you make all the decisions in isolation, your kids will feel deprived. Make them in consultation and they’ll come to appreciate the activities they are lucky enough to be able to do.

52 Responses to “Parenting on a Budget”

  1. This is a timely post for us. I was just costing out overnight camps, and I don’t think it will be happening this year!

    I have also been looking at our choice for housing, and pondering if we need a bigger home. However; I am now balancing the cost of piano, swimming, skating etc and the value these bring vs. the value some extra space will bring our family. It’s not an easy thing to weigh.

    Thanks for the tips on managing the budgets, and reinforcing that it’s not about giving them the same- it’s about giving them what they need. Good Post Gail! (As usual ) 🙂

  2. This is great advice. Eventually my wife and I plan to start a family. I really have no idea how much having a child will cost and how we are going to afford it.



  3. We’ve decided to be a child-free couple, but I have several friends who’s kids are into sports (soccer and hockey), and dance. I honestly don’t know how they manage all the additional expenses, but they seems to do it, and the kids appear to be happy.

    My parents couldn’t afford all those “extras” when we were in school, so we had to forego a lot of stuff our friends were able to do, but we never gave our parents grief about it.

  4. Children can be very expensive! And that’s not with adding in additional costs if your child has a medical condition.
    Thank goodness I have an eleven year-old who likes going clothes shopping at the thrift store. She isn’t into brand names yet, but we will teach her about that when she reaches that stage.

  5. Jason, don’t worry about the costs of children, from your other posts it seems to me like you have a handle on your finances. Our first baby was a big BIG surprise, we didn’t even live together. But through thrift stores and telling people we were expecting (they gave us truck loads of stuff. and I mean truck.), we made it just fine. We even bought a house!

    Sometimes the reality is that you just can’t afford the extras. Growing up, my mother couldn’t afford it. I wished that she could have, but I learned how to say no and I understood. She made up for it in other ways, we took lots of family trips to parks and beaches. It will be the same with my kids, no will have to mean no

  6. good post Gail. kids certainly are expensive. another thing to mention in costs is daycare! OMG, as someone who has a 2.5 year old and a 5 month old, we are already crunching numbers to figure out what the best strategy is for our family for when my mat leave is up. Full time and crazy expensive full time daycare? part time, but still daycare some days? Weighing in time with the family and the costs of life, our plans to buy a bigger home in the future, etc. no easy answers!

    i also think that that that there are more pressures for kids to be involved in activities, even from an early age, being scheduled, being pressed to succeed. we have already had to sit back and determine what we feel our goals for our daughter are in putting her in a few activities. for us, at this age, it’s FUN! not trying to push her into something, just a chance to run around and be a kid. there are a lot of things fighting for your buck when it comes to kids, the important thing is to sit back and figure out what you want for your kids and try to balance the two

  7. Gail, do you mind sharing how you came up with the $10k number on the first year? We’re are in the “preparation” stage of having our first child. We are getting help from a private fertility clinic, and luckily, most of the costs are covered by the Quebec government.


  8. Kids are very expensive, and supporting 4 of them, like we are, is always a financial challenge. It doesn’t matter how frugal you are, kids grow and change and have expenses beyond your control (think school trips and supplies and yearly winter snow gear). I work part time, but when I see what my fulltime mother friends can offer their children I sometimes feel like we are depriving ours of some fabulous experiences… however, my hubby always reminds me that the trade off is having ME instead of activities beyond the basics like swimming lessons and boys/girls clubs. We are currently trying to find a way to afford piano lessons for one of the children who really wants them… it might mean I’ll need to pick up more time at work… we’ll see.

  9. avatar Psychsarah Says:
    January 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Very interesting post as DH and I prepare to welcome our first child in July. I’ve been crunching numbers since I found out I was pregnant, and though it will be a lot tighter than we’re used to, I know that people with a lot less manage and we will too. Thankfully our home and vehicles will easily accommodate a little person, and we have kind friends who are passing along stuff they’re done with, and generous family who are already buying gifts for little “Bean”. As we were growing up my parents taught us to prioritize which activities were most important to us, as they couldn’t afford for us to do everything we wanted to do. This was a good lesson in many ways, and I plan to try and teach it to my kids too.

  10. Thank you Gail for highlighting costs of raising children at different ages. One of my pet peeves in reading financial blogs and websites is that in talking about the cost of raising a child, many prepare you only for the costs of a baby (car seat, crib, layette, etc) and don’t expand on the costs of raising your children as they age.

    I am in a unique position of being in my early 30s and having a teenager (14 years old today, actually), while many of my friends are just starting their families. I try to warn my friends about costs they may expect as their child ages – and it seems to go in one ear and out the other. When my friends lament about the cost of diapers and educational toys, I remind them that the costs continue (and increase!) but just change from diapers to Lululemon and from educational toys to horseback riding (not to mention the multitude of cheques that the school asks for every semester – music fundraising, hot meals, school fees, yearbooks, field trips – the list goes on and on).

    We work within our budget for my daughter’s expenses, and we discuss it with her so she can learn valuable lessons about money. When she discovered a love of horseback riding, we told her she couldn’t do that and continue to do other activities because it wasn’t in the budget (she decided that horseback riding was more important and dropped the other activities). We put aside money every month into her RESP, and while she hasn’t started part time work yet, we’ve already agreed that a portion of her pay goes towards her schooling. She’s also learned to save – she wanted to go on a “shopping spree”, so she saved her allowance for 3 months in order to do so. I’m very proud of my daughter to be learning the money lessons that it took me much, much longer to learn.

  11. We have a 4 and 5 year old. Luckily this year they both started school full time and we can put them on the bus and get them from the bus so my 1100 dollar per month daycare cost has gone away until summer.

    Our plan is actually to stay in our 3 bedroom quaint 1100 sq foot home and have it paid off in 4 years. This will free up 1500 dollars a month to allow us more freedom and afford to give our kids hopefully a nice upbringing full of activities and memories.

    Yes we could afford a bigger home or nicer cars but I would rather keep that money and enjoy the few years ( in the grand scheme of life) we will have together as a family since the girls will be all grown up soon enough.

    My parents have always told me its not how much you make but how much you keep and we are trying hard to live by those words.

  12. We are parenting 7 kids, and paying for activities for 6 of them (the eldest is 18 now and pays for his own stuff). The 4 oldest have 2 activities each…swimming and scouting. The 3 year old has swimming lessons and the 2 year old doesn’t have any, yet. We don’t want to over schedule them. I know some parents who have their kids in something every single night. If we want them to have something extra (like my 10 year old ADHD son’s social skills class), we try to be frugal and use the extra money left over in our jars to save for these things. If we can’t, they don’t do the activity and they pretty much understand.

    We save some money on swimming lessons because we have a membership to the YMCA and took advantage of their family registration option. All five kids (and the sixth when she’s 3) get the registered swimming lessons included in the monthly fee. The Y membership includes 2 adults and unlimited children under 21, so it’s very economical for us and just swimming lessons alone would cost more than the cost of the membership. Plus, we get full access to the gym, pool and activities. There are other registration programs we could put them in such as Aikido and Dance as well, so if they want to do that, it will not cost extra. There are also lots of drop in activities for kids of all ages including free swims, basketball, soccer, etc. If you have a YMCA in your area, I would definitely recommend checking them out!

  13. Parenting now seems to have become a competition with all the accompanying peer-pressure. Check out Elizabeth Renzetti’s column “The Mommy Wars” in the Globe and Mail this weekend.
    More activities not only costs money, but also costs family time in the running around to practices, missed family meals and all the endless nagging it takes to get the kids organized.
    My son was involved in fewer and cheaper activities because that was all I could afford.
    We did have lots of together time, hiking, bike riding, going to free music/theater nights at our local park with a picnic supper.
    His curling time has turned into curling men’s nights with his dad. Being involved in rep soccer gave him his first lessons in values rubs in the real world.
    His guitar lessons have resulted in a basement filled with 10 guitars, a mandolin and a drum set (not to mention several shaggy young men with large appetites).
    He is close to his family and choses to spend time with us. He is appreciative that we are supporting his post- sec. education.
    He has learned to find his own passions and follow them without my push.

    I think I would find it very stressful to have a child in this day and age.

  14. avatar CheerfulMomma Says:
    January 24, 2011 at 10:10 am

    We have 3 kids, now ages 6, 10 and 13. We avoided spending ALOT of money in the early years by breastfeeding (no need to buy formula) and we used cloth diapers most of the time. (Every time I put a disposable diaper in the garbage I felt like I was throwing money out.) I used a sling-style baby carrier and rarely used a stroller. We co-slept and the crib gathered dust. If I had to do it all over again, I would not waste money on a crib or stroller… You really don’t need all those fancy expensive baby things main stream society tries to tell you are necessary…

  15. @ Lori – yes you hit the nail on the head with daycare costs. Nothing, and I mean nothing, my son does when he’s 10 will outpace what his daycare costs us right now, and especially when he was younger. When he was 1 year old and in daycare fulltime, the cost was $19,500. Now he’s 3.5 years old and the cost is still $15,300. Costs have gone up since then too by the way, if he was 1 today the cost for daycare would be $21,900. This is daycare in Toronto at a licensed provider, there are cheaper options available – this is also not the most expensive one we found, either….

    Keep in mind this is on top of everything else (ie clothing etc). Aside from the potential cost of private school when he’s in his early teens, there’s no way my son will cost us that much in activities, pretty much no matter what else he does. I’m actually counting the months until he starts school and daycare costs get cut in half.

  16. Our biggest shock was the daycare costs ($20,000!). Though we did budget for it, it eats up such a huge chunk of our income (more than our mortgage) that there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for fun stuff. I don’t think we actually realized the impact it would have on our lives.

    I keep thinking that once the kids are out of the childcare phase it will feel like we hit the jackpot.

  17. We have three kids, 7, 10, 12 and currently they are in no activities. It is simply not in the budget. In the past they have been in swimming and piano, both relatively inexpensive and the swimming is considered a necessity when you live with water around.
    DH and I feel strongly that kids are way over scheduled these days and don’t have time to just be kids. Our kids play outside and are all voracious readers who do well in school. We sit down for family dinner almost every night and there is no tv on in the background so we talk. DH changed careers so that is he is home evenings and almost every single weekend. We recently stretched our tight budget to include a dog that was given to us and they are thrilled to have that little luxury in their lives.
    What kids want and need most is their parents in their lives and interested in them.
    We made sure I was home, even if I was working part-time, until the youngest was in school. While we had planned to stay in our cozy 940 sq ft home, the surprise addition of a third child meant we literally tripped all over each other and had to move on. So, I am working out of the house a few days a week now as we are working to be debt free, and the budget is still really tight. We are hoping to put our kids in swim club in the fall to help keep them exercising in the winter but it all depends on if the budget can stretch that far. Our kids are aware of the financial situation and how we choose to spend our money as we talk about it almost daily. They love hand me downs and don’t ask for things they know aren’t in the budget. They are going to be great adults!

  18. Daycare is a killer. When we had our daugther in daycare we had subsidy for the first year but then I got a .50/hour raise and we made too much to qualify. The lady at the subsidy office actually told us that we should just have another kid to qualify again!!!
    Wow 19K sounds like a lot. Where I live a licenced daycare is about $700.00 per month for infants and the avarage for after school care is about $300.00 per month. Mine does not go to daycare anymore as we get off work about 1 hour after she finishes school. She goes to her dad’s work and does her homework in the lunch room.

  19. @ Lis – where do you live?

    @ Dana – nice to know we’re in the same boat at least. Im guessing you live in TO, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary.

    @ Gail – a post dedicated solely to daycare would be interesting. 😉

  20. Yes daycare is definitely one that people just don’t understand how expensive it really is. Next year my oldest daughter will be in grade 5, and my youngest will be in grade 1, so they will just take the bus home and be by themselves for 30 minutes until I get home. I do live in an older neighbourhood in a small town, and there will be people home at all the neighbouring houses watching them.

    I have plans for that money!!!!! It will be going toward paying down my mortgage agressively! I know that it probably makes more sense to up my RRSP, but I really want to see those numbers go down on the house.

    Footwear is definitely a very large expense. Especially since my oldest is already in ladies sizes, and needs quality shoes and boots. To buy running shoes for indoors and out at school costs me nearly $300. But that is still a drop in the bucket compared to daycare.

  21. Our son turned 5 in November. He was previously in swimming lessons, but we took a break from it because he wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
    We have just moved to a new community and I’m still learning what is available. I’m planning to look into Scouts for him and possibly soccer or martial arts, but not more than that. Scouts will teach him good life skills and playing a sport will be excellent in so many ways. I’d love for him to play hockey but it’s very expensive and as the sole driver in my family, I’m not sure I’m prepared to make that time commitment. If he really shows an interest and asks to play, we will see if we can afford it.
    As a kid, I wasn’t involved in sports etc. I did go to Guides for a year, but that was it. We didn’t feel like we were lacking or missing out on anything – all my friends were in the same boat. Our parents couldn’t afford those luxuries. We didn’t know we were missing anything really. We made our own fun.

    Diana, I hope I can offer my son balance as it sounds like you did for yours.

    As for daycare costs, in Nova Scotia the cost for a child in diapers is around $800/month ($36/day), and then more like $28/day for toddler/pre-school age.

  22. Gail forgot one important category of expenses.. especially for me as I have two boys.. the “I didn’t mean to” fund aka “it was an accident”fund ..

    expenses like having the kitchen ceiling restippled because the kids overflowed the bathtub and the water went down the heat vent and into the light fixtures in the kitchen and caused damage..
    or the $300 it will cost me to replace the glasses my oldest son jumped on (accidentally of course)
    the unknown bill to replace the neighbours siding where a errant puck broke it-
    the van cd player that we was ruined when oldest son put two cd’s in at the same time
    we dodged a bullet the time one of the boys put 21 golf balls and a box of screws down the sewer drain on the day we were moving out.. luckily I was doing one last sweep of the basement and found all the golf balls…

    Hockey and all the others things I can plan for.. two boys need their own emergency fund…:)

  23. We have three children too, and although we limit the activities it still feels like a lot. We let each of them have ‘one thing’ and our oldest is now old enough to start curling, so she gets two activities – curling and guides. It isn’t just about expense, since none of their activities are particularly expensive (Brownies, Guides are minimal, as is curling, only the youngest is $25 per month for dance), but the TIME is also big for us. Three kids is three nights of activities and/or more driving on one night. I’m waiting on April when we will be done and can do family bike rides at our own schedule.

  24. Yup daycare is a killer. Forget activities. We paid 20500 first year, 18000 or so 2nd year, and 15000 third year.

    And now I’m expecting a second and I am thrilled.

    I had a moment of fright the other day when I realized how hard it is going to be, but my dad sobered me up . Thing is, even if I find cheaper daycare, in Toronto, it won’t be much cheaper for our family, and this is just temporary and dearly worth it. The first 6 years in a child’s life are personality-forming, and the daycare he’s in has been just amazing for him.

    As for toys, my son’s favorite toys are glue sticks, scissors and the globe and mail after I finish reading it.

  25. avatar Flynnycat Says:
    January 24, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    very timely post indeed…my new husband and I were just talking last night about how we want to start a family in the next few years. One catch–he has a medical condition that makes it impossible for us to conceive the normal way, so we’d need some help, which is costly. I think, though, that it doesn’t have to be as expensive to have a child as people make it. I grew up without all those organized activities….we did things together as a family. You also don’t need much for a baby. Cloth diapers, which you can wash yourself, would be better than disposable for a number of reasons, and I would breastfeed and then make my own baby food. A baby doesn’t need to wear Baby Gap, and they are entertained by cardboard boxes until they’re older, for Pete’s sake! They don’t need expensive, annoying toys! If you have more than one, I can see costs rising–we’ll only be able to have one. And I really love that my husband is willing to be a stay-at-home dad! I think it would be good for him–he has CF and finds that full-time work is starting to wear him out more easily than it did when he was younger. I am not implying that raising a kid isn’t work–far from it!–but it’s different. I think he’d enjoy it more!

  26. avatar Flynnycat Says:
    January 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Forgot to acknowledge that daycare is indeed very expensive!!!

  27. @ flynnycat – good points. Reember though that not all women/babies can breast feed, and not everyone is cut out for cloth diapers in terms of laundry workload. I find all new parents to be are completely surprised by the sheer amount of laundry that’s generated… even if using disposable diapers.

  28. Our girls are 6 and 9, and when our oldest was born, after maternity leave, I returned to work and she was in daycare. Then when our youngest was born, I took 9 months maternity leave, and my husband did paternity leave for 3 months when I went back to work. After that, they were both in daycare, but we realized that things weren’t going well that way. Too many expenses out and not enough money coming in. For instance, cost of daycare, my getting to work (gas), time running back and forth, vehicle upkeep – it was more money to work than it was not to work, not to mention stress of house upkeep and no quality family time. So, I stopped working – and now we still only have one income, and we are fine. The girls are allowed two activities each if they want, and currently they each have one – curling and Guides. We eat supper together as a family, play games together, tobogganing, snowshoeing, etc. We save up money in a travel fund to go away once in awhile – like Ottawa or Toronto. We saved for three years to go on our Disney trip this past fall – and it was paid for before we left and we had a ball. Yes, kids are expensive, however, I wouldn’t trade the laughter and fun for all the money in the world. They make each day a new adventure. Don’t let money stop you from having kids – but realize it will make a difference. You just need to know the realities. Thanks, Gail, for helping to point those out!

  29. avatar Catherine Says:
    January 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    @Melaniesd – I hope you will be able to continue your son in swimming lessons. Of any extra activity out there – I think it may be the only one that could save his life.
    We insisted our two children take lessons until they finished ‘white’ (old days). My son did not enjoy it at all, but, knew it was a deal breaker. Our daughter loved it and went on to become a life guard and instructor.
    Today, our son thanks us for insisting. I see swimming lessons in our grandson’s future…..

  30. @Brenda

    How refreshing to hear that you “wouldn’t trade the laughter and fun for all the money in the world”. I’ve realized there is no point in complaining about the costs. It’s worth it to us! Best investment we’ve made so far!

    Have any of you with high daycare costs looked in to a shared Nanny situation with another family? Just a thought. I know some friends of ours have done this and it works out to around $600-$700 per family.

  31. Wow… what a great posting and excellent comments. My boyfriend and I are still in the ‘repaying student loan’ portion of our financial lives. But I’m 28 and he’s 29, so we’re entering those crucial “have kids” years.

    Thanks Melaniesd for the breakdown of daycare in NS. That is where were are and I’m still shocked at the difference in cost compared to where I grew up (Toronto).

    I can’t wait to have kids, but I do fear running out of money or not being able to afford something crucial for them.

    But I always remember my parents (who were very young when they had me) saying they had $43 in the bank the day I was born. They are both executives now and don’t have a thing to worry about. But if they did it, and I turned out alright, certainly it can be done!

    @ Amy – I think most parents would agree with your idea of a ‘omgitwasanaccidenti’msorryMom’ fund. Hilarious.

  32. While it’s nice to plan ahead, sometimes babies come Ready-or-Not. Unless you’re Seriously Unprepared with your life-skills – you can and will always make do. You will find ways to be creative, discover that you can live without certain things you never expected to give up, and don’t be afraid to ask for hand-me-downs (especially in that first year) because most parents don’t know what to do with the stuff when they’re finished with it!

  33. @Geoff – thanks for saying what a lot of us were thinking.

    For the not-yet-parents, even if you plan to use cloth diapers and breast feed, life has a way of spoiling the best-made plans. We couldn’t breast feed, and while we planned to use disposables they don’t make them in preemie size (that we could find, anyway), so that somehow never happened. You think formula will be expensive? Try having a kid with lactose problems, a mommy who can’t breastfeed, and see how $45/week to feed the kid sounds. Probably almost as much as we’ll spend on his food when he’s a teen 🙂 Also remember if you’re used to doing laundry in cold that you won’t be able to with diapers, heavily soiled requires hot water, so it’s not actually like it’s free to use cloth. Plus the liners. We did the math and figured that for us cloth would be a tiny bit cheaper, but not enough to really make a difference.

    Also when you talk about clothing any toy costs remember that there are usually lots of gifts for a couple’s first kid. One of my coworkers gave me a huge diaper bag full of baby clothes that she just wanted to get rid of, both sets of grandparents are bound and determined to spoil the kid rotten with toys, so the only things we bought were memories of our own childhood (certain stuffed animals, music, books) and preemie sized clothes.

  34. @ Geoff & Tim – I second all that.

    Sometimes what you plan on doing doesn’t always work out. We were also unable to breastfeed due to medical reason. Plus we had a small baby that needed to be fed every 2 hrs around the clock. Each feeding would last approximately 30-45 min, plus she was a fussy baby that constantly needed to be rocked. So “in between” technically you may have 1hr to do all the other stuff such as laundry, cleanup, bottle washing/sterilizing, etc. Plus, maybe get a few minutes of sleep.

    We also found that disposable was only a few cents more per bag, especially if you can get it on sale. This was definitely worth our sanity. Yes, I realize it’s not as environmentally friendly, but at the time it felt like we were on survival mode.

    People always talk about the cost of “setup” for the baby such as crib, stroller, swing, toys, etc. We actually found that these were easy to come by used at a fraction of the cost. The only thing we bought new was the crib, for safety reasons.

    Same thing with clothes, just take a look at places like Kijiji for baby clothes, you can usually get all the nice and even brand name stuff for less than $1 a piece.

    Daycare cost on the other hand…. need it’s own post.

  35. I am always given the impression that people who claim they don’t have time to do x, y, and z should have to take care of a baby for a whole month on a full-time basis…
    A lesson in time management! You could offer the lesson for a ‘small’ fee and save yourself one-month’s worth of daycare!

  36. @psychsarah — Congrats on the impending arrival of Bean! 🙂 If there’s another Gail picnic this summer I hope I get to meet your wee one.

    Yes it is a lot of time and money to raise kids but as tired as I am, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

  37. Amy- I totally understand. I had a daycare that seemed to only attract boys. My husband had to take the toilet off a few times to figure out what was stuck (a train, back again because a ball underneath it), they are just harder on items than some girls. Although I remember as a teenager breaking my mom’s vacume, stereo, losing my soccer ball and baseball glove all in a week…..

    I think for most parents when kids come along, other than a weekend or two of complete self indulgence we put them ahead of our own needs all year long. Budgeting with children is a must. I find with activities I know when the bill is going to be due and prepare for it all year long.
    The problem I have is saying no to my oldest daughter. I want her to experience everything and anything that is not offered in the school system. I loved playing on sports teams and wholeheartedly believe that they are what kept me in highschool and university. It’s all what’s in the budget and moderation. The hockey rink, soccer field, lacross and baseball games is what gave my mom a social life in the evening and has been for me too in a new community. There are sacrafices though, and sometimes we may feel finacially deprived. In the end who else is going to cheer them on and care to watch every accomplishment they have. To all that are thinking about kids…there will never be a “right” time because there will always be something that you could spend your money on, it’s just prioritizing and understanding your values that will make you feel content or not.

    Congrats Sarah! Soo very happy for you! If there is a picnic this year you and your husband will have to bring the new one along:)

  38. some of the posts made me laugh, some made me ponder, some shocked me (the child care costs; i fell off the sofa!!!). while there were times i didn’t think i’d make as a mom, i look back and find incredibly beautiful memories were made when we went to feed the geese and mama goose decided my little elizabeth’s fingers looked much tastier; that goose was mean and scared the crap out of little et & me! but the lake was beautiful that day, and the sun was shining. my daughter brought home a baby duck & decided it ought to live in the toilet. that was until her dad came home, lifted the lid and saw the little guy swimming around…i agree with what’s been said. suddenly what was MY life became HER life with me trying to direct the chaotic jumble and make sense as i could.
    i definitely look back with more smiles and joy than sadness. my daughter learned that brand-name fashion meant savings by both of us. she learned to work at the age of 16, and that her money was meant to be split into savings, fun, and necessities. what i know for fact now is that she taught me just as much, if not more, than i taught her.
    my daughter is still my greatest treasure, my supreme blessing. wouldn’t trade her, or any of our memories, for any amount of money.

  39. Doing the math, I found that it wasn’t worth it for me to go to work with two toddlers to care for (there’s a great calculator on the Today’s Parent magazine website, if you want to try it out). So, one income family here. I know so acutely the financial cost of having kids…but as some have said, you deal! You’re unprepared, but somehow you find a way. You get nervous, but it works out.

    Wanna know how it works so well? FOLLOWING GAIL’S ADVICE. The jars, the killing the debt, all of it. THAT’S how it works. So, with one income and two toddlers, we’re doing it. Killing debt (just one student loan left now!) and saving!

    Most of our “everything else” jar goes to diapers and pull-ups…but we’re almost through the woods there! Finally! Shopping Costco helped…but always work out the price per diaper when you’re shopping for those.

    Anyway, this post is kinda disjointed…but like I say…it all works out, just keep following the plan!

  40. avatar Melaniesd Says:
    January 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Catherine, I totally agree with you.
    I really want my son to learn to swim properly, but at the time it was becoming very stressful.
    Now that we have moved to a new part of the province, I was considering taking him swimming at the local pool so he can see what it’s like and then talk to him about lessons again.

  41. Quick question for everyone – what is a DH?

  42. avatar Flynnycat Says:
    January 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    DH = Darling Husband? or Dear Hubby? Something like that…..
    Yeah, I know plans don’t always work out for everyone. Just sayin’ that on the whole, I think people make it more expensive than it really has to be. Still, being single or having more than one or needing childcare does bump up those costs. But I honestly think too many folks fixate on giving their kids “everything” when all a lot of kids really want is to spend time with their parents. You don’t have to wow them, you just have to love them, and love doesn’t have to cost a lot.

  43. There is a way to cut on the cost of diapers. Cloth diapering. I use prefolds and covers, and I’ve spent about $400 on my stash. That stash will last my daughter (and any subsequent children) through to potty training. Sure, I do an extra load of laundry every other day, but I don’t find it’s that much work. I estimate the costs of washing to be about $5 a month (we wash in hot but line dry to save money). It’s still WAY cheaper than disposables.

    My daughter is 5 months, and through thriftiness I estimate her first year she will cost about $7 k. We bought a lot of the bigger things used, although we invested in a good car seat.

    However, on my mat leave income, I net almost $10,000 less than usual (that’s not as bad as some people, I know). We’ve been planning for this though, and I think we’ll be okay.

  44. I have just come accross the website and I am so ever grateful to hear the strategies and ideas that come from everyone else in here.
    My boyfriend and I are going to start Gail’s Guide to building a budget. We are excited scared and hopefull at the same time. I look forward to seeing how it will benefiet us . We rent our house have minimal assest and 15k in credit card debt. Not that we don’t try to save But rebuilding our lives after 10 year marriages with other people and leaving everything behind doesn’t help. On the plus side we have a furnished house i paid vehicle and two more years left on the other…our kids are happy and WE are happy.

    Our kids can still have 1 paid activity year round. But they realize that it takes money for their world to go around. The had a chore chart and earned their money but after 6 months they just do them and no need to keep track anymore. They know if they do it they will be rewarded with the fact that they will responsible adults and they get to do something fun with the family once per month. Or they can save that money instead…9 out of ten times they spend lol.
    I am proud of my daughter. She is 8 years old and bought herself a 14′ trampoline and an I pod Touch . She has saved all her birthday/xmas money and bonus’ from nan and pops lol. I have always told her to be thoughtful on how you spend that she should have three jars 1 for fun money 1 for saving for stuff you really want and 1 more for saving for something So extra special you just cant stand not having it. 🙂 Fun money is movies and outings. savings is for special toys that mommy can’t afford and the third jar well now she is determined to have a horse….how do I break the bad news(Can’t have a horse in your back yard down town lol. But props to her for trying.

    So wish us luck. All the best to you and we will update in a few weeks.

  45. I spent a small fortune between necessities (furniture, stroller, car seat, clothing etc) and non-essentials (room decor, books, toys etc) for my first daughter. I bought name brand diapers and formula and way more of everything than she actually needed. I think this is were the $10,000 for the first year comes from. I knew better with our second daughter. I had hand me downs for clothing and furniture, bought Parent’s Choice brand diapers and formula and saved a bundle.

    I am lucky with daycare as I only have to pay my mother in law $300 a month to watch my 3 year old and she also watches my 7 year old after school for this. I also pay $157.50 per month for my 3 year old to go to preschool three mornings a week. I put $125 each into an RESP for my girls monthly. I budget $40 per month for all the school extras (field trips, special lunches, book orders, birthday parties).

    My older daughter is in Brownies this year which cost a little over $200 for the full year and she loves it way more than the dance, gymnastics, karate or soccer we had tried and $20 per week for piano lessons. My 3 year old will be starting karate in the fall for $55 per month. They both take two levels of swimming per year for $58 each.

    Now that I add it all up, my kids cost $460 a month each before food, clothing and special occasions. This would be where that $200K + figure to raise a child comes from. But they are worth it….

  46. At Tim:
    Also remember if you’re used to doing laundry in cold that you won’t be able to with diapers, heavily soiled requires hot water, so it’s not actually like it’s free to use cloth.
    Remember too that the sun will sanitize your laundry so hot water isn’t a necessity then for every season if you’re hanging everything out to dry.

    I have a hard time with the ‘extra-curricular’ budget for my children… I 100% believed in enrolling them in swimming and skating lessons, 2 essentials in my mind, one for safety, and one because we are Canadian!
    I had my eldest enrolled in dance for fitness and fun, but, it wasn’t sustainable due to time and distance. Our younger daughter has discovered soccer, and we encourage her for fitness and social reasons, and guitar to help her understand focus and commitment during the winter months.
    I have a hard time enrolling them in anything beyond that. Yes, you’d like to give your child every opportunity, but I don’t think that they’ll suffer or be any worse for the wear if they’re not enrolled in ANYTHING… it’s family and quality time that makes the biggest difference. And, in school, the biggest excuse for kids not getting homework done or reviewed, is due to extracurricular activities, and I think, the parents should be as involved in their child’s schoolwork as they are in their activities…
    We’ve raised our kids on a lot less than average, I’m sure, with 2nd hand almost everything, and kids that don’t ask for anything. Their allowances are small, $5 a month for the youngest at 9, and $20/month for the oldest at 14, which covers her cell phone plan. Do they really need to have more than that? They still understand saving and prioritizing, but they also recognize that they will not have enough money to save for an ipod, and is that a bad thing? The eldest earns some extra cash for babysitting, which she uses to buy her own clothes, and received gift cards she uses for to purchase music, so, phone, clothes and music are all covered, and what else does a teen want or need? The youngest has enough to buy the occasional toy or jewellery and borrows her sister’s music 🙂
    Maybe I’m just cheap! 😛

  47. @ T – I so agree with you!

    Growing up I didn’t have every video game out there and certainly wasn’t involved in every sport or activity that the school/community offered – but I turned out just fine, and didn’t begrudge my parents whatsoever.

    They did what they could and they did what was most important – which was family meals at home, lots of reading and conversation and spending time with friends and extended family. Certainly as we grew up there were other opportunities to do things out side the home (a horse given to me when I was 13) – but if it wasn’t in the budget, it didn’t happen.

  48. Late to read this post, but I wanted to make a comment:
    @flynnycat: baby gap (the factory store GAP version) can actually be less expensive than thrift stores sometimes! I have 3 kids and I used to shop at Value Village etc., but found that I could often pay the same amount or less! for new clothes if I bought them at the stores at the end of the season.i.e. buying for the year ahead. You can often get the clothes for what amounts to 75% off. It is hard for the first year when you’re not sure how big they will be, but it’s worked for the other years (my oldest is now 6). Some stores also have great return policies (e.g. bonnie togs – you can return clothes with tags on them and if you have your receipt the next year if they are too small!). After a while you learn to figure out what week the BIG seasonal sales will be, or if you subscribe to their email lists you will get an email about it. This is one of the tricks I learned early on and share with friends.

  49. We have 3 kids (all 2yrs apart) and for us it was cheaper for me to stay home with them until 2 were in school. Being a stay at home mom also allowed me to bring the little ones to quite a few free activites in the community (play groups, etc).
    Right now we have one in pre-school and the other 2 are in Scouts. To me, this is plenty-they have lots of free time for playdates with friends, bike rides, walks, trips to the lake, etc. We also go skating and swimming a few times a month.
    I have friends with kids in 4+ activities and the complaining about money never ends. I feel like saying “Well, Duh!” When they act like they can’t understand being broke!
    We also never spent alot of money when our kids were born. Garage sales are an excellent help. You can find many baby things that are brand new or have only been used for a few mos. Also, coupons and freebies for baby things are everywhere if you use things like disposible diapers, premade baby foods, baby soaps, etc.
    I think having kids is only as expensive as you make it. I don’t spend anywhere near $75/mo on all the kids clothes combined. We buy alot used and lots get handed down through all 3 of them (I try to always buy navy, black or red snowgear so boys and girls can wear it). Plus grandparents and aunts and uncles almost always give some sort of clothing for bday and c-mas gifts even if it’s only gloves or a Tshirt it all adds up to less that I need to buy for them. When they’re little and growing fast it’s pretty pointless to buy top name brands. I buy alot of Walmart and Joe Fresh clothes for my kids. Snowsuits I buy quality on clearance.

  50. avatar JenniferM Says:
    February 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    @ Geoff and etc. You’re right things don’t work at as planned. However, most women are able to breastfeed.

    Even if you have to purchase formula, you DON’T need to buy prepared baby food in jars off the store shelves. What do manufacturers put in them to make they have such a long shelf life – hmmm? It takes minutes to boil fresh/forzen produce (i.e.), puree and store in ice cube trays for future use. You are saving lots of money. Not only do you know what my baby is eating, using real food makes for an easier transition from puree to whole food. Our daughter is a great eater!

    And cloth diapers *do* save money….thousands of dollars in fact! The cost may be little during the first year, however when the second year hits – bang! Yes, we use cloth diapers, and quite frankly don’t understand why we always feel that we are attacked by some disaposable diaper user parents. We do laundry every other day – you’re saying most folks can’t manage that? There are so many different types of cloth diapers on the market, and with research a family can find what suits their needs. In fact cloth diapers becoming more popular in recent times.

    Saving money = more time and effort.

    We think it’s worth it.

  51. […] Debt Do Us Part” and has written numerous books related to finances and debt has a article that talks about the importance of a parenting budget. This budget breaks up the money you wish to […]

  52. Even with the best intentions, some moms and babies can’t breastfeed – or needs supplementary formula for a month or so, so do have a budget for a backup plan in case you need formula, a pump, etc.

    We live four flights of stairs away from a shared washing machine – no way were we able to cart loads of wet diapers up and down those stairs every two days, and our neighbors didn’t want diapers in the machines, and at $5/load, it just wasn’t feasible. It’s very privileged to suggest that everyone who has a baby lives in a house and owns a washer and dryer.

    I made all our own baby food, which required me to buy jars and a food mill, both of which I still use, but it is a huge outlay in time, like it or not.

    Every family does the best they can, and each family does what’s right for them. But having some budget for when your plans don’t go your way is really important, especially in a crisis situation like bringing home baby.

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