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New Canada Child Benefit payments start this week — how much will you get?

Children play at the mobile "Adventure Playground" in Calgary, Alberta. Kids are encouraged to build things out of supplied material that include hammers, nails, saws, tires and tape without parents being involved.

Todd Korol/Todd Korol/Globe and Mail

The first payment under the federal government's new Canada Child Benefit will be made on Wednesday. For families with kids under 18 years of age, this is a big deal. In the election campaign last fall, the Liberals promised that 90 per cent of families would be better off under this program. The average amount of extra money over previous programs was estimated at $2,300 per year.

The CCB replaces the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Universal Child Care Benefit, the family tax cut (also known as income splitting for families) and the children's fitness and arts tax credits. A notable feature of the CCB is that it's tax free. You will not have to report this money on your income tax return. The big winners are considered to be low– and middle-income families, and children and women.

Here's a calculator for figuring out how much CCB your family is entitled to. Also check out this tool for checking your eligibility to all child and family benefits. One of the weaknesses of the CCB is that if your income drops, you can't immediately take advantage of the higher benefits you would theoretically be entitled to.

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My suggestion about what to do with any additional child benefits you receive: Use them for contributions to a registered education savings plan, or RESP. The big attraction of RESPs is that the government pays you grant money of 20 cents for every dollar you contribute, up to $2,500 per year. Personal finance guy Bruce Sellery seconds my point about RESPs here.

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