I don't have children, yet. But in the past year I've helped welcome seven babies into the world. I've watched as my family and friends adjusted, some better than others, to this new addition in their lives.
Many new parents say the first year is often the toughest one - physically, mentally and financially.
One reason having a baby is so expensive is that one of you will likely stop working, at least temporarily. New Canadian mothers are entitled to 15 weeks of pregnancy leave after giving birth. After that, there's an additional 35 weeks of parental that either parent can take. And although the stay-at-home parent can collect employment Insurance benefits, provided they qualify, they amount to only a portion of Mom or Dad's previous full-time salary. Last week, a federal board ruled that parents of twins can each receive EI benefits for full parental leaves.
At the same time your household income drops, your expenses are rising. The first year of a child's life is usually one of the priciest, costing the average parents upwards of $8,000 in extra expenses. If you're expecting a bundle of joy in the near future, check out this baby cost calculator for a detailed list of what items baby will need and how much they could set you back. Keep in mind the information is in U.S. dollars and that American parents, who head back to work much earlier, pay for day care or a nanny for most of that first year.
Outside of child care, there are plenty of necessary baby items that can certainly add up: crib, playpen, bassinet, changing table, baby bath and car seat, to name a few. You'll pay more for additional usage of utilities like electricity and water - just think of all that additional laundry - as well as clothing and food.
Babycenter.ca has some good tips for new parents looking to cut costs in the first year. When it comes to furniture, for example, their advice is to make a list of what you really need. You can find a sturdy new crib for around $250. Of course, you can also find one for $1,250. But don't assume a higher price tag means a safer product. All cribs have to meet the same government safety standards.
When you're looking at cribs, consider one that adapts as your child grows, converting from a crib to a toddler bed to a day bed. That can save you money down the road. Viewpoints.com and eBay.ca are two sites that offer reviews and price comparisons for a variety of makes and models. You can also post a request for items on local parenting sites or on Craigslist.ca. Often times people only use or need baby items for a few months and then they're ready to get rid of it at a fraction of the original price.
For the 75 (seriously) or so diapers that new parents are changing a week, consider signing up at diaper manufacturers' websites to get coupons – every little bit helps for these necessary purchases. Stores like Babies "R" Us offer coupons periodically on a variety of basic baby items, including diapers. Just sign up at the store to receive coupons by mail or online for promo codes. It's also a good idea to list some of the basics on your baby registry, so that your friends and family can pitch in on big-ticket items like a car seat, stroller, and high chair.
Another option for cost-savings is to consider going the cloth diaper route. Cloth diapers have come a long way but they certainly aren't for everyone. You'll have to weigh the pros and cons. From a financial standpoint, you will save money using cloth over disposable. However, keep in mind that to save money you need to wash the cloth diapers yourself instead of sending them to a laundering service.
One of the best ways to save on baby items is to ask for hand-me-downs from friends with older kids. Five out of the seven new babies I know are girls. They rotate clothes, toys and baby gear. This especially makes sense for age-specific gear like baby swings and bumbos, things a baby outgrows quickly and then end up collecting dust in the basement.
Another way to offset the costs of raising a child is to take advantage of some of the tax deductions, tax credits, and other benefits offered by the federal and provincial governments. You may not qualify for all of these, but you'll certainly be eligible for some. Make sure to apply as early as you can, as it takes time to process the applications.
The Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) is a government program that gives Canadian families $100 (pre-tax) each month for each child under the age of six. Although it was designed to help cover child care costs, your baby does not need to be in a daycare for you to receive this benefit. However, you do need to fill out an application in order to receive the payment. Apply online here.
New parents should also look into the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), which is aimed at low and middle-income families. The amount is based on the age and number of children, family income, and child care expenses. Benefits are paid monthly and are non-taxable. There is a basic benefit for each child under 18. Check out this website or call 1-800-387-1193 for more information.
You may be able to deduct child care expenses from your income when you're filling out your tax return, so make sure to keep receipts for your child care expenses—from nannies to nursery schools, day and overnight camps. The Canada Revenue Agency site has more information on the deductions.
For more on how parents are saving money visit forums like canadianparents.ca. Or, organize a get together once a month for the new parents you know, to check in and see how everyone is managing and what they're learning. And, it's a great opportunity to swap some of that old baby stuff you have lying around and take home some new items.
Angela Self writes for Globeinvestor.com weekly. She is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies, a group of five women who specialize in personal finance. They are hosts of a self-titled show on the W Network and the authors of The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough. Find out more about them at