There is just something extra special about watching a child experience the holiday season, and after all the fun family festivities of the last few weeks, many of us young professionals (YPs) are left pondering the idea of adding a little one to our own lives. And so continues one of the most popular discussions of our current generation: when/if to start a family, or to just remain a D.I.N.K.(Y.) (dual income, no kids [yet]). This is of course an extremely personal issue, and so instead of weighing the joys of parenthood against the freedoms of D.I.N.K.dom, we’ve decided to focus purely on the financials. To help us become more informed about this important aspect of the kid decision, we talked with Certified Financial Planners and YP parents Trevor Doyle and Julie Strickland, who tell us of the surprising costs of kids that most novice non-parents may not be considering.
According to MoneySense.ca, from birth to age 18, children in Canada cost an average of $240K. But as our money expert Julie states, there is a massive variance on this number. How each parent chooses what is important to raise a child is their choice, thus creating the large discrepancy. Julie points out that while there are of course the basic necessities, namely shelter, food and clothing, “the size, amount, and kind are going to toss that number around.” Overall, she says, “the $240k is based on an average cost in an average-costing city in Canada.”
So instead of focusing on bland national averages, we asked our pros to give us a more realistic idea of the cost of adding a kid to our lives apart from basic necessities, meaning those things us non/yet-to-be parents may not think of when imagining a kid-friendly budget. Trevor has found, based on both personal and professional experience, that a major expense for YP parents is childcare, with costs in some parts of Canada as high as $30-$90 per child per day. Further, he notes, “other costs that can add up in a hurry are the fun programs and activities we all want our children to experience: skating lessons, swimming lessons, parent and baby groups, etc. Hockey, for example, is generally an expensive sport to play, but then also requires yearly equipment updates as your child grows. Hockey camps, tournaments, travelling can lead to a $10,000 per year bill.” As Julie also notes, there are certain luxuries that most Canadian parents choose not to live without, like larger homes, larger or multiple vehicles, orthodontics, RESPs, and family vacations.
Living the Life
While it’s important to be aware of potential hits to the pocketbook when budgeting for a baby, Julie also points out that there are additional ways in which kids can financially alter the YP D.I.N.K. lifestyle:
1. Career plan: For parents who choose to stay home on leave, “they typically lose a year, thus it takes longer to move up and reach where they want to be in their career/company” – which can obviously affect the potential for raises in salary.
2. Flexibility: Committing to being home at certain times can have an affect on work flexibility, especially for hourly workers. “I’ve seen clients take pay cuts in their job to spend more time at home with family.”
3. Leisure time: Though Julie has seen changes in the amount of leisure time her parent-clients spend, certainly in the first six months to one year, she does have many who say that regular dates with their significant other, as well as getting out with friends, are still important. Additionally, “I know many clients who have simply adapted their vacations to be increasingly child friendly instead of opting to cut them out all together,” she says.
4. Savings: “This is probably the biggest area I see a change,” Julie tells us. “People reduce their savings when they decide to have children as they will typically be off for a year. I often find when I encourage them to restart after the year, they can’t or don’t want to, as they are now paying for childcare, the food bill has gone up, etc.”
How to prepare
To put all this fairly heavy info into perspective, in order to enlighten rather than deter, our experts offer this advice to potential YP parents:
1. “Have a slush fund,” says Julie. Save up.
2. “Keep saving,” she insists; “if you have to, reduce, but try not to stop. Research has shown that the key with saving is time, not amount. Thus, it is usually better to save less but keep saving something. It keeps the habitual routine in mind, and it is often easier to increase rather than (re)start.”
3. “Know your priorities will change. You are making a decision to bring a child into this world and this is going to come with some sacrifice in all aspects of your world, including financial. However, I have yet to run into a parent who wouldn’t agree it is all worth it!”
4. And, finally, as Trevor strongly advises, “Make a budget! Having children doesn’t mean never going on a date night or vacation again (you need them!). It means you may need to lower the bar on what restaurants you go to or resort you stay at or simply not go as often. I believe that staying within your budget will lead to more happiness than the things you buy that lead you into debt. Yes, kids are expensive, but as a parent I cannot imagine life without my boy and I look forward to having more little money pits.”