The Real Cost Of Starting A Family

Having a child is a life-changing event that few of us can ever truly be prepared for. The enormous responsibility of having a little one completely and solely dependent upon you, as well as the absolute joy this little being will bring, can be overwhelming.

You can plan as much as you want, but most people have no way to gauge the impact of this new little miracle on their financial bottom line.

Also, the biggest personal cost – if your child is healthy – is time. You will lose time for yourself, leisure time, sleep time, and pretty much any other time you can think of.

The Real Cost Of Starting A Family

So what’s the real cost of starting a family?

Mothers see the biggest loss of personal and leisure time when their kids are newborn to two years old and the time cost nearly doubles with 2 children. Interestingly, time costs go down when there are three or more kids in the household. (Dads also see a drop in personal time, but much less than moms.)

Besides spending time with children mothers also become household managers. They pay more attention and time to meal prep, bill paying, laundry, shopping and so on.

Make peace with the fact that your schedule, your time commitments and many of your relationships will change.

New babies cost money

You may have heard the calculations that raising a child to the age of 18 can cost anywhere from $72,000 to over $250,000 (depending on the source), excluding childcare, secondary education, and lost income. Children can be the second largest expense after housing costs. But it’s the first year of life that’s the biggest financial shocker for most new parents – hence the baby shower.

Essentials: Food, clothing, diapers, car seat, high chair, stroller, sling, crib, other nursery furniture, activity items (bouncer, play mat, etc.) baby bath and toiletries.

Not essential, but we all do it: Professional photos, toys, nursery decorations, and announcements.

Baby gear ideally should come from family and friends. People tend to register for weddings and bridal showers but don’t seem to apply the same logic for babies. Everyone loves to buy baby stuff – it’s adorable.

Find whatever else you need second-hand through Kijiji or Facebook swap & buy sites.

Your friends and family will be thrilled to outfit your child with everything s/he needs so make sure you set up a registry (most baby stores now have them) and include everything you can think of – not just newborn gear, but toddlers’ as well. Leave the dad-to-be at home for the registration (he doesn’t have a clue), and bring a seasoned mom with you – she knows best.

Stay home or go back to work?

If you’re a parent you’ve surely been privy to the unbelievable amount of sometimes vitriolic chatter (especially online) surrounding the question of whether a mom should stay home when she has kids, or go back to work.

Let’s first acknowledge that even having the ability to choose between those roles is a privilege. Many parents don’t have the option; they must work to make ends meet. Look for the financial break-even point.

Related: How we prepared to live on one income

So what do you do if you have that choice? Sometimes working isn’t only about money – it’s about fulfillment, career, vocation and roles.

How happy will you be either opting in or opting out? Not all costs and benefits are financial.

Alternatively, going back to work just to be miserable probably wouldn’t be worth the personal cost to your happiness and lost time with your child. The bottom line is do you have a choice to stay home for a while? Can your family keep its current quality of life if you choose not to work? Or are you willing to downsize your lifestyle somewhat? Go after your household expenses with a hacksaw.

The time you spend raising children is a fantastic investment in both their future and yours.


The “after work shift” with small kids is demanding, but what can be more stressful is finding acceptable – and affordable – childcare. Many parents are on waiting lists and have to juggle their baby’s care among babysitters, friends, grandparents, or the other parent.

Once a spot opens up in a day care centre it can be expensive. Costs in most major cities top $1,000 per child. According to Global News, monthly full-time care costs can range from $152 (certain Quebec cities) to $1676 (Toronto).

A live-in nanny (if you have the room) may be the least expensive childcare option for three or more children. Many also do housework, cooking, shopping, and errands that will save you valuable time.

Final thoughts

In addition to prenatal classes, the best thing you can do to prepare for your new baby is get out of debt.

Life insurance is a must. And, make sure you take advantage of all the benefit programs and tax credits the government offers.

Cost of starting a family

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  1. Kathy Your Net Worth Manager on October 21, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Good article Marie. Sad to let what should be such a special time be blighted by money worries. When couples tell me this is in the plan I often suggest they live as if they are already parents for 6 months. We pretend one income is zero or mat leave pay plus the extra expenses. It can be a wake up call. At the end of the 6 months they have a healthy amount saved to cushion the year off from the income we were pretending wasn’t there.
    I also use cash flow software to model return to work income with day care costs included.

    Kathy Waite Fee Only Planner Regina Saskatchewan

  2. Ginette on October 21, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Nicely written including both personal and financial considerations. Reality is that you can’t separate the two. Thanks!

  3. canadianbudgetbinder on October 21, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    Having our first child after we paid off the mortgage and are debt free has really taken a load of stress off but there are still bills to pay. We have noticed a bit of a change but we are still frugal where we need to be. We bought a massive box of all excellent quality clothes last month for $70. The clothes are well cared for and likely would have cost around $500 or more to buy brand new. The cost savings buying second-hand is huge especially if you are a couple like us who don’t have relatives around to outfit our child every chance they can. We both feel the time crunch with our one year old now. Everything has changed however we have learned one thing from all of this, patience. You never get the time back so we spend it together as a family as much as we can. Great post. 🙂

  4. DivGuy on October 22, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Insurance and having a will should be top priorities when someone turns into a parent. Sometimes it’s “easier” to cover your debts with appropriate insurance than paying them all before children arrive. Doesn’t mean to stop getting rid of them! 😉

    Sure kids cost money, and a big chunk of it too. But I surely don’t regret my family. They are the persons I love the most and would do anything for.



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