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Holy smokes! But don’t panic — plan.

For many expectant parents, underneath the joy and excitement is also concern for the future — how will we afford child care, university and everything in between?

The experts weigh in
On average, parents will spend up to $243,660 by the time their child turns 19 (about $12,825 a year), says MoneySense.ca. You’re not alone if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by this total. And while the number may seem daunting, there are factors that affect how much you’ll spend — such as your location and lifestyle. A 2013 report by the Fraser Institute, for example, concluded that Canadian parents could raise children for $3,000 to $4,500 a year by adopting cost-effective strategies, such as using coupons, making kids’ clothing, buying things on sale and growing a vegetable garden.

So what can new parents expect to spend their money on for the next two decades? Here are a few tips to help you save for the various stages of your child’s life:

  • Before they arrive: Your expanding family will likely need a bigger roof over their heads. If you rent an apartment with more bedrooms or buy a bigger home, your household costs will certainly increase. And you may want to upgrade to a larger car, like a minivan, or get a second vehicle to accommodate your growing family. Costs will vary, based on what model you select, but MoneySense’s analysis of data from Statistics Canada showed a $2,065 transportation expense difference between couples with kids and ones without.

    • Tip: As you plan for a growing family, create and maintain a budget that includes the major expenditures you’ll need, along with the expenses outlined in the following sections. Set aside an afternoon or evening to plan it out, and make sure your budget includes reasonable goals that you can achieve. Babypost.com offers tips for starting and sticking to one. You can also track and manage your spending in an Excel spreadsheet or through an app. If you prefer an electronic system, tools like Mint for Canada or, if you’re a BMO accountholder, “Manage My Finances” in BMO Online Banking and the BMO Tablet app can help you keep track of your accounts, income and expenses.

  • When they’re newborns: A child’s first year is typically one of the most expensive, according to the Globe and Mail, and can involve $8,000 in average expenses. From birth to preschool, a good portion of your paycheque will go to diapers and formula (which costs, on average, $105 a month, according to BabyCenter.ca), and eventually milk, if mom is not breastfeeding. Looking for a deal on diapers?

    • Tip: Looking for a deal on diapers? Consider using cloth, which involves a $300 investment, instead of disposable — CBC News says cloth could save some serious cash, compared to the 6,000 to 10,000 disposable diapers you’d need to buy during your child’s first three years.

    Additionally, for the first child, you’ll need a few big-ticket items, including a crib, stroller, car seat, infant carrier and high chair. Canadian Family suggests getting new cribs and car seats, due to frequently changing safety standards, and saving money by buying used items such as high chairs, strollers and baby bathtubs.

    Child care (daycare, live-in nanny or a babysitter) is another major expense — on average, more than $3,900 a year, according to MoneySense.

  • When they’re in elementary school: The good news is, parents spend the least amount, $7,000, when their child hits 12, according to the Canadian Council on Social Development. (Expect costs to increase, however, when your child becomes a teenager.) During elementary and high school, you’ll fork out money for recreation and school supplies — approximately $1,004 a year, according to MoneySense — plus trips and care programs, until they’re old enough to stay home alone.
     
    • Tip: Start saving now for these 8 kid costs, including hobbies, braces and driver’s ed.

  • When they’re in high school: Until your child turns 16, you may be able to qualify for the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and claim up to $1,000 in fees you paid for physical activity program registration or membership from the previous year, which can help offset the cost of extracurricular activities1. You may, however, be paying full price for a computer, cellphone, tablet or gaming system. If your child needs braces, the traditional steel kind cost $5,000 to $8,000, according to Canada.com. Prepare for your grocery bill to potentially skyrocket as your youngster’s appetite and body grows especially in those teenage years. (MoneySense estimates it will cost you, on average, about $1,727 a year to feed your child until age 19.)

    • Tip: The British Medical Journal found that healthy eating can add $2,000 to your annual food bill, so factor that in when you write your weekly grocery list. Find nutritious budget-friendly meal ideas from CBC.ca.

1 Speak to a tax professional about tax advice.

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