Google “cost of baby’s first year canada” and you’ll find dozens of hits citing a figure between $8,000 and $12,000. That’s a lot of money when one of you (if you’re not going it alone) is probably only receiving parental benefits. Heck, it’s a lot of money anytime. Furniture for the nursery, gear, clothes, toys, diapers and incidentals sure can add up. But it doesn’t have to according to the experts we asked.
“Many new parents rush to buy everything they think they need for their new baby, and invariably end up with a great deal of “stuff’ they don’t need, use, or want,’ says Sarah Deveau, from Aidrie, Alta., and author of Money Smart Mom (Last Impression). So you’ll need to determine if the product you are eyeing is something you couldn’t image living without and how much you are willing to spend.
Sandra Gordon, author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products, says products like car seats, cribs and play yards often warrant buying new because safety standards change so frequently, but other items such as strollers, high chairs, soft infant carriers, baby bathtubs and large plastic toys are good used buys—even better if they include the instruction manual (otherwise check to see if you can download one from the manufacturer’s website). All new-to-you pieces should be inspected for missing or malfunctioning parts or pieces, broken safety straps, loose knobs or screws, chipping paint, or worn or scratchy edges, she adds. Also check for any recalls at hc-sc.gc.ca.
Considering the average Canadian baby uses 6,000 to 8,000 diapers in their first three years, is it any wonder that parents rejoice when their child finally potty trains? If you want to be super frugal, cloth diapers are the way to go, says Deveau. “Even if you purchase higher end cloth diapers and consider the laundering costs (by you, not a service), you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year using cloth. You’ll save even more if you buy them second-hand, or use them for subsequent children.”
If you can’t fathom using anything but disposable, look for the best price by comparing the per diaper price of a box or brand. “By knowing size 1 Pampers or Huggies are usually $0.19 per diaper, you’ll know when you find a mega deal, regardless of the different size of the pack. Plus, knowing each brand-name diaper cost you $0.08 more than the store brand, you might be inspired to try less expensive diaper labels to find one you like, for less,” says Deveau. Online sites such as flyerland.ca and redflagdeals.ca make tracking diaper sales easier and you can save even more money by signing up for special offers at the website of the brand you prefer.
It is lovely to have new outfits for your babe, but don’t write-off second-hand shops as a source for clothes, advises Gordon. “These shops are prime real estate for everyday as well as special-occasion baby and toddler clothes such as christening outfits and fancy party duds that have been worn only once or twice (if at all).” In fact, parents can save at least 50 to 80 percent when they buy second hand, says Krista Meek, co-owner of Boomerang Kids, a consignment shop in Ottawa. Garage sales, eBay and online classified sites like craigslist.ca and kijiji.ca are also great sources for bargains but inspect each piece for loose snaps, deep stains or scratchy appliqués. Finally, tell friends you are accepting hand-me-downs; you’ll be inundated with more baby clothes than you have space for.
Breastmilk is free and of course what’s best (unless you are unable or there are other issues of course!). After that, baby food is practically free—just take your own foods and puree them. It takes a bit of adjustment but after a few days of doing it it will become second nature (and end up as a huge savings!). Here are a few recipes to get you started.
It may seem like you do nothing but dole out money, but taking advantage of tax breaks for families is a way to keep a little too. Unfortunately some parents don’t apply for all the benefits they are entitled to, says Nancy Williams, an Ottawa-based senior tax professional with H&R Block Canada. As soon as your babe is born, complete and submit the Canada Child Tax Benefit Application that registers him and you for the GST/HST Credit, Universal Child Care Benefit ($100 per month until the age of six) and the Child Tax Credit ($2,101 for each child under 18—which means a federal tax saving of $315 per child). Signing him up for baby swim? Keep the receipt: the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit allows you to claim a maximum of $500, for a credit of $75. Plus starting to save for his Registered Education Savings Plan now will benefit him huge in the future. (Make sure you get a social insurance number for him first). The Government of Canada will make a maximum lifetime grant of $7,200.
This story is part of our New Baby Guide. Check it out for more info on bringing home, planning for and surviving having a new baby.