This article originally appeared on Inspired Investor on October 20, 2020.
A pregnant belly begets platitudes from strangers. Many, many platitudes. A common one I got while expecting my now-three-year-old was: “Kids are so expensive!” As I did with all the unsolicited commentary, I smiled and nodded, so as so say “Yes, yes, I am aware (and please stop talking to me).”
But in truth, I wasn’t aware at all.
I couldn’t buy into the idea that I would go bankrupt over diapers or formula — how much could they possibly cost? And while my husband threatened me with sky-high hockey costs — and my son did display a heck of a kick in utero — I just wasn’t ready to take my future as a hockey mom to the bank. What else was there? Designer clothes? Not my style. Flashy toys? Didn’t want my kid playing with them anyway. Private school? I had liked my public school experience just fine.
Now that I’m on the other side, I can confirm: Kids are expensive, but not in the ways I thought. Here are a few costs I wish I’d considered before becoming a parent.
You’ll have less money coming in
While I was wracking my mind for costs I’d incur, I forgot to calculate for the income I would miss. Of course, I knew I would make less money while on parental leave — in my case, 45 per cent less for 12 months — but I hadn’t taken the time to calculate what that would mean. Take it from me, it’s worth calculating, whether you’re facing decreased pay or no pay at all. And take it from a friend of mine: It’s also worth talking with your partner about expectations, particularly if you have kept your finances separate up to this point. Sleepless nights are not the time to discuss the merits of a new pair of running shoes, for example.
Being responsible can add up, fast
New life made me think about death — a lot. I was suddenly responsible for this little creature, and I felt that responsibility in my bones. Before my son’s first birthday, I had written my will and bought life insurance. Ditto my husband. As the life insurance broker rattled off the many ailments that were and were not covered by my chosen policy, I said a silent goodbye to my youth and hello to the monthly fee that would help bring me peace of mind.
You’ll want to make a plan
While I was admittedly pretty lax about my own future plans, I felt compelled to ensure my son’s future was a bright one, brilliant even. The importance of saving suddenly became acutely clear. As our son babbled in his bassinet, we opened an RESP account, and with the help of family we’ve been lucky to be able to max out payments since — largely to capitalize on the free government grant money. As a colleague of mine aptly put it, “We’re tracking for the long-term with this kid, and if he decides to go into an expensive profession that relies on medical school or a PhD, we want to be ready.”
The best is never good enough for your baby
If you don't know this already, let me be the one to tell you: Your child will be the best child ever to crawl this earth.
If you don’t know this already, let me be the one to tell you: Your child will be the best child ever to crawl this earth. That is to say, don’t be surprised if you become a bit irrational. Within weeks of my son’s birth, I had traded my “totally drivable, it just screeches a bit when I break” car for a lease with all the latest safety bells and whistles (which added a couple hundred bucks to my monthly budget).
As he began to show an interest in solids, I made adjustments to the family budget so I could switch the whole household to pricier organic whole foods — even the coffee, which I had no intention of feeding to my son. When it came time to sign him up for daycare, I toured every place within a 50-kilometre radius, regardless of price. I was going to figure out how I’d pay for this later, but I didn’t want to skimp.
Plan all you like, but, in my case at least, the proof is in the sustainably sourced, non-GMO, naturally sweetened pudding: you’ll frequently opt to pay a premium if you think it will benefit your child.
As I mentioned, my little guy is still only three. As he grows up and finds his calling, be it hockey or otherwise, I have a feeling I’m in for a few more pricey surprises.
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