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Kids Are So Expensive — But Not in the Ways I Expected

By Mary Levitski

Published June 23, 2021 • 4 Min Read

This piece by Mary Levitski originally appeared in the Inspired Investor.

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 to 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 known about 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 take into account the income I would miss out on. 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 a reluctant 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 Ph.D., we want to be ready. “

The best never feels good enough

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 to my monthly tally). 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 (as I said, irrational). 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 wrote, 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.

Inspired Investor is the RBC Direct Investing digital magazine.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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