Kids Are Expensive

Dear Jeff,

Have you ever tried to raise three kids under the age of seven at the same time? It is so expensive to keep them clothed, fed and entertained. It seems like every dollar I make, I am putting right back in to raising these little cuties. I really need some help on how I can cut back on these costs before I go crazy. Got some advice?

Stephanie R.
Banff, Alberta


Oh, the joys of parenthood!

Raising kids, especially three young ones at the same time, is never easy. Between preparing meals, shuttling them to school, and playing with them in the backyard, there’s little time for mom and dad to enjoy themselves.

And then we get to the money issue. A recent article pegged the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 years old at just under $250,000. That’s not a typo either. A quarter of a million dollars. Yikes.

But like anything, you can find ways to save if you look hard enough. I’m going to give you a few simple tips that will cut down on costs but keep your kids happy.

  • Become a Discount Detective – Finding great deals can be extremely rewarding for both you and your bank account. Agent Mulder on the X-Files used to say, “The truth is out there.” Well, Agent Jeff says, “The deals are out there, too!” Take advantage of Canadian coupon sites like and for great deals. Also, consider signing up for the weekly or daily emails that nearly every retailer sends out. You will be the first to know about new discounts, and you’ll get some exclusive ones too. If you are worried about them overtaking your inbox, just create a separate email address that you use only for these discount notifications. You’ll be shopping smart and saving money in no time.
  • The Toy Exchange – Kids love new toys. The excitement of having something new is overwhelming. I’m sure you’ve seen this happen every Christmas morning. Your little one unwraps something and it’s like he just won the lottery. But come February, that toy is collecting dust in some dark corner of his room. This is where a neighbourhood toy exchange can work wonders!Organize the parents in your neighbourhood to participate in this free toy exchange. Every month, gather up the toys your kids don’t use and deliver them to the home of another family with kids. You’ll also be receiving a big box of toys from another home. Your kids will look forward to the first day of the month because it will be like Christmas for them. They’ll have a whole new set of toys – at no cost to you!
  • Clothing on the Cheap – Kids do not need to be on the forefront of fashion. There is no need for buying the latest “kid fashion” for them no matter how much certain advertisements try to convince you. Ignore the brand names and look for the bargain racks.Buying high quality clothes may make sense for adults because you can wear them for years and years. But your kids are going to grow out of them in no time so why waste the money. Buy clothes on sale, go to used stores, and gather up hand-me-downs from other families. By decreasing the amount of money you spend on clothes for your kids, you’ll be able to spend more on experiences for your children or even put some towards savings!

Stephanie, I’m sure you are a great mother and you obviously care about your kids a lot. But please don’t worry that by saving money on their upbringing you are somehow neglecting them. That’s so far from the truth. Make wise, frugal decisions about your budget and you’ll have more money to spend on the really important things – like a babysitter on Saturday nights!

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about budgeting with kids in the household or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to [email protected]. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.