How to save on child care expenses

No matter where you live in Canada, child care expenses are high. A recent study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that child care expenses in Canada are among the highest in the world.child care expenses

  • According to the OECD, the average ratio of child care costs to household net income is 15 per cent. In Canada, it is significantly higher at 22 per cent
  • Single parents pay 32 per cent of their income to child care
  • According to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Affordability Index, the top five least affordable Canadian cities for childcare are Brampton, Toronto, London, Windsor and Surrey, respectively

Raising kids is expensive! In the early years, the bulk costs goes towards child care, And when you take into account the high cost of living in some cities, child care costs take an even bigger bite out of your take-home pay, “says Jeff Schwartz ,executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

“Like with a number of other expenses in your household budget, there are opportunities to save. You’ve just got to be creative. Enlist the help of family, share care with friends and neighbours and research out all of the options available to you in your community,” says Schwartz.

Here are some tips on how you can cut back on child care expenses:

If you are expecting

Don’t wait until after your baby is born to start considering your child care options. Finding out what is available to you now will let you get on waiting lists (yes, they are often that long). It can also help you budget for what the expected costs will be when you go back to work.

Plan to take advantage of all of your leave time between the two parents to defer child care costs as long as possible. Also make sure that you are aware of any top-up programs your employer offers while you are off.

Apply for all of the benefits

There are a number of benefits and subsidies available from the Federal, Provincial and in some cases even Municipal Governments. Do a search in your area and make sure that you apply for everything you can.

Some benefits are paid right to the parents, like the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit, and can help you cover child care fees.  If you are looking at a registered childcare facility, there may even be subsidized care spots available to families that qualify, so it is worth asking.

Be flexible

If costs of child care eat up most of your income, what about part-time work or shift work that works around each parent’s schedule? Is your employer open to job sharing or flexhours, which can reduce your need for care?

Cut back elsewhere

If your job isn’t flexible, and you can’t seem to cut costs for daycare, you can slash costs in other areas of your budget, so that you’re not stretched too thin. Borrow everything that you can from friends and family in terms of clothing and equipment. Buy diapers in bulk. Make date night a “stay-in” night.  Make your own baby food and freeze it.

Does the high cost of living and raising kids have you turning to debt to cover your expenses? Paying down your debt can actually help you have more cash flow, and we can help. Call one of our trained credit counsellors at or check out our free online debt analysis .

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Shivani Karwal
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