Friday, July 6th, 2018
Ask a family with young kids how they save for the future, and the first thing they'll do is laugh.
"LOLOLOLOL," replied Kat Armstrong, the mother of three boys under 10, by text.
"We don't. It's the complete opposite," says Scott Bond, the father of an 11-year-old girl.
But dig deeper and you'll find that despite the cash crunch of paying for homes, school, after-school activities, saving for university and retirement, Canadian parents are finding ways to save money on common items and still put money away for school and retirement.
The cost of raising a child to adulthood is eye-wateringly expensive. The agreed-upon number is around the $250,000 mark, and the salaries of most Canadians don't come close to that number. That means most parents, especially those with more than one child, have to get creative when it comes to saving money for their future while providing for their kids in the present. I asked a few friends of mine how they do it.
"We buy mostly used stuff and graciously accept all gently used items," says Liz Majic, the mother of a 10-month-old boy. Majic is following a growing trend of shopping the secondhand market, which according to Kijiji, grew to $29 billion in 2016. Other parents form groups, whether within their neighbourhoods or on Facebook, and trade gently used items with each other. "We shop at Value Village," says Yen Mac. "We pass on old clothes and take gently used clothing from those with kids older than us."
Eating out is expensive, especially if you're buying for a family of three or more. That's why all the parents interviewed say they eat at home and plan meals. Mitchell Brown swears by this. "Weekly menu plans help to avoid picking up grocery items we don't need," Brown says. This is echoed by Mac who says, "We don't eat out and try to cook and prep as much food as we can, and we review our household budget annually."
Electricity bills these days are expensive, and many people are looking for ways to reduce costs. In Ontario, that means taking advantage of lower pricing for energy use during off-peak times. Brown says, "Our dishwasher is programmed to run after midnight and laundry loads run on weekends to save on hydro bills."
All the parents interviewed said they do their best to make things last, whether that includes clothing or as Mac says, "we drive an old used car."
"No cable," was the cry of several parents. Instead, they focus on experiences. Brown says he and his partner are raising "extremely pro-library kids" and other parents say they're focusing on inexpensive or free experiences like outdoor trips to the park.
Gail McInnes, who has a 2-year-old boy, says, "I basically have a small amount that comes out each week that I won't notice. Small amounts add up long-term." Danielle Da Sylva Arbuckle, who has two preteen children, says that she set up automatic transfer amounts to RSPs and RESPs, "Honestly, if I had any control over that money, I'd find many things to spend it on, but out of sight, out of mind."
Sometimes it's all about having age-appropriate conversations about money with your kids. Brown says he and his partner have frank talks with their kids when they make expensive requests.
"We help them feel like part of the team by discussing the challenges of buying something when money is tight," he says. "We train the kids to see birthdays and Christmas as a chance to get more expensive items on their wish list, rather than giving it to them as soon as they're in stores."
It's hard to save money when you have kids, but these parents have found ways to cut costs and put that money towards the things that matter to them, like education and retirement. "It's a matter of looking at everything and making every change you can possible," says Mac. "It all adds up."