Woman in pink shirt sitting on a beige couch writing on paper

Your child is priceless, but what you’ll need to care for them has a cost! We’ll show you how to budget for a baby with expert advice and everything you need, item by item, for the first year.

Kelley Keehn

Kelley Keehn

She’s the Consumer Advocate for FP Canada and an award-winning and best-selling author of 9 books on personal finance and fraud protection, including A Canadian’s Guide to Money-Smart Living. Keehn is the personal finance authority on CTV’s “The Marilyn Denis Show” and makes media appearances around the world.

She’s the Consumer Advocate for FP Canada and an award-winning and best-selling author of 9 books on personal finance and fraud protection, including A Canadian’s Guide to Money-Smart Living. Keehn is the personal finance authority on CTV’s “The Marilyn Denis Show” and makes media appearances around the world.

We sought expert Kelley Keehn’s advice on preparing your family finances before you add the newest precious member to your growing family. Make sure to keep her tips working for you by using Walmart Financial so you and your family get everything you need and deserve. And be sure to keep this checklist nearby so you can budget for every item you’ll need.

Finances

Finances

Baby budget infographic

You’ll spend about $11,000 on your baby in their first year of life, not including prenatal classes and care or childcare. It’s usually the most expensive because of one-time purchases you’ll use in the years to come. Keehn recommends understanding finances before going on maternity leave, like applying for a line of credit (if needed) while earning full pay, then looking to the federal government for information.

You’ll spend about $11,000 on your baby in their first year of life, not including prenatal classes and care or childcare. It’s usually the most expensive because of one-time purchases you’ll use in the years to come. Keehn recommends understanding finances before going on maternity leave, like applying for a line of credit (if needed) while earning full pay, then looking to the federal government for information.

“Check your Employment Insurance (EI) and see if you’re eligible and how much you’re going to get,” advises Keehn. “It depends on whether you’re self-employed or what have you. If you have a side hustle, make sure that you’re factoring that into your EI and whether there’s any kind of conflict there.”

Keehn says some companies will make up some or all the difference between mat leave and regular pay.

“If you get your EI, you’re getting 55% of your gross income so some companies, especially the bigger ones, top it up,” she informs.

Paying off credit card balances is a smart idea, says Keehn. “Get rid of high-interest credit card debt. That’s just a waste of money.”

If you can practise living on less before you deliver, you’ll be ready for the change in lifestyle. Life with a baby will be less predictable, but worth it!

Medical expenses

Medical expenses

Sometimes babies need prescriptions filled by the pharmacy and other places of medical care. This unforeseen demand is an additional expense you can’t avoid. I operate on the Titanic budgeting method: If I know where the lifeboats are, there’s less stress in my daily life! Don’t go down with the ship. Have a plan in mind in case you need it.

Keehn advises looking into the specifics about your medical coverage through work.

“Visit your company’s HR department and talk to them about what health plan you’ve got,” she suggests. “If you don’t have one if you’re self-employed, check into your provincial plan and whether you should be getting extra coverage.”

Notify your province or territory’s government to get a birth certificate and add your child to your family’s medical insurance. Use the links on this Government of Canada page to apply for a social insurance number for your child, as well as to apply for child and family benefits. These applications should be submitted as soon as possible after your baby is born.

Saving money

Once you have a family, it’s important to put your wishes for their care into a will and to purchase life insurance. However, some expectant parents feel they need to do everything at once, and Keehn advises against putting that pressure on yourselves.

“It’s not realistic for most families to start a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) right away,” she remarks. “Put that off for now.”

Saving money might seem impossible, but Keehn says you’ll be amazed to learn how much you’re wasting if you conduct a “30-day anti-budget.”

“Track every cent you spend, which is easier to do now,” she advises. “The bank does the accounting for you. But you have to dig a little deeper, and at the end of 30 days, that’s going to create a whole new level of awareness. It’s like tracking your financial calories. It’s usually an eye-opening experience. You multiply it by 12, and it’s like, what are we spending in a year on X? If you don’t track it, your brain is never going to get how all these little things add up.”

Pregnant woman looking at papers and laptop on kitchen counter

Pregnant woman looking at papers and laptop on kitchen counter

Instead of spending the “X” money, put it in a savings account. Better yet, ask the bank to withdraw and deposit it for you. Out of sight, out of mind. Keehn says another short-term cash-flow break might be available. “If you have a skip-a-payment option on your mortgage, this might be the time to use it,” she suggests.

Creative use of social media could help you and other new moms, says Keehn. You can start a group chat through text messaging apps, host Skype calls or take advantage of a variety of organizational apps aimed at helping first-time parents.

“There’s strength in numbers,” she explains. “Old-fashioned getting together and making meals together. Maybe one person goes to buy all the groceries, not just to save money but to save time. It frees you up to enjoy this process. It’s not all about budgeting. It’s about time to enjoy precious moments with baby at home. So, using social media as a tool to save money and time is very effective.”

Now that we have Keehn’s plan for finding and saving money, let’s look at where it needs to be spent.

Baby Budget Breakdown

Baby Budget Breakdown

One-time expenses Cost Ongoing expenses Cost
Approx. $1,600 Approx. $785/month
Estimates only, costs may vary based on region or location.

Prenatal classes

Prenatal classes

If this is your first baby, you’ll benefit from guidance in your last trimester by taking prenatal classes. Our friends at BabyCenter have put together a terrific article on prenatal classes where they explain the different programs. Costs vary depending on your province and whether you can get into a hospital-run class (they fill up quickly!) or pay out-of-pocket for privately-run instruction.

Prenatal care

Many physicians recommend taking prenatal supplements while breastfeeding. Some moms swear by a doula—a professionally trained woman who provides emotional, physical and practical prenatal support. The assistance of a doula can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

If you’re choosing home birth with a midwife, that might have a cost, too. Some provinces regulate and fund midwives and home births, while others do not. Visit this article from BabyCenter for the breakdown, province by province.

Childcare

This expense varies. If you have a trusted friend or family member available, the cost can be next to nothing. Daycare rates vary widely across the country, and a study released earlier this year by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) finds they’re rising faster than inflation. You can expect to pay between a few hundred and more than $1,000 per child, per month, for care.

One-Time Expenses: Approx. $1,600+

The following are your baby must-haves. These essentials are higher-ticket items that you should only need to buy one time.

Nursery

You might be able to shuffle around a lamp and a dresser you already have in your home. Perhaps you kept the crib your older child used when they were a baby. But if this is your first baby, you’ll need to buy a crib, mattress, bumpers and rail covers and bedding, as well as a mobile to help generate adorable smiles. You’re going to hear the mobile’s music often. The gentle 30-minute melodies of the Tiny Love Meadow Days Take Along Mobile by Safety 1st should be easy on the nerves yet lively enough to keep baby entertained. The mobile also attaches to car seats and strollers—wherever baby goes.

A bassinet can substitute for a crib when baby comes home from the hospital, or serve as a portable sleeping option, along with a crib. Don’t forget the bedding! A co-sleeper helps keep your infant within arm’s reach, for safer sleeping and easier access for feeding and comforting. Some parents use a bassinet as a co-sleeper. The difference is that a co-sleeper attaches to the side of your bed. Make sure to follow all the manufacturer’s instructions.

A changing table can be simple or fancy, with open shelves or dresser drawers. Whatever your taste, top the table with a pad, like Kidilove’s contoured Soybean Foam Printed Vinyl Cover Changing Pad. It has a non-stick bottom, and I love that it helps turn just about any flat surface into a changing table.

You’ll want to hear every coo and cry, so a baby monitor is a must. If you’re breastfeeding, the best breast pump, manual or electric, will become your friend who helps relieve you from discomfort while giving dad a chance to bond with baby. A nursing pillow supports baby in the feeding position until they learn to sit. A nursing bra allows quicker and easier access to help calm baby’s hungry cries.

A hamper will hide soiled clothing until laundry day, and a diaper pail and refill bags will help keep the nursery fresh. You might want a rocking chair or glider for comfort during feeding time. Concord Baby makes a contemporary model that is built to glide, recline and swivel! The Charleston Swivel Glider Recliner Fabric Chair is covered in gorgeous grey linen that’s neutral and suitable for any room.

Home

Bathing a tiny infant requires the safety of a tiny bathtub or bather. Baby washcloths and hooded towels are fabricated to be soft on a newborn’s skin. For grooming, a pair of Safety 1st Steady Grip Nail Clippers with an extra-large soft-grip handle will help make it easier to trim baby’s nails. A small, gentle comb and hairbrush will help get your little one used to grooming.

Baby-proofing your home consists of more than keeping toxic chemicals out of reach, although that’s part of it. Consider baby gates for stairways, doorways and hallways. Child locks help secure doors, cupboards and drawers.

Every home needs a First Aid Kit … because boo-boos inevitably happen.

Between the ages of 4 and 6 months, as your baby starts on solid food, they will need a high chair. I like the Table2Table 6-in-1 High Chair by Graco. It’s built to grow with your little one from infant to toddler, and it has a machine washable seat for easier cleaning.

The number of baby bottles and nipples you’ll need depends on whether you’re using them exclusively, or occasionally. Our friends at BabyCenter recommend buying at least six bottles and nipples, as well as a bottle brush for cleaning.

When bottle feeding, some newborns are picky about the shape of the nipple, or firmness of the plastic. Be prepared to experiment with different bottles or soothers until you find the perfect one.

Before too long, you’ll need sippy cups, plates and bowls, and utensils as your child learns to feed on their own.

baby reaching through wood baby gate

baby reaching through wood baby gate

Travel

Travel

You’re going to feel like a family roadshow by the time you pack up, even if you’re just running errands. The good news about an infant car seat is that you can purchase one that grows with your child. The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat is designed to adjust to accommodate infants from 5 pounds and up, all the way to children up to 65 pounds. Some parents prefer to leave the car seat in the vehicle, but you could choose a travel system stroller that includes a car seat that locks into the stroller.

If you jog, or want to start after baby is born, a jogging stroller is made specifically for this activity, with three super-sized wheels and a suspension system for a smoother ride. You’ll find lots of choices available in-store and online, so you can select the best stroller for you.

Baby carriers come in many styles: a sling, an ergonomic carrier, forward facing, inward facing, on your back, on your front—you get the idea! You and your partner might want to carry the baby differently. Fortunately, you can, thanks to a large assortment of carriers.

The best diaper bag you can afford is essential. It will get a workout as it goes everywhere baby goes. If a diaper backpack is more your style, the Places and Spaces Backpack Diaper Bag in grey by Baby Boom is gender neutral. It’s designed with a large main compartment and nine pockets.

Help keep baby occupied when you’re visiting friends by bringing along their play yard. Choose one that is designed to pop up and down easily. A snap-on canopy, padded floor and large playing area would be ideal. It should be ready to go where you go, indoors or out.

Toys and activities

Toys can help stimulate the mind and body, keep little fingers busy and teach things like counting and the alphabet. They’re also just plain fun!

An activity centre is designed to help keep your baby’s attention with moving parts, sound, lights and bright colours they play with as they learn to sit or stand.

Bouncers are seats sometimes accessorized with music, gentle vibration and toys to help keep baby occupied.

A doorway jumper, like Evenflo’s ExerSaucer Doorway Jumper, help exercise and entertain baby. We appreciate how easy it is to set up and move from room to room, without tools. A play mat is useful before and after your baby learns to sit up and move on their own, with dangling toys overtop a cushioned mat. Baby swings can go side-to-side or head-to-toe at variable speeds. They’re great for naptime once in a while—baby’s and yours!

Woman and baby playing with toy blocks

Woman and baby playing with toy blocks

Miscellaneous

You might want to make a formal birth announcement via social media or with photo cards from our Photo Centre. A saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Babies do grow up quickly, with changes every day. Instant film cameras are great for capturing moments to keep in a scrapbook or photo album.

Monthly Expenses: Approx. $785 per Month

Baby clothing

Thank goodness for baby showers! Gifts from friends and family help take a bite out of expenses. Be sure to check out our Baby Registry Checklist article, which includes a downloadable infographic you can print.

You’ll need several of everything … bodysuits, sleepwear, tops, bottoms, socks—so many socks! When baby spits up or soils a piece of clothing, you’ll need another clean one handy so you’re not doing laundry every couple of hours. (You’ll be doing laundry often enough!) Don’t buy too much until you see what you’re going to receive at your baby shower.

Receiving blankets are so versatile, as they can substitute for anything from a towel to a swaddling blanket in a pinch. It’s good to have a few of them, and this 4-pack of Organic Cotton Receiving Blankets from George baby will help get you started.

Diapering

You’ll need roughly 1 million diapers and 2 million wipes before baby is potty trained. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s how it feels! Buying in bulk saves money and keeps you well stocked.

Some babies need diaper rash cream at every changing, while some rarely do. But you and your baby will be glad you have some on hand, just in case you need to ward off diaper rash.

Feeding

At first, your newborn will want to be fed about every two hours, and you’ll need several items to make it a pleasant experience for both of you.

Regardless of whether you’re bottle feeding, breastfeeding or both, you will need bibs and burp cloths, as well as pacifiers.

With so many great choices in baby formula, check out our guide to buying the best baby formula at Walmart. Some formulas target specific vitamins and nutrients your child may need over others. Depending on your newborn’s needs, double check the ingredients list to ensure you are purchasing the best for your baby.

Woman feeding a baby with a bottle

Woman feeding a baby with a bottle

Breastfeeding

Breast pads, also called nursing pads, will help with your comfort as they help prevent milk from leaking through your clothes. Stay Dry Disposable Nursing Pads by Lansinoh are the number one selling breastfeeding pad for nursing mothers. Nursing covers help preserve mom’s modesty while feeding (if she feels the need), but a receiving blanket shows its versatility here once again.

Store milk in the fridge or freezer in sterilized breast milk bags. Every woman is different, but at first, plan on using one or two milk bags per day, and 4-10 breast pads per day.

Bathing

Last, but certainly not least, there’s baby bath time. Get your new little bundle of sweetness clean and fresh with their own gentle soap and shampoo.

Mother bathing a baby

Mother bathing a baby

Total one-time expenses: Approx. $1,600

Total ongoing monthly expenses: Approx. $785

First year total: Approx. $11,000

Estimates only, costs may vary based on region or location.

We hope that Kelley Keehn’s financial savvy and guide to what you’ll need in baby’s first year will prepare you to make a baby budget that works for your family.

Enjoy the little moments because they go by oh-so-quickly!

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Lisa is the author of five books and counting. She’s also a versatile voice-artist and the former morning co-anchor at 680 News. She loves coffee, cheese and Twizzlers, but not at the same time. She believes the best part about working from home is talking on the phone to people who have no idea that she's still wearing her pajamas. Animal lover Lisa lives in Wallaceburg (about an hour west of London) with her husband and their senior rescue cat Miss Sugar. You can follow Lisa on Twitter @lisambrandt.