Can I Afford to Stay Home with my Kids in Canada?

Many Canadian parents would like to stay at home with their young children. The thought of sending them to daycare or leaving them with a stranger pulls at our heartstrings and causes both anxiety and guilt. On top of that, life gets very busy when you’re trying to raise children and look after your home. Unfortunately, it often isn’t financially feasible for families to have a stay-at-home mom or dad. But can it be?

I was living in the Northwest Territories when my Son was born. Good childcare was tough to find. I set my corporate management plans aside and decided to start the first licensed day home north of Yellowknife. Because childcare was scarce in the North, I received grants and subsidies. Demand was high and I made more money than I did when I worked outside the home. Making it more of a preschool than a daycare kept me challenged intellectually. Then we moved to British Columbia. Childcare was easier to find here, so it wasn’t as easy to get enough children and government assistance was non-existent.

I bought a computer and started exploring online business opportunities. I’ve had a day job or two since then, but always kept working online full time or as a side hustle. Over 20 years later, my son is grown up and gone but I still have a thriving online business. There were certainly times when money was tight, but I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

It used to be the mom’s job to stay at home with the kids. Less parents stay at home these days, but a higher number of those who do are dads. Alberta had the most stay-at-home parents (25%) in 2015. Quebec had the lowest number (11%).

“The number of single-earner families with a stay-at-home parent dropped from 1,487,000 in 1976 to 493,000 in 2015,” reports Statistics Canada. “Families with a stay-at-home mother declined by 1,025,000, whereas those with a stay-at-home father increased by 32,000. The number of stay-at-home mothers declined in almost every year between 1976 and 2015. The majority of the decline occurred between 1976 and 1991 (851,000, compared with 174,000 between 1991 and 2015).”

Whether you’re a mom or a dad, your dream of being a stay-at-home parent can come true! Get started with the following tips.

How can I Afford to be a Stay-at-Home Mom or Dad?

Raising children is expensive in Canada, but is there really going to be that much more money if both parents are working?

The first thing to figure out is how much you’ll save by not going to work every day:

  • Vehicle or commuting expenses – How much do you spend just getting to and from work? If you drive to work, as most Canadians do, you can use a handy tool for calculating your commuting costs. If you own two vehicles, you may be able to get rid of one entirely, resulting in a huge savings in insurance and maintenance.
  • Clothing – Eliminating the need for a work wardrobe and dry cleaning can save you a lot of money.
  • Lunches – If you’re accustomed to buying lunch every day for yourself or your kids, you’ll save a lot of money from eating at home and having time to pack a lunch for the kids.
  • Childcare – Eliminating child care expenses is a major deciding factor for parents who want to stay at home. The cost for multiple children often adds up to more than one parent makes by going back to work, or close enough that some financial planning will even things up.
  • Shortcuts – Those things that you pay for because you have no time or energy left after working all day may be worth it while you’re working outside the home, but they’re unnecessary when you don’t. Less take-out dinners, processed oven-ready meals, food waste, lawn care, or housekeeping services can save a lot of money.
  • Taxes – You may find that there is a significant savings in taxes when only one person is working. Not only will you not be paying income taxes, but your spouse may be able to claim you as a “dependent” and you could see an increase in your child tax benefits.

When you add up the expenses that only occur when you work, and subtract them from your paycheck, you may find that your shortfall is only a few hundred dollars per month. That small an amount can probably be dealt with through money-earning and/or money-saving tactics.

How Can Stay-at-Home Moms or Dads Save Money?

Be a frugal foodie! Reduce your food costs by buying staple foods instead of processed or prepared foods. Pack lunches for your spouse and school-age children. If you have a yard, you may be able to start growing a garden, which can save you hundreds of dollars every year. If you live where you can’t grow a garden, joining a Community Supported Aggriculture (CSA) can give you access to lovely fresh vegetables and fruits while saving you money. It can also give your children a chance to see how food is grown, and maybe even help to grow them.

Stop buying new clothing and learn to do alterations! Years ago, this tip would have been “Learn to Sew”. Today, sewing clothing from scratch is often more expensive than buying clothes off the rack. Fabric is expensive, so unless you are an exceptionally good seamstress, you’re probably better off shopping in thrift shops for your family’s wardrobe. You can then make alterations to the clothing you find so it fits properly and looks good. There are lots of YouTube videos that can teach you to do alterations. If you get really good at it, you may be able to advertise in your neighbourhood and earn a little money doing it for others.

Downsize, declutter, simplify, and streamline! How many possessions does your family really need? Selling your unused stuff can not only clear out your storage areas, it can add a little bit of cash to your bank account. You can run classifieds free of charge on CraigsList or Kijiji, but remember to do all transactions safely in a public place if at all possible.

Stop shopping! If you come up with a set of criteria for each item you buy (for example, it must be truly necessary, it must be of good quality, or it must be in a classic style) then you will buy much less. Plus, you will actually use what you buy, and you won’t have to replace it just because it’s no longer fashionable.

Couponing! While Canadian stores don’t normally facilitate “extreme couponing” like they do in the US, there are still some good deals to be had. Canadian families are saving a lot of money every month with smart couponing. Price matching can make deal hunting more convenient.

Embrace cheap entertainment! Learn to substitute expensive shows, movies, and restaurant meals with inviting friends and/or family to your house for potluck dinners, game nights, or just to sit around a campfire and look at the stars. Make friends with your neighbours and help to plan social events with them. Check Facebook for your neighbourhood page – joining that can be your portal into the social life of the area.

Get over the desire to have the latest and greatest things! Is it really necessary to own the latest model of mobile phone every single year, or to have a new car every three years? What can you change about your buying habits that will save you money? Creating a budget every month will help you pinpoint areas where you can save money.  Changing your priorities inadvertently teaches you to enjoy the simple things, and sets a practical example for your kids.

Stop following fashion trends! The throw-away fashion world we live in is obscenely wasteful of the world’s resources, and is no less wasteful of your family’s resources. Fashion costs a lot!

Do it yourself! Refinish furniture, paint the walls in a colour that’s on sale, knit a nice afghan to cover a worn spot on the sofa, look for replacement parts online… there’s plenty you can do yourself around the house and yard. You’ll find yourself saving a bundle and you won’t have to worry about disposing large household furniture.

Repair it! We often consider things to be disposable when it’s possible (and less expensive) to fix it. Even electronics can often be repaired and last for many more years. You can easily do some repairs yourself, like replacing a wheel on an office chair.

Afford to Stay Home with your Kids in Canada

How Can I Make Money From Home?

The ideal scenario for many parents is to be able to work from home. Supplementing the household income while taking care of the children boosts morale and can help to prevent depression. Some parents are perfectly content to only take care of the home and their family. Others, (like me) would go nuts if they weren’t intellectually challenged.

Having a home-based business means you can have it all; a career, enough money and raise your own children. However, it’s important that you choose a home business that works for parents living in the unpredictable world of young children.

Here are a few ideas for home-based businesses in Canada:

  • If you enjoy children in general, providing childcare for a couple of extra kids in your home can earn you a reasonable amount of money. Look up the rules for unlicensed child care on your provincial or territorial government website and make sure you abide by them. Alternately, you can license a home daycare and enjoy related tax deductions. Keep it interesting by developing an age-appropriate curriculum with fun learning activities.
  • There are lots of legitimate direct sales opportunities available to Canadian parents, well beyond the standards like Avon and Amway. As a bonus, you can usually get a discount on the products yourself to save your family some money or indulge yourself in things you couldn’t normally afford. Make sure you choose a company that interests you enough to stay motivated.
  • There are plenty of legitimate ways to earn money on the internet. Check out these 6 Online Side Hustles Perfect For Parents. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of scams that are easy to fall for, so be sure to do your research and proceed with caution. When you’re ready, use the Checklist: How to Start an Online Business in Canada to ensure you have all your bases covered from the beginning.
  • Do you see a need in your area that you could fill without having to leave home? Start your own small business! You’ll want to read 10 Home-Based Business Tips to Keep Parents Sane so the juggling doesn’t drive you crazy, but it’s certainly manageable.

Starting a home-based business doesn’t have to be expensive either, so don’t let that stop you.

Should I Stay at Home with my Kids?

Few regret the decision to stay at home with their children, even if they have to put their dreams on the back burner to do so. However, there’s no shame in being a working parent either and sometimes it’s the only option. If you can’t swing it financially or you’re simply happier when you’re working, that’s life.

If you find yourself feeling depressed, please see your doctor or consider going back to work outside the home. Your mental health has an inmeasurable impact on your family and it won’t do anyone any good to have you at home if you’re suffering. Taking care of yourself will benefit everyone, no matter what form that takes.

??? Do you have any tips for stay-at-home parents? Please share them in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
How to Raise an Entrepreneur
10 Fun Ways to Limit Kids’ Halloween Candy
10 Ways for Kids to Pass the Time on Christmas Eve

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