Baby Expenses

Ask The Readers – Cut Short Maternity Leave To Save Money?

I recently received an email from a reader called Ermyntrude*.   She is having a baby (congrats) and is worried about the loss of income resulting from an extended maternity leave.

We are trying to plan our finances so I’ll be allowed to take a full year off but, since I earn at least double what my husband does, we might have to get creative to make that happen.  We are good savers, but the large disparity in our incomes concerns me and I am going to prepare myself for a 6-month mat leave after which time, maybe my husband could take his 37 weeks parental leave.

We discussed a number of EI-related rules*, but her big concern was having to shorten the mat leave.

I was sort of thinking I would be back to work after 6 months or so because I think most mat leave top-up periods are only 6 months (though if I could negotiate the full year, I sure would try!), and because my salary is considerably higher than my husband’s, we might find things a bit tight after the top-up is finished.  Ideally, though, I’m hoping that if we save enough by trimming costs and diverting a portion of my current RRSP contributions to more liquid savings vehicles (e.g. TFSA, other savings account once TFSA maxed), we might be able to swing it….more number crunching ahead!

My answer

If you want my honest advice – take as much time as you possibly can and don’t worry about the money.  You won’t regret it.

Readers – what do you think?  Should Ermyntrude take a year off and deal with the money later?  Or just take 6 months and keep the family finances on solid footing?

*Names have been changed for privacy.

One of the rules we discussed is the most commonly misunderstood rule about maternity and parental leave in Canada – Parents do NOT have to share the time off.  Mommy can take a year off, Daddy can take 37 weeks.  They can do it at the same time or not.

Read my post about maternity and parental leave rules in Canada.

EI( Employment Insurance) payments on the other hand, have a total 50 weeks worth of payments which can be paid to one parent or shared between two.

Reader Mark sent me an email this morning asking why parents with twins aren’t eligible for 50 weeks of EI each?  Good question.

[end edit]

Baby Expenses

Baby Car Seat Cover – Puke Fail

Some delicate harness work in the back of the seat.
Some delicate harness work.

Recently my daughter puked in the car.  On herself, on the car seat and a little bit on the car itself.  Was it a mild case of H1N1 flu?  Too much Halloween candy?  Who knows?  And it doesn’t really matter – bottom line is that it smelled as foul as you could possibly imagine.  This was no little milk spitup which only smells slightly off – this was absolutely horrible.

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Luckily, I was safe at work while this nonsense was going on, but when I got home I got put in charge of cleaning up the car seat.  My plan was to just take off the car seat cover (ie the padding they sit on) and wash it.  I was hoping that all of the puke had landed on the car seat which would make it easier to clean since I wouldn’t have to take the seat out.

I’ll just take the cover off and wash it

Unfortunately, when I tried to remove the cloth cover I realized that it was attached so that you couldn’t easily remove it for washing.  Given that it’s just cloth I would have thought you could just make it so it could be removed/added while the seat was installed – maybe with a few velcro snaps here or there.  Well guess what?  That cover was carefully engineered so that it was tightly integrated into the seat and harness straps.  In order to take it off you not only had to remove the car seat which is  a small pain – you also had to remove all the harness straps and buckles etc.  This was a huge pain since I had never done it before – the seat came assembled when we bought it.

I was pretty annoyed when I realized it was going to take more than 1 minute to get the cover off – enraged is a more accurate word.  If you are wondering the car seat in question is called the Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite Convertible Car Seat.

It was so difficult that I had to get the instruction book just to figure out how to take it apart.  Total time to get cover off – 45 minutes.  🙂

Figuring out how to put Humpty back together again.
Figuring out how to put Humpty back together again.

Putting it back in

Once the cover was washed then I used my handy instruction book to put it back together.  It took a while but that was partly because I kept forgetting parts and having to redo everything.  Even once I got the seat back in the car I realized I forgot to put the base on. I will say one thing – once I did it then I realized it wasn’t that hard so the following weekend I took the other car seat apart for washing, and it wasn’t a big deal (since I knew what I was doing).  His seat had been installed for about 2 years so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to clean it.  🙂

Are all car seats this poorly designed?

All the parts - harnesses, buckles, doodads all came off.
All the parts - harnesses, buckles, doodads all came off.
Baby Expenses

How Much More Work Are Two Kids Compared To One?

My wife and I recently had our second child, a beautiful baby girl. When we had our son two years ago, it was quite an adjustment to having to be on someone else’s schedule instead of just doing whatever you want, whenever you want. Although I’ve been told that having two young kids can be more than twice the work of one child, I guess I didn’t really believe them. As it turns out, it’s been a huge amount of work!

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Which is more difficult?

I had a conversation with a friend several months ago before we had the new baby and I told him that I thought going from zero kids to one kid has to be a bigger adjustment than going from one kid to two kids. My logic was that with any number of kids, you have to plan around the kids, babysit them all the time etc, whereas before the kid arrived, you had unlimited freedom (relatively speaking). Since you are already committed to being a full-time parent with one child, adding a second child shouldn’t add to the responsibility level – even if it is more actual work. My friend told me that he had a similar conversation with his wife and another couple and the two women agreed with my idea that going from zero to one kid was a bigger jump than going from one to two kids. Much to my surprise, my friend told me that he and the other Dad thought it was much harder to go from one kid to two compared to zero to one kid.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit – on the one hand I just can’t get away from my original idea that going from childless to with child has to be the biggest jump but my own experience tells me that this wasn’t the case. I think I figured out the reason and I’d like to share it with you and hope that you can agree/disagree with it.

I believe that for the mother, it’s more difficult to go from zero to one kid than from one kid to two. For the father, it is the opposite – it is harder to go from one kid to two than from zero to one.

Why is this?

Typically when a new baby arrives on the scene, the mother does most of the parenting especially if she is breast feeding. Even if Dad is really keen to help, Mom probably does 80% of the work. So for the first child, the mother has a huge change to deal with because they spend a ridiculous amount of time dealing with the baby. Dad on the other hand will spend some time with the baby but will be occupied with other tasks like food shopping, cooking, basic chores etc. Most Dads take very little time off work so they get to escape to the office during the day. In my opinion, the arrival of the first child affects the mother a lot more than the father.

Number 2 arrives

When the second child arrives – the mother will spend the majority of her time looking after the new baby. Since she has to look after the older one as well when Dad is at work, it can be pretty tough – hopefully the older one will be in daycare at least part-time. The big difference for Dad when he is at home, is that the older child will be his responsibility almost 100% of the time. So instead of just helping out with the one child occasionally, Dad really has to step it up and become a full time babysitter.

What to do about it?

In my case I took several months off after our new baby was born so I ended up being chief babysitter for our older son. As much as I like spending time with him – 12 hours a day, 7 days a week is way too much. My suggestion for anyone who just had a second child is to put the older kid in daycare or get a sitter. Even if it’s just once in a while, it will be a huge help and things can still get done around the house.

Baby Expenses

How To Get A Passport For Your Infant

Currently I’m going through the steps of obtaining a passport for my new baby daughter. There are a number of steps involved and if you need it in a hurry then there are some extra steps you must take. The specific directions and times are different for various cities and provinces so you will have to look up the proper government departments for your area.

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First of all, let’s look at the normal process to get a passport for an infant in Ontario, which can take up to three months.

Statement of live birth

This is a form you should get from the hospital. It will have your information as well as the baby’s. The attending doctor should have signed it. Make sure all the information is filled in.

Register statement of live birth

You need to send the statement of live birth to the registration office. Since I live in Toronto, I sent the form to the City of Toronto Registry Services Office. Make sure you fill in the form correctly or they will send it back. For example, under the “father’s last name if different at birth”, we left the field blank since my last name has not change. Well, they sent it back! Check with your city to see how to register the birth of your child. Please note that in some areas, the hospital will send the form to the appropriate government division for you.

In Toronto, it take about two weeks for them to officially “register” the birth.

Birth certificate

Once the live birth is registered then you can apply for a birth certificate with your provincial government. In Ontario you can apply here. This process can take a while – in our case it took about a month so we could have skipped the travel letter step indicated below.

Apply for Passport

Once you have the birth certificate for the child, you have to get two passport photos from a photo place. These cost about $20 (ripoff) but you have to buy them – you can’t use your own photos. The form for a passport can be obtained from here – select the “Children” link. I believe it takes about two weeks to get the passport so the entire process can take up to a couple of months.

I need a passport for my infant quickly!

If you are planning a trip within a few months of the birth then you need to do the following steps.

Register the birth (same as above).

It seems that the process has changed, as the city of Toronto no longer registers births.

“As of November 2009, birth registration is processed by the Province of Ontario and not by the City of Toronto. You can use the province’s Newborn Registration Service, by linking to “How to register a birth in Ontario” at

This service also provides links to obtain a birth certificate and social insurance number.

If you are travelling with a newborn and need a birth certificate quickly, you can request it through the province’s Newborn Registration Service. Details are on the website at: “

Baby Expenses

Applying for Employment Insurance Benefits

I’m currently taking some time off work to help look after my new little baby. In Canada there is a government run program called Employment Insurance (EI) which basically takes a portion of everyone’s paycheque and pays it out as benefits for people who are recently unemployed. One of the newer features of this program is that new parents can take time off work and collect EI benefits which will help out with their budget. A great thing about paying the excessive amounts of tax in Canada is that once in a while, you get some of it back!! Of course, this is the equivalent of hitting yourself in the head with a hammer and then stopping – but regardless, it feels good!

I wrote a fairly detailed post about how to apply for parental and maternity benefits a while ago but since I just went through the process again, I figured it was time to revisit the process.

First of all, since I am a repeat baby-maker, it was a lot easier to apply for EI this time. I logged into the online EI application and didn’t have to set up a new account which saved a lot of time. The application took about 10 minutes to complete. My next step was to take my ROE (record of employment) to a nearby Service Canada Centre. All I did was line up for about five minutes and handed the form in (after paying for two hours of parking). I realized later that I could have mailed it but that would have added a couple of days to the process. I should start getting my benefits within four weeks.

Don’t delay

It’s hard to get your act together when you have a new baby but it’s important to get the application in as soon as possible so that you can start receiving the benefits. If you wait too long, then you might not get all the benefits you are entitled to.

Who claims EI – Mommy or Daddy?

The way this benefit works is that the mother can get up to 50 weeks of benefits (if she qualifies) which is a combination of maternity and paternity leave. Dad is eligible for up to 35 weeks of benefits but the maximum number of weeks paid for a couple is 50. Two things to note:

  1. When the mother applies, she only applies once and that will be for both parental and maternity leave benefits.
  2. Although the EI benefits have to be shared within a couple, the time off allowed does not have to shared. The mother can legally take 52 weeks off and the father can take 37 weeks off and there is no “couple maximum”.
Baby Expenses

Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB)

Another government program that is available for parents in Canada is called the Canada Child Tax Benefit. This particular benefit is one of the few income-tested programs that actually has reasonable income limits so you can be fairly middle class and still get some cash out of this.

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Eligibility for CCTB

  • Child must be under 18 years of age.
  • Primary caregiver must be a Canadian resident.
  • You must live with the child.
  • Family net income must be less than approximately $102,000. Keep in mind that net income is AFTER any deductions such as RRSP contributions.
  • Check out the government of Canada website for more information.

How to apply for the CCTB

The form for this benefit is called Form RC66 – Canada Child Benefits Application and can be downloaded from or call 1-800-959-2221. Keep in mind that this application is the same one as for the UCCB (Universal child care benefit) so you only have to fill out this form once for both benefits.

Do I need proof of income to apply for the CCTB?

No you don’t. However the exception is if one of the parents became a new resident or returned as a resident of Canada in the last 2 years – or if you became a Canadian citizen in the last 12 months.

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Do I need proof of birth to apply for the CCTB?

No, unless the child was born outside of Canada or was born in Canada and is one year of age or older.

How much will I get from CCTB?

Check out the CRA’s online calculator to find out how much your benefit will be. The benefit is a sliding scale so the more net family income you have, the smaller the benefit will be.


Baby Expenses

Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)

We recently had our second child and one of the documents we received at the hospital was an application for the Canada child tax benefits which are various benefit programs run by the Canadian government. The idea is to give money to parents of young children to help offset their costs. Some of the benefits are not dependent on income and some are. The universal child care benefit (UCCB) is one program that is paid out to all parents regardless of their income.

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How much does the UCCB pay?

The benefit is $100 per month per child under the age of six. This money is taxable but you can choose which parent declares the money so unless both parents are high earners then you should be able to keep a good chunk of the benefit.

Does it take a long time to fill out the paperwork?

No. In my case I just filled out some basic information like name, address etc on the RC66 form. You don’t have to include any proof of birth unless you are separated or the child is over a year old.

You can also apply online as well.

Don’t delay!

It is real easy to put off filling out the form because you are in a zombie state trying to feed your new baby at all hours of the night but you have to bite the bullet and get it done. Money is money! (and money is good).

See what Million Dollar Journey had to say about the UCCB program.

Canadian Capitalist also wrote about the UCCB.

Baby Expenses

9 Frugal Ways To Get Children’s Books


Book reading is a very important activity in my family as it is with many others. My wife owns several hundred thousand books, I like to read a lot and our son is a big advocate of reading as well. I should probably clarify that since my son can’t actually read yet, he’s a big advocate of having other people read books to him. Over and over and over again!

One thing that really bothers me about children’s book is the extreme cost. You can buy a adult novel for around $15 for a 350 page book which works out to four cents per page. Obviously there will be a wide range for that calculation but my point is that it’s fairly low. Kid’s books on the other hand seem to be able to charge up to one dollar per page which I think is excessive. Now I will concede that they often have much thicker pages and nice illustrations but it’s still a lot of money. We’ve been able to obtain children’s books for very little cost so I thought I would share some of those ways here.

  1. Borrow from the library – most libraries have kids sections so if your child is getting tired of the current batch of books then this is a good option. Our library is pretty understanding if there is a bit of wear and tear on the returned books.
  2. Buy from the library – our library has a small section where older/hacked up books are for sale for a small price. The book in the photo was purchased for 25 cents and it’s our son’s favourite book.
  3. Yard sales – this is a great, fun way to pick up new (to your child) books for a small price. 25 cents, 50 cents are reasonable prices for a used book.
  4. Book exchange – if you know other people with similar age kids then offer to exchange some books with them. Both kids will benefit. Just make sure you don’t give away their favourites!
  5. Hand-me-downs – neighbours, friends and relatives with kids a bit older than yours, can be a great source of used books.
  6. Gifts – some people (who don’t read this blog) just have to buy new gifts for your child or newborn. Even though it’s a waste of money, hinting that books are a better gift than yet another pink, frilly dress might at least get you something useful.
  7. Used book store – this is probably the most expensive option on the list but it’s worth a try.
  8. Online classifieds such as Craig’s list, Ebay are good for buying used children’s books. You might end up with a batch rather than individual books.
  9. Freecycle – this online exchange is hit or miss but the important thing is that it’s free so if you can grab some books then it will be worthwhile.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other frugal ways to get kid’s books.