I recently got connected with an ex-colleague Edwin through Facebook, and was happy to see photos of his newborn baby boy, Ethan (love the name! Brian was actually Ethan for a week, but that's another story), one of the cutest newborns I've ever seen (as newborns, my babies were really scrunched-up ugly :P).
Edwin later sent me a message: "Hey, don't know if you still remember. You once sent me some encouragement & advice on family planning. You specifically asked me to keep the email. Guess what, I did. It was written way back in 2001 & I was still referencing it recently. It's amazing how time flies. I must scan & send it to you."
Me? Give advice on family planning? I had absolutely no recollection of this. I later realised he had asked me about the financial cost of having kids. So my email was mostly about how much it'd cost to raise a kid, not the kind of family planning you're probably thinking of. At the time that I wrote the email, December 2001, Brian was still an only child.
I'll share the email here, will be interesting to know just how different prices are now compared to 2001.
Subject: Re: Family Planning
Number 1...you shouldn't worry about costlah, both of you are working, and as the child grows, so will your income. Having a kid will be the best decision you ever make in your life...keep this email and mark my words, you yourself will say the same one day when you see your cute little tyke running around.
but just for info...
Nanny for kids: $450 for office hours, does not include Saturdays.
Infant care: $700 or so.
Preschool/Childcare centre: I recommended Dept A's XXX and another friend of mine to Columbia Learning Centre. Full day $700 but there's a $150 subsidy for working mums. I used to send Brian there half-day $325 nett. But now that I've moved to the East, I'm sending him to a church kindy, half day, only $140, but there's bus fare of $70.
Other costs depends on how kiasu you are; there'll be enrichment stuff once the child is about 3 years old. Many of Brian's classmates go for speech & drama, chinese enrichment, etc. Brian used to go for Speech & Drama (about $100 a month), abacus ($80), Chinese ($100), gym ($100)...all rough figures.
But I've streamlined these and he now has Kumon Chinese/English/Math ($280), music $70, swimming ($160 for individual lessons but it'll be $50 once he starts group lessons).
Other costs include medical. If you send to a paediatrician, will set you back easily $80 each visit. When Brian first started school, wah pengsan, can visit paed 2-3 times a month. But after about 1 year in school, their immunity builds up. But at the earlier stage, it can be frustrating, cos the money just flows out and it's difficult to budget for things like that.
In the first 2 years, there's diapers, don't snigger, not cheap okay. Pampers costs about $30 per pack and you go through this very quickly, 10 days or less when very young. Milk is about $28 a tin, can't remember how long this lasts. Then need to buy good fish to make porridge once they hit about 6 months or so. A small piece of Ikan Kurau can be about $7-8.
Other than that, quite manageable as you can see. The first year, you have all the injections, but if you go to the polyclinic, will be minimal. The expenditure starts to be high around 4 years old when all the nonsense enrichment starts coming in, then again depends on you, if your wife and you are the relaxed type, then okay, if kiasu like me, then will spend a lot.
Oh, I also spend a lot on board books when Brian was smaller and other books later on. One board book from Borders is easily $14 and each trip to the bookstore sets me back in excess of $100. I've cut down this habit over the past 6 months or so, after I bought the car...something has to give lah.
Good luck and get back to me if there's anything else I can help.
Hehehe, will my email actually encourage or dissuade someone thinking of having kids but worried about costs? In Edwin's case at least, my email obviously didn't work! It took him 7 years to get down to business; in between he completed his masters at the Shanghai Jiaotong University, moved up the corporate ladder...but better late than never lah. At least he's still referring to my email, so it must have been of some use.
By the way, I stopped Kumon Chinese soon after this email, was totally useless for Brian. And was very glad to stop Kumon when we left for Germany, cos Kumon Math was really killing Brian's love for Math. He was doing well, but he didn't like doing it. I'm sure it works for many people, but not for us. I think I'll write more about this another time.
So have prices gone up by much?