Having a kid in Singapore is expensive even before they get old enough to stretch out their hands and ask for money. But while most parents-to-be can anticipate certain costs like medical bills and possibly a confinement nanny, there are some crazy things parents spend on that you only find out about once you get old enough to actually have friends who are parents.
I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to raise a kid. I used to think so long as you could pay your medical bills and keep the kid fed and clothed things would be fine. But guess what, there are lots of nasty surprises for your wallet, like the following:
1. Baby’s first month celebration
I’m the sort of person who can barely remember my own birthday. So when I heard that people celebrated their kids’ first month, I was a little surprised. But not as horrified as I when I discovered that the first month of a child is a momentous occasion that in ethnic Chinese communities is actually a huge family obligation—people are spending thousands of dollars renting function rooms or restaurants just so they can accommodate hundreds of relatives.
Those with particularly big families might even host two day events over a weekend, one day for each side of the family. Those who have particularly demanding relatives have it even worse, as they need to make sure there’s air con, that the party doesn’t look too cheapskate and that the food is good. This makes throwing a Disney Princess or Transformers party for a spoilt toddler look like a walk in the park.
2. Baby classes
Your kid might be too young to even realise what’s going on around him 99% of the time, but that hasn’t stopped many businesses from trying to cash in on the fact that parents are willing to spend on anything they think will be of the remotest benefit to their offspring.
That’s why we have things like infant swimming, which involve the baby bobbing around in a big tub of water in some shopping mall with a big float around his neck. A half-hour session can cost anything from $40 to $90, which to us is pretty darn expensive considering the child won’t remember any of this in a year or two.
Then there are other classes like baby gym, “creative” or “educational” play classes and even music classes for babies as young as 6 months old.
3. Baby gear
We all know there are some basic items all parents need to get, like milk bottles, diapers and a stroller. But many parents seriously underestimate how much they’ll be spending on baby gear, simply because the range of available products is mind-boggling.
Think a regular stroller will be enough to get your child from Point A to Point B in one piece? Well, these days there’s no such thing as a “regular” stroller, and some have more features and add-ons than a smartphone, like cup holders and storage baskets.
Then there are other accessories like car seats, baby slings, little play pens so you don’t nip off to the toilet for 2 minutes only to find the kid missing, walkers and so on. You get the idea. The market is saturated with non-essential items that parents just can’t seem to stop buying.
Even normally frugal people end up spending a lot when they rationalise that they’re not spending on themselves this time. In addition, the fact that a baby’s infancy is so time-sensitive creates the urgency to buy without waiting—spending 2 weeks surfing the internet for cheaper alternatives or waiting a month to see if the thrill of a potential impulse buy wears off doesn’t work here as your kid will have grown to twice the size.