Navigating your 30s can feel like running an obstacle course of major life events. Milestones like marriage, having kids, and buying your first house tend to converge in this decade — all of which require a lot of saving and financial planning.

While exciting, planning for these big moments can be overwhelming, which is why it helps to get a head start and know what to expect.

Below, I’ll outline some key expenses you’ll need to factor into your budget for these milestones and discuss some of the best strategies to help you reach your savings goals.

Why financial planning and budgeting is critical

If you’re like many young Canadians in your 20s or 30s, you’ve likely noticed a significant increase in your daily living expenses.

From the cost of rent to simple groceries and everyday necessities, it’s hard to catch a break, and finding room in your budget to save for major milestones can be challenging, to say the least.

A recent report by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOPP) revealed that nearly 51% of Canadians under 35 are living beyond their means and have no choice in the matter. It’s simply a result of the inflated cost of living.

Staying on top of your budget and finding creative ways to save is more important than ever if you plan on saving for a wedding, having children, or buying a home.

Even if you don’t see these milestones in your future, it’s still good to have emergency savings to help you through difficult financial times, should they arise.

PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock

The big moments (and what to plan for)

Film and TV shows often romanticize major milestones like weddings, starting a family, and buying a house while overlooking the in-depth financial planning behind them.

Here are some of the key expenses and costs you’ll need to consider for these milestones.

Weddings

The average cost of a wedding in Canada is $30,000, according to Wedding Wire. This includes expenses such as:

  • Venue rental
  • Chair/table rental
  • Food catering
  • Drink catering
  • Entertainment
  • Wedding dress

This is assuming that you have a traditional wedding, followed by a reception at an event hall or party space.

If $30,000 sounds like a lot, you can reduce the cost of your wedding by:

  • Inviting fewer guests and renting a smaller venue
  • Having a more casual wedding with an inexpensive wedding dress
  • Having a bring-your-own-alcohol reception
  • Hosting an outdoor wedding on farmland rather than an expensive venue
  • Hosting your wedding in the off-season, when venue rentals are cheaper

Kids

A simple hospital birth in Canada can cost up to $8,000. Thankfully, our country’s universal healthcare system covers most of the costs associated with birth.

However, kids aren’t a one-time expense, and parents’ maternity/paternity benefits don’t last forever.

The yearly cost to raise and care for a child in Canada can range between $10,000 and $15,000 per year, according to RBC, and includes expenses like:

  • Food
  • Childcare
  • School and education-related expenses
  • Clothing
  • Activities

Homeownership

As of August 2023, the average home in Canada sold for $668,754, according to WOWA, representing a 6% year-over-year change. While some evidence from the CREA suggests that the housing market is cooling, buying a house is still a major life expense.

Many first-time homebuyers seek to obtain a CMHC-backed mortgage, allowing them to purchase a home with a down payment as low as 5%, provided they purchase additional mortgage insurance.

A 5% down payment on the average home in Canada is still over $33,000, which is more than many Canadians in their 20s and 30s have saved.

If you’re not approved for a CMHC-backed loan, then you’ll need to plan on a down payment of at least 20% of the home’s purchase value.

How to start saving for the big moments

house buying

Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

Feeling daunted by the high cost of these milestones? Here are some actionable tips to help you make your goals more achievable.

Budget to save

You should have a “roadmap” to each major financial goal in your life, outlining the steps you’ll need to take and how much money you’ll need to save to reach them.

An important part of this is creating a detailed budget outlining your monthly living expenses and income. After analyzing your current budget, go through it and try to find areas where you can start saving.

As you identify areas where you can spend less, commit to putting the difference into one of the following savings accounts.

Open a Tax-Free Savings Account

Many banks and financial institutions in Canada offer Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) that can be used for both cash savings and investments like stocks, bonds, ETFs, and GICs. By using your TFSA to hold investments, your savings can compound over time with interest.

The best part is that you’ll never have to worry about paying capital gains tax on profits realized within the account.

Just make sure that you stay within the annual contribution limits, as outlined by the CRA.

Open a First Home Savings Account

Earlier this year, the government released a new type of registered savings account designed to help Canadians save up for their first home – the First Home Savings Account.

FHSAs are similar to TFSAs and can be used to hold cash or investments. Unlike TFSAs, however, your contributions are tax-deductible, which can reduce your tax burden while also helping you save for your first home.

Use a high-interest savings account for cash

TFSAs and FHSAs are two of the best investment vehicles available to Canadians looking to save up for major milestones. If you’ve maximized your contributions to both of these registered accounts, consider putting your extra cash in a high-interest savings account (HISA).

Many smaller or online banks offer these specialized savings accounts, which offer a far higher percent interest rate on your savings than traditional banks.

Set goals and track your progress

Once you’ve set your savings goals, the next step is to start tracking your progress. One of the best ways to stay on top of your savings is to take advantage of free-to-use budgeting apps such as Mint or Wealthica. These allow you to connect your accounts, set goals, and monitor your progress.

Saving for these huge milestones can be a huge challenge.

However, reaching them is attainable if you stick with your budget and consistently save. Be sure to take advantage of tax-advantaged registered accounts like the TFSA and FHSA and track your progress as you go.

I wish you the best of luck!

Written for Daily Hive by Christopher Liew, a CFA Charterholder, former financial advisor, and the creator of Wealth Awesome.

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