Budgeting | Life | Personal Finance | Relationships & Family | Article

Here’s How Much It Costs to Raise a Child in Brunei

by Giem Eing Yapp | 27 May 2021 | 6 mins read

As I am writing this article, my 19-month old toddler is in the background throwing a tantrum because I won’t let him touch the toilet bowl. Such are the wonders of parenthood!

However, despite the bundle of joy that a child is, the social dynamics of having children is different today, people tend to have fewer kids today than they did in the past.

But this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to plan your finances if you’re planning to have a child.

Luckily for those of us in Brunei, the government supports childbirth and pregnancy from giving free medical treatment to all children to sponsoring diapers and breast pumps after you give birth! While it does help parents quite a bit, it’s not going to take all the financial burden off you.

The costs while you are expecting

From the minute my wife tested positive for pregnancy, the expenses started stacking up.

First it was ensuring that she got the proper nutrition she needed during the pregnancy, which meant taking supplements that easily costs $30-50 per supplement. There were also medical tests to take like, the nuchal scan that detects developmental abnormalities. For my wife and I, these tests amounted to about $675 in total a la carte at Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) but there are package deals that cost cheaper too.

We also made regular visits to private clinics for second opinions and additional tests. Each visit cost $90 and we made around 5 visits during the pregnancy.

How much did I pay for delivery and confinement

Soon, the pregnancy stage is over and it’s time for delivery. The costs here differ depending on where you choose to deliver. For my wife and I, we welcomed our baby boy at RIPAS hospital because:

  1. The delivery service was free, hence we were saving on costs.
  2. If any complications were encountered during the delivery, we would be referred to RIPAS anyway as that is where the maternity specialists practice.
  3. While JPMC has better service in the wards, RIPAS was decent enough if we could get a private room. That’s $150 a night compared to JPMC’s packages that start from $2,000.

After giving birth, most Asian families believe that you need a confinement period to recover as there are many things that a new mother should not do, whether physically or because of superstitious beliefs.

This usually means hiring a confinement nanny that costs around $2,000 for a month.


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Growing up Poor

Growing up costs money too

Of course, I’ve barely started in terms of child-related costs and here’s what else I had to fork out for my child.

1. Clothing and equipment for the little one

Before my boy was born, we had to buy things that he’d need once he arrived. This included furniture, clothing, bottles, sterilisers and other bits and pieces.

This cost us close to $700 for us and that’s after we managed to get a few hand-me-downs. Our secondhand baby cot would have cost more than $200 brand new, and that doesn’t’ even include the bedding.

2. Daily necessities

Things that fall in this category include diapers, formula milk, soaps, detergents and children supplements. These came to about $250 per month as we went for mid-ranged products.

We also learnt that not all products suited us and instead of buying in bulk, you should test out it first to ensure if work for your child and your family’s needs. You should also do a bit of research and ask your friends and family for recommendations.

3. Caretaker and daycare fees

For my wife and I, we initially had a domestic helper who took care of our little one during the day. However, she requested to return to her country, and we had to send our son to a daycare during weekdays.

The daycare costs about $280 a month and it also led to him getting sick more often. This is another thing to consider if you do not have someone to help look after your child.

4. Vaccine and medical fees

I had initially assumed that it was all covered by the government, but I was wrong. While most vaccinations and medical care are free, there are a couple that you’ll have to fork out money for.

There were three vaccines we paid for as they aren’t provided in public clinics: Pneumococcal, Rotavirus and Chicken Pox. These cost from $90 to $120 a shot and 2 to 3 shots are required for each one.

As for medical treatment, if you choose to bring your child to a private paediatrics specialist, but it will cost you.

5. School fees

Education is a huge concern for most parents and if you want to go for private or international schools, it’ll cost between $1,500 to $6,000 per year.

6. Parties and presents

With our boy in daycare, the one unexpected expense was on birthday parties as they come with presents for the birthday child. And with close to 30 children in a class, that’s a whole load of gifts to give in the year.

7. Time commitment

While I had expected panda eyes and sleepless nights, what I didn’t anticipate how much infections threw a curveball into our lives.

When our little one had UTI, we were in and out of the hospital for antibiotic courses. Though the treatment was free in RIPAS, as I am a “make-your-own-time” worker, this medical emergency cost me 21 days of potential income. This is also why having an emergency fund is important!

8. Saving for the future

While the ongoing expenses already amount to quite a bit, we also have to plan for the costs that our little one will rack up in the future until he enters university.

As we want to give him a good choice for the future so we’re trying to set the investment target to between $100,000 to $300,000. Not a small sum at all!

From the start of my wife’s pregnancy up until our baby was 1 month old, I spent close to $5,000, while now on a monthly basis here’s how much I spend on my child monthly.

Formula $100
Snacks $25
Diapers $60
Daycare $280
Miscellaneous buffer $50
Total $515

The costs do differ from couple to couple, as it also depends on what you spend on. The types of things you spend money on will also change with time, like from baby formula milk and toddler items to school fees and allowances, so I don’t think parenthood will get any cheaper, not at least till he’s earning his own income!

Bringing up a child isn’t easy

While having a child is a huge financial undertaking, that’s not the only costs that’s involved. There’s also the time and emotional energy spent taking care of a little one.

However, it’s all worth it, despite the ups and downs we face as parents. While I’m racking my mind on how to give him a good upbringing and being able to financially support that, I do find my little one is simply adorable and every day I notice something new about him. They really do grow up so fast.