*This is the 8th day of the One Month Spending Freeze Challenge. Please click here to see all of the posts in this series.*
My attempts at managing our money fairly well fell by the way side shortly after we started a family. For me this had nothing to do with spending money on my daughter. It was just the fact that I couldn’t keep up with everything, so I let our finances slide.
© Voyagerix / Dollar Photo Club
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I’ll be honest. I rarely ever want to buy something for my children. I’m sure it has something to do with a lack of money, but also because I know it’s just not what they need. But I feel like many parents believe that kids “need” the world to be happy.
You guys, kids don’t need a lot. Truly.
Here’s a list of everything I can possibly think of that parents might purchase for their children either to make them happy or as a basic need:
- Trips to Disneyland
- Baby food
- Diapers and wipes
- Birthday parties
- Prom dresses
- Extracurricular activities
- Craft supplies
- Back-to-school clothes
And the list could go on.
Now, there is no right or wrong way to provide things and experiences for your child.
BUT, if you are searching for ways to spend less money (which, hopefully you are since this is the One Month Spending Freeze Challenge) you have to be choosy about what you do give to him.
8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Spending Money on Your Child
Before you buy your child something or sign her up for a class, be sure to ask these questions. They will help you save money on the things that don’t really matter.
1. Is this a basic need?
The basic needs include food, shelter, and clothes. Of course, a lot of children have plenty of food and clothes already, so you must go on to the next question to know if you should spend money or not.
2. Does my child already own something similar?
You don’t want to be buying more of the same stuff for your child. If we’re talking clothes, the answer to this question is probably a resounding yes. However, kids do grow out of clothes, so you will have to buy a whole new wardrobe when he goes up a size. Remember that you can shop at the thrift store. It’s not a stinky, scary place. It’s full of treasures and really great deals!
3. Will this gift give my child comfort?
Comfort is a need all humans have. You might provide your child comfort with a blanket, a stuffed animal (remember the previous question), or even a teething necklace.
Kids are often afraid of the dark, water, or other strange things, so it might be wise to purchase items that can ease their fears. For example, my girls have a night light in their bedroom to help them feel better about going to sleep at night. They could probably live without it, but we don’t want to cause several restless, sleepless nights by taking it away.
4. Is my child begging for it?
A lot of parents take their children shopping and hear them say, “Mom, can I have this?” or “Hey, Dad, look at this cool ____!” (I’m totally guilty of saying both when I was a kid!). In that moment, it’s best to ask your child to remember this item for her wish list. Tell her you can write it down right then and she can put it on her birthday or Christmas wish list when she gets home. Don’t buy things in the moment, because they are most likely things your child can live without.
5. Can I buy it cheaper somewhere else or can my child buy this himself?
When your child is begging you for that item, remember that you can probably find it online or somewhere else cheaper. You might be able to use a coupon through an app, use a coupon code, or shop through Ebates* or Giving Assistant to get it for much less.
Also, if your child is old enough and has his own money, give him the opportunity to pay for the item himself. It will help him understand that money doesn’t come out of thin air and that if he really wants something he has to work for the money to pay for it.
6. Does my child need this item to be accepted?
It’s important for children to fit in, to feel acceptance. I remember seeing other kids my age wearing clothes that I wish my parents could buy me. Sometimes I was that kid with the better backpack or shoes. But if you’re doing a good job about teaching your child how to feel good about herself without having the greatest things, she will grow up to be a happier person.
7. Have I filled my child’s love tank today?
A lot of parents tend to think that children feel love through gifts. Gifts are nice, but not all children speak the love language of gifts.
Instead of trying to give to show love, figure out what your child’s love language is first. If it turns out your child’s love language is quality time, it might be better to gift him with tickets to a sporting event, just you and him. Or be sure to fit in a walk with him before the day is through. Don’t wait for special occasions to fill his love tank. Surely what most children need more than gifts and things is their parent’s presence and love.
8. Will this help my child achieve something or give him long-term benefits?
Achievement is a big deal. Extracurricular activities are wonderful for broadening your child’s horizons. But not all children enjoy these things, so be sure to know whether your child is actually benefiting from taking ballet or practicing the trumpet. Also, try to keep extracurricular activities to a minimum. Your child needs family time more than she needs to go from one practice to the next.
Putting your child in an accelerated program at school might be a great idea as long as she is on board. If you are pushing her to do it, she won’t get as much benefit and you will waste her time and your money.
It’s easy to assume that our kids need more stuff. We think they need things to ensure their happiness. But I truly believe that things are not what children need. Once your child has his basic needs taken care of, you should carefully evaluate everything before it ever enters your home. In this way, I’m sure you will be able to save thousands a year.
If you have a baby who is younger than a year old, you might want to read more about how to save on first year costs.
Your challenge today will be to find one way that you can stop spending money on your child. Look around you, and if you find that your child has too many things, you may want to start getting some stuff out of your house.
Do you ask some of these questions to yourself before spending money on your child?