Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wasted Effort and Purchases on Young Children

The day is coming when my three kids will be embarrassed by wearing hand-me down clothes. The day is coming when they will know all the brand names of clothing, cars, shoes, and sporting equipment. Someday they will start noticing the size of people’s houses, the quality of hotel rooms on vacations, and the furnishings in their friends’ homes.

But that day has not yet come. So why are so many of us spending loads of money on these things NOW?

The answer is simple- we are doing it for ourselves. We like to see our kids in cute clothes, magazine-quality bedrooms, and picturesque vacation settings. And there is nothing wrong with any of this, as long as we can afford it and admit our motivation behind it. But we’re not really doing it for them.

I’ve seen friends (and myself) get themselves into serious financial trouble using the excuse that they “want to give their kids the best.” But we all need to realize that kids see things very differently than we do, and their version of “the best” can be very different from ours, and much, much cheaper (and easier!) to accommodate.

My own young family’s life provides more examples of this phenomenon than I can count- almost all due to my breaking my own rule here. The adorable clothes I thought my son would love were cast aside for the one ratty t-shirt that had a blue fish on it. My 18-month-old’s favorite animal at the National Zoo (4 hours, one hotel room, and 4 restaurants later) was a DUCK. The coolest room of any of my sons’ friends is the one that has a Star Wars poster in it.

We are overshooting, and paying the price for it.

If you have young kids, put away your guilt about not giving them “the best” and instead, give them what they want- your attention, your peace of mind, and a more secure financial future for the things that really matter: a good education, some great experiences they’ll actually remember, and maybe just a few of those nice clothes when they know how to appreciate them.


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