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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugal Living 101 -- Raising Children Part 1

Next to buying a house or a car, having kids is the biggest money drainer that most people will experience in their lives. Children these days are expensive -- in addition to the basic costs of clothing and feeding them, you've got summer camps, private schools, piano lessons, video game systems, and birthday parties to think about, as well. Or do you? Perhaps the key to making child-rearing more affordable is tempering expectations -- both yours and your child's.

Teaching Kids (And Parents) About Money

According to data from the USDA, you can count on your child costing you between $150,000 and $300,000 by the time he or she graduates from high school -- that's not counting college expenses! But a lot of that has to do with HOW you raise them. If your children are used to getting everything they want the minute they ask for it, the price tag will naturally be a lot higher than if you start setting boundaries early on. A good part of your job as a parent is to determine what's reasonable and affordable, then set the limits accordingly. Growing up should be about learning life skills that will help you thrive as an adult -- and the most important of those is the joy of "delayed gratification." But it's also important that you as the adult examine society's basic assumptions about child-rearing "necessities." Following every new expensive parenting trend (even those endorsed by the schools and women's magazines) is not always the healthiest or most frugal attitude. You can raise happy, confident children just as easily (if not more so) on a budget.

  • learn to say no (your job as the parent is to set limits -- you lay down rules designed to protect your children's best interests and teach them values -- you don't let your kids run around in the street because it's dangerous -- you don't encourage them to eat ice cream for breakfast because it's bad for their health -- you wouldn't allow them to track mud into the house or jump on the sofa until the thing collapses because it creates more work and expense for your entire family -- so why on earth do you let them drive you into debt by endlessly giving in to their every material whim?? -- kids who are given too much too soon develop a sense of entitlement, always thinking that they "deserve" more -- and entitlement is a hard habit to break -- the child who owns 5 different video game systems, 3 bikes, and a playroom full of toys he never touches is going to grow into a man who needs expensive cars and houses and gadgets to feel good, even when he can't afford them -- overindulging your children materially is as damaging as allowing them to overeat until they become obese -- all you're doing is setting up unreasonable expectations that are going to follow them into adulthood and all the way to the poorhouse -- you might say, "but they really want it" -- so what? -- they might want to practice lighting fires in the garage or go a week without brushing their teeth, and you wouldn't allow that -- for a good portion of your children's lives, you know what's better for them -- you teach them valuable lessons by drawing boundaries, and the same goes for dealing with money)
  • make them earn that allowance (I've never understood the point behind giving children a weekly allowance for doing nothing -- in my mind, the whole purpose of an allowance is to reward kids for helping out around the house, while teaching them to enjoy the fruits of their labors -- by the time a child is old enough to earn an allowance, he's old enough to do chores -- kindergartners can help set a table or pick up their toys, grade-schoolers should be able to feed a household pet or load the dishwasher, older kids can take out the trash or wash mom and dad's cars -- allowances are there to help prepare children for jobs and paychecks as adults, and I don't know too many grown-ups who get paid for doing nothing!-- plus, that child is going to appreciate and value the money he receives more when he's had to put in a little sweat-equity to earn it -- you can bet that a kid who raked leaves for 3 hours to get his allowance will be a lot more cautious about blowing the whole wad on something frivolous, than the child who was simply handed a fistful of cash!)
  • teach your kids to budget (as your child matures into an adult, a good understanding of money is going to be crucial to his success in the world -- there's nothing worse than a 19-year-old college student who gets behind in his rent or racks up ridiculous credit card bills that mom and dad have to pay because no one ever taught him how to manage his finances -- so start now by setting your kid up on a budget -- a reasonable arrangement is one in which you take care of his basic needs, in terms of food, clothing, school supplies, family entertainment, and the like -- but any "extras" have to come out of his allowance or afterschool job earnings -- this includes high-end sneakers that cost more than you're prepared to spend on shoes, ring tones, cell phone apps, video games, outings with friends, trendy clothes that will go out of fashion next season, and maybe even the monthly payments or insurance for his first car -- then teach your child how to prioritize expenses and plan for costs that will be coming up down the road -- if he gets a $20 per week allowance and really wants to buy a $60 video game when it's released 3 months from now, he should be expected to forgo other expenses in the mean time, saving his money up for that big purchase -- be willing to engage in discussion if there's some debate about what's a "necessity" and what's a "luxury," but hold your ground -- if your child spends his money foolishly, then doesn't have enough for something he really wants later, it will be a lesson learned)
  • curb the urge to spend (so much of our spare time as a society is spent engaging in activities that encourage the spending of money -- we watch infomercials, the Home Shopping Network, and TV shows filled with product placements and advertisements -- we receive fliers in the mail and coupons in the paper, telling us to act now, because this sale expires soon! -- we surf the internet and get daily online alerts of special offers -- we spend hours on the weekends, wandering through shopping plazas and big-box stores, searching for the latest greatest life-changing products -- people no longer go shopping because they need something specific -- shopping has become an endless and fruitless search for the next "thing" we just can't live without -- every time we are introduced to something new, we have an immediate, "I want that" response -- and you know that if adults are susceptible to buying things they don't need and didn't even know existed, kids are ten times as vulnerable -- the best way to prevent them from coming up to you every other day with a new request is to limit their exposure -- turn off the TV, limit their time on the computer, and send your kids outside to play instead of to the mall -- the fewer things they see available for purchase, the fewer things they're going to want you to buy them!)
  • help children learn to love "used" (as a child, I was inducted into the world of yard-salers, thrift-store shoppers, and consignment fashionistas -- I learned early on that if I had a limited amount of pocket money to spend, I could get more bang for my buck if I bought board games and books and sports equipment used -- and the good news is, there's nothing out there that you can't find second-hand -- take your kids on outings to trade old video games and movies and books for "new-to-you" ones -- help them find the best prices on Ebay and the Amazon Marketplace, instead of going to the mall -- take them back-to-school shopping at a hipster consignment store, where they can get the hottest name brands for a fraction of the price -- and if the idea of "used" initially embarrasses them, remind your children that no one else has to know it was gently-worn -- and the compliments they get on the first day of class will make all their worries disappear)
  • limit their activities (a lot of what makes raising offspring so expensive is a well-meaning parent's attempts at giving that child evertyhing he or she never had -- you want your kid to have every possible opportunity, so you sign her up for soccer, band, ballet, Girl Scouts, softball, 4-H, Spanish club, swim team, debate, and baton twirling -- not only is your schedule so crazy that no one has time to breathe, but you're now broke from all the added costs! -- every activity comes with a price tag, whether it's for uniforms, annual dues, equipment, field trips, or just going out for ice cream after each game -- an easy way to teach your child good time management skills and frugality is to limit the number of activities -- each semester, allow your child to pick just a few activities -- maybe one sport, one academic club, and one civic group -- or you might even go so far as to ask what their ONE favorite activity is and focus all your efforts solely on that -- you'll definitely spend less on group participation, and your child will learn how to prioritize)
  • lower the bar (I remember when a child's birthday party meant just a few friends, cake, balloons, and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey -- now, you're expected to invite every kid in the class, hire clowns and musicians, set up a petting zoo, inflate a bouncing house, and have the whole affair catered with enough food to feed a small country -- the level of competition and has become ridiculous, each mom or dad trying to "outdo" the other in order to show what amazing parents they are -- you can see it with birthdays and bat mitzvahs, the presents kids receive on Christmas morning, the cars they buy 16-year-olds -- this sort of thing is contagious, but the same is true of the opposite -- when one parent puts a halt to the escalation wars and consciously explains that decision to both their kids and the other parents, suddenly things change -- the pressure is lifted and the community regains a sense of perspective -- I've even seen that return to simpler, less-materialistic ways become a movement within the neighborhood, a source of pride among those who want to teach their kids some values)
  • stop playing chauffeur (adults have gotten into a bad habit in this country of catering to children's transportation whims -- every time a kid asks to be taken somewhere, that automatically means some grown-up has to get behind the wheel of a car -- what happened to riding your bike to a friend's house, walking to the store, carpooling to the football game, and riding the school bus? -- start requiring your children to figure out their own locomotion once in a while, especially the older ones -- you might even allow your teens to take your car a day or two a week when they know they'll have afterschool activities, as long as they arrange their schedules so they can drop you off an pick you up at work and will pay for the gas -- and at the very least, require your kids to plan ahead and let you know when they'll need a ride in advance so you at least have the option to make other arrangements -- no more popping up at the last minute saying, "Can you give me a ride?")

read the original post of this blog

posted on: 8/30/2011 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Discuss This Post

by sharon thoms on 1/4/2012 10:51:15 AM:

Hi what you are saying is so true. Kids grow up rotten if they are too spoilt. Besides, they will get a rude shock when they can't provide for themselves a life that is close to what they had been given at home while growing up. Thanks for the post, to easy to forget these points and get caught up in the keeping up with the jones syndrome, so to speak.

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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