Is Parental Guilt Ruining Your Finances?
The one big weakness that I have when it comes to my finances? My daughter.
(And chocolate croissants).
As parents, we love and adore our children. We want only the best for them – but how much does the best cost? Whilst doing research for this article I found that the average amount that British parents spend on toys per year is £508, which also makes us the country with the second highest spend per child on toys in the world.
The cost of a child for the first 11 years of their life is £87,000.
This amount includes food, clothes, toys, memberships (for example baby classes), childcare and more. Research shows that the first few years hundreds of pounds are spent on the little ones.
If you are in debt, it could be because of your spending on your children (no judgement here). And it can be even tougher to get out of debt when you have your children asking you for things all of the time. Getting out of debt can be incredibly stressful, even for the most upbeat of us. Add in the guilt that you can’t buy your children the things they want or the things that their friends have, and it can be overwhelming.
What do your children really need?
When it boils down to needs and not wants, this is where you can save a ton of money. Do your children really need the latest games console that they would go on every day and never emerge from their room? Or would they be better off playing outside with their friends? I know that when I was younger, I loved playing outside with all of my neighbourhood friends. I have so many great memories of playing hide and seek even when I was older, or having a huge game of rounders with all of the kids and their parents.
The most important thing that you can give your children is time. They will remember and appreciate so much more – the time that you spend with them – not the money that you spent on them. I’m not suggesting that you should never buy your children anything, because toys and play are great for imagination – but just that the purchasing of the entire Argos catalogue will not equate to their happiness. In fact, having a lot of toys can be detrimental to them, as it doesn’t allow their imagination and creativity to flow.
Going back to my memories of playing outside as a child, nature can be an amazing experience for children to explore. Going for a walk in the woods, playing on the beach, visiting a park – these are all free, and will tire them out for you! Take a picnic and make it a day trip – this will save you so much money, and can even be done when it’s really cold outside if you wrap up warmly and take everyone a hot chocolate. I have even put together a list for you of free or cheap kids activity ideas that you could do on a budget.
If you are worried about your child not fitting in with their friends, then this can be a real concern as children can be very cruel at that age when someone is a bit different. A good way to get round this is to get second hand items – they don’t need to know it’s second hand – but if you find toys or clothes in excellent condition for a fraction of the price, no-one will be any the wiser. This is something that I personally do in regards for clothes for myself – if I am going out then I purchase a second hand outfit on eBay for usually a maximum of £5 from a very popular brand. I only choose item of clothing which are in really good condition (most of the time they have only been worn once), and no-one has a clue that it is not brand new. After I have worn it, I then sell it back on eBay for profit.
For my daughter, it’s just been her birthday and the majority of her presents I found at our local car boot sale. She is now 5, and couldn’t care less that they are second hand – she loves car boot sales because they are like giant toy shops to her (I remember loving them when I was little too). Some things I was really pleased with getting: brand new The Gruffalo book for 50p, Princess Merida barbie for 50p, wooden dolls house bathroom furniture set for £1. Do you know what? She loved them. She didn’t ask why they weren’t in packaging or query them in any shape or form.
If you have older children, of course this may be more tricky – but I’ve seen (and sold) brand new clothing, shoes, toiletries, games, and more for sale at car boot sales. Also check out Gumtree, Facebook selling pages and eBay. Just because they are selling sites doesn’t mean that they will only have second hand items available to buy.
Other people have had babies before you.
What I mean by this is that there is an abundance of baby items available for sale – and most of it will be brand new or in pristine condition. Remember when I mentioned before that most of the money over the first 11 years of a child’s life is spent when they are a baby? It can be incredibly easy to want only brand new and expensive things for your baby, especially if it is your first one. I personally had a ton of baby clothes left over with the tags still on them (all sold now!).
Again, go to car boot sales, check Gumtree, Facebook etc. You will find an unbelievable amount of toys, furniture, prams, feeding equipment and more for sale at a fraction of the cost. Just think, you could use that money you save on something really special or important instead. Maybe set up a savings account for your little one to use in the future.
When paying off debt, you don’t want to deprive your kids too. I completely understand. When you are paying off debt, all non-essentials must be gone. Non-essentials include toys and trips out, so this can be difficult to adjust to, especially if this is something that is a regular purchase within your family. What should you do?
It depends completely on your family and your financial situation.
It is a tricky one, because the kids are only little once and they grow up so fast. If we are generalising, then the best thing that can be done is to pay off the debt as quickly as possible, with wriggle room for ‘treats’ in between. Ask your children what they want – is it a new toy or a trip out? Depending on your budget this could be a fortnightly thing or a monthly occurrence. They will probably start off with an outrageous want, but they will then start to really think about what they would like to do best and this is great for their financial learning. It teaches them the value of money, and also delayed gratification.
You are doing the best that you can.
The point of this post? To assure you that you are doing the best that you can. If you are paying off debt, don’t worry – your kids will love to do free activities and cheap days out – it’s a well known fact that kids love cardboard boxes to play with because it fuels their imagination. They don’t need the latest, flashy, bulky toys because they have you.
Spend time with them, enjoy your time together and keep a little bit of money back so that you can ‘treat’ them once in a while without feeling guilty. They won’t want you to get further in debt (even if they don’t completely understand what this means yet) – and teaching them smart money habits will do wonders for them in the future.
Try not to let your emotions control your spending, and you will be doing great.
Does guilt cause you to spend too much money on your children? Let me know in the comments.