For little people kids sure have a lot of
crap stuff. Partly because we’re given a lot in preparation for them. Partly because we aren’t really sure what they’ll need and we don’t want to deprive them. And partly because we just plain ole overbuy. Not because we’re trying to be greedy, but because looking around us it just seems like we need tons of stuff.
I am not a minimalist (although it slightly appeals to me). I’m not against plastic toys. I don’t think kids should avoid all technology. However, I do think that in an effort to be “good” parents we often mistake that to mean we need to have tons of things so our children aren’t deprived or missing anything. Everyone has probably seen the quote going on around Pinterest that says the best thing we can do for our kids is to spend twice the time with them that we do and half the money. Of course it isn’t bad to provide things for our children, but we are just creating unnecessary worry and spending unnecessary money when we could be putting that same amount in a child savings’ fund.
Here are some small things we practice in our home to strike a good balance.
(1) Adopt the “rule of one.”
Since my husband studies and works part-time and I stay at home and work part-time we don’t have tons of expendable income. Since we try to keep our expenses and costs down as much as possible we’ve adopted the “rule of one” concept. Why buy three when one will do? No need for three winter coats when one that is a neutral color will last all season. Why buy five pairs of shoes when you can buy one casual and one dress of good quality and wear them out. This Christmas we are buying the kids balance bikes. As in, one big present that’ll be tons of family fun. If family buys presents and gives things we use them and appreciate them, of course, but when we are the purchasers we try to adhere to the rule of one when possible.
(2) Think ahead.
One habit we’ve adopted well and truly is buying clothes on clearance at the end of a season in sizes for next year. Bathing suits will go on sale for $5 or less. If your children swim frequently you’d be able to buy one or two swimsuits in next year’s size for the price of one if they are on clearance. This is how I’ve gotten some really cute pieces of clothing that would otherwise be too pricey to even consider.
(3) Shop all house closets and storage.
There is nothing worse than going to the store, buying stuff and using it mildly only to find a box later filled with things you could have used and saved yourself the money. If you organize clothes based on sizes you’ll be able to see what you have and don’t have. If some onesies or shorts are unisex then you can reuse things for all children if you’ve taken care of them.
There is rarely a load of laundry I do that hasn’t been pre-soaked. Kids are dirty and messy, but if you take care of the clothes then you don’t feel the need to shop so much and you aren’t so concerned with passing “hand me downs.” Who would complain about a good-as-new dress? Hand me downs are only to be sneered at (not by me, mind you, but by kids trying to be snobby) if they are clearly used up and worn out.
(4) Repurpose clothes if you can sew.
I love my sewing machine. I never make anything worthy of selling and tell everyone not to look too close, but I still use it regularly. I’ve made dresses and toddler skirts out of fabric scraps. I’ve made matching outfits out of one of my dresses. I’ve used old t-shirts to do fun projects for my daughter. This is harder with boys, obviously, but it actually takes the prospect of buying less and gives it a new spin. It’s a chance to be creative. I’ve looked at my daughter in a skirt I made with crooked hems and been so proud of myself. Not of my seamstress non-abilities, but of my industriousness.
(5) Buy things that go a long way.
I love this blog called frugal2free. He recently wrote on buying things that get a great cost per use. A $5,000 car you keep for 5 years has a very low-cost per use. Something that the children use regularly for an activity like homeschooling, say an iPad, will have a low-cost per use since you use it daily. And it truly enriches your children’s experiences. A toddler bed can only be used for a few very short years. A twin bed can be used long past toddler days so if you are looking to save some money, purchasing a twin will provide the family with a bed for many years.
It isn’t about being cheap or deprivation. It’s about thinking clearly about your family’s needs and how you can meet them without breaking the bank. Even if you wouldn’t break the bank, wouldn’t it be better to put those few extra dollars into the future as opposed to a soon to be discarded toy in the present?
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