10 Things Parents Should Never, Ever, Pay For!

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Parents are going broke raising their kids.

By Steve & Annette Economides—NY Times Best Selling Authors. Adapted from The MoneySmart Family System

The “experts” at the USDA in their 2010 report “Expenditures on Children and Families” say that we should expect to spend about $261,000 to raise each child from birth through age seventeen ($14,500 per year). Do you think this is accurate? We don’t! In 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median annual household income fell to $49,777. Meaning that it could take more than five years and three months of your entire gross household income to get Junior through the formative years and ready for college.

Just calculate with us for a minute. If you’re an average family with 1.8 children (according to USDA figures, this alone should cost you $26,100 per year), living in an average city, spending an average amount on food ($200 per month per person x 12 months = $9,120 per year) with an average yearly household income ($50,000 per year—about $40,000 after taxes), you’d be left with $4,700 a year ($392 per month) to spend on cars, clothes, housing, debt, recreation, gifts, utilities, health care, cell phones, cable TV, medical bills, dental bills, and chewing gum. Something simply doesn’t add up!

If you’re going to survive financially and have any money left to retire on, you’re going to have to draw a line in the sand with what you’re willing to spend on your kids.

Many parents think that they have to provide their kids with the best things in life. But we’ve discovered that giving our kids the best things, often means that they will expect us to continue to do that . . . indefinitely. But teaching them to pay their own way, starting with smaller expenses from the youngest ages, will produce an abundance of benefits as they exercise their own mental and financial assets to resolve their wants and desires.

At the very least, parents ought to allow their children the privilege of sharing some of the cost of the things they want. But the truth is, the more our kids invest in their own financial decisions, the more they’ll value and care for what they buy. When parents pay for their kids wants and desires, they’re actually stealing valuable financial growth opportunities from them.

While parents may bristle at some of our suggestions, here are 10 things they should never pay for!

1.    Designer Apparel

2.    Video gaming systems

3.    Mall spending money

4.    Designer sunglasses

5.    Good Grades

6.    Class rings

7.    Auto Insurance

8.    Car of their own

9.    Cell phones and cell service

10. Cosmetic surgery (with rare exceptions)

Oh, and a couple more things parents simply should never pay for . . .

11. Tanning Salons

12. Hair Coloring

You’ll never regret allowing your kids to stand on their own two feet financially—it pays great dividends to them and . . . protects your dividends for retirement. It’s never too early, too late, or too hard to start teaching and learning financial responsibility.





  1. Brenda D. says

    A couple of years ago all of the grandparents were wondering what to get my two children for Christmas. That year, my kids really, really wanted Nintendo hand-held games and had been saving their money to buy them but still didn’t have the money to do so. We(my husband & I and the 3 sets of grandparents) went in together and bought them each a Nintendo DSi and 1 game for each unit. After that, it was up to my kids to pay for any new games that they wanted. They currently collect aluminum cans for recycling, do odd jobs for neighbors, help around the farm and save any good deed money (Christmas, birthdays, ect.) they receive to purchase their own games. They also pay their own way to school sporting events & the snack bar. I will bring bottles of water and snacks in my purse to games, but if they want something different, they must pay for it themselves. I frequently tell my kids that the world doesn’t owe them a living and self-reliant people work hard to make their own way. Plus it builds character. It didn’t hurt me any and it won’t hurt them. As a result, both of my kids (ages 14 & 10) are hard workers and have a healthy understanding about budgeting their money and making financial decisions. It also helped them in the classroom when they studied needs vs. wants in social studies. :)

  2. Donna says

    I go to scripture and read and focus on it and pray and
    know that our Heavenly Father will provide and will get us
    through anything that we are facing. Be positive and be
    thankful for what you do have.

  3. Kris says

    You left out tattoos! I know of mothers who have gone with their daughters to get tattooed as a “bonding” experience.

    I fully agree with your post. Gift shops at tourist places are another area where we require our kids to spend their own money. It’s amazing how quickly they decide they don’t need junky toys when it’s coming out of their own pocket.

  4. Maggie says

    When my kids wanted shoes or clothes that were above and beyond what my husband and I were willing to pay – we called ourselves the JC Penney plainpocket parents – they were told that we would pay $X.XX. Anything above that price, if they wanted it they had to pay for it themselves. It’s amazing how few times they chose something else. My daughter was going to be a counsellor at a Girl Scout camp and wanted a pair of hiking boots. They ranged from $35 to several hundred dollars. We offered no more than $100 because these were to last her all summer and even then, I thought they were pretty high but that’s what was recommended due to snakes and bugs at the camp. She went to a discount mall and found the boots for $70 (REI brand) and a waterproof jacket (which she also needed) for $35. I was so proud of her when she came home. And you know what, she was proud of herself, too. She saved money and got exactly what she needed. She and our son are very frugal and we are so proud that they don’t spend what they don’t have the money for.

    • says

      That reminds me of the first time I sent my kids by themselves to the store on their bikes. The took quite awhile and I was getting a little concerned but they came flying in their faces just beaming and they were so proud of themselves. They said sorry we are late but we looked at all the bread to find the cheapest and we finally found some on the day old rack. Like your daughter they were so proud of what they had done.

      People worry so if they can’t give their kids all the neat stuff they want and have them in sports and activities etc. They are so afraid they are depriving their kids but what they don’t realize is by letting them have so much they are depriving them in another way and that is in the area of self confidence, self esteem, character and so many other things that having to use your brain and work hard for what you get gives you.

  5. Carole says

    I think these club sports teams are an extravagance. Parents pay a lot to get their kids on these club basketball, volley ball, etc. teams that are outside of the school programs. They play far away teams and they have to travel and stay in motels often.

  6. Lea Stormhammer says

    Actually those statistics include housing, food, medical care, etc. And they freely admit that the cost of raising a 2nd, 3rd, etc. child is less than the first because it’s assumed that you’re already paying for housing, food, etc.

    Even with that, I totally agree with you!

    My MIL has paid for more tatoos, video games, hair coloring, makeup, etc for my younger siblings-in-law (my husband is the oldest of 9 – youngest is 27 years younger than he) and those poor children don’t have decent clothing (not lacking holes, stains, appropriate for school, etc.). They always feel very poor, even though they truly have more than enough money for the “basics” (yes, even with 9 children!).

    I grew up with very little money and never felt poor. Why? Because my parents concentrated on the basics – food, clothing, shelter, transportation and health.

    I “shared” a car with my dad – if I had late sports practice I would walk from school to his work after early practice, pick up the car, go home, eat and change for late practice, come back and pick him up to have him drop me off at school again. I got a ride home with a neighbor. I rode the bus to school every day and home on the other days. I had to use my own money for fancy clothes, haircuts, make up, etc. I would never have been allowed to get a tatoo or multiple piercings in weird places.

    Now my MIL wonders how we have a good retirement account going, paid for grad school with cash and can afford to send our children to private school without taking out a loan….. hmmm….

    Thanks for keeping it real and using common sense!

  7. Marcia says

    My husband and I both grew up in so called poor families. I babysat all summer and delivered newspapers (yes I was a paper girl…my older brother passed down the route to me)to get spending money for clothes and anything extra. My husband worked on potato harvest picking potatoes for school clothes. We are in our mid fifties now and we aren’t sorry we grew up this way. We feel sorry for the people now who are so used to having everything that when the bottom falls out for these people (as it has for many people in this economy)they don’t have any idea what to do to survive.

  8. Renee says

    Casseroles from leftovers.Whatever was eaten the night before became the topping for grits the next morn. Hmmmm very tasty. What was worn by the older brother/sister had became new clothes to the ones coming up after to style n profile. We each did chores before n after school. And helped the youngsters with their homework. AND even enjoyed extra activities at school (as long as the homework/grades didnt suffer). Learned how to do much with less; and had much love to go around. ALSO we had neighbors who didnt mind sharing what they had as well. A GREAT community.

  9. Veronica Tidd says

    I totally agree with everything except the cell phone. Now I don’t mean for unlimited use,texting etc. Just the basics with a few minutes to be used in case of emergency. So many bad things happen to kids these days.

  10. says

    I agree with Veronica. My children have never wanted designer goods and other items on the list and the good grades they have achieved have never resulted from a monetary incentive.

    I have insisted my children have cell phones – my son is on a gap year and I want to hear from him and my beautiful 13 year old daughter is becoming more independent and I want to know she can contact me. They are both super sensible and the type of service we have mean all our texts are free.

  11. Joyce says

    If they want designer clothes, I’d get them for them…either on ebay, a store like Marshalls or Burlington, or a second hand store (like Goodwill). If they want an expensive phone with all the gadgets, they better same money for it.

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