Are We Really Depriving Our Kids?

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Are We Really Depriving Our Kids?

Are We Really Depriving Our Kids?
By Jill Cooper

I often hear ladies complaining that they want to stay at home with their kids but that they “have to work since it is so expensive to raise kids these days”. One of the main questions I get asked about frugal living is “won’t I be depriving my children if I spend less?” Maybe I can answer that question with a few questions.

How am I depriving my children by having them drink water for every meal instead of juice and soda? Isn’t one thing doctors are always complaining about is we don’t drink enough water? Cutting out just one glass of soda per person per day for a family of four would save $547.50 a year and make them healthier.

How am I depriving my children by having them eat an apple or homemade granola bar for a snack instead of a bag of chips? Obesity is a major problem among children in the United States. If you cut out just one bag of chips a week you would save $104.00 a year and make them healthier.

How am I depriving my children by having them walk to school or to a friends house instead of my always driving them there? Lack of exercise is a big problem. You would save time and wear and tear on your car by having them walk and make them healthier at the same time.

How am I depriving my kids when I don’t buy them every toy they see and want? We wouldn’t dream of giving a baby on baby food all the chocolate that he wants because we know it would make him sick. His body can not tolerate that much chocolate even if he desires it.

In the same way, an older child can’t emotionally deal with the overload of toys. I as an adult become stressed just from trying to buy a bottle of shampoo. Have you ever noticed how many options you have? Trying to make a decision can be overwhelming. Do I get it for thin, fine, dry and damaged or colored and permed hair? The list goes on and on.

In the same way when a young child looks at piles of toys, he can become very stressed over choosing which one to play with. If you watch, you will notice that they tend to play with the same couple of toys over and over. If you didn’t give them all the toys they asked for and bought one less brand new toy at $10 a week, you would save $520.00 in one year and you would help relieve them of some stress.

It is no wonder our children stay confused. We insist that they should eat healthy yet we take them out to eat 3-5 times a week at McDonald’s. We give them a bag of carrot sticks in their lunch because it’s healthy and then give them a bag of chips when they get home from school to get them off our backs.

We want them to have strong character yet the moment they whine or cry for another toy or some candy at the store we give in out of guilt. We are afraid that if we don’t give them what they want, they won’t love us so to rid ourselves of uncomfortable feelings we say yes. How can we teach them to be strong in character when we are so weak?

How could our society and way of thinking have gotten so mixed up that we think a child is deprived if a mom chooses to stay home and not go to work? We have come to believe that moms should work outside the home so that children can have the most expensive clothes, education or material things. (Note I didn’t say best but rather most expensive since the most expensive doesn’t mean the best.) If a mom goes to work so a child can have all those things it’s not considered depriving the child of anything but it’s mom. Which do you think does a child more harm- being deprived expensive things or it’s mom?

For you stay at home moms: Before you become too puffed up with pride be aware that too many social, church and school activities can deprive your kids of you just as much as working. Do all things in moderation.

Better to give your kids your values you have than the valuables you can’t afford.

For lots of easy and practical ways to save money and get out of debt, check out Dig out Of Debt and learn more about how to keep more of your money.



  1. Nicole says

    I love this article! I have many friends and family that think that now that we have choosen to live frugally that we will be depriving our children! I know it’s not true , it’s what best for them ! There is more to life than material possesions etc than that! I want to raise them to be able to live with less and be content! Just an added extra, for those people that feel they need to by brand name clothing, I went to my local second hand store the other day and bought myself 2 dresses, a skirt and blouse set, 3 t-shirts and 2 skirts for a grand total of $21 and they were all brand name clothes in excellent condition that someone was finished with!

  2. Gena says

    Great article!!! We have spoiled our kids in this country but they are not hard to unspoil. I started giving my kids only fresh fruit as a daily snack and popsicles, candy, chips etc as a special “treat” as it is intended to be and they don’t really mind at all. It has been a nice transition and it has brought the specialness back to those treats.

  3. Sandra says

    Right on target! Another point – giving your children every little thing they see sets them up to expect a lifestyle that they can’t afford to keep up when they’re adults and starting out on their own. Teach them some fiscal restraint now so that they’ll be fiscally responsible adults later. My oldest son, now 19 and working at McDonalds to pay his way through college, was upset that he had to work to pay for his own car when he saw other teenagers driving expensive BMWs that their parents bought for them but now his attitude is ” what’s wrong with these parents- that’s stupid!”. He has learned the value of money, hard work, and appreciating what you have. I still laugh when I hear him comment on one of those “got to have it” commercials saying, “that’s not worth that!”. A lesson we all would have done better to have learned at his age!

  4. says

    Kids get influenced early……the earlier you change their expectations the better! I used to teach Kindergarten and those children whose parents monitored and controlled TV watching had the best behaved and less materialistic kids I ever dealt with. They were the most creative too!
    Most of the time the parents did not allow TV during the week and only two nites on the weekend (Fri/Sat.) Television was a treat and the whole family watched together. I know this can be hard for parents as we get busy and often use the TV as a baby-sitter but it is an insidious invader that has become so much different than the TV most of us grew up with!

  5. rachael says

    I have accumulated alot of toys from garage sales and thrift stores. My kids love them because I collect sets of things- My Little Ponies, Fisher Price Little People, a kitchen set, dress up clothes, and dolls with clothes and accessories. My children enjoy them and are able to be creative rather than watch TV. Like you said, I don’t buy them everything they want- some of therir choices would be cast aside after 10 minutes! I agree that lots of toys overall is confusing, and your point is well taken. But you don’t have to spend alot for extra pieces that enhance a set and your kiddos playtime. My kids enjoy it!

  6. Alicia says

    I’m 24, married with 3 kids. Only my husband works and its been this way since we had our first child. I grew up with a single mother who worked 3 jobs to keep a roof over mine and my siblings heads. we lived with home cooked meals and garage sale clothes and not once did we complain about not having certain things because my mother taught us well, tv was a privilege and the mall was a foreign place. thats what i teach my children. that mcdonalds is a once in a blue moon type of treat( considering i hate mcdonalds) and my kids have no idea that theres a difference between second hand and brand new. they use their imaginations when playing like we did when we were little. we may be far under the poverty line but my kids don’t know what poverty is because we live simply to begin with and have everything we need. and we’re happy, they’re happy…whats there to complain about.

  7. Grandma says

    Just read this article and I am not sure if I am more disgusted with the 13 year old or the mother. They both need serious councelling in my books.

    Girl 13 sends death threat letter to Santa

    A British teenager has threatened to kill Santa Claus if she doesn’t get what she wants.

    “This Christmas, I don’t ask for much, so if I don’t get at least two of the things I want, I will literally kill you! Do you understand?! Oh, also, I’ll hunt down your reindeers, cook them and serve their meat to homeless people on Christmas Day,” Mekeeda Austin, 13, wrote in her letter, the Daily Mail reported. “No one wants that, so here’s what I want.”

    The girl lists a BlackBerry, money, a dress, high-top Converse shoes and the real Justin Bieber.

    “Remember, two of these or you die,” she wrote, signing it, “Love from Keedy.”

    Her mother found the letter and said she thought the letter was humorous, and she’ll try to get her daughter everything she wants.

    “I know it sounds like she is spoiled but I like to get my daughter what she wants, also you don’t want to get on the wrong side of her,” Tracey Soares told the newspaper, although she admitted getting the Canadian pop singer might be difficult because Bieber “will be busy with (his) own (family) on Christmas Day.”

    Austin told the reporter she didn’t see any problem with the letter.

    “I want all of these things and I don’t see why I shouldn’t get them,” she said.

  8. rose says

    i think they both need counseling and the girl could use a swift kick in the pants .. sorry but its true .. she’s a spoiled brat .. and a good couple of weeks/months in one of those boot camps would settle her down ..
    harsh? maybe .. i dont know but it might do her some good .. she cant have all she wants ..
    sorry if i sound mean or harsh but i think its better to learn early on in life that u cant always have what u want .. and well, if u need/want it that bad, work for it ..
    again .. they both could use some counseling ..
    thanks for letting me vent ..

  9. Grandma says

    I am just waiting for her to decide that santa is a myth and goes after her mother and father.
    then I wonder if mommy will be quite so understanding and stupid.

  10. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    I hope that Santa letter was supposed to be funny. It grossly disrespectful and demonstrates that mother and child are spoiled.

    I grew up with little money and the “its a sin to waste” WWI survivor mentality. I go 4 and 5 times used hand me downs. Soda and chips only on birthdays. One car family. We BUILT our house. My nails still haven’t recovered. My dad told me repeatedly that when it came time for me to marry he would give me a ladder and a suitcase so I could elope. I did for $40! I see my nieces and nephews make foolish money mistakes and think “Must not have been poor enough” to learn the value of money.

  11. Juliann Johnson says

    Your article is absolutely on the mark! One cautionary note I would like to add:
    beware of orthodontists that want you to spend your life savings on braces etc. that your child may or may not need. Get a second or even a third opinion. Obviously in some cases braces are a necessity but these days EVERYBODY gets braces that has credit….IMO. I believe in good dental care, brushing, flossing, and check ups;
    but if your child doesn’t have OBVIOUS problems, don’t accept one orthodontist’s opinion. It’s more about building good habits than throwing money at problems.

    • says

      This is so true Juliann and not just of orthodontists. My daughter was told that her kids all had mouthfuls of cavities and she was horrified. Something didn’t seem quite right so she decided to get a second opinion and they found out they had the same as no cavities. Be careful. My daughter was not happy and I don’t blame her not only would the expense been bad but the discomfort for the kids.

  12. LAC says

    My BD is tomorrow and I know I’ve raised my kids right and to be frugal. My grand daughter’s father spent a lot of money on her BD party and it was a near disaster. Some of the guest didn’t show and there were not as many people as originally planned for so therefore wasted money. My daughter wanted a small BD for her daughter just the family and a home made cake. Tomorrow as mentioned is my BD and I am doing it as we have always done so in our home. A favorite meal and a cake! My daughter is looking forward to spending the time with me and her family and I am looking forward to spending time with her and my grand kids!

    It has gotten ridiculous the amounts of money people spend on a birthday party! I watched Leave It To Beaver the other day and guess how they spent BD’s then? A favorite meal and a cake and a few presents! I guess I am really a child of the 50’s because that is how I have always celebrated our families BD’s!

    • says

      We celebrate simply too with cake, ice cream and family. This year we are having our first big bash if you can even call it that but it is my granddaughter’s 16th birthday so since it is a special birthday she is inviting a fewfriends to go roller skating and then come back to their house for cake and ice cream. She is a girl after my own heart though because she carefully studied the times and days which would give her folks the best deal.: )

    • Tiffany says

      I’m with you on the BD stuff. I grew up with family, food, and a homemade cake. Now that I have four children, I constantly battle the social bug that nips at me for not having lavish parties for my children. We go to other parties and I just can’t see spending such amounts of money on preparations and food when we can better spend the money on longer lasting things…experiences and memories.

  13. Annie says

    OOohhh, I wish I could email this article to the parents of every student I have! I teach in an upper-class, rather affluent area, and it’s true: More Money, More Problems! These kids I teach every day have every material item imaginable, and yet these kids feel neglected and starved for their parents love and attention. Any student I talk to would rather have Mom (or Dad) home with them in the afternoons than take that summer vacation to Europe or have that huge Bar Mitzvah at the Ritz-Carlton.

  14. Tracy says

    As a young Mother I spoiled my kid. Made sure he had everything. As my kid grew older.
    He would not accept it when I said no . We can’t buy that or go to that place.
    So with some assistant ,with my relatives and others. We changed how I did things.
    We ended up with a room full of too many toys. Extra clothes that took over my kid closet . I came across living on a dime. Which offers great tips. So we cleared out a little . My kid needed to wear a uniform to school .That was the better route to go.
    We stopped eating out at fast food places. Cooked and ate meals at home. All ate at the same time.
    All had responsibilities, chores to be done. Expected things done on time ,I let my family do things for themselves. Take care of their laundry, assist with grocery shopping and cooking once a week.

    • says

      Wow Tracy. Your stories are the kind I love to hear. I wish so much for people to understand that you really can change things if you just decide to do it. It may take some time and work but it can be done and your story is the perfect example of that. Way to go.

  15. Shawnie says

    Great article, I am an at home mom that has older boys now – 17, 13, and 11. I loved to spoil them when they were little as I didn’t have much growing up. My spoiling was the Disney movies. We had every one of those and having boys we didn’t have dolls and such. We had a great backyard so they were out playing baseball or some-sort of sport.

    With them older the “wants” for them are different than when they were little. Such as money, money, and did I mention money! My oldest drives which is great so I’m not driving all over like I use – he helps out quite a bit, so I don’t mind funding a movie or lunch out.

    But this past week my older son (who tends to expect more for less) said the most interesting thing to me. He was really looking forward to playing varsity baseball his junior year of high school, he gave up basketball and worked during the off season, he got a bit prideful that it was going to just make the team because of who the new coach was (family friend), and how hard he was working. The season started, he did start on varsity and made a few errors. The new coach dropped him to junior varsity where he remained the rest of the season. His comment, “Mom, God taught me a lesson on pride and He put me in my place this season.” It blew me away! My point in this long comment is that they do listen.

    Spoiling isn’t what is bad, it’s the lesson that goes along with what you’re giving them.

  16. Jen Blow says

    My son has been raised with many ideas of being frugal. He knows to buy clothes first at the second hand store, especially when he has a growth spurt. (that worked the best the summer he grew 3 inches over the summer, kept his shorts, but skipped a pants size when fall started!) The best though was this year when the ads started in the media for the local amusement park, HE told us he didn’t want a pass this year, even though he is old enough to go on his own. Why, because with the bad winter we had, school is extended 2 weeks, and they’re starting earlier next fall. That, and he has scout camp, and is helping with the cub scout day camp, there’s vacation, and a shorter summer camp as well. His thought was that with those camps, 1, we put out a lot of money already for him, and 2, if he did go to the park when he’s here, he’ll miss the neighborhood pool. On the other hand, we can go to a morning movie in the summer for $1 at the multiplex. If his cousins come to town, he’ll be occupied with them. deprived, nope!

  17. Sandra D. says

    I totally agree with this article. We are a very low income family of 8. We don’t get any kind of assistance because it goes against our values. We spend $200 a month on groceries and yet my kids are still not deprived. We shop thrift stores and garage sales and when my kids want to do after school activities, we require them to earn the money themselves. We rarely go out to eat and when we do it is a very special treat. We believe that we are teaching them values and character. It’s important to us that they never feel entitled.

    That said, my mom comes from a completely different mind set. She thinks they need to go to movies and go out to eat all the time. She shops department stores for clothes and spends gobs of money. How can I deal with this tactfully? We are completely different in what we think my children need.

    • says

      Sandra I’m not quite sure if I will explain what I want to say exactly right but here it goes anyway. The thing is I have been on both sides of the coin now. I totally understand where you are coming from and at the same time I understand where your mom is coming from. If you really feel all the things your mom is doing is having a very bad negative affect on your kids then there may be no tactful way to go about it. You may just have to sit down and explain how you feel and have a few guidelines ready that you would like her to follow. This is one way to do it but if you do do this your really need to be prepared to compromise with your mom. You will have to give some, so will she and hopefully you guys can meet in the middle.
      Now that is one option. The other is – well let me tell you a story first. A very famous Christian child psychiatrist told all these really good tips on raising kids for years. A lot like what you mentioned above and what I totally agree with. He was very much on target on teaching how to raise kids that weren’t spoiled, were respectful, responsible and on and on. Well about the time I became a grandmother he became a grandfather too. He wrote an article I had to laugh at because he said “All those things I taught as a parent I now as a grandparent can throw it all out the window and get to spoil my grand kids rotten.” It is hard to explain what it is like to be a grandparent and what it feels like until you actually become one. You have none of the day to day responsibility towards the child but all the fun.
      Now I know that a grandparent does need to keep their head a little and do things with in reason but at the same time it is not in them to take the raising and teaching of the children in quite the same light as a parent. A parent needs to teach them to be responsible, appreciate things, have a good work ethic etc. but a grandparent is to love unconditionally and to spoil them.

      Oddly enough kids do understand, respect and know the difference usually. They need parents to be strong and not shirk their responsibilities in teaching and disciplining them, not trying to be their best friend and worrying that they are going make the kids mad at them or in general trying to act like a grandparent. That confuses the child.
      Grandparents on the other hand are an oasis for the grandchild to go to. Now I’m not saying I let my grand kids get by with murder or not act respectful towards me – thankfully my kids have done a great job and make that part easy for me – but we do do things differently. For example if they want to go get an ice cream every day during the week they are visiting me we have fun and go for it. It’s doughnuts for breakfast each morning. Now I will try to get them to eat a few scrambled eggs once in awhile but I don’t make a big deal of it.If they want a candy bar every time we go to the store I get it for them. The thing is like I said my kids did such a good job that the grand kids don’t beg for these things it is usually me insisting on getting it for them. The older ones are so sweet now that because they know I live on a fixed income when I go to buy them something they try to talk me out of it because they worry about how little money I have and don’t want me to spend so much on them.

      Like I said really look and see if it really is hurting the kids. If not then just be gratefully your mom has enough money to get them special things that you maybe can’t afford right now and that she loves them enough to want to do it.

      Any way I would say relax. If you feel it really is harming the kids in a really bad way that you can see then maybe talk to your mom and try to work out a reasonable plan. If you stick to your guns at home and lovingly teach the kids the right way, the gifts grandma gives probably won’t hurt too much. Oh except for one thing. I would never give my grand kids anything that my kids really really don’t want them to have. If your mom is doing this all the time and opening going against your wishes that is a different matter that you need to seriously sit down and ask her to stop.

      • Grizzly Bear Mom says

        I understand the concept of living a simple life, teaching your children the values of work and things, and eating well. However if your mom only sees them time to time, whatever she does IS a treat, and not the norm. I’m very much like you, insisted that my nieces and nephews clean the house and after themselves, etc., rewarded them IF we got out work done, and make sugary snacks a rare treat. Their mom is slob who spends her money eating out, purchasing her grandkids crap, etc. Kids grow up like their parents, not those who rarely interact with them.

  18. says

    My toddler wants to go to different restaurants and cafes all the time, but since he is in that age where I can NEVER sit down and eat my meal, I cook everything from scratch at home. I only take him to McDonalds once in month maximum. But I know that things change over time when he gets older.

    • says

      Things don’t need to change over time. As long as I am the one paying for it we only went to eat when I thought we could afford. Things only need to change if you the parent want them to.


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