The $0 Toddler?

British mom Hattie Garlick lost her job in late 2012 and made a radical decision: She would spend no money on her two-year-old son in 2013. No clothes, toys, haircuts, special kid food, Mommy and Me classes, or even disposable diapers.

Garlick found myriad benefits to her new arrangement, from getting to know other parents in her neighborhood through swap meets to  making her son a less picky eater. She enjoyed the lifestyle change so much that she has maintained it through welcoming a new baby and on into 2014, with the modest change of permitting herself (and her readers) and one purchase per month.

I’m glad it’s working so well for her, but I won’t be jumping on the bandwagon. Counting my purchases is a gimmick that I don’t think we need. For one thing, I don’t have enough excess “stuff” to trade away at swap meets because I never went through a stage of big spending on my boys. I have always spent on them more or less the same way I spend on myself, which is to say, minimally. The gimmick seems to come from the idea that parents have been treating their children better than themselves–spending the kind of money on the kids that they wouldn’t spend on themselves. Frankly, that just hasn’t been true at our household; our children have shared, not exceeded, our household’s standard of living.

For another thing, I like buying my children the occasional book or toy, like a set of Thomas and Friends puzzles half-price at the end of a consignment sale or a copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at the library book sale. Garlick did not buy her son any Christmas presents. I spent the amount that seemed proper to me on my sons’s Christmas presents: about $28, plus a few special snacks for their stockings.

If you have the nagging feeling that you’re blowing too much money on your kid(s) and not getting much value for the money, you might try Garlick’s gimmick or at least learn more about it, but it’s not something I need. I’m not saying I’ve never spent stupid money on something for my kids, but I’m generally happy with my level of restraint. Am I being too easy on myself? Would you consider taking the “Free Our Kids” pledge?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

8 responses to “The $0 Toddler?”

  1. Rachael says :

    I agree with you. If these sorts of constraints assist people somehow, then fine. It would drive me crazy. Project 333 has a similar artificiality. It invites you to wear 33 items for 3 months and box up the rest of your clothes so that you can pretend to be a minimalist (but with boxes of stuff that disprove it).

    As for Christmas last year, we decided for the first time to simply give only what could be handmade at minimal cost. Gifts included a messenger bag, a robe, garden plant markers and a peg bag, cookies, a story and special dinners on request. It was heartfelt and meaningful and we plan to continue it again. It didn’t cost any of us too much and it made us appreciate each other more, I think.

    • frugalparagon says :

      I hadn’t heard of Project 333, but it does seem corny. Most people gravitate toward the same few items in their wardrobe anywhere. Much more frugal, it seems to me, to just stop buying new clothes and wear EVERYTHING until it wears out (or doesn’t fit). There’s a similarity to the Free Our Kids idea in that it is clearly meant to be a correction to an overspending problem–so if you never had such a problem, it’s not for you!

      Your Christmas presents sound awesome! I’ve done homemade presents but they were never that ambitious–more along the lines of “Look, I made photo ornaments out of felt and old CD-ROMs.”

      • Moonwaves says :

        I actually think Project 333 is a pretty good idea. It may be gimmicky but there really are a lot of people who would be able to live with that few clothes but don’t think they ever could and would totally panic about not having more. So boxing the stuff up can relax them enough to be able to try the other bit of the project. From the little I’ve read, most people do end up getting rid of a lot of the stuff in boxes anyway, because they realise they can live without it. I have a friend who’s a very heavy smoker but can still, on a normal day, go an hour or two without smoking, especially if he’s doing something interesting. When I moved to my new place I decided it was going to be strictly non-smoking, thinking he could easily go out into the hallway and smoke by the open window there if he needed to. In the two or three hours he was there the first time, he practically chain-smoked. He just couldn’t relax because of not being “allowed” to smoke, after five or ten minutes, he would get antsy and start rolling a new cigarette. The next time he visited I caved and told him he could smoke in the bathroom if he made sure to open the window wide and smoke out of it – and then he was fine, back to just his normal level of smoking. Some people just have psychological tics and need that kind of tricking I suppose.

  2. Rachael says :

    Crazy idea! Stop buying new clothes and actually wear what you have? How subversive:-)
    Actually, to that end, this week I’ve cut a skirt that was wearing out around the zip into a new blouse and cut a couple of too-short dresses into tops to wear with jeans. Very satisfying to get some more wear out of things that otherwise would have just sat in the closet. A bit like you fixing your jeans.

  3. David says :

    My problem is over-generous relatives.

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