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?