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Many of us spend money on things that we needn’t simply because the perception is that most everyone else does and/or we should. I may ruffle a few feathers here, but my hope is that you will really look at the motivations behind some of this spending that you may do and absolve yourself of any guilt should you decide to say no (or just scale back) next time you’re presented with the opportunity.
As a mom of a Girl Scout, this may be tantamount to blasphemy to say out loud, but I really do not like Girl Scout cookies. Gasp, I know! I don’t buy them off my daughter and when she ages out of Scouts, I’m perfectly capable of saying no when approached by others. Now, if you’re not comfortable saying no to a child who’s just looking to support their organization, I completely understand. I can easily say no to the cookies because I don’t like them, but I do support a girl making her way through Scouts. I think the organization has a lot of value and clearly this little girl on my door step does too. In cases like this, I make out a small check directly to their troop (or team, non-profit, etc). Though the little Scout may not get a cookie sale, their troop is gaining a 100% profit from knocking on my door and I don’t feel I must buy 4 boxes of overpriced, underwhelming cookies to provide a small benefit to the organization (the troop averages only an $.84 profit off each $4 box sold). It’s a win-win for everyone. NOTE: I am aware that the Girl Scouts offers the ability to send cookies to our military troops overseas so you don’t have to purchase cookies for yourself and still contribute to the Girl Scout and a great cause. I’m simply suggesting that you can take this same approach with any child fundraising. Your small $5 donation is worth more than purchasing that $20 coupon book that will sit at the bottom of your glove box never opened, aaaaaand you’re $15 ahead.
Party Treat Bags:
You spend a couple hundred dollars to throw your child a birthday party and now you’re sending your guests home with gifts of their own in the form of treat bags. I know it’s a long-standing tradition, but it seems some treat bags have gotten out of hand in recent years. My children have come home with Bath and Body Works products, Justice merchandise, chapter books, you name it. Some of them had to cost at least $5 a piece. 15 girls at the party with treats going home like that, means an extra $75 tacked on to the party bill. Surely you have a better use for $75, right? I recently resolved to not do treat bags anymore. I find that what usually comes home in them gets wasted anyway, so why spend money just to put a bag in a child’s hand? I prefer my children show their appreciation with a cut-out cookie, a craft they made or even a Polaroid picture of the party (the new cameras are quite inexpensive and the film isn’t too bad either) so their guests can remember all the fun they had. The same goes for holiday parties in school. Fortunately lots of public schools are starting to crack down on the copious amounts of party bags sent in for the kids due to allergies and general excess, but private schools and preschools are still lenient. I say, hold off. It’s better for your wallet and the other moms will probably appreciate not finding those random candies and stickers on the upholstery of their car a few months from now.
Sending My Kids to Every Party They’re Invited to:
I love a good reason to party as much as the next person and I don’t mean to be a Scrooge, but I couldn’t possibly send my kids to each birthday party that they’ve been invited to. Not only do I not have the time to sit around a loud room full of strangers trying to make chit chat (which is agonizing to me as an introvert), but the cost of those presents does add up. My older two children are starting to phase out of birthday parties, but I’ve got two more kiddos coming up behind them into their prime “kid party” years. To help circumvent some of the cost, I keep a gift shelf in my closet. When I’m at the store and I see a clearance deal on something the kids are into at the time, I grab it and set it aside. Many times, we don’t know the children well enough to know their actual interests so general things like Play-doh kits, Legos, craft sets and art supplies, sand and water toys, bubbles, etc are good items to have on hand.
The Christmas Card list seems to grow every year, especially when you have children. The cards that started going out to family and close friends now include neighbors, babysitters, teammates, coaches, even the pediatrician. The average American spends over $32 on cards and postage during the holiday season. If you like to get your picture professionally taken and made into cards, the cost could be three to four times as much. Now I love seeing all of my friends’ families grow and change in these cards year to year, but I can see them all the same on Facebook every day for free. Personally, I haven’t sent out Christmas cards in two years. The first year it was not intentional. There was a misprint (my mistake!) and I didn’t have the time to reprint and mail them before the holidays. Last year, I simply enjoyed not having the stress of getting them done and out on time, not to mention, it saved me over $50 which I instead donated to cancer research in honor of a local boy who lost his fight against Neuroblastoma before the holiday. Sometimes I still feel like I need to explain myself, to justify why I didn’t send out cards when we’re receiving so many beautiful cards from family and friends. But like so much in life, we shouldn’t be doing things just because we get something in return. If you really enjoy sending out cards and can afford to do so, then by all means continue. If you don’t like doing them (raises my hand!) or would be better served spending that money elsewhere, then forego them—you don’t need anyone’s permission!
Splitting the Group Check Evenly:
You and your friends head out to the newest dining establishment in town; they order multiple appetizers, high-priced entrees and top-shelf drinks as you sip your sparkling water and munch on your reasonably priced sandwich. Then the bill comes and the group tries to divide it evenly among all the people in attendance. Don’t be afraid to speak up and pay only your fair share. If you’re too timid to do so for fear of ridicule, then maybe you should be reevaluating those friendships. If you’d prefer to avoid the situation altogether, simply ask the wait staff to keep your charges on a separate bill as you order. There’s no need to feel cheap. Your friends don’t earn your income or pay your bills; they have no business spending your money or making you feel insecure about not paying for a large bill that you didn’t contribute to.
Back to School Shopping:
Call me crazy, but I don’t take my kids shopping for new clothes and book bags simply because the month of August has rolled around again. I will always make sure they have the necessary supplies to succeed in the classroom, but a glittery (ugh the glitter!) new peasant top from Justice or the latest Trapper Keeper (who remembers those?!) doesn’t need to be one of those things. That said, if they do need new clothes because they’ve outgrown some, I won’t hesitate to bargain shop, but it’s not something I do just because the Back-to-School sale signs have gone up.
The Over-the-Top Christmas:
I have four kids so it should be no surprise that I scale back the gift giving in our house. We generally stick with a three gift each policy–it was good enough for Jesus on His birthday; it’s good enough for my kids as we celebrate His day. I’m always awestruck by the massive piles of presents under the tree that I see posted on Facebook. Not only is it expensive, but if we’re being honest, my guess is much of it actually goes unappreciated. Ask your kids to name all the things they got for Christmas last year. Go ahead, I bet they can’t name more than 3 or 4 and it’s only March. If this is the case, then why buy them so much? So they don’t think Santa cheated them? Get creative–I tell my kids that the parents have to give Santa the money to make or buy their toys so each family may or may not get how much or exactly what they asked for. When the focus is off of the amount of gifts under the tree, they can more easily shift their views to the important things like giving back to others and making memories to last a lifetime.
What other spending have you said no to? I would love to hear about it in the comments!