We all love our children. The day they were born is often the happiest moment of our lives, but many are completely unprepared for the expenses involved in raising a child. According to recent surveys, it costs an average of $233,610 to raise to raise a child from birth to age 17. This includes $500-$1,000 per season on extracurricular activities and about $500 on Christmas presents. These are averages per child, so if you have more than one child, the costs can be even more astronomical.
These figures do include necessities like housing, food, insurance, and medical expenses, but there is still a considerable amount spent on “extras.” Our society places an incredible amount of pressure on new parents to provide everything that their child needs to develop into a happy, healthy human being. There is also a lot of pressure from the children to have the “necessities” in life, such as the latest cell phone, expensive gaming systems, and of course, a big screen TV to play them on. Sadly, this pressure sometimes even comes from other parents. They have this brand new trendy stroller from NetParents, so you’re feeling bad for using that old, second-hand stroller.
As a society, we spend an enormous amount of money giving our children the things that we need to keep them happy, but is that money well-spent?
The question is whether this materialistic approach to parenting actually builds better adults. Every day, you can find articles that state that our society is more depressed, anxious, and disconnected from each other than ever before. Family dinners have resolved into everyone sitting around staring at their phones. People get anxious at the thought of having their screen time limited, even for a short time.
Perhaps, we are spending our money in the wrong places. Instead of buying things for them, we should be spending time with them. Maybe buying them the cheaper cell phone and saving for a family vacation instead might be a better way to spend money on our kids. Psychologists know that the happiness that we get from things is short-lived, but the happiness we get from experiences can last a lifetime.
Many parents feel stressed about their finances and what it takes to care for their children in accordance with society’s standards. Families often incur debt at Christmas that takes them six months or more to pay off. That $500 Christmas gift will end up costing over $1,000 in the end, which makes that Christmas sale seem a little less of a good deal. Your child might have been thrilled when they first opened it, but more than likely, the thrill has worn off by the time the first bill even comes due. The bottom line is that we cannot buy happiness for our kids, no matter how much we spend.
Some of the best Christmas’s that I remember from childhood were when my father was out of work, and we were broke. I never remember feeling broke or deprived. We had family, and we had laughter. Those are the gifts that truly mattered when I look back. Buying your child an expensive toy may make you feel better for a short time too. Perhaps you feel like you are making up for lost time, but this is only a short-term fix for you, too. You will be more stressed about the debt, which will rob even more precious time from your children in the future.
If it were any other type of investment, we would weigh the costs with the benefits. Perhaps, it is time to rethink Christmas and consider the long-term costs, both to our finances and our family. Our kids are only small once, and each year they are a bit older than they were last year. We only have one chance to make holiday memories, which will last a long time. There will always be another opportunity to buy things for them, but you can never buy more time. Before you break out that credit card, think about the real costs to you and your children.