Friday, June 29, 2007

Do We Spend Too Much on Our Kids? A Quiz

For each child, the typical middle-class family spends about $1,200 a year on entertainment, personal care & misc. perks; and another $580 on clothes. Those annual figures --from a 2005 USDA report -- exclude food, ($1,900), childcare ($1,200), transportation ($1,600) and healthcare ($580).

Those figures seem a little low to me, judging from the cellphones, iPods, Gameboys and laptops that I've seen on some kids, including my own. So, I wonder: Do we spend too much, too soon, too unwisely on our kids? In the July 2007 issue of GH, financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn offers a spending reality check: a short quiz for parents. I've paraphrased the questions & included my own short answers. Feel free to leave your own answers in the comment section or send me an email. (

1. Your kid requests a special gadget or item. Do you purchase the trinket right away rather than wait for a holiday or b-day?

(We wait --90 percent of the time, but-- honestly--not always.)

2. When your older children (age 7) and above ask for something (needed or wanted) do you automatically buy it without asking them to kick in with funds from their allowance or savings?

(We usually opt for the joint payment plan with wish-list items. But if they need something for school, we pay for it.)

3. Do you feel obligated to throw huge birthday bashes because that's the standard in your neighborhood?

(No way!!! We take pride in our low-ticket, old-school b-day parties. We even play Pin-the-Tail on the Donkey.)

4. Do you gripe about your child's cellphone bill, but cover the c-phone tab anyway?

(Not an issue: Our biggest gabber has a no-frills, local-call only, unlimited minute plan).

5. Look at the floor space in your child's bedroom: Is there more stuff on the phone than free floor space?

(Ouch: That one really hits home. Once my mom saw my kids' overstuffed toy closet and asked me: "Did we not give you enough toys as a kid?" Toys are us. )

6. Are your kids permitted to shop with the family credit card with no limits?

7. Do you have an easier time spending freely on your kids than on yourself?

(No comment)

quiz key: Two or more yes answers means that you are probably overspending on the kids.

By the way, the July 2007 issue of Good Housekeeping reports that families in the $43,200 to $72,600 income bracket spend about $7,500 a year on each kid based on government figures.


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Cathy said...

I have the best of intentions, and I can honestly say that the majority of my kids' toys were purchased by someone else (mostly grandparents). However, I have been chagrined at how quickly I will cave to my toddler's pleadings. As the items get more expensive though, I think it'll get easier for me to make sure we walk out of the store without a new toy.

Da Broad said...

If our 12yo son wants something, he does extra chores to earn it. He gets treats occasionally, but that's about as often as we treat ourselves (the odd pack of trading cards for him, a magazine for one of us). When we go to a festival or special event, he has a strict budget - whatever he's saved from his chore allowance ($5 per week if dishes are all done and put away and laundry is sorted and folded, extra for additional chores such as cleaning the bathroom, sweeping the kitchen etc.) plus matching funds from us. He's pretty careful about what he spends his money on, since he understands that funds are limited all around.

There is more stuff on the floor in his room than anywhere else, but it's all the same stuff - Legos, in various states of construction.

NO CELL PHONE. We have an "emergency" prepaid phone that is left at home when he's alone there (we operate on cell only - no land line), and he takes with him when he goes out. There's 100 minutes on it; no long chats there.

We also lead by example; sure, there's lots of things that we'd LIKE to have. We don't have credit cards, only a check card. If the money isn't there, we don't buy it. This is how we've operated since he was born. If we went into a store, we'd tell him if we were open to buying a treat, and if so, how large and how much. The kid sure knows how to budget.