How to Save on...Raising Your Child
By Kassandra Brown, Working Mother
It's not surprising that raising a child, although a precious and
wonderful journey, is costly. One U.S. government estimate for
middle-income kids says each child will cost about $242,000 by the time
he or she is 18. And that doesn't include college!
But there's a lot of wiggle room between that $242,000 average and
what you might spend to raise your child. For example, my approach to
parenting tends toward do-it-yourself and voluntary simplicity. My motto
is: "Don't buy anything if you don't have to." If you have clear and
strong intentions for your parenting role, you'll have a clear compass
for the decisions you make about family finances and raising your kids.
Without that clarity, you can easily be swayed by your children's moods,
other people's opinions, your own unmet needs and marketing campaigns
to buy more. Try these tips to find your inner compass and save money.
1. To lower your financial cost, ask powerful questions.
We live in a consumer culture that teaches us we need more stuff.
From prenatal visits to college tuition, the expectations are high that
kids will cost a lot of money. Parents are an easy target market. We
want our children to be happy and safe and we're afraid they won't be.
Ad campaigns that market to our fear work well for corporate sellers,
but not so well for your family.
Asking powerful questions is the best way to make sure that what you
buy is what you really want to buy and what you are spending money on is
what you really want to spend money on. Being willing to ask questions
with an open mind is an important part of being a grownup and a great
skill to teach your kids. Any time you think of making a purchasing
decision, you can use this flow chart to help you make sure it's something you really want, need, can use and can afford.
2: To lower your time cost, align with your values.
How many times have you said something like this: "There's just not
enough time. If I had 28 hours in the day, I might be able to do it
all." Many parents spend an intense amount of time on their kids-taking
them to activities, school experiences or playdates; doing chores for
them like cooking, cleaning and laundry. The best way to save time is to
take things off your to-do list.
Are there things you do for your kids that you really shouldn't? If
your kids can do or learn to do a job, encourage them. The more we
involve our kids in both chores and decisions, the more we create shared
time with them while helping them learn important life skills like
self-reliance, interdependence and the fact that their actions matter.
When we are transparent about how we spend our time and how much we are
of service to our children, it feels fairer to them when we ask them to
engage, too. Even young kids can be helpful, especially if they are
taught how to do the chores and are given time to learn. Still, making
the shift from doing for your child to doing with your child is not
always easy. Support from a parent coach can make it easier.
Also, be discerning about choosing playdates and activities. Make
sure they align with your values, including the values of being well
rested and connected as a family. You may have to say "no" or "not right
now." Discernment is a great skill for your children to learn: Just
because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
3. To lower your emotional cost, learn to trust.
"I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My mind wouldn't
shut off. I kept worrying," one client confided in me. "How do I get my
son to be kind and keep his word? How do I get him to stop messing up?"
The fears we hold in our hearts are tender doorways into parenting
transformation and windows into our own work. Our children are
guaranteed to stir up our worry, anger and pain as well as our joy,
sense of accomplishment and pleasure. Leaning in to the discomfort of
these emotions allows us to get honest, vulnerable and alive in our
parenting. And listening to our own feelings and needs makes it much
easier to listen to our children when they make mistakes.
There are many ways to lean in to your emotions-journaling, sharing
with friends, parenting support groups, workshops, time in nature,
meditation, listening to inspiring words, reading self-help books. When
you do this work with compassion, gentleness and curiosity, you make
room to experience spontaneous self-correction. You also model a
courageous, wholehearted approach to living that your children will
No one can argue that children are a lot of work. We give them time,
money and emotional energy. We are also their models in how to live in
the world. And this is one key way our children give back. As they watch
our success and failure, joy and struggle, and learn to be like us,
they give us the motivation to grow up into the adults we want to be.
They help us grow into the love, compassion and understanding that we
might not otherwise have found.
Kassandra Brown helps parents find their hidden gifts and bring
those gifts back to their children. If you'd like to learn more, please
contact her at parentcoaching.org.
How to Save on...Raising Your Child