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20 Ways to Save Your Preschooler from Consumerism

by Tamara Wilhite

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A book excerpt from Saving Money, Time, Sanity and Yourself

  1. Create a "surprise box." Go through their closet and toy box for toys they are not playing with and put in the surprise box. When the children ask for new toys or complain they are bored, bring down the surprise box and let them pick out a toy.
  2. Save infant hand-me-down clothes for a dress up collection for dolls.
  3. Ask the daycare if magazine and book donations can be written off against their activity fees, which usually pay for such items.
  4. Learn to trim your child's bangs. This can reduce how often parents have to take boys in for haircuts. Trim your daughter's bangs and let the back grow long, and she may only need a haircut once a year.
  5. Related: Cutting Your Family's Hair Could Trim Your Budget

  6. When a sticker book has been filled up, have them use it as a coloring book.
  7. For first birthdays, ask friends and family for diapers and wipes. For second birthdays, ask for "big kid underwear" as a preparation for toilet training.
  8. When fixing meals, fix a main course and two sides. Have a third can of canned fruit or non-cook item available on the counter. If everyone is still hungry after the food is served or asks for desert, whip out the canned fruit. You reduce the risk of preparing food that might not be eaten and still have a no-cook way to meet the needs of a literally growing set of appetites. And you have an easy no-cook dessert option when pressed. Pears, pineapples, and fruit cocktail work well for this.
  9. Has the wooden spoon become too scratched to be comfortably cleaned in the dishwasher? Did the Tupperware become permanently stained from the pasta and tomato sauce re-heating? Hand it down to the kids, who get free play cookware from Mommy.
  10. When holidays and birthday cards are needed, mail off a child's artistic display with a personal note.
  11. Deposit holiday cash gifts in the child's college savings account, especially if the child is young enough to be thrilled with a nickel because it is larger than a dime.
  12. Get magnetic letters and numbers from the dollar store. Give your child an old cookie sheet as a portable "blackboard" for the magnetic letters. You'll provide hours of educational entertainment for minimal cost.
  13. Playdates often are five kids at McDonalds. However, playdates should be three kids at the park with a pre-made lunch.
  14. Skip the designer baby lotions and creams. Young infants can be bathed every other day if their hands, face and diaper area are kept clean, which also keeps their skin from getting dry in the first place.
  15. Limit Christmas to only one large item. Add batteries to your child's wish list.
  16. Work with relatives so that visits alternate location. That way, each group only travels 50% of the time. It is fairer and easier on those with kids whose relatives expect them to cart up with the kids every year to ask them to make the trip half the time. It also reduces travel costs for everyone.
  17. Need to lose the baby weight? Skip the gym membership, put the kid in the stroller, and do laps around the block.
  18. Ask for hand-me-down clothes from pregnancy all the way through preschool. Supplement hand-me-downs in the school years with a set budget.
  19. The sooner they are toilet-trained, the sooner they are out of diapers. Ask your pediatrician when your child seems ready before pushing a child in that direction. If they aren't ready yet, wait. The frustration of fighting them if they aren't physically ready will only make everyone miserable.
  20. You don't need children's pajamas for the first few years; Daddy's old T-shirts work just as well and are more fun.
  21. When they scream, "I want it!" or "I need it!," learn to say, "No."

The last line is perhaps the greatest source of cost savings and sanity for parents with children.

Reviewed July 2017

Tamara Wilhite is also the author of Humanity's Edge and Sirat: Through the Fires of Hell.

Take the Next Step:

  • It is never too early to start teaching your children the importance of saving. Compare savings and money market account rates and open an account for them today.
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