In Life, Minimalism, Money

Why I won’t be spending a lot of money on my kids

This is a misleading title, but true nonetheless.

I am hereby declaring that I am not interested in spending a lot of money on my kids in their formative years.

By formative, I mean between the time they are born until about the age of 2.

Hear me out!

The way I see it, kids at that age are too young to know whether they are cute or not in a romper that costs $20 versus in something simpler but not as cute to adults.

Who really gives a damn?

Or that they would really, REALLY prefer being in a house that you had to mortgage an arm and a leg to pay for, rather than in a rented abode.

If I had a buck for every time I received the “advice” of other parents who look harassed, and stressed while trying to give me pearls of wisdom about how a baby absolutely needs you to invest in a home for them as well as a new car, I’d probably be $50,000 richer by now.

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Do kids really know the difference between a purchased home and a rented one? Methinks not.


Unless we’re living in times when rented apartments meant living in squalid neighbourhoods, no running water and electricity, I can safely declare that a rented apartment is equally as desirable to a baby as a “purchased” (note the sarcastic quotation marks) home.

I have a feeling as adults, we put a lot of emphasis on what babies want and what they think and feel, when in fact… they don’t really have such preconceived notions of what is “correct” and what isn’t.

All of that is sociologically, learned behavior, and as children grow up, you can often see such learned behavior emerge in shopping habits, consumer behaviour and general “gimme gimme gimme” attitudes.

All of the above ties into my whole premise of basically not wanting to spend any money on STUFF for my kids during their formative years (maybe even far beyond, who knows?).

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I place a higher value on saving that money for quality childcare, good food, time off to spend with them rather than working like a madwoman to pay for all this STUFF, and their education, although not necessarily their college education.

I want money to pay for swimming lessons, violin lessons, or anything they want to do that they find interesting, rather than spending it on stuff that they’ll forget about in 2 months.

So what will I be doing?

AS LITTLE CLOTHING AS POSSIBLE — NECESSITIES ONLY

The first main thing I want to do is buy as little clothing as possible.

I will post a Minimalist Baby list once I actually have items for the little one, but this is what I am thinking.

Children grow like weeds. Really fast, fertilized, badassmotha’ weeds.

One day they fit into the crook of your arm, and within 2 weeks, they’ve already outgrown their newborn clothes and their legs are sticking out awkwardly of their now too-big clothes as if everything was shrunk in the dryer overnight.

I’ve seen every. single. parent. go through this, lament to me about it, and then forget to buy a size or two bigger of clothing so that the kid can grow into it.

I am not going to be doing this and making this mistake as a new, uninitiated parent.

No regrets here, I’m listening to all the whining of past parents and learning from their mistakes.

I want all the secondhand (unisex) clothes I can muster up from friends, I am not planning on creating baby models in stylish outfits, designer anything (even The Gap is too fancy for me at this point), and clothes that HAVE TO FIT and be tailored PERFECTLY.

I will be keeping it all for my future kids (boys or girls), so unisex clothing will be my mandate and it doesn’t have to be cute — the baby will already be adorable to everyone no matter what I dress him or her in.

I see it all as a huge waste of money otherwise.

I will only buy the necessities of clothing as I see fit, such as winter jacket onesies when the weather is too cold for them, or extra diapers because there aren’t enough.

CLOTH DIAPERS ONLY

Which brings me to my second point: the other main thing I want to do is use cloth diapers.

MANY (maybe ALL) you parents out there are reading this and cringing. You can’t believe I don’t want to subscribe to just buying plastic diapers and throwing them away.

Surely those disposable diapers must be more sanitary, smell better, more convenient and overall a beautiful invention of modern convenience no?

Who wants to be scraping poo off a cloth diaper into a toilet, then trying to cover up the stench with bicarbonate soda, when you can just wrap it up in a neat little bundle and toss it onto our ever growing pile of non-biodegradable landfills and pollute our Earth?

Oh wait.

I’m being sarcastic even before getting to my point 😉

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I don’t want to use plastic diapers on my kid sfor 3 main reasons:

1. If I were a baby, I wouldn’t want plastic on my butt either.

As a kid I just can’t express it without crying my head off at the injustice of a sweaty, wet soggy mess attached to my butt.

(Hey there’s a thought, maybe babies cry not because they’re upset or annoyed at their life, but because it just SUCKS having a plastic bag attached to your butt.)

Don’t forget that I’m a girl, and as a girl who had to go through *ahem* womanly changes, I can somewhat hazard a guess what a baby might be feeling.

Even if it’s horribly disgusting, I am committed to not using plastic diapers on my kids. I’ll get over it. It will only be a year, two at the most before they’re properly toilet-trained.

If it occurs, we’ll deal with bedwetting in another manner.

2. It’s more expensive than plain ol’fashioned cloth diapers

I checked out the price of diapers and kind of recoiled. This is not my only reason for wanting to use cloth diapers, but it sure helps my case.

I can’t believe how much diapers cost!! On top of that, you have to change the baby HOW MANY TIMES a day?

Here’s the calculation:

DISPOSABLE DIAPERS

10 times a day (assuming average) x 18 months* (minimum) = 5400 diapers

(*If you’re lucky, some kids go until 2 1/2 years old without toilet training.)

184 diapers are about $40 = $0.22 per diaper

5400 diapers over 18 months x $0.22 per diaper = $1188 per child

CLOTH DIAPERS


If I were to buy cloth diapers, it would cost $30 for 3 diapers, and I would need let’s say half a week’s worth because no one wants to wash rank diapers only once a week:

$30 x 3 for 1 day’s worth = $90 for cloth diapers to purchase

$90 x 3 days = $270 to purchase

Let’s say I need two sizes, so it’s really $540 for one child for 18 months because I need the small and larger sizes.

$1188 – $540 = $648 in savings

Doesn’t sound like a lot, but I am planning on reusing these diapers for my subsequent children, which means their cost will be $648 for 3 kids rather than $3564 for 3 kids at the end.

$3564 – $648 = $2916 over 3 kids

…assuming they all toilet train by 18 months which would be a miracle.

It’s not that I can’t afford it, heck, I paid about half that amount for a bloody trench coat!! It’s more that

3. It is a huge impact on our landfills

Here we go, the eco-hippie in me rising up!

I just feel a twinge.. okay more than a twinge of pain when I think of how many diapers PER CHILD must make it to landfills, just sitting there, growing bacteria on the leftover feces and creating a mess for the earth that just won’t biodegrade.

This is the one area where I take my hat off to the Chinese. Diapers don’t exist in China for many people because they’re not only prohibitively expensive (being a Western thing), but also because they figured out a way to just cut a slit in their kids’ pants and let them pee/poo wherever and whenever they need to.

Frankly if you look at it this way: If it wasn’t such a disgusting, smelly, arduous task of having to change a baby and wash their underwear each time they soil themselves, most parents would choose to be environmentally friendly and save money.

The only thing that’s stopping these otherwise well-intentioned parents is their laziness and lack of wanting to work for a different end result.

Yes I said it. Laziness.

*cue pitchforks and nunchuks flying at my head*

If it isn’t laziness and convenience (a nice way of saying “laziness”), what is it?

To put it another way, the convenience of a plastic diaper is the equivalent of stopping by a fast food joint and picking up a meal for a family of 5 before heading home instead of cooking from scratch or meal planning ahead of time.

Think about it.

Anyway, not that you care in the end — they’re your kids, not mine.

You’re either going to get angry at me because you are a parent who DOES use plastic diapers but can’t believe I had the gall to call you out, or you’re going to be a parent who uses plastic diapers but shrugs and says:

“Yeah you’re totally right. I own up to that. I don’t want to deal with all that crap and it’s not worth my time or my effort to try and keep that stuff out of landfills.

I’ll be dead before I have to deal with that problem, or we’ll find a way to incinerate that stuff and it’ll be eco-friendly before we know it.”

I applaud the latter, more honest parent!!!

That said, I don’t see a solution happening for these diapers clogging landfills, so I’m going to do my (very, tiny) little part and use cloth diapers on my kids.

These kids will grudgingly thank me later when I lord it over them and guilt them into eating all of their vegetables, into doing chores they don’t want to or telling them the reason why I was able to gift them with enough money to help them out with their education was BECAUSE of cloth diapers I saved money on and invested the cash instead.

How sweet would that be? Talk about driving a lesson home after 18 years.

NO EXCESSIVE TOYS

Lastly, I also want this to extend to toys.

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I am not interested in letting my kids talk me into buying every little useless plastic, shiny trinket they set their hearts on. Once they have it they’ll forget about it in a week, and where will my money have gone?

I’m pretty stubborn on this, and while I might relent once in a while (I hope not), I am adamant that I will not be spoiling them with useless trinkets.

If they want something, they’ll have to REALLY want it.

They have to understand and appreciate the toy itself, which is another reason why I don’t really want people giving lots of gifts to my kids.

They just won’t appreciate any of it after a while.

I’d rather (bluntly) ask for money to put into their RESPs (Registered Education Saving Plans) for their future education than to be given yet another generic, Made in China, plastic toy made by another child under worse conditions.

An odd thing I noticed is that children prefer the box the toy came in than the toy itself. So.. why am I buying the toy?

My solution?

Find clean cardboard boxes and let them play spaceship, house, etc. It’s about time we go back to giving children limited, generic materials and letting them use and cultivate their imagination.

It really sounds like I’m being a cheapskate, but some of my most creative years was when I had to build a dollhouse out of what we had for my Barbies (I had 2 my entire life), and I turned over an old bookcase, and created a mansion with a pretend pool made out of blue construction paper, and beds made out of old tissue boxes.

Best Barbie dollhouse ever.

I could change any room I wanted, and decided early on I would not have a dining room because my Barbies would eat in the kitchen like we did at home.

Kids need to stop having passive entertainment dictated to them either by others, by television or by so-called Baby Einstein and Mozart DVDs, and to learn how to be curious on their own.

Imagination is more important than we think and it’s the hardest one to re-create.

Anyway, these all sound like very lofty goals even to my ears, and even if I fail, I will preserve to keep trying to reach those goals. Luckily, BF is totally on board with all of the above, which will make the parenting unit that much stronger against the tide of consumerism that I grew up with as a child.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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18 Comments

  1. BamaLady

    I’m a mom of 2, both grown with children of their own. As babies I didn’t have a choice of type of diapers. Both were in cloth. My daughter, I had no dryer, no money for disposables, I rinsed all out since I did laundry x2 a week. Hung them outside on a clothesline. With my son we had a little more money. Tried disposables but he broke out badly with a rash. He also had diarrhea so bad from 2/3 months to age about 4 it would leak out. We went to cloth diapers by the time he was about 3 months old. It was a little rough, with all his tummy issues, but we managed. Potty training with my daughter was a breeze. 18 months, very few accidents. Overnight trained at the same time. My son’s tummy issues caused him to train late, but he’d go teetee without problems by age 3. Poo training was another story. He didn’t feel the urge as well as most children. So it took a little longer. I have never regretted using cloth diapers but I was a stay at home mom. My grandchildren go to daycare. They have to use disposables. My daughter and husband are teachers. She’s in special education and he’s a college professor. Between the school activities they have to do after school and paperwork at home they elected to use disposables 100%. My son is a master mechanic for a dealership. Long hours, weekends etc. His wife worked as a cashier in a gas station. Then with babies 2 & 3 stayed home. She also elected to use disposables. Their children are just fine. Very little potty training problems. Ages 2 1/2 -3 1/2. I believe it’s not a perfect world but people have choices. Not always laziness is the reason for disposables. Oh, and yes I was the nana who over bought toys and clothes. I’ve cut way back. This year they only got $60 worth of toys. About 5 apiece. Thanks to great sales.the 10 year old got books, he loves to read. He’s reading on a 6 grade level. He helped pick the titles and I went to the library book store and bought 12 books for $6. Sorry it’s so long.
    Loved your article

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you so much for your great insight as a mother and a grandmother. My mother had no choice and did cloth as well.

      My son also went to daycare and they accepted cloth diapers. You just need to give them wet bags and teach them quickly how it is done with the poo (dump into toilet) and the rest is handled. They had no issues taking cloth. If they say they only take disposables, they’re not being truthful.

      Disposable diapers are something I can never personally stand for. The landfills that are overrun with feces, pee and all of this waste from all of these children is truly horrific. We don’t see it but if we had a landfill of that in our cities and smelt/felt and saw it, we’d be disgusted enough to use cloth and be sustainable.

      Reply
  2. Corianne

    Yes, boxes are amazing! My friend’s kid loves playing with boxes – the only downside is that she has to share any boxes with two cats who love boxes as well 😉

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Maybe more boxes for everyone to play with?

      Reply
  3. NZ Muse

    DO NOT get people who spend tons on their kids first few birthdays, parties, gifts etc. They’re not going to appreciate/remember it! I do get when it’s your first kid it’s exciting and new…but I pledge not to fall into that trap.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I think up to the age of 5, no presents except for toys. Unless he asks for specific things.. HE doesn’t speak yet, so.. nothing yet.

      Reply
  4. Sarah

    Amen! Sadly, my kiddo has a lot of toys because of friends and family who spoil him. I think I bought ONE item of clothing so far…I have bought books because there are no libraries here and he loves opening and closing them, tee hee.

    I also use cloth diapers but we’ve found that the ones we have here DO NOT account for babies sleeping through the night…sigh, until then we use disposables for that.

    But all in all, I think most things done within the first few years are for the parents. I’m excited for kiddo’s 1st birthday, but we’re not having a party. I think some cake for him to smash, run around in the park, and that’s it.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Books are a lot of fun for kids and I have tried to avoid clothing purchases. So far, 5 onesies and some socks from newborn to now and then we started buying 5-year old sized clothing recently so he’ll grow into it.

      Reply
  5. Cassie

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say this post was written a little while back. I’m really curious to see how things turned out and how you found reality was compared to your perception. For example, how many diapers did you end up buying? Did you find your original estimate was sufficient? I definitely agree with your points, I’m just curious to see how things shook out.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      1. Unequivocal YES. This was written.. a year or two ago.

      2. It was exactly what I said in the post (just re-read it).

      3. We ended up buying cloth diapers for newborns (very minimal amount just to get past the mini baby stage) and then another set with different covers as his butt got bigger but with bigger cloth inserts. I did not expect to buy newborn diapers or to need to buy as many covers, but in the end, it worked out perfectly. In hindsight, I would not have done anything else differently.

      4. Everything is still as-is. My good friend who visited me recently commented that my place was really MINIMALIST and she noticed the utter LACK OF TOYS with Baby Bun as being the big thing standing out to her in comparison to having JUST visited other friends with children around his age who have TONS of toys all over the darn place.

      Then she saw me playing with him and said: Yep. Looks like he doesn’t need much to be excited.

      No.. he doesn’t. He’s like a puppy. I spend way more time playing with him and doing silly, fun baby games that he enjoys WAY MORE than any toy he has ever been given. He also just recently got a toy from a friend of ours and he LOVES THE BOX. Literally loves it. Spends hours pushing it around, putting stuff in it, shaking stuff out, .. it’s amazing how much they love boxes.

      It was as I expected.

      Reply
  6. Jeff

    I think even beyond the baby stage, it’s a good idea to live a lifestyle that is not grossly out of reach of what your kids can plausibly attain on their own within a decade or two of getting out of school. One of the current theories of why there is such a decrease in life expectancy among white middle age people in the US (primarily due to suicide, alcohol/drug overdose) is that they are the first generation to fail to achieve a better standard of living than their parents at an equivalent stage of life.

    It would be incredibly depressing to be raised with such high expectations only to experience life as a giant disappointment.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’d agree with that. We are trying very hard to live a normal lifestyle, as normal as we can make it. Obviously we aren’t going to pack up and live in a shack just to prove a point or to teach him different values, but we are not planning on spoiling him or pretending that we’re rich when we’re not.

      Reply
  7. Kim

    I very much agree with this, but I find it difficult to execute. My family, as well as my husband’s family, feels the extreme need to buy a lot of stuff for our kids. They have an insane amount of toys. We do sort of direct it to force the girls to use their imagination and support their growth (lots of craft supplies and activity books have come through my front door, as well as board games for family time), but I find it very hard to not sound like an ungrateful ass when someone is trying to be kind and give my kids a gift when it’s completely unnecessary. We can only really control what we do I guess.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I have had to forcibly tell my parents to NOT BUY BABY BUN ANYTHING. My mother is scared now. She calls me each time and says: How about this? Can I buy this for him? What do you think?

      We also started buying clothes at the 4 – 5 year old mark and just roll up the sleeves and pants. We are definitely NOT playing around with this minimalist baby clothing thing.. everything looks huge on him but he’ll grow into it in no time. I have a suitcase of clothing from the past 18 months to attest to that. Some of his shirts that were hand-me-downs are now too short for him which is sort of cute to show the belly.. lol

      I completely agree with NOT sounding like an ungrateful ass. I always accept every gift and thank them, plus make sure that they know it was appreciated and I reciprocate with their kids / weddings / events.

      I just personally don’t buy stuff and gently try to encourage everyone around me to give money instead so I can put it in his RESP or use it to buy a bike for him when he’s older and able to appreciate it.

      Reply
  8. Jaime

    I think you want your kids to avoid falling into over-consumption. That’s what it sounds like to me. Have you seen the doc, “What would Jesus buy?” Basically in this doc a minister by the name of Billy goes around different cities with his team and preaching about over-consumerism. In one scene a dad asks his little girl if she has too many toys and she says yes, then he asks her how that happened, and her answer was, “You and mommy gave them to me.”

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cloth diapers. My mom bought cloth diapers when I was a baby. I don’t remember my baby days so I don’t really care what I wore when I was a baby. I had a standard closet and we shopped at discount stores such as Target, T.J. Maxx, Burlington coat factory, and the mall (not so much when I was a kid, mostly after my growth spurt).

    Holidays and birthdays weren’t excessive either, I did have gifts, but I think we stuck to around 5-7 gifts (if even that) around those times. My parents weren’t minimalists, they did place a lot of importance on family, ethics, etc.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Yes. That is it. I do not want him to grow up with the expectation of toys all the time and gifts or things. He will get stuff to enjoy life, but life is not about stuff. OR if it is, you better be able to afford it.

      I LOVE cloth diapering. Like LOVE IT.

      As for gifting, I’m thinking one per event is good..

      Reply
  9. Sylvia @ Professional Girl on the Go

    I love this post! I don’t have any children yet but I totally agree with you. When I tell me friends who have children that I want to use cloth diapers, they cringe and now they think I am crazy.
    In regards to clothes, I think some parents are so worried with what others will think or say, that they forget babies don’t know what a romper or jordan’s are (and I am sure children don’t care). When my niece was younger she hated wearing clothes around the house and even at 5 she still hates them (and shoes).

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I think you can do it. I am such a huge fan of it. I can give you the absolute 100% lowdown on cloth diapers (maybe in a post later on).. so that everyone knows how easy and GREAT IT IS.

      My baby hates clothes too. He only wears a shirt but hates pants. So he runs around in his diaper… LOL

      Reply

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