The Biggest Money Mistake Most Parents Make -- Don't Do It!

pregnant woman shopping for a stroller

Kids are money pits. There is no doubt about it. Kids start tearing through their parents' money the second they start growing in your body and you have to buy a whole new wardrobe that you'll only wear for half a year. And they don't stop until sometime after college.

Hey mom and dad? If you're reading this, can I borrow 20 bucks? It's for your grandkids, I swear! Just kidding. I think.

Anyway, having children is indeed a blessing, but dayum, they will eat a hole in your wallet, especially if you make the biggest, most common financial mistake there is when it comes to child rearing ...


And that's -- buying everything new.

I am not ashamed to admit I fell into the "keeping up with the Joneses" trap myself. Only the very best for my kids! Hours spent perusing the sales rack at fancy mall stores and pricey department stores. A few of those stores may or may not have had my credit card on file.

And what did all that newness get me? Yuppie babies. And when they got older? Yuppie children. Yuppie children who had a lot to learn when their dad and I went through a divorce last year and all of a sudden they had their first trip to the thrift store without being in the donation line.

Not only does buying new clothes, toys, gadgets, monitors, furniture, etc., unnecessarily drain your bank account, it's just plain old ridiculous. One year when my eldest was 2, she got one of those play kitchens for Christmas. She proceeded to spend approximately 147 percent of her attention playing with the box it came in. I'm pretty sure she cried when it finally fell apart.

My now 6-year-old's favorite plaything of the moment is a medium-sized moving box. It's just big enough for her to fit in, and she's folded the flaps somehow so it can be either a drive-thru window or a school desk. When she gets bored with those games, she turns the whole thing upside down, looks out the little eyeholes she made, and voila, she's a robot. Almost a hundred dollars on new Barbies for her birthday last spring (the one I almost ruined), and girlfriend is happy as clam in a leftover moving box.

The Best Toy in the World. Approximately $5.

It just makes no sense to me anymore. Kids are little destroyers, bless their hearts -- so why buy new? They don't care a bit; it's only the grownups who care, and honey, if you're hanging out with a bunch of other parents who will judge you because your kid is wearing The Wiggles on his T-shirt instead of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, then you're hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Besides, you know what else happens when you stop buying everything new? Freedom. So. Much. Freedom.

There's the obvious financial freedom that comes from not draining your bank account so readily, but it goes even beyond that. You stop worrying so much about perfection because you just have to, well, get over yourself. So what if something spilled, or a toy broke, or it's something your kid just doesn't want to wear or use? The pressure (and the nagging) to put that money to good use is so much less when you've spent significantly less.

So let go of the need to buy everything new -- except, of course, car seats (safety first!) and diapers (unless you do the cloth thing, in which case, wash well please) -- and embrace the freedom that comes from buying secondhand and accepting hand-me-downs with gratitude. You won't regret it.

What's your biggest money mistake when it comes to kids?

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