7 Things You Don't Have to Buy for Your Kid

CC BY 2.0. Leando Müller

Contrary to what the rest of the world may say, your kid does not need these things. They're not worth the money.

Raising a kid will put you back nearly a quarter million dollars, according to the latest figure from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grand total – $233,610 – is what the average middle-class family will spend on a child born in 2015 from birth to age 17. It does not include college tuition. CNN breaks it down further, explaining that housing represents 29 percent of the cost, followed by food and child care.

As a parent to three small kids, I can’t help but think this number is outrageously high – but then I’ve been known to argue that raising kids does not need to be as expensive as many people think! Sadly, in our culture, there’s a belief that children must be showered with material belongings and pricey stimulating activities in order to succeed in life.

I don’t buy that. There are many kid-related expenses that can be cut out of your life in order to save significant amounts of money and make paying that college bill much easier when the time comes. (Before you complain that your child may feel deprived, stop for a moment to think what a boon being debt-free would be for a young adult on the cusp of their career. Now we’re talking about privilege!) So, do your kid a favor and pare down the following unnecessary expenses, some of which are suggested by this article on Healthy Way:

1. Trendy toys

Just say no. The trend will be over in no time, and then it will be easy to find the same toys for cheap. Better yet, stick with classic used toys that have stood the test of time and are less likely to get abandoned as soon as the novelty wears off.

2. Outdoor play sets

Play sets are shockingly expensive – thousands of dollars for wooden mini houses on stilts, swing sets, and such. And, for that cost, they tend to be underutilized because, like toys, the novelty wears off quickly. It’s a better bet to give your kid loose materials to build their own treehouse or fort. It will be simpler, cheaper, and easier to dismantle when the time comes. If you’re determined to get a play set, buy a used one.

3. Kid food

Forget the yogurt tubes, fruit roll-ups, and animal crackers. Just give them regular yogurt, fruit, and crackers! There’s absolutely no need to pay a premium for kid-branded foods that are often nutritionally deficient when compared to their adult counterparts, not to mention over-packaged in plastic.

4. Computers and smartphones

There comes an age when kids need to use a computer for school, but there’s no reason why they can’t use the family computer until the end of high school. There’s the maturity aspect of it; until a teen has developed good Internet-use skills, it’s not a great idea to hand them their own device. Plus, it’s a significant cost for a piece of technology that goes obsolete relatively quickly. Have them earn it or make it a going-away-to-college present.

5. Musical instruments

Music is a wonderful thing for children to learn, but it takes more than a passing curiosity to build those skills. Before investing in a piano, guitar, or violin, sign up for lessons to be sure that you (the parent) want to continue practicing daily with your child for years to come; otherwise, the interest will fade rapidly and you’ll be left with a big credit card bill and a dusty instrument in the closet.

6. Expensive clothes

No, no, no! A child does not need an expensive wardrobe because (a) they’ll outgrow it quickly, and (b) they’ll either destroy it by getting dirty or – worse yet – feel they cannot play freely for fear of ruining it. Buy second-hand clothes for everyday use and invest more in the pieces that will enable year-round outdoor play, such as rain gear, snow suits, warm boots, etc.

7. Big Vacations

I was intrigued when I read this in the Healthy Way article. Having traveled a fair bit with my little kids, I have mixed feelings about it. Traveling with kids is expensive and exhausting and I don’t particularly enjoy the process, but I think what matters is why you’re traveling. If it’s for your child to experience the world, forget it; they won’t remember much, or even care, for that matter, until they’re at least 8 or 9 years old. But if the trip is for you, then that’s a bit different. Still, it’s a money-suck and something that my husband and I have agreed to eliminate over the next few years, opting instead for cheaper camping trips and car-accessible destinations.