Never Buy your child a car - No Happy 16th birthday gift here

10 Things Parents Should Never, Ever, Pay For!

Parents are going broke raising their kids.

Adapted from The MoneySmart Family System

The “experts” at the USDA in their 2010 report “Expenditures on Children and Families” say that we should expect to spend about $261,000 to raise each child from birth through age seventeen ($14,500 per year). Do you think this is accurate? We don’t! In 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median annual household income fell to $49,777. Meaning that it could take more than five years and three months of your entire gross household income to get Junior through the formative years and ready for college.

Just calculate with us for a minute. If you’re an average family with 1.8 children (according to USDA figures, this alone should cost you $26,100 per year), living in an average city, spending an average amount on food ($200 per month per person x 12 months = $9,120 per year) with an average yearly household income ($50,000 per year—about $40,000 after taxes), you’d be left with $4,700 a year ($392 per month) to spend on cars, clothes, housing, debt, recreation, gifts, utilities, health care, cell phones, cable TV, medical bills, dental bills, and chewing gum. Something simply doesn’t add up!

If you’re going to survive financially and have any money left to retire on, you’re going to have to draw a line in the sand with what you’re willing to spend on your kids.

Many parents think that they have to provide their kids with the best things in life. But we’ve discovered that giving our kids the best things, often means that they will expect us to continue to do that . . . indefinitely. But teaching them to pay their own way, starting with smaller expenses from the youngest ages, will produce an abundance of benefits as they exercise their own mental and financial assets to resolve their wants and desires.

At the very least, parents ought to allow their children the privilege of sharing some of the cost of the things they want. But the truth is, the more our kids invest in their own financial decisions, the more they’ll value and care for what they buy. When parents pay for their kids wants and desires, they’re actually stealing valuable financial growth opportunities from them.

While parents may bristle at some of our suggestions, here are 10 things they should never pay for!

  1. Designer Apparel
  2. Video gaming systems
  3. Mall spending money
  4. Designer sunglasses
  5. Good Grades
  6. Class rings
  7. Auto Insurance
  8. Car of their own
  9. Cell phones and cell service
  10. Cosmetic surgery (with rare exceptions)

Oh, and a couple more things parents simply should never pay for . . .

  1. Tanning Salons
  2. Hair Coloring

You’ll never regret allowing your kids to stand on their own two feet financially—it pays great dividends to them and . . . protects your dividends for retirement. It’s never too early, too late, or too hard to start teaching and learning financial responsibility.

Image courtesy of Dan/


laid off, unemployed, out of work

Laid Off - Need to Stretch the Budget

Question: I am writing to you out of desperation.  Back in November I lost my job as a dental assistant. I have looked but unfortunately there haven’t been any openings for my career. Even the unemployment office could not find any. I have stripped my family expenses but we still struggle. My husband makes enough for us to survive but we still seem to live paycheck to paycheck. I have both of your books and have signed up on your website to get some ideas of what to do. I am enjoying being home with my family. My husband and son are enjoying it as well so we are seriously thinking about just having me home.

I want to get us onto a budget but every time I think we have it down something happens and we blow it. What should I do? I’ve started clipping coupons but I do not have the time or the knowledge on how to do this extreme couponing thing (nor the space). I love being able to take care of my family but I just don’t know what to do to make it work. If you could give me any advice that may help us I would be so appreciative.

Answer: We know you can do this. And you’re right, it may be better for you to put your efforts into stretching those dollars so you can stay home.

Start a simple budget by putting cash in envelopes for food, clothes and recreation spending. It sounds like you’ve pared down your spending, now you need to build up your savings. Have a garage sale, sell stuff on eBay or CraigsLIst. Liquidating un-needed stuff can help you build your savings—which will help you start your budget and overcome those unexpected emergencies. Re-read the budgeting chapter in our first book (America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money)-especially the story about the Emergency Room (Paul and Sarah starting with a negative balance in their checkbook.) If you're a website subscriber you can read the story here.

You may also benefit from sitting down with someone who knows how to budget—Try Crown Ministries, Consumer Credit Counseling/Money Management International or someone from your church.

Saving money with groceries is one of the fastest ways to get ahead financially. Coupons are NOT the first and best way though. Using your weekly food ads to plan your menu is the cheapest way to eat. Having our books is great, you just need to read and re-read them until you absorb everything. Start with between one and three shopping or cooking strategies, work on those and master them. You will triumph, we can tell.

Image courtesy of pat138241/

family loans

Family Loans

Question: My grown children keep asking to borrow money from me. I want to help them, so I lend it to them, but they don’t pay it back. I constantly see them wasting money by eating out, drinking, buying the latest cell phones along with other technology, and redecorating their homes. Their financial situations don’t seem to be improving in spite of all my loans. I am in my late 70s and need my money for living expenses and medical bills as I get older. What would you do?

Answer: STOP giving your children money. You aren’t lending to them, they’re taking it as a gift. It almost never helps to bail-out a financially irresponsible adult. Your heart sounds kind, but your methods definitely need to be adjusted. Instead of giving them money when they have a crisis, there are plenty of small ways you can actually help them.

  • Buy them some groceries or a grocery gift card.
  • Give them a gas card
  • Pay a utility bill for them (directly to the utility—don’t give them cash)
  • Take them to Consumer Credit Counseling / Money Management International
  • Help them negotiate with creditors.
  • Help them move out of the house that they can’t afford by packing boxes and rallying the family to help with the physical move.

But most importantly, don’t pay for anything large like rent, a mortgage payment or buying them a car. You’ll need to stand by and watch them struggle, but it is in the struggle where they’ll gain some real fiscal strength. Bailing them out produces a strong dependence on you, not on their own problem solving abilities.

If there is a true medical emergency with your child, son- or daughter-in-law, or grandchild, you might help out with medical bills, but usually giving money rarely solves financial problems.

This may sound hard-hearted, but adult children need to stand on their own two feet financially, and facing the consequences of their decisions is a good way for that to happen.

Do you have any other suggestions to help this man?

Turkey Soup

Does Freezing Meat Dry It Out?

Question: I just read that cooked meat dries out when frozen -- do you freeze cooked turkey meat? Also, do you just wrap your pumpkin (and other quick) bread in plastic or do you use foil when freezing?  I'd love to see post a turkey soup recipe. I'm new to this even though I'm a senior citizen.

Answer: There's nothing wrong with being a senior citizen and wanting to learn new ways to make your money go further than before. Acutally it's great that you want to learn.

We do freeze turkey meat and store it in zippered bags. Getting as much air out as possible keeps it from getting dried out. An alternate, but more expensive method would be to use a vacuum sealer.

We wrap our quick breads in foil, but plastic wrap would work just as well. Just be careful when you store them in the freezer to protect them from getting crushed.

How do you store meat in your freezer so it doesn't spoil?


We do have a turkey soup recipe posted in our subscriber only area (Member Archive), but here is a copy of it:


When the weather is chilly, nothing warms up a house, and your bones, like a hot bowl of home made soup. Throughout the year, we save chicken backs, ham bones and turkey carcasses (all of the bones), in plastic bags in our freezer. We cook one turkey (bought at Thanksgiving time) almost every month of the year (except the really hot summer months). Annette boils the carcass to make the broth. 

Here’s the recipe we use:
 When we make soup, we make a huge pot, eat some and freeze the rest.

Turkey Soup Recipe
Starting with an 8 quart stock or sauce pot.

  • 6 quarts of chicken broth — Annette uses broth from boiling a turkey carcass, refrigerating it overnight and skimming off the fat.
  • 2 cups carrots — sliced rounds
  • 2 cups celery — chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic or 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 large onion — diced
  • 1 to 2 cups of miscellaneous leftover veggies from the refrigerator or freezer—broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, corn and peas all work great.
  • 1 to 2 cups mixed dry beans, (be sure to soak in water for two hours, dump the water and rinse, then repeat the process a second time. This will reduce the gassiness of your beans and ease digestion).
  • Add 2 cups of cooked, diced turkey / chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Alternate: You could also add noodles or brown rice (don’t use white rice, it will turn to mush)

Add either beans or brown rice to simmering soup mixture at least 2 hours prior to serving. If using noodles, add to boiling soup 1/2 hour before serving.

kids, cell, phone, texting, technology, parents, paying

Taming Technology - Book Excerpt

Question: I was wondering how you deal with kids and technology, particularly cell  phones and texting. I remember reading in your books that you do not allow texting at the dinner table, but how does your family deal with kids and cell phone plans, etc? Thanks so much!!

Answer: You ask a great question and we actually answered it in our upcoming book The MoneySmart Family System. So we’ll give you a preview here:

Taming Technology
The use of technology can be a blessing or a curse to a MoneySmart family. There are always newer, faster, and more expensive electronic “must-haves” being advertised. Our kids are besieged with messages from their friends that if they don’t have the latest and greatest techno-gadget, they are a social outcast. Technology has, in many ways, become a status symbol for this generation. We need to have a balanced and intentional approach to the use of technology in our homes, or we’ll find that the technological appetite of our culture will take us to places we don’t want to go. In this section we’ll share how we’ve tamed the techno-monster in the areas of TV, gaming, music, computers, and cell phones.

Managing Cell Phones
We simply don’t pay for our kids to have cell phones. But with more than 85 percent of kids between the ages of fifteen and eighteen “owning” a cell phone, we are definitely going against the flow. We know that it is easier for some families to keep track of their kids with phones, but we don’t think that way. Spending $100 to $175 each month for a family plan with multiple phones, texting, and data is not within our budget. Once again, if you do this and can afford it, are you setting your kids up with an expectation that you will continue providing well into their twenties? Or are you setting them up for an expense that they may not be able to afford when they’re finally on their own?

If you think your child must have a cell phone for safety reasons, consider a limited, prepaid phone. It’s cheaper and can’t be easily abused—too much talking or texting simply turns the plan off earlier and they’ll have to do without. It’s kind of like teaching them to budget their money, except they’re managing texts and talk time. We have a very limited prepaid cell phone plan on what we call the “family cell phone.” It costs us less than $60 per year and is only used to communicate with other family members.

Phones at Night
It’s important to limit your kids’ use of cell phones at night. One family we know “docks” all phones, including the parents’, at 9:00 p.m. in a specific spot in the kitchen. No phones in the bedrooms at night. Kids need their sleep and to be able to set boundaries on communicating with friends.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / 01.27.14


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