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Written By Colin Graves

One of the biggest mistakes I see many parents make is how much money they spend on their kids, or on their kids activities.  I’ve never understood feeling the need to supply everything your child asks for, or thinking that they will somehow be better off by doing so.

If this sounds familiar to you, I can tell you that this way of thinking is not only sucking away your financial freedom, but it’s actually HURTING your kids!!

There are different root causes for this behaviour, but often the motivation is the same; the feeling that your children will suffer if they ever have to go without.


It works like this.  Perhaps your close friends just took their kids to Disney World, and they returned with stories of how wonderful it was, of course they’re sharing the pictures all over Facebook.  Hearing this, your children express disappointment that they’ve never been, and ask when it’s their turn.  Pressure?  You bet.

Here’s another example.  Your daughter’s class is going on a 3 day school band trip to another city.  There’s some fundraising involved, but parent’s also need to contribute an additional $300.  In addition, your daughter would need some money for shopping & food.  Money’s tight, but your daughter says that if you say no, she’ll be the only one not going.   More pressure.

I have a friend who grew up poor, never had very much.  When he and his wife had their first child, he vowed that his son would never go without, and believed that providing him with everything he could possibly want or need would give him the best chance at becoming a productive adult.  As such, they have showered him with expensive gifts every birthday and at Christmas, not to mention countless other occasions, and also bought him a car as soon as he turned sixteen.


Unfortunately, what they haven’t given him enough of has been their time.  And that’s all he’s ever wanted, and really needed.  He longs for their attention, and they try to fill the void with more toys.  All the gifts have not benefitted him at all, in fact, they’ve  prevented him from having a true understanding of the value of a dollar, and he at this point lacks the drive to work hard to earn and save money.

Definitely lots of issues at play here, but when it comes to my friend’s motivation, the story is very similar to the others.  Many parents feel that they’re children will suffer if they ever have to go without.

If you can relate to these emotions or responses,  I’m telling you it’s time to REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR THINKING, and REAP THE BENEFITS!  You’re kids will be healthier and you’ll have a lot more money!


I will follow up with another blog with some practical tips on breaking the “Cycle of Stuff”  , but here are 3 key concepts to help you begin to change your thinking!!

  1. The most important thing you can give to your children is YOU!  This advice was given to my wife when we were expecting our first child, and we’ve always been thankful for it.  What does it look like?  Quality time together, love and affection, opportunities to teach. It means providing structure and not being afraid to discipline.  It means allowing your kids to see you pursuing your dreams, so they won’t be afraid to pursue theirs.
  2. When it comes to getting stuff, kids need to become familiar with the word no!    It’s healthy for them. They’ll gain a greater understanding of what has true value in life.  Also, when they learn to deal with “no”, they realize that it’s really not a big deal, they’ll survive.  It doesn’t mean that you can never buy them nice things,  but don’t do it because you want to keep up with what your friends, or because you are worried about them missing out.
  3. Focus on providing experiences for your kids, not things.  Some experiences cost a lot of money (see Disney World), but they don’t have to.  You can bring so much fulfillment to your children by planning great family activities and experiences for them.


  1. Hi! Checking out your site… What a great post and so true. My kids are my absolute biggest weakness when it comes to money. And sometimes it is really tricky, like those school activity expenses. You feel like they are reasonable because they are school related or learning experiences but it can be over the top. After school activities at my kid’s school are so expensive. Our local game shop organizes one and my son desperately wants to do it – he loves games. But one day a week comes to like $300 a month! I feel so bad saying no but it is just too much. People know how to get your money – through your kids!

    • Hi Linda, and thanks for sharing! I agree with you, there are so many tough choices to make! My wife and I have always set a limit of a couple activities per year (such as sports or clubs etc), and our kids still seem to be turning out ok. : ) It’s certainly made for a more balanced family life over the years, with less running around, and more quality time together. I really do believe our children identify with that and have an appreciation for it.

  2. We’re approaching this stage of life, and we’re quickly learning that finding a balance is going to serve us well.

    We’re going to have to learn when to say no. Because ltimately, we’re the greatest gift to our children.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great read. I am not a parent yet, but getting close to that stage, and I think about this stuff. I came from upper middle class and I was probably given too much. My 20s were a rude awakening when I realized life takes more than talent. You have to sacrifice and work for what you want. I want to teach my future kids toughness, value, and to be motivated to work for their own dreams. Me giving them everything won’t help them learn these valuable lessons.

    • Hi Bill, thanks for sharing! I imagine that it’s tough for very wealthy parents to withhold material luxuries from their children. I’d love to talk to parents who have been successful at striking that balance. We all want to give our kids the best of everything, but many don’t realize that ‘the best’ isn’t what the mass media tells us it is.


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