The following is a guest post from our friend Cat at Budget Blonde. Enjoy!
I carried my twins out of their nursery on their very first Christmas morning last year and plopped them right under the tree (the fake tree that my husband and I bought for $50 on Craigslist of course.)
There, before them, was something magical. There were tons of blocks and toys and books…
The only catch was that most of the things under the tree were things they already owned.
Yep, call us crazy but my husband and I, in our duties as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, simply put out things they played with every day.
The 4 Gift Rule
We stuck to a very strict “4 Gift Rule” for their first Christmas where we only gave them “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.”
Basically, we bought them each a new book to share, some blocks, a small, wooden bead maze, and some Christmas ornaments. Nothing too crazy or outlandish of course. The real present was that my husband and I opened up their first custodial brokerage accounts and invested $75 each for them in Schwab funds.
We told their grandparents they didn’t need gifts, only investments. By the time Christmas was over and they received a few checks, each of my twins had a nice chunk of money invested…and they hadn’t even turned 1 yet.
That night, after a very memorable Christmas Day, I started flipping through Facebook.
Family after family was showing all the toys and presents under their trees. There were piles and piles of them.
I felt a small twinge, like maybe I should have done more or bought more, but then I thought about their investments and realized, I don’t give a damn what other parents are doing.
I don’t want you to take that the wrong way of course. Everyone is entitled to give their children whatever they feel like on holidays; I’m just simply saying I’ve decided to not look right or left at what everyone else is doing. I’ve decided to forge my own path instead.
Their 1st Birthday
I have so many friends with kids the same age as mine. When the first birthdays started coming around, I was amazed.
One friend of mine had ponies… ponies…at her child’s first birthday party. Other friends spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on their celebrations. We went to one party that was a sit down, three course dinner. Again, I’m talking about 1 year olds here…
I’m sure it will seem like I’m judging others, but I’m not. The feeling is more of amazement not judgement – amazement because not one part of my body wanted to throw a party for my kids. I felt so odd, so different from the norm.
The great thing though is that once again, I decided not to give a damn about being an odd duck, because I took the money I would have spent on a birthday party and invested it in the twins brokerage accounts instead.
I also invested in their life experiences by taking them on their first road trip for their birthday, where we very frugally stayed with blog friends and ate in each night.
I admit that even though I didn’t care much for throwing them a birthday party, I did feel a twinge again when I saw my friends’ birthday pictures. I saw their cake smash pictures. Then, I saw their cakes. Real, fondant, fancy cakes for a first birthday party. With themes.
I thought maybe I should have done more. I mean, we didn’t buy them gifts for their first birthday at all. (We counted their weekend trip as their gift.)
But then I thought about how my twins are little and how their investments were growing, and so, I decided again that I didn’t give a damn what other people were doing. I shook it off like Taylor Swift said, gave each of my kids a cupcake on their birthday, took pictures of them myself, and called it a day.
Obnoxious, Overdone Holidays
Easter. Need I say more? One friend of mine on Facebook had an Easter morning that resembled their Christmas morning, with literally piles of gifts and candy all over their floor. Would I have loved to be one of her kids and consumed large piles of chocolate in one day? Yes. Do I want to do the same for my kids. You guessed it… nope.
That’s the great thing about parenting though is that we each get to do our own thing and raise our kids how we want.
I literally gave each twin a painted wooden Easter egg that was a rattle on Easter morning. They loved them by the way. Their grandmother sent up baskets and Easter grass which I promptly put their egg in. You would have thought it was a million dollar toy given how much they love those egg shaped rattles. They still play with them to this day.
Despite being habitually frugal, I’ll be honest and say that there are still times when I feel that twinge, the one that society beats into us making us think we’re not good parents if we don’t give our kids everything and the best of everything.
When I feel that way, I make a habit of calculating what my 1 year olds’ current $500 investments will look like when they turned 18 if we kept contributing as we have been.
And guess what? After doing that calculation, it turns out I still don’t give a damn what other people are doing, and I don’t feel the need to keep up because I’m doing what I think is best for them.
It’s Not Easy
Frugal parenting is not easy. You are literally going against everything our culture tells you to do as a parent. Your kids might be the only ones without the fanciest gadgets, and they might not like you for it. My kids are still young and so this is still a learning process for us, but I can say that I am committed to giving them experiences and not things and having them cherish the few things we do gift them.
Frugal parenting really is about not caring what other people think and instead focusing on what you believe to be important. It’s about using your money to set your kids up for financial success instead of teaching them how to be a part of consumer culture.
I’m sure that our plans and goals will mold and change as our kids grow but for now we’re proud of how far we’ve come and we’re looking forward to teaching them more about money as they get older.
Catherine Alford is a full time, award winning personal finance blogger who founded Budget Blonde in 2010. She’s also the creator of the brand new course, Get Paid to Write for Blogs, where she’ll teach you everything you need to know about getting hired to write for blogs.