We spend WHAT on our kid?!?

In response to last month’s article on grocery spend, I was referred to a website called ‘Free Our Kids – The toddler and me and our year for free’. This UK mommy has undertaken to stop spending on her toddler. For a YEAR!

Her rules:

1) No buying of kid-specific food.
2) No kiddie clothing and shoes.
3) No toys. Expensive or otherwise.
4) No extra-curricular activities or group classes (school obviously excluded).
5) No disposable nappies (Wow!)
6) No professional haircuts.
7) No professional childcare more than 3 times a week, when she works.

Is she mad? That was my first thought. And then I put my skepticism in my pocket and had a look at what she’s actually saying (check it out yourself).

It’s pretty cool. This mum, Harriet, got retrenched. So she was forced to look at what she and her husband were actually spending. And they were horrified.

Excluding school, their annual spend was R80,000. But the cool toys, music classes, fancy prams and organic ready meals weren’t making little Johnny (his real name) happier, healthier or smarter. His folks were just getting poorer.

And not just them.

The Daily Mail says that the second biggest source of mom-worry (after not being able to spend enough time with our kids) is not being able to afford what they want.

So which of the 7 things above could I – and you – stand to stop spending on?  Not because I’m anticipating retrenchment, but because consumerism is at an all-time high, non-recyclable waste is piling up and disposable income is tight for everyone…  Let’s look:

1) Kid-specific food

Thank goodness our two-year-old doesn’t eat specific foods. At home she eats grown-up food. At restaurants she shares with us. And her snacks are the usual pretzels, biltong, mini biscuits, raisins, fruit, cheese, etc. Processed baby food nearly bankrupted me when she was eating that stuff, because I refused to cook it fresh. But those days are thankfully gone. You?

2) Kiddie clothing

We buy this very seldom, largely thanks to family hand-me-downs – which are usually gorgeous – and generous grannies. The only things we’ve bought our daughter this season are a bathing suit and a winter dressing gown (she has a strange obsession with dressing gowns). Could I stop buying her the odd lovely thing, for a whole year? Probably. But I won’t. Because I enjoy it and because almost all of that moolla comes from my former clothing budget.

3) Toys

We haven’t bought new toys in ages. She’s into books now. And drawing. And the inside of the loo roll. And plastic cups. And the calculator. But I’d love to do a swap with my friends, circulating some of our stuff to new homes and vice versa.

4) Group classes

We did Baby Gym. We did Baby Massage. We did Kindermusik. We did Clamber Club. We loved all of them. Now that she’s at school, the only class my kid attends is swimming once a week. And I’m not giving that up. But I do get how kids can be entertained, with the same measure of stimulation, at home and at friends’ houses.

5) Disposable nappies

Nope. Not doing reusables. No chance. Sorry.

6) Salon haircuts

She’s never had a salon haircut. I’ve cut her fringe once and my husband’s cut it once, and both haircuts were utterly disastrous. But hopefully we’ll get better with time, because I see no reason whatsoever to take her to a hairdresser. She won’t sit still for long enough anyway.

7) Childcare

This is a tough one. For some moms, even those who don’t work, some childcare is critical. So I’m not sure this line item should be negotiable. It may be worth shopping around, roping in loving grandparents and doing exchanges with close friends, but how moms feel about childcare is so personal that I can’t (or perhaps I’m too scared to) generalise about it.

Oy vey. I didn’t do very well. I’m only prepared to consider 3 of 7. What do you think? Is she mad? Am I? What are your personal tips for cutting back?

This article was originally written for Jozikids by Tiffany Markman in 2013.

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Tiffany Markman

Tiffany Markman

Tiffany Markman is a copywriter, speaker, trainer and mom. She was South Africa’s Freelance Copywriter of the Year in 2020 and one of the world’s ‘Top 50 Female Content Marketers’ in 2021, but she's still working on securing an award for her Mommying. She likes her coffee strong and black, her paragraphing short and tight, and her apostrophes in all the right places. Visit her website.

19 Responses

  1. I would definately give up 3 and 4 with no problem.. my son is into DIY and TV anyways.. and he loves going on playdates. Fortunately with him being 3 years he now eats what we eat so I guess 1 would also go however occassionally I still buy him kid specific foods if the helper is away as I just don't have time to cook fresh food for him and for us (if we are having something that isn't kiddy friendly)… As for disposable nappies they are a keeper through and through. I would never swap them for anything. Sorry. And full time childcare is mandatory.

  2. I think a good way to save is to join a toy library (point 3) my kids get "new" toy every second week and I just return them when they are bored. It works like a book library but instead of books they have toys.
    It such a economical way to make sure the kids have access to lots and lots of educational toys (and some just fun ones) Cotlands have toy libraries nationally.

    1. How awesome! I'm definitely going to look into that. We've just done a toy and book swap with another toddler, and Milla thinks it's Christmas 🙂

  3. yes I used cloth nappies on my 2nd child and wish I had done the same with my first! How much money we saved! and not to mention my bit I did for the environment and my son"s health! And it really wasnt so difficult either!

  4. Cloth diapers are infinitely better!! Only one on the list I can absolutely guarantee. And in terms of environment and pocketbook, the most important list item.. Why are they completely discounted outright without proper consideration?

    1. Hi Vanessa. I did consider them, promise. We're as committed to environmental sensitivity as any family. But Milla was so fat as a baby that the mounds of fabric between her legs (that was the system I looked into: the one that grows with the baby) would have driven her mad, so we decided not to go that route. Beyond that, I have nothing against them.

  5. I doubt I will EVER be buying kiddie specific food or disposable nappies or group classes (however I do think swimming lessons are essential)

    1. Very proud of the fact we have only spent $100 on sienna so far, total! 🙂 (and that was on clothes for next year as I don't know what shopping will be like in Taipei…). Yay for hand-me-down cloth diapers (exclusively this time), hand-me-over clothes from cousin, and breastfeeding!!

  6. Curious – have you actually seen a modern reusable nappy? It's really not as bad as you think it is, promise!

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