No, We Won’t Buy You a…

David Writes!

Our main goal as parents was to end up with happy, healthy, self-sufficient adults.

We can’t tell anyone how to do this — everyone’s different and Lord knows we made our share of mistakes along the way — but we can offer an insight that we’ve gained through our own offspring’s transitions from childhood to adulthood.

Don’t give kids everything they want, just everything they need.

A whole lot of what they want is stupid crap and they will never learn that it is stupid crap unless they are the ones paying for it.

When our kids were teenagers we made it clear that we would not be paying for many of the things that they were convinced they couldn’t live without. They never lacked for any of life’s necessities, but we were not in the business of buying personal phones, CD collections, piercings, fad fashions and the like.

So all of our kids had jobs by the time they were in high school. It wasn’t mandatory, just the only way they were going to have any folding green.

Our daughters, The Piglet and Decibel, spent a lot their money on extra clothes, the kind that we weren’t going to be coughing up the cash for. Our youngest, The Boy, put a death grip on every dollar he earned. They all learned very different, yet fundamental lessons about the value of a buck.

The Piglet found that she would have to work harder to afford the latest styles that she couldn’t face the world without, while Decibel learned to search for values on more avant-garde items.

These concepts have stayed with them. The Piglet is still a fashion slave and for many years kept a weekend job to pay for her collection, Decibel finds threads for her more funky look at thrift shops and vintage stores. We suspect The Boy is still wearing the same clothes he wore in high school.

We also tried to make it clear that they had better hold on to some of the money they earned in high school for the future since they would be responsible for their own adult lives either by helping with college expenses or living on their own.

My father told me early and often, “you can go to college or you can go to work, but you can’t just hang around here.” I never even considered living at home after reaching adulthood because it was never offered as an option and it never occurred to me that it should be.

I count this as one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.

We had decided long before the college applications were sent out that our kids would be responsible for their own bills while in college. College is NOT 13th grade — we wanted them to learn how to handle money and be personally invested in their education. Believe me, they cared a whole lot more about school when some of their dough was on the line.

We paid for tuition and living quarters for our little intellectuals but everything else, including textbooks, was on their shoulders. Even food and utilities were their responsibility once they moved out of the dorm, which they all did after the first year.

They wanted the freedom and were willing to pay for it. This meant that they would have to work while in school. It also taught them to save money while working summer jobs and it didn’t kill a single one of them.

Our kids were shocked (and, yes, jealous at times) at the free money that many of their friends’ parents were handing out. In addition to covering expenses, some of their fellow students were receiving $1000 a month or more to spend as they pleased.

Often, we were told, this money went towards things that didn’t help with studies, unless getting all liquored up and kneeling to the porcelain god helps to foster enlightenment.

In fairly short order, they began to appreciate what we had expected by insisting that they be financially involved with their educations. They learned to work for what they wanted and sought out friends who did the same.

When graduation day arrived, The Piglet noticed that most of the kids that got the free money were moving back in with their parents after college. BOOMERANG! After four years they hadn’t learned the real life skills needed to live as independent adults.


Did you enjoy what you just read? Then you'll LOVE our book!
Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All Going Gypsy One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All 

- See how it all began!
ORDER NOW - Wherever Books Are Sold!
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - IndieBound - Books-a-Million
Also available as an audiobook from

36 thoughts on “No, We Won’t Buy You a…”

  1. One Christmas my sister was telling me that she ran into a woman in the mall from her daughter’s school. The woman was saying “Well you know how it is at Christmas they all have to have the Ugg boots, North Face jackets and Coach purses”. My sister is the mother of one child and asked me, as the younger (yet I like to think wiser!) sister with three kids if I agreed with this statement. I told my sister that I refuse to give into peer pressure and spend money I don’t have on things my kids do not need!! Instead we always went to New Hampshire and tagged then cut down our Christmas tree and hosted a big Christmas Eve pot luck get together for anyone who cared to come. My kids used to half-heartedly grumble about the tree cutting expedition, especially during their teenage years, but secretly I knew they loved it. Now 2 of my 3 kids are married and we all traipse up to NH. to continue the tree cutting tradition. They have multiple stories of the time we got he hugest tree ever (and almost didn’t make it home) or the time we cut down our tree in a monsoon! I am sure that if I asked them to recall a gift they received those years they would be hard pressed to remember, People need to understand what their kids really need!!

  2. So true!! I’m struggling now with one having to give up after-school activities in order to get a job in order to help pay for the exchange program she wants to do next year! That’s a tough one for me, because I always worked only in the summer so I could be in sports during the school year… But this one doesn’t have any savings from summer yet and would never be able to save the amount she needs in just one summer! Your thoughts on that type of debate? Thanks for your insightful posts!!

    1. That is a tough one Sarah. It looks like you have already made the decision to split the cost with her, we completely agree with that. The other big lesson here for her is that sometimes what we want in life means making difficult decisions. Deciding just how important sports are may be one of those.

  3. Amazing how kids learn when you trust them to learn their lessons in the school of life. Too many well-meaning parents try to shelter their kids from EVERYTHING these days!

  4. We raised our children in the same way. They are now 26, 23 and 20 and are all on their own and pay their own bills (well, we pay tuition for the youngest still) They all have good jobs, with the youngest having 2 jobs right now. In fact, when our daughters were in high school we implemented a system so that they were responsible for all their payments like lunch money, entertainment money, etc.. which taught them how to budget and balance funds. My favorite request though from all my kids was when my youngest turned 18 and was finally able to get all the tattoos that she had planned – and expected us to pay for them. We had a good laugh over that! And she still hasn’t gotten any tattoos – guess it wasn’t important enough for her to spend her own money on.

  5. Enjoyed the read very much, and pocketed the most valuable of tips I found. Parents unfortunately think this sort of education is covered by schools – alas, the most valuable of life’s lessons are learned at home.

  6. Absolutely right! I have one grown (and he’s entirely wonderfully self-sufficient, a wonderful husband, and soon to be a wonderful father); one in college, and two still at home. We practice what you practice and preach, and the results, as you noted, have been great! Easy always? No, of course not, but well worth it in the end.

    Great post!

  7. Our sons are like your children in that they have different ideas about what is worth buying, but they both had jobs starting at age 16 and they have been independent and self supporting since college. They both save and don’t carry any credit card balances. However, they both think I was cheap about some things—i.e. I insisted people put on a sweatshirt in the house during the winter, thus earning myself the not entirely unfounded moniker of “Heat Nazi”.

  8. I second Linda. The older daughter was happy with a pair of jeans from Walmart and a good pair of sneakers, etc., but the younger one wanted the labels. So we would pay XX for a pair of jeans or sneakers or shoes and she would have to make up the difference to get the ones with the labels she wanted.

    We don’t have a lot of money, but they have never lacked for the necessities – food, roof over their head, clothing and family time.

  9. Excellent post! I came into an existing family as a stepmom, so I really had to choose my battles about what we as parents should and should not pay for. It hasn’t been an ideal situation, but we are making progress. Sometimes they fight the change, and I can’t blame them for that, but they seem to understand that I’m trying to teach them something, that I’m not just being mean.

  10. Love this! This is how I was raised, half b/c my parents just didn’t have extra money, but now I’m very thankful. My husband and I definitely have more expendable income than my parents did but I try to be mindful that it doesn’t mean I should give my kids everything they want…even when I want them to have it. It all comes down to learning responsibility. Mine are only 11 and 7 but I’m trying very hard to raise them to be moral, respectful, INDEPENDENT adults…a little at a time!

  11. That’s how I learned that the long red coat that cost way too much, and the high heel boots, and who knows how many other fashion mistakes I made were stupid crap! Let the kids learn from their mistakes and that means paying for it with their own money!

  12. Yes, I agree. We worked it a little differently than making our kids buy necessities for themselves if they wanted pricier stuff. We gave them what we considered a reasonable amount for, say, a pair of jeans and they had to pay the difference to get the designer stuff. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that they were spending a lot of money that they didn’t really want to spend.

  13. Great article and so true. I have actually heard some really, well to us funny, stories that have happened to spoiled rich kids. For exampled I heard about one who’s dad owns a car dealer and she really wanted a hummer. Finally daddy got her one with a custom paint job that costs as much as the hummer did. What she do… she went out and wrecked the car. What is worse this happed two more times after that…. Blows the mind how so many no longer have a sense of value / worth of objects and how they feel those items are so important and forget about what is really important – life.

    Scott Robertson

  14. FANTASTIC!! I raised my 5 boys the same some still struggle but they need to learn early no free lunch!! but yes we still have the occasional phone call we do what we need to not what they want 🙂 they are fine young men they can cook clean and pay there way but they didnt die learning now did they lol and patty iam with u on the shoe thing dont even get me started!!!!!!!!

  15. So far it had worked with us. Now we’re getting the “he’s been spoon fed” or “we didn’t get that” remarks. Not true. Even the youngest at nine is expected to pay for things other than what they need. Don’t get me started on the shoe stuff…

  16. May I just say, Bravo! Raised my three girls pretty much the same way and yes, it pays off.

    Best birthday ever this year when all three of them posted on Facebook, for the “world” to see, that they loved, respected and admired (yes!) their mom.

    Keep these posts coming.

  17. What a wonderfully written article!. I have to agree with you on your methods. That is precisely what I did when raising my children. You need to teach them responsibility at a young age. When things come too easily they are not as appreciated.
    Anyway, ‘stuff’ does not equal love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.