Thursday, July 06, 2006

Give Your Parents A Big Hug for Not Buying You All That Crap

When I was a kid, our big family vacation was that once a year we would go to Deer Valley, a family YMCA camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Our biggest expenses were for ice cream and unfired ceramics. A couple times we went to a nearby lake to sail, and sometimes we went to visit our cousins in DC. I did get to go to London and Paris with my dad when I was in high school, but he was there for a week-long business conference so we only paid for my airfare and our incidentals.

This may be the reason that I was startled to learn when I started blogging (as I hadn't heard of it before) that apparently enough people go on expensive vacations often enough that it is important that you tell them not to do it. Where I come from (or perhaps where my family's money values come from) going to the Caribbean is what you do for your honeymoon, and then maybe a second honeymoon when the kids are all gone. It's not something that you do every year. I kind of feel like, as part of the age bracket I'm in, that I should be resentful that I don't get to do that, and run up lots of debt to go anyway. But my parents never even gave me the hint of the idea that normal people DO that sort of stuff. The same thing applies for gifts. I dated a guy a while ago whose parents would give him $700+ worth of gifts for Christmas - and he fully expected it! He would write out lists of things he wanted and add up the cost till it got to about $600 or so. This flabbergasted me as when I was a kid, the biggest presents I ever received were those huge $100 Lego sets - and that was for my birthday, Christmas, and Chanukah combined since they're all pretty close together. I think the only thing over $500 that my parents ever bought me (other than my college education - thanks, Mom and Dad!) was my first non-hand-me-down computer junior year of HS.

I was also thinking about that when reading this post over at All Things Financial, about how kids should spend their money. I didn't think that a kid spending a lot of money on an iPod, especially as it was a gift for his mom, was a big deal. What's important is that a child learn that an iPod IS a big deal, and learn what a lot of money it is. It has a lot more to do with how the child learns to value money than what they spend it on. As long as the kid is fully cognizant of the value of the money (which they usually will be if it's their money) that's fine. It's when your parents buy you whatever you want that kids don't learn that money should be treated as rare and valuable.

Which leads me back to the title - if your parents constantly deprived you as a child, wouldn't take you on fancy vacations, and never bought you all those toys you wanted - go give them a hug! Call them up and thank them for being so horribly mean to you all those years! Because if they deprived you properly, you're probably taking your vacation day at a barbecue, not a resort. You're probably eating a packed lunch at your desk instead of at Applebee's. And, heaven forbid, you probably buy in bulk.


Mike said...

Parents who have deprived their children a lot may have the opposite effect however. If you were not given anything as a kid, you might in turn give your kids everything that they want because you think you were deprived as a child

Kira said...

I think most of it has to do with the attitude in which you deny your children things. I had a friend in high school whose parents would constantly promise her things that they had no intention of giving her, and then would renege on their promise and tell her to get over it. She developed a very "gimme" attitude from that treatment, even now that her money is her own, like a starving child who doesn't realize yet that the food supply isn't going to be cut off.

You can tell very quickly who the parents are that don't deny their children anything - the children are generally running around screaming and throwing tantrums, even at older ages.

Chris said...

Growing up Kira I had to work for a lot of the things I got. Although, I was lucky enough to have nice things and my parents took me on several nice vacations (including the Caribbean). Now that I live on my own, I put set aside a portion of my budget for atleast one vacation per year. I agree with you that people should not go into debt to go on a trip, but if they save up money over 6 months to fly to florida for a week, then do it. Most people are age need to travel now, because in a few years we might be able to (kids).

Revanche said...

I think my parents get two hugs each by your standards because boy, I didn't even know that people actually PAID and KEPT books they read instead of borrowing from the library until I was twelve? Fourteen? Ok, maybe not fourteen, but close enough.
I can't think of a single thing my parents bought or paid for, for me, ever (that includes college and all the related expenses, my first car, etc.). Oh, a bed! Yes, I got a bed in 8th grade.
Contrast that to BrotherDucky whose private high school education was paid for with so many extra hours of work, sweat and tears that it compromised MamaDucky's health. That education led to exactly .. nothing. His best friends are doctors and consultants. He dropped out of college and didn't support himself for the next ten years while his public school educated little sister worked her butt off to support the entire family and finish school.
And I'm the one still at home helping them out while he can barely give them the time of day.
My point? Giving your kids the higher-priced things in life is just giving them higher priced things in life. It isn't the magic formula to success and love and all that.
For a better example than me? Our little cousin who just graduated from my alma mater (high school) lived on the edge of poverty with one working parent. She will attend Pomona College this fall with nearly a full-ride scholarship from school and another 15k in merit grants and scholarships. Babydoll did just fine without a single vacation, gifts or any such luxury that most of us consider necessities. Oh yeah, and she has an awesome attitude about life. Which is really the important thing, isn't it?
Mike: I think you're totally right because that's the reaction I see from my parents - they wish they could buy stuff to make up for what they see are deficiencies. They just don't realize that they never taught me to expect that stuff anyway! BrotherDucky is entirely another story.

Anonymous said...

Kids who save their money are to commended. Parents who try to control how their kids spend their money should be cautioned.

When I was a kid, my dad was cool with how I spent what I'd managed to save. My mom was not. It was often a choice between calm, intelligent discourse (dad) and ugly, screaming lectures (mom). What I learned was that my dad was someone I could confide in and get advice from while mom was someone I needed to hide things from. I got great advice from my dad til the the day he died and I haven't talked to my mother for over 20 years.

Parents need to be careful. What their children are learning may not be the lessons they're trying to teach.