My default setting is programmed to shop. It’s truly an instinct and impulse. I spend a lot of time guarding against it, but I want to acknowledge something very important. Critical even.
It doesn’t get said enough. Not like that anyway. No, I don’t mean the excessive line spacing, either.
Whenever people talk about making purchases online, there are all sorts of justifications and explanations. Promises to do better. Follow-up posts about atonement. I am guilty of pushing that guilt on myself even.
We can spend all the time in the world debating how expensive kids really are, but here’s the truth. Whether you find ways to cut costs or not, we’re going to spend money on them.
That’s why I decided that I would use my time this summer to chronicle all the things that I buy my son. I’ve written about all the things I’ve tried to buy him over the course of a weekend before. I’ve also chronicled some different costs from when he was a baby. But I’ve never decided a post or a series to the purchases that I make. So last week, I decided I would.
It made perfect sense. Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, so I figured I’d start then. You know, when I was knee deep in a library used book sale. Gulp.
If I’m being truthful, I figured a project like this would curb some of my spending impulses. But there I was in line at Home Depot forking over an extra $5 to keep my little man entertained while his dad and I spread mulch. In the spirit of the adventures that await us this summer, I figured I’d share some ideas on how I’m going to hopefully spend less.
Visit libraries–many, many libraries
Libraries are veritable gold mines of entertainment. We spent so much of our summer in libraries all over the place because they’re climate controlled and perfect for crawlers who would get banged up and scraped at parks.
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Now, we definitely don’t have a crawler on our hands, but libraries are just as awesome. We live on really strange boundary lines, so our official library is actually farther away than the library that’s right down the street. The good news for us is that libraries don’t require cards to take advantage of most of their fun.
In addition to hanging out, reading books, playing games, and exploring the other things in the library (like an iPad in the sturdiest Otter Box-esque case I’ve ever seen!), we plan to sign HP up for a summer reading program and a 1000 Books before Kindergarten program.
There are other classes and events that we’re going to try out too. Plus, our library has a bookmobile, and we actually got to visit it for the first time this week. Imagine Alvin or one of the other chipmunks jumping up and down, screeching, “Book!” “Bus!” and you have our experience in a nutshell. I can’t wait to do it again.
Spend time outside
Yes, putting sunscreen on a small human is a lot like trying to hold down a greased pig. No, no amount of M&M bribes make it any better.
But if you can get past the sunscreen stress, the outdoors is amazing. It costs nothing, and my son is at the age where he could wander around forever. He splashes in puddles. He stands up sticks in my flower beds. He even pretends to eat worms. I think it’s just pretend anyway.
There’s so much to do outside, and if Instagram makes you feel like taking your kiddo outdoors needs to be a magazine-spread worthy, that’s simply not true. Suburban mud is just as good as city mud, which is just as good as rural mud.
Kids just want to be in the mud. Period.
Use what we already have
We have a museum membership that we really bought for my parents so they could take our son. We’ve been with him a handful of times, but that’s really their thing.
Though, it doesn’t have to be.
Plus, that museum membership allows us free admission to handful of other museums around the state (and across the country!). There’s discounted admission to dozens more. So we’re definitely going to check out all of those membership options.
Be grateful and say “yes”
I have these weird money hangups. Actually, most of us do. For me, though, one of my biggest sources of discomfort when it comes to money is the fear that I’m taking advantage of someone. That was partly why hand-me-downs made me so nervous. I’m always wavering in a spot between “we don’t deserve it” and “someone needs it more”.
But I’m working on it.
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My sister-in-law generously offered us the chance to visit a zoo and a water park. While I know it’s no additional cost to her since she has guest passes, my instinct was still to say no. I figured she’d rather invite someone else. I didn’t want her to invite us out of obligation. But before I could get my excuse all the way of our my mouth, I did something remarkable.
I closed it.
I actually shut my mouth and read her face instead. Then, I said, “Actually, we’d love to.” Her smile was a wonderful reminder that accepting a gift is sometimes the best thing we can do for someone.
So this summer, we’re going to say yes to opportunities that come our way. Of course, I will try to reciprocate as much as I can. Additionally, I’m realizing that in a world where gratitude is virtually extinct, a sincere thank you is really all that people want or need.
Check our curbs
I have been hemming and hawing over buying HP a pretend lawn mower (and about a million other toys, if I’m being truly honest). One of his neighborhood buddies has one, and they are so cute playing together with. Okay, fine. They kind of just steal it back and forth while the parents all say, “Share! Share! Share, please!” But they both laugh a lot and there haven’t been any tears.
It seemed like it would be a worthwhile purchase. Low and behold, I was out running an errand, and I saw one on the very tippy top of someone’s trash heap. I told myself if it was still there on my return trip, I’d scoop it up. Sure enough, it was there!
It’s technically broken because it doesn’t play music anymore. But if you’ve been a parent for more than 5 seconds, you know this is actually the greatest gift you can receive. Plus, the creepy little face that “chomps” the grass when you push it works just fine.
Explore parks and trails
I’m always amazed that the parks in our neighborhood and surrounding towns are always so empty. I want to chalk it up to the school year, but I suspect it’s something more than that.
The good news is that there is another family in our neighborhood feels exactly the same way we do. We’ve never coordinated the times, but we try to go to the park every day that it isn’t raining, and they’re also always there.
This summer, we intended to stretch out our errands by hitting up a bunch of new-to-us parks along the way. The really fun thing is that family and friends know we do this, and we’re starting to get a ton of recommendations. Plus, they’re actually wanting to come to the parks with us.
Last Easter, HP noticed a park near my in-laws. He whined in the car, and we mentioned that maybe we’d stop. Suddenly, a whole gaggle of kids wanted to go. Even though I worried that some were too old, everyone had a blast.
Spend our gift cards
I hoard gift cards, and I’m really not sure why. It’s probably another one of those money hangups. When I realize that I need to buy something for HP, I’ll let myself exhaust my other options (read: try to talk myself out of it or manifest it on a curb somewhere)…and then if I really do need or want to purchase something, I will. I’ll just try to use a gift card first.
Stores do all sorts of promotions to get you in the door. My mom always calls them “come ons”. She says it with a click of her teeth and a sigh of exasperation. Why? Because most of the time, there are at least 1.72 million exclusions in the fine print.
The good news?
A lot of times the $10 off a $10 or more purchase deals work just fine on kids clothes. Once I realized HP’s hand-me-down shorts were sagging just a little too low (and rolling the waist didn’t hold up either), I bought two pairs that fit for less than $2 total thanks to that kind of coupon.
I’ll also continue to use OfferUp and other local resale shops if I have to buy something.
I can’t actually overstate this enough. I had the chance to talk a little bit about this on a podcast not all that long ago, and I really stand buy it. Having fewer toys to interact with allows my son to play more fully and be more creative, inventive, and playful.
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So this summer, we are going to continue moving forward with our decluttering plans. Even if there are toys and books I’m not getting rid of, I am going to also continue rotating them around.
So Tell Me…What tips and tricks do you use to curb your spending?