My six-year-old son surprised me recently with a demand: he wants a tablet (around $100) and a PlayStation 4 ($399). He already had a kids’ tablet when he turned five, but he broke its screen within a year.
I didn’t know that the demands would pile up so soon. I thought I had a few more years until he started asking for these expensive gadgets. But I’m not the only parent who’s going through this. When I dropped my kindergartener off to daycare over spring break earlier this year, the entire class had brought tablets from home to play with.
I also have friends who buy their young children cell phones and computers, all of which only makes their budget even tighter throughout the year.
Start Managing Your Finances Better — Download This Personal Finance App >>
Raising a Child Is Already Expensive
With the average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 hovering around $245,340 (or $304,480, considering inflation), parents who feel inclined to purchase electronic devices for their children may need to spend even more money, since kids are asking for the latest technology at younger and younger ages.
Technology costs are already killing Americans’ budgets, according to U.S. News and World Report.
The article cites a study by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which indicates that Americans spend an equivalent of 17 percent of their monthly mortgage or rent on technology expenses.
Throw a kid or two into the mix, and costs will start to build up fast. I don’t think modern technology will slow down anytime soon, and I don’t blame kids for being intrigued by all the cool stuff that companies are releasing.
But I plan on sticking to my values and budget while developing a game plan to address my son’s wants and needs when it comes to having the latest electronics.
This App Makes Managing Your Finances Easy — Start Budgeting Today >>
When We Can Afford It …
As children turn more towards electronics, they are less attracted to actual toys. But parents shouldn’t have to spend a ton of money on both.
Since my son still plays with toys, we go half and half, which allows us to have room in our budget for technology purchases.
As far as that PlayStation 4 he wants, it’s a very pricey game system, so we’d have to cut back on some of the toys we buy him for Christmas in order to get it.
We could also take advantage of loyalty rewards and seasonal sales to cut costs or even wait until the news of a newer model, which will make this one cheaper. I am all about buying used and refurbished electronics, too – especially for kids. You can often find great deals on Ebay if you're willing to wait one generation.
When my son broke his tablet last year, I refused to buy him a new one after the incident. Since then, I’ve been big on making sure that he understands the value of the hard work it takes to buy him certain things.
For any technology items he asks for in the future, I’d like to sit him down and go over a timeline for purchasing the item and options for ways he can earn some of the money to help pay for it.
Some of those opportunities may by cleaning up his room each day, saving his allowance, helping me out with small tasks around the house, or helping me sell or donate some of his old toys and movies.
It will be a great way to squeeze a financial lesson in and teach him about budgeting and managing earnings.
Start Budgeting and Managing Your Finances — Download This Personal Finance App >>
When We Can’t Afford It …
Realistically, we’re not going to be able to afford all the attractive electronic devices out there. I plan to show my son how to use other resources like the library, which is great for renting movies and games and learning how to use the computer or a laptop – all for free.
We will also accept hand-me-down items from friends and relatives. I don’t want my son to grow up believing that he needs all this stuff to be happy.
That type of mindset will just lead him to want more and more.
I also don’t want to compare our situation to other families and what they can or can’t afford. It’s important to live within our means and appreciate what we do have first.