You Can’t Pay for Parenting

November 21, 2007

Some of the best personal finance lessons I’ve learned did not come from books or interviews. Personal experience is often the best teacher. For example, as a single parent, I have learned you can’t pay for parenting.

Oh, sure. You can hire a babysitter or nanny to be with the children in your absence, but you can’t pay for being absent. If you try, the consequences can be financially fatal.

After 10 years of marriage, my husband decided he wanted to move on with his life. Unfortunately, the kids and I weren’t invited to tag along. Shortly thereafter, I began setting the stage for financial disaster. Like many single moms before me, I unconsciously tried to make up for the absentee father by spending money, money we did not have to waste.

At Christmas, the kids still got too many toys. We often spent twice as much as necessary at the supermarket. We acquired 4 pets, bought a piano for almost half what the same instrument would cost elsewhere, and shopped for new clothes-instead of checking out consignment shops first. The list could go on forever.

After I had dug us into a financial pit of disaster, I was talking to another single mom about the financial lesson I learned the hard way. Come to find out, she had been following the same path of financial ruin.

The financial lesson I learned:

You can’t pay for parenting, when the other parent chooses to remain absent. No amount of Christmas presents, junk food, or whatever you purchase, can make up for the loss.

Instead, living within budget constraints, and teaching your children to do the same, is one of the best gifts you can bestow on your offspring. Although they may not see the wisdom of your lessons now, in a few years they will be of more value than any toy or new outfit you can purchase today.

So, what are some financial lessons you have learned about being a parent?



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6 Responses to You Can’t Pay for Parenting

  • J.C. Carvill

    There is a fatal limit when spending are getting you down instead, but do not forget that extreme saving without investing to your children’s future like education & prospective talents can do very much the same for your offsprings.

    J.C. Carvill

  • Tina

    Thank you.

    I am really excited to read your comments. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and encouragement.

    I have hope that sharing my experiences and the financial lessons I have learned will help you. However, I can see I am likely to gain far more than I share.


  • Mrs. Micah

    That must have been a hard situation to be in. I understand wanting to give them a good quality of life and seeing buying stuff as a way to that. At least you’ve realized it.

  • Daniel E. Friedman

    It sounds like you’ve had some difficult experiences which you are working through and I admire you for that. Most certainly, money is not a substitute for many things. Many parents, including myself, teach money management to our kids so that they will gain responsibility at an early age.

    If kids want to really over-indulge slightly on a toy, they should try to save their own money for such a treat. Good luck with everything.

  • dawn

    I had my husband through my son’s childhood … yet he was basically a physically absentee parent. I know, not the same thing as single parenthood, but I tried to make-up for his never being around by spending money we didn’t have. And at that time we hardly had any to start with. Luckily we did dig our way out and change our financial ways. And your are so right … the stuff does not make up for the absent parent. Even though at the time, I so hoped it would. My husband realized when the boys were in their teens that he better start building a better relationship with them. He actually did a good job from then on. He is very lucky that they were willing to let the past go though. Straightening up our finances did rub off on the boys. They are both excellent with money. They are savers … which we weren’t at their age. They budget and aren’t into consumer spending. These kids of ours really are watching us, and good role modeling does pay off! Good post … I so feel what your talking about! I’m glad you learned the lesson quicker than I did! Have a happy holiday!!


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