Why the Crazy Cost of Parenting Is My Fault (& Yours, Too)

The cost of parenting has gone up dramatically from when I was a child, and here’s the thing: It’s on me, and all the other parents out there, to make it stop. To be clear, I don’t mean the cost of groceries or school or clothing. I mean the cost of non-essentials that parents have complete control over — like extravagant birthday parties.

As a kid, I got a dollar for an entire day at the beach. I could go to the arcade and spend it on 10 minutes of Pac-Man fun, or I could eat my weight in Swedish Fish. During the school year, I got $5 a week to cover lunches. I never got an allowance. If I wanted things, I mowed the neighbor’s lawn, babysat someone’s kids, and, when I got older, bused tables at a restaurant (that job enabled me the opportunity to be covered in other people’s food!). But, today, it seems that most kids get cash whenever they ask. There is no mowing of the lawn to earn some pocket change. Now, we are just asked for cold hard cash; not even coins will do. In fact, most of the parents I know are hemorrhaging money well before their kids can even earn back the costs.


In my house, Halloween has morphed from a homemade costume and begging for candy to a fashion show complete with $100 store-bought costumes. I will admit we own quite a few costumes that could have covered a fancy dinner for the whole family, but instead outfitted little Jilly as a dancing piece of candy corn, Cinderella, and Belle. The Easter Bunny no longer just brings candy; now that overachiever is expected to bring games, toys, and techie sh*t. Santa spares no expense. Last year he brought an Xbox for my boy, and an American Girl doll for my girl!

Though my Irish children get passed over every Saint Paddy’s Day, I hear some homes are visited by a Leprechaun who leaves expensive gifts and coins. Valentine’s Day has moved from some ho-hum box of chocolate to bushels of sugar that would make Hershey himself weep with happiness and Game Stop leap with joy at the Playstation and Xbox games being purchased. I should know: I spent most of February 15 cashing in gift cards at Game Stop for the next must-have Xbox game.

Class parties have morphed into elaborate crafting that would make the Metropolitan Museum of Art proud. Thanks to one of my kids’ classes, I am now the proud owner of a collage of all of the students’ faces, painted by the students themselves, and assembled as one large wall hanging! Even the Tooth Fairy overspends, at upwards of $5 or $10 a tooth! A friend of my daughter lost a tooth at my house and brought it home instead of exchanging it for the paltry sum our fairy pays. Good thing, too, because this fairy was all out of cash.

The birthday parties in my area are also totally over the top. Instead of a simple backyard party, there are limo rides to concerts and entire class trips to paint ball combat zones. This year I put my foot down and hosted only small-scale events minus the over-the-top extras, like elaborate invitations, pony rides, and Disney Princess cameos.

It is time that our kids stop getting allowances for chores they need to do anyway as members of a family. It’s time to stop having mega-sized birthday parties, and holiday festivities out the wazoo, which just puts more pressure on all of us parents. It is time kids learn to be kids and enjoy holidays for what they are without the expectation of costly and unnecessary gifts.

It’s time that we all learned to say no.

Photo: Getty