There’s only one thing I love more than reading books by parents, about parenting, and that’s MEETING the parent behind the venture. Thanks to my dear friend, Lorraine A., I recently attended a funny & insightful book talk with Brett Graff, a well-published writer known as the “Home Economist. Graff put her research and smarts into a new book, “Not Buying It: Stop Overspending, and Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids.” I asked Brett to share some of her favorite learnings from this research here at The Lounge. Enjoy! – Amy
Here’s me, Brett, Lorraine A., and of course, this provocative and thoughtful new book that will make you think twice before overspending on things like cribs, produce (trust me, read on…), and more!
Five Things I Learned About Spending Money to Raise Great Kids
By Brett Graff
I’m a newspaper columnist, mom and now, author of a book that was born after my friend — who happens to be a pediatrician — and I wondered: Is all this money we’re spending on our kids actually messing them up? As parents, we’re competitive, emotional and we’re deeply committed to our cause. This makes us the perfect consumers. For products, yes, but also coaches, teachers, camps. They toss around words such as confidence, self esteem, emotional intelligence and brain-building. And we salivate while reaching for our wallets. So I in turn I looked at every facet of our spending and found research from National Institutes of Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, the Food & Drug Administration and dozens of other esteemed intuitions and learned – um – a lot of the results were buying are the opposite of what we’d hoped. Where are we not putting our money? Into the rock solid financial foundations that actually can launch our kids into greatness. After all this, I learned…..
- When an entire community of mothers collectively decides that buying a particular product or taking a certain class is absolutely necessary, it’s definitely not. In fact, the mother championing this effort – who’s always doing so because she needs others to validate her decisions – will quickly abandon the whole movement when the product is recalled or her own kid gets kicked out of the class, which (she’ll decide with great authority) was never very good to begin with.
- Buying the most expensive crib, car seat, bath seat or stroller will not keep our kids safer. All of these items must adhere to the same federal standards, meaning we can buy the $800 crib from baby-store-to-the-stars, Bellini, or the $150 crib from the website-to-the-unshowered, Amazon.com, and both will have undergone the same federal inspection process. The only thing guaranteed to improve the life of our children? A college education. And that’s going to cost about $107,000 per year in 2033. Best to start saving.
- Having self esteem feels good but it doesn’t lead to greater accomplishments. Our kids’ goals are accomplished only when they apply hard work and self-control – nothing else. We can buy the $200 lacrosse stick and we can hire a private coach, but that kid is only going to improve when she has the willpower to focus and practice. Willpower is like a muscle, it’s something you can build up over time. For free. At home. During breakfast.
- Buying organic produce is nice, but the departure from conventional may not bring us to the pesticide-free places we imagine. In fact, decoding supermarket labels is tricky stuff, from GMOs to Fair Trade to Biodegradeable, you have to brush up before paying up. Oh and “sustainable?” That’s not a thing.
- There’s nothing wrong with fancy schools, of course. But they tend to admit the people who would succeed anyway, before anyone’s parent writes a single tuition check. Basically, economists have discovered that the skills needed to gain acceptance into a top-performing middle school, high school or university are the same skills that propel a person to thrive in a job or business. The school the person attended? Whatevs. More importantly, when it comes to little kids, good parenting outperforms all else. Later on, our kids will have to carefully choose a field of study. What really drags down a recent graduate? Piles of debt.
About the Author:
Brett Graff is The Home Economist, writing and reporting on the unseen forces affecting our decisions about money. The reasons we spend, save, earn or even discuss finances with our kids and friends aren’t always obvious. And prices, products and circumstances are certainly not always as they seem. We are all economists, making decisions on how to allocate our resources each day. We need to be informed.
Brett’s column THE HOME ECONOMIST is nationally syndicated and published in newspapers all over the country. Her new book, “Not Buying It: Stop Overspending, and Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids,” is available on Amazon.