The story of the second hand boy in the safe shabby neigbhourhood

“Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them”
P.J. O’Rourke

Parents tell you that having children is expensive and it can be. There are some expenses that nobody should compromise on like medical care, hygiene and nutrition. There are others that can be managed and some costs that should be avoided entirely.

When it comes to our children the two most significant cost drivers stem from very noble intentions:

  • Personal Security (fear)
  • Quality Education

We happily live in the inner city until our children arrive. Before birth, or soon after, we flee to the suburbs. We want our children to grow up in a safe neighbourhood where they will be able to play outdoors without threat of personal violence or abduction.

We also seek a house in a good school district so that our children can have the best education money can buy.

This means that we are all competing for very sought after, and therefore rare and expensive homes. They must be in just the right part of town, very close to a good school and not too far from our place of work. If it is further away we accept higher travel or commuter costs in addition to the increased housing costs because the benefits for our children come first.

I am not suggesting parents do not have the right to keep their child safe or give their child access to a good education. Both of these should be foremost in any parents mind. It’s just that leaping to the safe home in the good school district (and all the extra costs) should occur only after considering the alternatives.

Perhaps we could achieve these noble aims of safety and education without incurring a heavy burden of exaggerated mortgage debt loaded on our families.  Before moving form a conscious plan to make sure your child is safe, smart and cheap. Maybe moving is the best choice, but maybe it isn’t.

There are many other areas where you can spend virtually nothing. Our boy is a second hand baby. We buy boxes of used clothing for 50 cents. We have also been given many items from people with children that have outgrown them. Second hand baby clothes are usually in very good condition because children grow so fast. First time parents also tend to buy more ‘cute’ outfits than their newborn could ever wear. It is not unusual for us to find a ‘second hand’ piece of clothing with the price sticker still attached to the label.

We have built a vast toy library without having every bought a single toy. The toys have been gifts from friends and family and donations of second hand toys from children who have outgrown them.  Small children can be very generous donating their toys to the new baby. Especially when they suspect (probably correctly) that their parents will rush right out and reward them with new toys.

Toys aren’t even that important to kids. Our little boy is far more fascinated by household items like clothes pegs. He’s spent more time retrieving the broom from the cupboard that he has spent examining any of the expensive made in China electronic plastic toys. I think toys are entirely unnecessary if you can’t get them cheap or free. A baby could be totally stimulated by engaged parents and frequently changing household items to suck, manipulate and examine.

We bought $500 worth of cloth nappies. Including all laundry costs we will save about $4700 on nappies over two years.  Disposable nappies are terrible for the environment, unhealthy for the poor garbage man (I mean who would seriously think that it’s okay to poo in their rubbish bin and then put it out to the street for pick up!), and hideously expensive. The good news is that with modern cloth nappies you can outfit a child for two years for a small one time cost.

Sometimes we do feel a little bit guilty when we deny buying something for our son. When these situations arise we remind ourselves of three things:

  1. He is so young that it matters more us that it matters to him. He certainly won’t remember that he didn’t have the Hasbro Winky Doodle 400 when he was 10 months old.
  2. Not having things when we were kids made us feel hard-done by at the time, but we both learnt to appreciate and care for what we had. We had to use our imagination to play rather than rely on a device for entertainment.  We also learnt a vital lesson about life -you can’t have everything that you desire, but if you nag enough you might just get the thing you desire (be persistent)!
  3. When our child(ren) reflect on their lives they won’t remember their toys. We hope instead that they will remember that we were both there to kick soccer balls, build huts in the forest, go on bike rides and play silly games with them. This is our greatest gift from and utmost benefit from not having to work a mcjob everyday.

Children can be expensive, but we don’t think that they need to be.

What kids want most from you is your time. Not toxic plastic toys made in China. Choose to be penniless and participating over rich and absent.

2 thoughts on “The story of the second hand boy in the safe shabby neigbhourhood

  1. Great post. Some of my fondest memories came from not having what everyone else seemed to have. I played with sticks and rocks, climbed trees, caught bugs, and fished just about every day. Guess what I still love to do?

    Pretty much all of those things (although people look at me funny when I climb trees now).

    I guess my point is, my parents felt bad about not buying me all of the toys and things other kids had, but I’m very grateful they didn’t. I got to use my imagination and spend time enjoying nature while everyone else got pale and fat playing Nintendo (:

    I like your 3 points a lot, all very true.

  2. I needle my mates to pull a sickie because it can get boring with spare time. If I can get them we go fight, swim, bike and drink. Pretty much the same as when we were 10….accept the flavour of the refreshments.It makes you think. If that is what I like to do…why did I study and work so much and how much working do you really need to fund this lifestyle? Answer: not very much…

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