Why I Don’t Buy My Kids Nice Things

This mom refuses to spoil her kids — and it's paying off.

First, a disclaimer: I know the below falls strictly under the “white people” and “first world” problems categories and I am OK with that.

The fact is, I was raised to understand that there was not a lot of money laying around. If I wanted new shoes or to go to the movies with my friends, I had to pay for it myself. My brothers and I got allowances, and starting at age 12, I worked. I detasseled summer corn, which any good Midwesterner knows means waking up at 4 a.m. to start work at 5 a.m. and walking the dewy, mosquito-filled rows of corn, yanking off their tassels for the sake of cross-pollination. It was horrible but also fun, because working for your own money is fun. It still is.

Click to read more about why one mom doesn’t let Santa spoil her kids.

It was made clear early on that there was no money for college, a car or things like weddings or a down payment on a house. That was fine. I never expected that and never felt entitled to those gifts.

Fast-forward to today. Like my own mother, I am a divorced mom. My kids are 8 and 10, and my business has grown quickly, with high margins. I bought a New York City apartment in an up-and-coming neighborhood a long time ago. The stock market, in case you have been living under a rock, has gone bananas in the past decade.

Financially, I’m good. But I don’t buy my kids luxurious things. For that matter, I don’t buy them much at all.

More on Being a Successful Single Mom: Best and Worst States for Single Parents to Raise a Family

In my 41 years, I have met and known a lot of people: people raised with wealth, married wealth, inherited wealth. I also know people who made their own success — whether that success was measured in money or other metrics.

Here is one thing I know: If you don’t earn your own success, you don’t value it as much as you would otherwise. Also, you don’t get the fun of earning your own money. That is a bummer. It really isn’t “success,” is it? I know many women that married men who earn enough so they don’t have to work. So, they don’t, or they fiddle around with hobbies or half-assed businesses that go nowhere. These are smart people, doing all the right things — except hustling. Compare them with my friends who are also smart, doing the right things, but have to feed their children, too. There is a reason that 70 percent of generational wealth is squandered by the second generation.

Who knows where my business will go or if some tragic event will turn out lives around. I cannot predict that. But my kids will be working when they are tweens and beyond. I will cancel my life insurance policy once they are out of college (which they will be responsible for paying at least some of).

Kids Paying for College?: The Best Schools in Every State That Cost Under $20,000 a Year

Instead of cash and stuff, I prioritize in my parenting values and experience. My son and daughter have long received an allowance, half of which they can spend, a quarter is saved and a quarter that will be given away to a charity of their choice. When they recently needed desks for the room they share (yes, a boy and a girl can share a room; they like it and are close as a result), they received that furniture and some cool (inexpensive) clear Lucite chairs as birthday gifts. Those chairs double as extra dining seating in the case of company — part of my larger lifestyle mission which prioritizes minimalist living, which I wrote about on my blog Wealthysinglemommy.com. We recently backpacked around Vietnam, a gift they received for Christmas (a pack of guidebooks and children’s novels about the country were under the tree).

What my kids don’t understand now, but I hope will appreciate in the future, is that my money is not their money. They benefit from my money mainly because not only do they get to live in a safe neighborhood with nice schools, eat good food and have access to quality medical care, but our home is not dominated by the anxiety that comes with poverty. As I age (or should become unwell), I will not likely be a burden on them financially or logistically. These are things that do not come with a price tag, yet require a certain income, which is a huge luxury that I enjoy giving my children and hope they will grow to appreciate.

Read More: This Woman Is Grateful Her Parents Made Her Do Physical Labor