10 Things I Don’t Buy My Kids (and 10 Things I Do Buy Them)

Personal finance is one of my loves, minimalism is another. And I kind of like my kids, too. But I don’t express my love by buying things. In fact, fewer toys is associated with more creative play and longer play time. I focus more on healthful habits, family time, and skill development.

I previously wrote about things I do not buy anymore, which has been our most popular post to date! Here are lists of some of the things I do and don’t buy my children.

Of course, both lists have and will change over time, but here’s where we are today.

What I don’t buy my kids

1. Kids’ meals. Ordering off the regular menu provides more food for less money and without a useless plastic toy. (We do make exceptions if my kids are out with friends, or if the kid’s meal comes with dessert rather than a toy.)

2. Drive-thru meals. We do not eat in the car. Sitting together at the table is my favorite part of the day. It’s a family value we want to instill in our children.

3. Juice/soda. They drink filtered tap water, except on special occasions.

4. Individually wrapped snacks from the store or vending machine or snack bar items. These cost more money. More importantly, they also produce more waste. We buy regular or family-sized packages and pack snacks in reusable containers. We also bring reusable water bottles everywhere we go.

5. Souvenirs. I have no problem with a child bringing home shells from the beach, but we don’t go into gift shops. I did make an exception for my daughter’s birthday this year. She picked out three items from the gift shop: a cup, pencil with eraser, and wand*. Literally all three were broken within a day!

*She was playing with a stick, and actually had more fun chasing wild peacocks from a distance with a stick then she had playing with that sparkly wand that’s now in a landfill.

6. Toys that are likely to get played with once or twice, then forgotten. Such items include small plastic toys, (most) toys with batteries, kits of any kind (great idea, but rarely used), and anything that takes time to set-up.

7. Licensed products (e.g., with T.V. characters). Child-marketing can be hard to avoid. One year the only doctor set I could find had a famous T.V. toy doctor. If someone gifts my child a toy or piece of clothing with a character, we will gladly accept it. However, when I am shopping for my kids I purposely chose items (clothes, toys, food, etc.) without characters. I am proud to say my daughter can’t name a single princess.

8. Anything not on our list. If they see a toy in the store they like, they can hold it while we are there but have to but it back before we l eave. If there is something they want, we encourage them to write it on their wish-list. This helps them with their writing skills. It also increases their awareness of how their desires can change over time. Plus, grandparents are always asking for what they want, and it’s helpful to have a list ready.

9. Movie theater passes. This is my personal issue. It’s been 20 years since I worked as an usher and I’m still haunted by what I saw when the houselights were up.

10. Annual passes. In years past we’ve gotten passes to a theme park, aquarium, zoo, or museum. But this year we decided to try something different and explore local festivals and fairs.*

*For more on this, read about our Year of Free Entertainment!

What I do buy my kids

1. Writing suppliesnotebooks/journals, fun pencils and pens

2. Art suppliescrayons, markers, paint, chalk, dough, magnet doodle pads, aqua doodle pads

3. Balls and Sports equipment – are Nerf and laser tag considered sports?

4. Activities and Classesswim team, gymnastics, Scouts

5. Blocks – including Legos, K’nex, Lincoln logs

6. Bikes, scooters, skates, skateboards

7. Books (though they also enjoy going to the library)

8. Healthy food – mostly homemade based around vegetables, fruits, beans, rice, and nuts, with some meat (this also keeps our food costs way down)

9. Ice cream (I’m not a monster!)

10. Tablets – (these were gifts from grandparents). My school-aged child does math flashcards and reads e-books; my preschooler does puzzles and has the caption on when watching shows/listening to songs. We do set the parental controls, including a curfew to limit screen time.

Wow! I’m surprised I was able to come up with 10 things I do buy my kids. I mean it that although I don’t buy them much stuff, we do spend a lot of time together as a family. Today (Sat) we are all going to a Scouting event at a park with our friends. Tomorrow (Sun), we have a playdate at the playground. These are the things (plus lovingly chasing peacocks) I hope my children will remember.


What are some of the things you don’t buy your children? What things or experiences would you like more of in their lives?


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6 thoughts on “10 Things I Don’t Buy My Kids (and 10 Things I Do Buy Them)”

  1. I really like your list. We are very fortunate to have a Toy Lending Library in our town. Every 4 weeks, I go and choose 2 toys for my 3 year old granddaughter to play with. She loves it. Better for the environment too and she never gets bored of the toys.
    I love your caption idea for cartoons. I’m going to try that for sure.

  2. My daughter almost exclusively buys used toys for our toddler grandson at local thrift shops. Recently she found a beautiful, perfect condition, wood “kitchen” from Pottery Barn for $5 at a thrift shop! Children tire of toys quickly, so she often resells them or donates them back to the shops 😉

    1. Soo true, Robbie. My 3- and 1-year-olds wants to draw, paint, or stack blocks every day, but they tire of other toys so quickly. Great idea to get toys from the thrift shop then donate/sell them back once the kids tire of them!

  3. Great list. We do all that too, except I don’t do Legos or similar sets. We have a set of wooden blocks and trains for the younger kids, but no legos. I got tired of picking up random pieces from my first kid and gifted them all one day. We go to a Lego club at the library once a week for an hour. The legos and mess stay at the library, while we make new friends. Much happier mama that way!

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