Why Parents Should Spend Less Money on Toys and Take More Family Vacations


With Halloween and Thanksgiving coming soon and Christmas coming a bit further, there’s a lot of spending to do for families on gifts and toys for the children.

Many families spend (for some, arguably waste) hundreds or thousands of dollars on gifts or toys. It doesn’t help the families that Christmas is in between Black Friday, Boxing Week, and Cyber Monday either.

As per a report from Forbes, in 2016, the average parent was ready to spend over $1,700 over the holiday season. Maya Kachroo-Levine, a personal finance writer, emphasized how much of that money was going towards the kids.

 “Parents are predicted to spend $495 per child this year, which is nearly $100 more than they spent [in 2015].”

A Gallup poll shows that U.S. adults usually spent around $885 on gifts in 2018. The range of these findings can be found below:

  • 33% plan to spend at least $1000
  • 22% plan to spend $500-$999
  • 29% plan to spend $100-$499
  • 3% plan to spend less than $100

This is why Britain’s best-selling psychological author, Oliver James, states that parents should spend all the money they plan on spending that Christmas on holidays. Oliver argues that children either don’t value or don’t want the gifts they receive.

Oliver says that “The whole business of providing material commodities for kids – in ever more expensive forms as they get older – is entirely 100 percent, about propping up the industry that profits from it. On the other hand, family holidays are definitely valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterwards in their memory. So if you’re going to spend money on something, it’s pretty clear which option makes more sense.”

A Cornell University psychology professor, Thomas Gilovich, conducted eye-opening studies about this very subject. He concluded that humans get their happiness not from material things, but the experiences they’ve had in their lives.

Gilovich and his research partner T.J. Carter published a study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2012 in which they researched the kind of purchases that make humans happy.

They learned that when purchasing experiences versus possessions, people felt the most regret when not attending some concerts, as opposed to not buying a new sofa, for example.

Gilovich published a study in 2014 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in which he states that experiences are what holds our social lives together. While he was doing this research, he found that experimental purchases:

  • It can enhance social relations more effectively than material things.
  • Form a larger part of the identity of the person.
  • They evoke fewer social comparisons and are evaluated more on their terms than material things.

The gifts you buy are temporary, whereas the memories from a trip can last forever. However, children do not appreciate stuff such as fine art or cultural history. The mistake that parents make is that they expect their kids to love what they love about vacations. However, James explains that:

 “Children see the world differently, though consumption for example: the way that French cafes have Organgina instead of Fanta is fascinating to kids, and details like that will stick with them for long after the holiday ends. Give a two-year-old a present and she’ll get absorbed in the box instead. It’s similar with children and travel. We should let them explore their own ways of finding wonder in their surroundings.”

Parents usually work full-time jobs and children go to school for long hours. Time needs to be made to create a healthy parent-child relationship.

To make things worse, toys are made alongside screens and batteries. Because of this, thoughtful and intimate gifts can distance family members from each other.

James is not saying that all toys are bad. However, make sure that if you haven’t given your child some kind of experience in the holiday season, make sure you do this year.

Children will value the possibility they create for prolonged periods of playfulness with their parents.

If you can afford it, take a plane or scout out some local spot that you haven’t went with your children this Christmas. It will be an amazing experience for your children that will be left in their memory for the rest of their lives.






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