10 Top Parenting Money Wasters Part I

If parents earned a dollar for every “life-changing” baby item they bought in the first five years of parenting, their kid’s college tuition would be paid in full before birth. While I love a good social media-influenced list of “Must Have Child-Friendly” products, the more valuable list outlines goods and services that parents don’t need. Parenting is a learn as you go process and I have learned that the following are definitely money wasters.

Don’t Buy These!

Old School Toy
Photo credit: Lynne Conner

1.  529 College Plan—Saving money for a child’s college education is the goal of many parents; however, this is not the way to do it. The biggest “perks” of a 529 plan are: money invested in the account grows tax-free, and parents using a plan to pay a child’s college tuition receive a tax break. When our oldest started college, we discovered many downsides to the 529 plan administered through our home state. 

For starters, the money we had invested in the plan had limited growth potential and could only be moved to different portfolios twice each year. Funds in the plan were subject to fees upon withdrawal for tuition. Since we hadn’t invested much money in the 529, the fees took a big bite out of the account’s overall balance. Scheduling the 529 funds for disbursement to the university had to be done at least five business days ahead of when tuition was due. This requirement added an extra step in the relatively easy tuition payment process.

During the 14 years that our oldest child’s 529 was active, the account made around $150 on a total investment of $1,000. This means that our annual ROI was a negative 11.88 percent! Save yourself money, time, and multiple headaches; talk to a certified financial planner for better ways to save for college.

 2.  Baby Wipe Warmer—Understandably, parents want their baby to be as comfortable as possible; but this is overkill. In addition to the environmental impact of using baby wipes for every diaper change, the heating element uses electricity and could overheat. The inside of the warmer can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Baby wipes have their place for on-the-go clean-ups, but everyday use of wipes can be most harsh on delicate skin. Skip the wipe warmer and invest in some color-coded washcloths to use specifically for diaper changes. 

3.  Big Heavy StrollersGetting a matching stroller and car seat combo might seem like convenient one-stop shopping, but realistically, the last thing you need to drag out of the car is a big heavy stroller. Since most stores have shopping carts that are compatible with baby carrier car seats, the need for a heavy stroller is unnecessary. A lighter-weight stroller for the car and a canvas umbrella-type stroller strictly for use in home use are your best bets. I found that moving baby from room to room in an umbrella stroller was much easier than carrying a bouncy seat around the house.

4.  Gender-Specific Shorts, Sandals, Snow Pants & Boots–While I thoroughly enjoyed dressing each of my kids in gender-specific outfits, I found it more economical to buy dark-colored snow pants and boots for my oldest. Light-colored winter gear shows dirt more easily and black or navy outerwear can be handed down to younger siblings of either sex. The same idea applies to shorts and sandals. Basic blue jean shorts go with any colored shirt, and dark sandals show less dirt and are acceptable for girls and boys alike.

5.  Diapertainment–This is a relatively new product consisting of a clear acrylic “sleeve” mounted over a baby’s changing table. The parent can place their cell phone in the plastic holder, and their baby can watch a video while having a diaper change. Really?? When has changing a baby’s diaper necessitated digital entertainment? Yes, babies squirm and wriggle during changing time; but this is the perfect opportunity for parents to use toys, songs, and picture books to distract kids. Children learn practically everything by reading faces and interacting with others; why start them on screen time any sooner than absolutely necessary?

Coming next week: Part Two of My Top 10 List of Biggest Parenting Money Wasters

Editor’s Note: pbcjolt.com does not receive any monetary compensation for the products or services discussed in this article.

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