If we lived in a vacuum, my father’s salary would be considered pretty good.
We don’t live in a vacuum. My parents had six kids. Three members of the family (Dad and two sisters) are diabetics, each with more gadgetry and technology strapped to their waists than you can find anywhere outside of the International Space Station.
The insulin pumps cost over six grand each. They also have blood checkers, the strips that go in checkers, needles, and insulin itself. These are expensive! Diabetes also tends to cause other health problems. My family keeps many of the doctors around town in business.
As a consequence, we did not have a lot of money while I was growing up.
Candy was treated like gold.
Visits to restaurants were rare. Taking the entire family-all eight of us-to McDonald’s generally cost around seventy bucks. Without fail, my sister Emily would ask for her birthday that we all go to McDonald’s. I was often furious. McDonald’s? Really? There were much better restaurants out there!


I didn’t go to a place that required tipping until I was twenty two, and my friends had to show me how it was done.

We didn’t have cable, internet access or fancy stereos. Most of my childhood clothes were hand-me-downs from uncles, or bought from the DI. I got a phone when I could pay for it, after high school.
I’m not saying we were desperately poor. My parents were very good at stretching their dollars.


We were never hungry, and our childhoods were quite close to ideal.
Plus, this enforced frugality has added benefits now that I’m older.
My family tells me that I’m so tight I squeak. It causes me physical pain when I pull out my wallet at the checkout.
I never spend money. I spend less than twenty five a week on groceries. And since I pay my own way through college, my cheapness means I have enough to pay for tuition.
It also means that I am easily satisfied. Panda Express is a major splurge, and I’m happy with a good book on my birthday.
I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, except perhaps that you don’t have to give your kids a lot of stuff when they’re young. If you can’t afford that new blu-ray player or a TV, or your kid doesn’t get a phone until he can pay for it himself, life will go on. Living simply is not a bad thing. Kids don’t need Wiis to be happy. They just need a stable home, food on the table, and a stimulated imagination.
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Just don’t overdo it.

Though I encourage you to take them to enough restaurants so that they know Subway isn’t fancy.