Grandparents are known for spoiling the children in their lives. However, there are times when this can become excessive. A recent study done by the AARP found that the average American grandparent spends over $2,500 a year on their grandchildren, totaling almost $18 million a year. Although this is fun for the children, it can have some negative and unwanted effects when spent in the wrong ways. The following are areas where grandparent spending has become excessive, and ways to keep the windfall both helpful and sane.
1. Choose books over clothes
Designer clothes are one of the top buys among grandparents with the cash. However, this can be a waste in many ways. Children outgrow clothing quickly so many of these garments get little use. In addition, they often don’t understand that expensive clothes need to be treated differently from their favorite overalls. Rather than feeding their love of fashion with designer duds, experts suggest that you feed their brains with books and games.
2. Set limits on toys
What child doesn’t love toys? Because toys are guaranteed to produce smiles, grandparents shower their grandchildren with the latest doodads and electronics. However, this can be overwhelming to children and lead to entitled behavior. If you decide to give toys – and who can resist? – try to give just one or two. Choose reasonably priced toys, remembering that small children often love the box as much as its contents. Your grandchild will appreciate a few modest gifts more and your wallet will feel a bit heavier as well.
3. Avoid big surprises
Perhaps you want to surprise your grandchild with a surprise trip to Disneyland or another deluxe vacation. However, big trips and vacations should never be a surprise to the parents who must arrange for childcare, medicines, and other trip supplies. Even then, many children become fussy and overwhelmed when a huge surprise such as a trip is spring on them. If you are tempted to surprise your little one, surprise them with a day trip and make sure their parents are part of the planning.
With the money saved, consider opening a college savings plan such as a 529 account. These accounts will not count against children in financial aid applications and also are tax-free.
4. Consider whether handmade items and heirlooms are appropriate for a child
Everyone wants the beloved children in their lives to have something with which to remember them. You may be tempted to give your grandchild your silver spoon from infancy or a homemade quilt.
While these items are meant to be passed down, consider leaving them for a later date. A college-aged or newly married grandchild will treasure these items and put them to good use.
Although it can be difficult to find the right balance, this is a balance that every grandparent must achieve. Your relationship with your children and grandchildren depends on learning to be a pleasant and balanced part of your family’s life.