Fit Kids, Fat Wallets: 5 Healthy Habits That Save $$

young-child-with-healthy-smileYou may have heard the saying, “Your kids are likely to become who you are, so be someone you’re proud of.” Kids take their cues from Mom and Dad. Your habits will be their habits. Take an look in the mirror and decide what you might be able to save while giving them a shot at a healthier future.

  • If you haven’t already, QUIT SMOKING! This is the holy grail … the Big Kahuna. There’s no single bad habit that has more grievous future consequences than this one. Cigarettes are a death sentence — no question about it. The other day, while in line to buy a newspaper, we saw a woman buy two packs of cigs and the daily rag for a total of $15.87! Are you kidding? The last time we took a drag (not proud of it), was in college and a pack cost 50 cents.
  • Drive past the drive-thru. It’s soooo tempting for busy parents to grab a quick meal on the way to soccer practice, or at the end of an exhausting day. And it’s so cheap, right? Well, no. Those Happy Meals add up, and you’re paying for empty calories and colorful packaging, no nutrition included. Plan ahead and prepare easy-to-cook dinners in giant ziploc bags with fresh or frozen veggies and protein for a quick stir fry. Add some crusty bread or high fiber pasta and you’ve got a delicious home cooked meal for pennies on the dollar. For bonus points, have the kids join you in the kitchen for meal planning and organization. They’re more likely to eat it if they made it.
  • Make ‘em pay for screen time. Keep a basket on the counter with individual household chores written on popsicle sticks. To get TV or computer time, they must choose one and complete the task. Make it seem like a bargain by offering slightly more screen time than the time it takes to complete the task. They can store their sticks to redeem as they like. Keeps them busy, saves you elbow grease (and cleaning help), and teaches the value of hard work. Not to mention those calories burned.
  • Speaking of screen time … Instead of hosting the neighborhood kids for endless after school computer games, make it a basketball (or relay race, or soccer) challenge. How many families in your neighborhood have hoops that sit unused while the kids are indoors playing that expensive new video game (that you’ll be replacing with a new expensive game next month)? Instead, bar the door and incentivize a neighborhood game of HORSE or 3-on-3. Healthy snacks are good bribes. Small prizes are even better. Once they get into the competitive groove you can slow down on the rewards.
  • Start the summer job routine early. As soon as they start to balk at those Y summer camps (usually by middle school), introduce the idea of replacing a few of them with small summer or vacation jobs. Every ‘tween and teen can do something, whether it’s walking the neighbor’s dog  or painting a fence. Praise them lavishly for their work ethic and consider offering to “match” a small piece of what they earn to reward extra-special efforts. It keeps them active, and whatever it costs is way less than those pricey camps.

These are just a few ideas. There are many more, and I’m sure you’ve already thought of some. And in case you’re wondering if you may be expecting too much of your precious darlings, remember parenting rule #14 … never do for them what they’re able to do for themselves!

 

 

 

 

 

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.


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