Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top 10 expenses other parents never warned you about

Time for another Top 10 list!

Everybody knows having children is an expensive endeavour. But most new or would-be parents naively believe that their hard-earned money will go to useful things like diapers or clothes or transport, and that they have to save up for a university education.

Wow, are they in for a surprise! Sure, these things cost quite a lot but in reality, the biggest chunk of your precious paycheck won’t be going to these necessities. Long after you’ve completed paying for your kid’s time at Montessori, you’ll be dishing out dough for other stuff, sometimes unwittingly, even willingly.

So what are these curious items? Here is my Top 10 list of where a parent’s money really goes to:

1. Cartoon merchandise

TV is bad for your kids and not just for the reason you think. After your sons become hooked on Ben 10, they will need to live and breathe Ben 10, which means they will need the Ben 10 water bottle, Ben 10 shoes, Ben 10 t-shirt, Ben 10 figurines, and of course the Omnitrix ($49.95! And it doesn’t turn you into monsters or even tell time). Likewise for girls, they must have the Winx Club mini skirt, Winx Club colouring book, Winx Club stationery set, Winx Club lunchbox. And you thought watching tv was free.

2. Tutors

This one is a no-brainer. If you live in Singapore and have kids studying in the Singapore education system, chances are you have caved in to the tuition culture. A Straits Times poll of 100 kids in primary school to JC found that only 3 had no tuition at all (maybe these kids had parents who were tutors). If you’re an English speaking family, lagi worse – sure kenah Chinese tutor. I think half the Chinese nationals here made a beeline for Singapore just to give tuition to our jiak kantang kids. It’s an attractive proposition - primary school fees are only $5.50 a month, tuition is $40 per hour.

3. Tissue

Along with their cousins, paper napkins and kitchen towels. Name a kid who’s not usually wet or dirty or has something in his hands that’s wet or dirty. And if your kid is a boy, chances are he’s a dirt magnet. We have a box of tissue in every room in the house, as well as two in the car and numerous packs in the outing bag. Half the world’s rainforest was probably felled so we could have something convenient to wipe runny noses, sticky mouths and grubby hands. I bet all the people who own shares in Kleenex are parents.

4. Handphones, ipods and other thingamajigs

If you want to spot the newest handphone model or the coolest ipod, just look to teenagers. They’re never the ones who pay for it, but they carry the latest trends while mum and dad hang on to their relic Nokia. (To be fair, it's probably because mum and dad can't figure out how to work that new-fangled thingy). IT is the new fashion icon and since technology dates faster than the speed of light, your kids will be clammering to own the newest gadgets and gidgets to hit the market. My kids are not there yet but it's a ticking time bomb... this is their world.

5. Dentist

I was recently told by Adeline that a full set of braces can cost something like $8,000. To straighten teeth, for Pete’s sake! Of course my kids have wayward teeth, darn it. I’ve suggested to Lesley-Anne and Andre that they learn to smile without showing their bottom teeth so I only need to pay half. And God forbid if you need extra work, like root canals. Dentists must be the only people where we willingly offer money for pain. I imagine dentists and orthodontists hold conventions just to celebrate the rise of the national birth rate. Afterall, their mortgages and fancy cars were probably paid by parents.

6. Little toy cars

Ok, this one generally only applies to boys but they more than make up for it for the other gender. Before I had a son, I never understood why toy stores sold a gazillion different types of miniature vehicles. I mean, a toy car is a toy car, right? Boy, was I off the mark and by a whole different planet. Every boy needs the entire collection of convertibles, sedans, 4-wheel drives, diggers, trucks, vans, buses, taxis and in EVERY SINGLE COLOUR. I would name more except I’m hampered by my limited transportation vocabulary. At the height of his craze, Andre had almost 150 little vehicles and he still complained he didn’t have “the Hong Kong taxi in blue”. By the way, the male species never outgrows this phase – the cars just get bigger.

7. Popular Bookstore

This one I’m naming specifically because it’s not just any bookshop. If studies are to be believed, bookstores in Singapore are a dying business because people are reading less and less. But Popular Bookstore sells books as an afterthought – they’re really all about assessment books and stationery, and that’s a clever business plan if I ever saw one. I have never seen parents so happy to part with their money as they cart off piles of assessment books with the hope that their blur kids will become geniuses overnight. Stationery? Another thing that requires constant replenishment. I’m convinced there’s a Bermuda Triangle somewhere in my living room where erasers, pencils and rulers inexplicable disappear.

8. Correction tape

You might think huh? Correction tape? Which probably means you don’t have in kid older than 8. When students first start using pens in school, usually at p3, they get all excited about leaving their babyish pencils behind. I used to think, good! No more hunting for erasers. Little did I know what Pandora's box I'd opened. Remember the old days when we had to colour on the white paint and wait for it to dry? Now, you just roll it on in a neat white strip, no drying needed. But naturally technology comes at a cost. I buy correction tape by the 6-pack and these last a month if I’m lucky, JUST FOR LESLEY-ANNE. I imagine correction tape companies must cheer when worksheets and test papers are difficult because the kids have to keep correcting their mistakes.

9. Batteries

You'd think it’s the toy that empties your wallet but you’re highly mistaken – it’s the 20,000 batteries you have to keep buying to keep that darn remote control car going. I think toy makers conspire with battery makers to produce toys that suck up battery fluid faster than Andre can polish off a chocolate milkshake. And it’s not just toys – it’s watches, calculators, e-dictionaries and anything else with moving parts. When my kids get Christmas or birthday presents, these three little words strike fear in my heart: Batteries Not Included.

10. Ikea

Another store I’m naming. They’re so clever, these folks at Ikea. Everything is bright and colourful and enticing and with an innocent looking price-tag. With a personal membership book for your little one, big playroom and even kids’ trolleys, you think this is kids heaven. A three-legged lime green stool? Sure! Finger puppets? Why not! Before you know it, you have signed for the delivery of a trundle bed because of its cute giraffe appliqu├ęs, along with the matching orange wardrobe that looks like it emerged from some psychedelic cartoon. And we can even have Swedish meatballs before we leave! You know their tagline “You don’t have to be rich to be clever”? They’re probably right because once we enter the store, our IQ drops about 50 points.

I’m as much a victim of these nefarious individuals and companies as the next parent. But it’s a free market and I can’t really complain. Nobody forced me to buy all that stuff right? I just think that the gahmen should get these parties to contribute to the Baby Bonus – afterall, when couples have more children, they’re the ones laughing all the way to the bank.


Lilian said...

Your Top 10 list is quite different from what I imagine mine would be :) Maybe being away from Singapore helps.

You're right about No10 Ikea though. I always spend more than intended once I step in, aiyoh, so many nice things to buy. I still haven't bought that big green snake yet though. Wait for your next birthday party then maybe my kids can win it :P

About No1, the boys watch a lot of TV but I'm the one egging them to buy Ben10 stuff, and they just aren't interested. And No9 Batteries? I just hate presents which require batteries that aren't included...gratification isn't immediate and that just spoils the fun after opening the present. We end up forgetting about the toys after a while.

Can totally relate to Bermuda Triangle of stationeries, it's so frustrating. And No7 Popular, I've spent a mini fortune there, 90% of which end up unused...

So which is the best brand of correction tape?

Lilian said...

I learnt a new word today: Nefarious :P

bACk in GERMANY said...

I'd like to add...

And when times aren't well, these people's profits still balloon...

Bravo, Mon, yet another Top 10's that speak to the soul of each parent!
Aiyoh... if someone had pointed me to these hidden costs before the kids came along...

monlim said...

Lilian: I'm curious to know what'll be on your list! Ikea snake, you're too late lah, all prizes given out already and I don't think they sell it anymore (at least in SG). Correction tape? Toyo. I used to buy the Popular brand cos it was cheaper until I realised it only had half the amount of tape! See, must read all the fine print, even when buying stationery.

Cindy: yah, these businesses are practically recession-proof! And aiyah, even if somebody had warned you, would you have not had kids? Nah, you'll be like me, just go with the flow! :D

Lilian said...

There must be an art to using these correction tapes, we always end up spoiling ours. And I've bought refills but didn't know how to attach them! Waste money!

I spent a lot more when we were in Sg, on enrichment for Brian. Chess lah, piano lah, chinese tuition lah. Once we left, no more such spending. Also don't spend much on tissues, comes with the territory of messy, lazy, mums. Eddie is always nagging at me to keep tissue/wet-wipes in my bag. Can't remember lah.

Maybe cos we're in Moscow, really nothing to buy. I don't think I can come up with a Top 10 list of kids stuff lah!

monlim said...

Lilian: I can't believe we're having a discourse on correction tape! You know, they're not all made equal. Some are crap, cannot work properly one. When in doubt, ask the kids! And I never buy refills cos the original case is so easy to break.

So raising a kid is cheaper in Moscow! I'm sure the SG gahmen will want you to come back then - help spend to stimulate the economy...

Lilian said...

I more than make up for the spending every time I'm back in Sg. It gets so out of hand I'm a bit scared to go back, just spend too much.

Anyway, the economy seems to still be chugging along, I hear restaurants are still packed, and hotel room rates haven't really come down much the last I checked (yesterday). People are still buying property! I'm like, what's up??

Anonymous said...

Keep the Top 10s coming !

Merchandise : I have two young

Tutors : yes, on the bandwagon for this for piano, swimming and chinese.

Tissue : just this morning I was wondering how my dd 1 could use that mountain of tissues for breakfast..

Mobiles : not yet not yet ...although dd 1's has friends who already have their own with "special" numbers given by their grandparents.

Dentist : not yet but if they inherit dad and mum's teeth (big teeth, small mouth)..better put aside a savings plan for this.

Toy Cars : for girls its stuffed toys....kept in IKEA storage.

Popular : I think I went beserk at their book fair end of last year ... my first time ...

Correction Tape : we have come a long way from the bottle and brush type...

Batteries : one reason why we won't get a Wii - the wii-mote sucks up bats like a camel to water !

Ikea : am one of those parents that eagerly thumb through their new catalogs...all the components add up ... even have the brown hedgehog which my kids (and other kids!) love.

Alcovelet said...

I totally agree with you on the cars (how can it be possible to have so many cars when they only have a pair of hands??), the batteries (they're actually magnets for sucking money out of your wallet), and Ikea! Never mind the merchandise- Ikea fried chicken wings is awesome!

eunice said...

Monica, you forgot wet wipes, especially if your child is always dirty. I buy them by the truckload when I go back to Sin cos they are more expensive here.

Ikea...ooooo... love it. Always end up buying loads for myself.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....I don't quite fit your top 10 profile

Merchandise : Well, the cartoon love is not so much my kid...more of me, I buy and collect.... :P bwaaaaaah

Tutors : Not exactly tutors but non-acad enrichment??? :D

Tissue : reasonable usage except when nose is running

Mobiles : got an unknown brand second hand model for my kid as an emergency phone

Dentist : not yet but maybe need to invest..

Toy Cars : yes, heaps of games

Popular : not many assessment books at home compared to most families. If I buy, it is for me to read not for my kid to do... :D

Correction Tape : Not yet so currently is ERASERS.. Bought so much I thought could last till P6, I was SO WRONG!!! *horror*

Batteries : Usually store one pack but yes almost everything needs battery!!!

Ikea : I don't frequent Ikea at all, only if really really necessary. Find their products filmsy.

So am I living in SG? :S


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