We ALL waste money – we all buy things we don’t really need (just want), buy things for ourselves and our kids purely because they make us happy or make our lives easier.
And you know what? To me those things are often justified IF people can afford them, so this isn’t going to be a list of the typical money wasters you read about, like a daily Starbucks, designer kids clothing, eating out or gym memberships.
But there are some things that parents spend money on that are a waste of money even if they can afford them – why? Because they are being bought on false information and do not deliver on their promises or they are inherently just a waste of money. Here are the six top contenders for the biggest money wasters that parents are guilty of:
1. Organic food
People who buy organic foods are usually doing so because they think that this food is better or safer for their families and accept this comes at a premium. This was a big concern for me personally and I’ll admit, I totally bought into it. But then I looked into it more and discovered that the evidence shows that organic foods are not any more nutritious, organic farmers also use fertilizers and pesticides (which vary widely in terms of how eco-friendly and safe they are for humans), don’t taste better and also need to use more land because their yields aren’t as good as conventional farming yields (and given our growing world populations, I really think we need to be more efficient with the land we already farm).
That being said, I still buy certain organic food brands (because they are tasty though, not because they are organic) and I will usually opt to buy organic eggs if I can’t find any conventional ones that are free-run or free range because that is important to me.
2. Anything homoeopathic
Not to be confused with naturopathy (which has some legitimate alternative remedies proven to work), homoeopathy was invented by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 who theorized that, according to him, “a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people” (ok, this is similar to vaccines, so on the right track). But here is the kicker – the main premise of homoeopathy is that the more dilute the active ingredient, the more potent it is and more effective it is at curing people because the water has “memory” of the ingredient. Um ok.
Too bad that it goes against all the rules of biochemistry, physics and pharmacology (its like saying vodka will get you more drunk the more more water you add to it). Not surprisingly, it has not been proven to effectively treat any condition and no homoeopathic remedy has even been proven more effective than a placebo (which isn’t shocking, given that the main ingredients are sugar, water or alcohol – the same things placebos are made of). Yet in the US people spent $3 Billion in 2007 alone on these
homoeopathic remedies sugar pills (because lets call them what they really are) and that number is growing steadily every year.
Also, because these “medicines” are not regulated by entities like the FDA, or are only loosely regulated in Canada, we really don’t know what we are getting and if its even safe. Recently a scientist tested a homoeopathic pet calming medicine that turned out to be 13% alcohol – it wasn’t “calming” the pets – it was getting them drunk!
While there are some supplements that are truly beneficial, many dieticians and nutritionists insist that most of the supplements people are taking are not necessary. And given that they are also expensive to add to your daily routine, why waste the money if you don’t need to?
But one thing that many people fail to keep in mind that just because they come from natural sources like plants, that it doesn’t mean they are safe by default. A great example is St. John’s wort – a plant based supplement that is often used as a “natural” treatment for depression. Not only does it come with a list of serious potential side effects when used on its own, it can pose additional risks when mixed with certain pharmaceuticals (like reducing the effectiveness of the birth control pill).
But the main reason its a money waster? Because of recent studies that have shown that up to 80% of all supplements sold don’t contain any DNA of the plant that the bottle states the pills inside are supposedly made of and are instead full of fillers. Yikes!
4. Kids’ vitamins
I’m sure many parents struggle with making sure that their kids eat a balanced, nutritious diet. And I’m sure many of them thought that “oh well, at least they take a multivitamin” when their 3 year old only agrees eat plain white pasta with butter for the 4th day in a row (or was that just me?).
But according to registered dietician, Sarah Remmer, unless your kids is “an extremely picky eater, failing to thrive or has several food restrictions” they really don’t need them. There are some exceptions like Vitamin D and Omega-3 supplements, however even the need for these should be discussed with your child’s doctor and not just thrown into the grocery cart and given to your kid “just in case.” Not only that, but vitamins just aren’t absorbed as well by the body when they come in pill form as compared to when they come from food and there is even the risk over overdosing on vitamins when taken in pill/gummy form, which can be very dangerous.
So take that $10-$15 a month that you are spending on vitamins and instead, invest it in an RESP.
5. Products that claim to reverse damage
Motherhood can do a number on you – stretch marks, weight gain, cellulite, damaged skin, damaged hair…to just not having the time (or energy) to properly care for yourself, many of us moms just feel very frumpy a lot of the time. So when products promise to take those things away or reserve the damage caused by pregnancy, sleepless nights and not having enough time to visit the hair dresser/gym/spa, many of us jump on it.
But in reality, there is no evidence that any of them work. Stretch marks? Well, thank your mom for those. Evidence shows that whether or not a woman will get stretch marks depends on genetics and how much weight she gains during pregnancy. Any cream that promised to help prevent or diminish the appearance of them is 100% lying to you. The most those creams do is provide some relief from itching.
Similarly with creams, lotions, serums or whatever that promise to get rid of cellulite, “reverse” signs of aging or fix split ends. You cannot undo that damage any more than you can unscramble an egg, according to this industry insider. What you CAN do is exercise more, eat healthier food, wear sunscreen to prevent skin damage and, for the split ends, get regular haircuts etc (sigh – admit it, you knew this already).
6. Credit card interest
Credit card interest is the definition of wasting money. I don’t care how rich you are – any time you don’t pay your full credit card balance off or don’t pay it in time, you are charged interest as high as 30%. Even if you CAN afford it, wouldn’t that money be better spent on saving for retirement, a charitable donation or heck, even lighting it on fire (watching it burn would at least provide you with entertainment)?
Credit cards can be a useful tool however, but its important to treat them with respect – something which I discuss in more detail in a past post.
Think I missed something? Leave me a comment!
Scientific American – Fact or Fiction? Vitamin Supplements Improve Your Health
Sarah Remmer – Registered Dietitian
A System review of systemic reviews of homoeopathy in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Are the clinical effects of homoepathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy in The Lancet