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The Most Unfrugal Purchase I’ve Made in Years

Buying your kids things for road trips

She really isn’t spoiled. Look at that creativity on the homemade hat!

Shannon from Financially Blonde had a great post on last week about how she almost never pays full price for anything. After reading that post, I tend to agree with her point of view that planning and shopping around almost always turns up a better deal. I try really hard to always get the best value for money we spend. Sometimes it is harder when you live in a small town and need or want something fast. Recently, I made a very frivolous and unfrugal purchase, and honestly, I don’t feel bad at all.

My Child Is Probably Really Spoiled

I do realize that my daughter has it better than most. She gets to live in a pretty nice house. She eats lots of home cooked meals made with organic vegetables and fruits. She gets all kinds of time with Jim and I. She has dance and ski lessons. We take awesome trips. She has already seen way more of the country in her 7 years than I did in my first two decades.

That being said, I can’t apologize for being able to offer her that lifestyle. We’ve worked hard for it, and I think parents always want their children to be able to do all the things they never did. What we don’t do is buy her stuff that only gives instant gratification. Outside of holidays and special achievements, she really doesn’t get toys. She knows that if she wants something, she’ll have to save her own money. She understands that work=money and that you don’t buy things you don’t have the money for. She also knows that I won’t buy her something just because she asks. We honestly haven’t ever had a temper tantrum at the store because I’ve never given her any reason to think that gets you anything but a time out and early bedtime.

However, my unfrugal purchase was totally something a spoiled brat might receive.

I Hate Keeping Up With the Joneses But………

I really hate the fact that many parents believe you have to have every gadget and thingamabob to have a normal and happy kid. If we don’t buy her an iPad at age 4, she will probably never get into college, right?

I will probably be one of the last parents to let my kid have any of those things. She might someday be the scorn of 5th grade without a cell phone, but oh well, it probably builds character. Now, one thing we did add when we bought our car in 2008 was a DVD player in the headrest. Even though our daughter wasn’t even one yet, we felt it would come in handy someday. This was also before we cleaned up our financial lives, so I guess that was a leftover kudo from our heavy spending days.

We take lots of road trips. Just to get to Target is an hour drive. To get to a major airport takes 4 hours. The in car DVD has been wonderful, and has saved us tons of, “Are we there yets?” or “I’m Boreds.” We don’t let our daughter watch a ton of TV, so it’s a special treat when she can watch as many movies as it takes to get to our destination.

You Always Have to Watch the Boys

Last winter, I took a friend’s son to ski lessons, and he broke our beloved DVD player. I didn’t realize what was going on at the time, but it sounds like he started pushing all the buttons really hard, over and over until the on/off switch broke. Girls would never do this, so I had no idea I even needed to monitor. Anyway, it was broken and would cost more than a new one to repair.

We told our daughter that we weren’t going to replace it. She took it OK, but well, road trips without the DVD have been not nearly as smooth. Yes, I realize we should make her look out the windows and appreciate America, but sometimes after you’ve seen an hour of desert, you’ve seen enough. I can only play about 10 games of I Spy before I’m ready to hurl myself out the car window. My daughter is also like her Mom and unable to read for very long while the car is moving.

Is It More For Me Or The Kid?

Three days before our 8 hour road trip to Las Vegas, I decided that we were, in fact, going to replace the DVD player. I had no prior plans, but had a no show at work and used the time to go over to the audio/video store. I was told the DVD could be replaced and ready to go by lunch for about $300.

I went back outside to call Jim. At first he said no way, but then I reminded him about our upcoming 16 hours in the car. After deciding to use blog money, we agreed on this most ridiculous and frivolous purchase. I never wanted blog or side income to be a ticket to spending more, so it goes straight into savings or retirement, except for this purchase!

I would like to say the DVD is a reward to our daughter for doing well in school or for reading more books last year than any other first grader, which is what I told her. If I’m being completely honest, I’ll say its more for us and our love of a peaceful road trip with many more to come. Any yes, I know DVDs are technology on borrowed time, but for little kids, they still work great.

We might have gotten a better deal if we had more choices in stores or were willing to DIY. This purchase was from a local owned shop, so I feel good about that. I felt bad for about 5 minutes, then realized that’s why we worked so hard to pay off debt and why we are careful with our money. I don’t ever want to make crazy purchases every day, but sometimes, it’s OK to be unfrugal.

Do your kids have a DVD or tablet in the car for road trips? What’t the most unfrugal purchase you’ve made lately? 



About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing my post on DC’s blog! We have an old iPad that my son uses (my hubby and I both got one through work) in the car and when we travel. I hate that he has something so technologically advanced; however, it really does save mine and my hubby’s mental health more often than not and for that, I don’t feel bad. If you put the DVD player in the mental health category, all of the sudden that expense isn’t really a splurge. What’s more important than your mental health? 🙂 Have a great weekend Kim!!

  2. For us, watching a DVD would be kind of pointless unless we were on a long trip. We are less than 15 minutes away from pretty much anything. Sounds like that’s much more of a necessity for you guys!

    As for my own unfrugal purchase, I recently decided I wanted to replace the headliner fabric in my Pathfinder myself, because it looked pretty easy online… I bought the fabric, it arrived, I started removing the old stuff. Only to find out that it looked nothing like what I had expected it to underneath. After wrestling with trim pieces and lights and bolts and not getting very far, I’ve decided to try and have it professionally done. I’ll have wasted about $75 on the DIY kit, and it will cost MUCH more than it should to have it fixed, but I want to be able to roll the windows down again and not worry about the fabric tearing loose! First world problems…

  3. I think we would’ve done the same exact thing Kim, especially given the case that many trips for you do involve a good bit of driving. We have an older iPad that was given to us by my Mom and step-dad that our kids use. I felt guilty at first for allowing our kids to use something like that, but that lasted about five minutes. We control the amount of time they’re on it and it helps with the mental health at times. 🙂 As far as a recent unfrugal purchase…I think we’re going to be renting a minivan for our drive out to San Diego. It’s going to kill our money on gas, but it’ll give us much more room so we’re less apt to kill each other after 1600 miles one way in it.

  4. I have been in vehicles where those DVD players are awesome. If my son is anything like I was, then we are going to need something. I would never stop talking.

    My most unfrugal purchase was a Jetski. I was about to go on a trip to my friends for the 4th and thought it would be cool to have one. Well, I went out and bought one. Terrible idea!

  5. I’m with you on the iPad and cell phone thing – and with you on the DVD player. I would have done the same thing! It’s a vacation after all! When she’s in the car she may as well be having fun! I”m sure it was $300 well spent!

  6. Would you have considered asking your friend to help cover the cost considering her son broke the DVD player? That’s a whole other pickle of financial issues!

    I remember how exciting it used to be to watch movies in the car when I was a kid. My parents bought a small TV with a VHS player and would strap it down between the driver and passenger seat (before there were consoles in the middle). My sister and I loved getting to watch movies on roadtrips because, like your daughter, we didn’t get to watch much at home so it was a huge treat!

    I bet if that TV broke my parents would happily have replaced it to keep us quiet on epic drives from NC to Florida!

  7. I would have done the same thing, Kim. 16 hours in the car is a long time and my mental health is worth $300. 🙂 And it would be different if you couldn’t afford $300, but you could. So to me this isn’t so much an unfrugal expenditure. It’s recognizing that for a mere $300, you will have years of easier and calm road trips.

  8. Wise of you to have used the blog revenue for the purchase. As you said, it is not a habitual practice for you to do this, you thought out the purchase carefully, and 8 hours each way is a long trip without some form of entertainment for your daughter.

  9. Growing up we had 2 day road trips to visit family, this was back before the days of DVDs and we were responsible for packing our own entertainment, like books, coloring supplies, portable games, but there were also 4 kids so we bugged each other more than our parents. Still, there’s a chance even my super-thrifty mom would’ve purchased a portable DVD player just to get some more peace. Speaking of boring, most of the first day leaving/second day back was spent going through Colorado’s eastern plains and Kansas, it doesn’t get much duller than that.

    I haven’t made my unfrugal purchase yet, but after I close on my new house I plan to start replacing some of my cheap/free furniture. Sure, it still works, but a lot of it just isn’t my style. I’m also tired of plastic laminate and want to build some real wood shelves. I want to build as much as I can but even the materials can be pricey. Plus I’ll need a few more tools.

  10. No we don’t have one in our vehicle but my sister in law does for our nephew. She swears by it because it keeps him occupied. You are right there is only so much to look at out the window to keep a child occupied in a car. He is able to control the player on his own now. He also has a portable one that he brings along with him so he has something to keep him busy.

  11. We have a DVD player in the car for the kids. We often go on long roadtrips & it helps keep them entertained.

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