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4 Frugal Alternatives to Letting Your Child Go Crazy with a Smartphone

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Joanne Poh

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It’s getting more expensive to raise kids than to upkeep a thieving mistress these days. Kids in school uniforms play games on the latest, greatest smartphones while their elders get by on ancient models. Since 2010, I’ve had a couple of tuition students, and every single one of them has had a better smartphone than me.

Whatever you do, don’t run out and buy that $1,000 iPhone for your kid, unless you want to set him up for a lifetime of entitlement, and yourself for years of family dinners spent staring at him staring at his phone.

Sure, we get that without a phone it’s hard to know if your kid has been kidnapped by human traffickers and sent to Thailand, or even whether he’s skipped his tuition session.

So here are four ways you can let your kid stay connected without spending a ton of money on a phone that you would balk at paying for even for yourself.

 

Get the kid a dumbphone

Unless you’re the sort of mum or dad who constantly Whatsapps your kid graphics containing inspirational sayings, being able to call and SMS him are more than adequate. And in case you’ve forgotten, many moons ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, humans used to communicate using dumbphones, ie. mobile phones that could only make calls and send SMSes and MMSes.

While even the crappiest new smartphone will set you back at least $200, dumbphones are laughably cheap, and you can buy one for well under $50 at some dodgy mobile phone shop that sells calling cards to foreign workers.

Mark my words, your kid is going to beg and plead for a smartphone, because everyone else in his class will have one. Which could lead to your turning to the second option on this list.

 

Get the kid to earn the money to buy his own smartphone

While no parent wants their kid to be the only one in class with zero toys, it’s one thing to buy the occasional Minions figurine for your child and another to spend close to a thousand dollars on a premium smartphone.

Getting your kids to earn the money to buy their own smartphone is a good chance to teach them life lessons about the value of hard work, etc. If your child is in JC or poly, encourage them to take on part-time jobs during the holidays. Younger kids can be urged to take on household chores in exchange for cash. As a bonus, your house will be spotless for weeks.

 

Give him a smartphone without a data plan

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s annoyed that kids these days aren’t able to hold a 2 minute conversation without glancing furtively at their smartphones. Gone are the days when teenagers socialised at McDonald’s. These days they’re too busy leaving comments on Instagram and Facebook.

If you’ve decided to get your kid a smartphone or simply let them inherit one of your old ones, get him a phone line without a data plan. You can be sure they’ll find ways to connect to the wifi at home or at school, but at least you get to save money and get respite from the constant Whatsapping when you’re out at dinner or on a family outing.

 

Make him pay his own phone bills

If you’re frustrated by the fact that your kid exceeds his monthly allotted data each and every month, nip the problem in the bud by getting him to pay for his own phone bills.

This will magically solve many of the problems in your life—when the kid realises the money comes out of his own pocket, he’ll start using less data—which also means you won’t have to suffer through his YouTube videos at the dining table.

This is a great way to teach your child how to prioritise his needs and wants. He’ll finally have to think about whether he would rather pay inflated prices for more data in order to gain the fleeting satisfaction of uploading a hundred pictures on Instagram, or delay gratification and save the money for more satisfying activities. And you, of course, dear parent, can stop getting a heart attack each time you receive his phone bill.

Would you buy your kid a smartphone? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.