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Marketing to Kids

How do I limit spending on branded product lines, such as Legos and My Little Pony?

If there's one phrase parents would be quite happy never to hear again, it would be "collect all 10!" From Pokémon cards to Skylanders figures to American Girl dolls, it seems there's no such thing as a one-off anymore. Here are a few strategies to keep things under control:

Just say no. You won't be the most popular parent in your household anymore, but it's your money and you can spend it however you see fit.

Explain your values. Say "that's not how our family works." Little kids won't totally get it, but at some point your kids will understand that yours is not a family that gives into commercial pressures. 

Encourage them to collect something inexpensive. Start with something cheap and plentiful: stickers, pencils, photos, doll shoes, toy cars. Or gather ideas in nature: shells, rocks, leaves. Kids gain a sense of accomplishment and pride when they begin to accumulate their own special collections.

Create a budget. Say you'll spend a certain amount per month on whatever it is. Or offer to let your kid save up that money to get something bigger later. You can tally the amount on the fridge so kids can see the math.

Use collectibles as rewards. Some parents get into the habit of buying the Lego set or My Little Pony at every trip to the store. Hold back, and let your kid know that these are treats for an accomplishment, a good deed, or a special day.

Trade with friends. Toy swaps are gaining popularity. Consider joining an online exchange or organizing one in your community.

Explain your preferences to well-meaning relatives. Tell grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others that you're just not in a position to keep adding to a particular branded line of products. On the other hand, maybe you could set it up so those types of toys only come from relatives -- so you're off the hook!