1 in 3 parents lies about their kids’ ages to get discounted admission, NerdWallet reports — and younger, employed parents are most likely to lie.
This little white lie is saving moms and dads plenty of green.
One in three parents admits to lying about their child’s age to save money on things like movie tickets, amusement park passes and restaurant meals, according to a NerdWallet report released on Tuesday. And Josephine Oria is not ashamed to say she’s one of them.
The Florida mom of five children ages 14, 13, 12, 10 and 6 told Moneyish that she just passed her 10 and 12-year-olds as 9 and under at the Miami Seaquarium to save $20 on admission. “These are the challenges of having a larger family, and I hate to say, I will often take advantage of when possible. So when you can shave a bit off here or there, you go for it,” she said.
New York City dad Doug, who withheld his last name, has no problem slipping his 8-year-old son under the subway turnstile for free. (Kids under 44 inches are allowed to ride without swiping.) “Only one in three (parents) admit to it? Please … Any chance I get to save a buck, I take it. Period,” he told Moneyish. “No, I have no guilt about trying to save a buck, especially not in a world that is targeting children in order to get their parents’ money!”
Queens dad Jason Greene told Moneyish that when his two kids (now 11 and 13) each outgrew the height limit to get into baseball games for free, he would bring them in a baby carrier. “I justified it because they would sit on my lap anyway,” he said. And even now, his petite 11-year-old daughter can get away with ordering on the less expensive kids’ menus at restaurants, which are usually for children under 10.
But Oria notes that even parents who save some dough lying about their kids’ ages still pay for it in the end. “No matter what you are saving on — whether it’s the movies, the theater, general admission to an amusement park, or a hotel buffet — you know you’ll make up for it on five giant-sized slushies and large popcorns, $25 dollar photos with a sea lion (and of course they’ll each want their own picture since the sea lion can only kiss one at a time), or six vodka and sodas between you and your spouse,” she said.
NerdWallet surveyed about 1,200 moms and dads about their summer spending plans, and found that parents of kids ages 3 to 17 expect to spend an $471 per kid on average this year. The four in five families planning a vacation plan to spend $2,256 on average. And parents also expect to run up an average of $1,019 in charges on their credit card this summer, which can take more than 5.5 years to pay off the full balance (plus $452 in accrued interest) if they only make the minimum payment each month. No wonder some parents are cutting corners by shaving a few years off of their kids’ ages.
Katina C., a 34-year-old single mom living outside of Washington, D.C., told Moneyish she passes her 3-year-old daughter off as 2 to save $12 to $20 per visit at many area museums and movies. The aquarium is $15 per child, for example, plus $24 for the accompanying adult. So she cuts the cost of the trip almost in half just by taking a year off of her daughter’s age.
“Usually these places charge after the child turns 2, and that is unfortunate. Most children can’t recall experiences before the age of 2,” she said. “I try my best to give her young mind experiences that she can remember … but money isn’t exactly flowing freely in my home. I spend most of my money on her daycare ($800 a month), health care ($758 for her and I) and rent for our apartment is $1,375.”
In fact, employed parents revealed they are more likely to lie than those who aren’t working (34% vs. 24%), and millennial parents are more likely (50%) to lie than Gen X parents (32%).
“Of course no one should lie, but we definitely got the sense that parents are really stressed about this summer financially,” Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, told Moneyish.
She noted employed parents are probably lying more often because they have more opportunities to do so. “Employed parents are more likely to be going on these adventures, and going to amusement parks, because they can afford to travel, so they have that temptation in front of them more,” said Palmer. And millennial moms and dads may fib more because their kids tend to be younger and more likely to score free or reduced admission most often.
But Palmer said there are plenty of more honest ways for parents to save cash while keeping their kids entertained this summer. “The YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America offer activities at a wide variety of prices, and they often hold discounted camps,” suggested Palmer. Take advantage of early registration windows, when she said prices can be $100 less per week.
Budgeting apps like Honeydue, Digit and YNAB (You Need a Budget) can also help you track your spending and set money aside for summer. And AAA will often give discounts to amusement parks and travel deals, such as up to 20% off rooms at select Disney Resort hotels.
Or if you’re not carrying a balance on another credit card, signing up for the right rewards card could score you enough cash back at one or two points per dollar spent to cover summer several summer activities; particularly cards with signing bonuses. “Putting your spending on that card for everyday expenses that you would be spending anyway (like food or gas), you can earn rewards points that we calculated can add up to $900 that first year,” Palmer said, which could be put toward activities. Palmer suggested the Capital One Venture card, which offers a one-time sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from opening your account, equal to $500 in travel that you could put toward your family trip.
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