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I Choose Family Photos, Vacations and Memories

I don’t spend my money on things. I never have.

Clutter makes me itchy and stuff has a shelf life. My daughter and I live in a small condo with an even smaller mortgage, I’ve driven the same car for the last 10 years and I never have the latest greatest anything when it comes to technology or toys. But that doesn’t mean I never splurge.

Every year, usually sometime around January, my little girl and I take off on a vacation to somewhere warm and fun. Last year, it was Disney World. This year, it’s a Disney cruise with a big group of friends.

These trips are never cheap, but they’re always worth it. We take a million pictures, make a million memories and talk about the fun we had for years to come. I sacrifice all year long to make those trips happen. Because for us, the fun we have adventuring and exploring a new place together tops any material item we could ever own.

Travel is one of the few things I spend my money on without remorse. Well, travel and family photos.

Our family photo shoot is an annual tradition for me and my girl. Every year, without fail, someone in my life will say, “I wish we could afford to do that.”

I never know quite how to respond. It’s almost always someone who lives in bigger house than we do, or someone who drives a nicer car. It’s usually someone living in a two-income family, with lots of toys (for both the adults and kids) scattered around their home. I don’t judge any of that. I’m all about people doing what makes them happy. I just know that comments about what I can afford are a bit silly when the truth is, I intentionally limit our stuff in favor of prioritizing memories for our family.

When I think about my own priorities as a parent, I realize it’s all about the memories.

As a single mom, those family photos are sometimes the only chance I have to be in the picture with my daughter. They are the only way I can preserve these pieces of her childhood for us both. The only way I can give her pictures to look back on of her smiling with her mom, not staring up at a camera by herself.

Because, someday, I won’t be here. Someday, these pictures will be all she has left. And I want her to have something to look back on.

When I think about my own priorities as a parent, I realize it’s all about the memories. I’m willing to spend hundreds on annual photos because it all goes by too quickly. I save all year long just to take nice vacations, because I love traveling and I love seeing her eyes light up with someplace new. I love the memories we make while exploring together and the ways I’m able to unplug when we do.

My kid doesn’t have a lot of “stuff.” Under her Christmas tree this year, she’ll find clothes and art supplies, books and new swimsuits for our upcoming trip. All things I promise you she will be just as excited about as the kid getting the latest and greatest toy. Because the thing is, she’s never come to expect any of that. She’s grown to crave the memories as much as I do.

Our lives are pretty minimalist like that. It’s always about the memories for us. And, the thing is, I think other families could have that too. I’m a single mom, so it’s not like we’re rich. It just comes down to priorities: the stuff, or the memories.

For us, I’ll choose the memories every time.

Photo via Leslie Meadow Photography

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