Teaching kids life lessons about money now that it's tight - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 07:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Now that I'm divorced money is tight.  We have much less than when I was married.  The kids are constantly asking for things.  Things in stores.  Things on line.  Things their friends have and they don't.  Things they already have in new and different styles and colors.  Things their brother or sister has... not to mention ice cream and such at the beach and around town. 

My answers range from 'OK I'll get you that" to "stop asking" but almost always revolve around the theme of 'that is too expensive, we can't afford it" or "I'll get it for you but keep in mind it's expensive and maybe you have to give up something else".   I feel like I'm wishy washy and just don't know what to tell them or where to find the right balance.  My fear is that they are learning lessons such as, 'I don't deserve things" or "money is impossible to obtain and I will always be poor".  or whatnot.  Sometimes I've given them allowance but that seems to make things worse - so I cut it off and they have not received it in about a year.  (they are 9, 7 and 5). 


The kids are constantly bickering about 'not fair' and he got this and she got that and I didn't.  And why is his bigger than mine...


Are there any good books on kids and money and how to teach them the right lessons?  Advice?


I guess I should set some rules and stick to them.  Like we go out for ice cream once a week - but it is just hard when I am alone with 3 kids 365 days of the year and what if one kid is at his friend's house on ice cream day?  Then how do I get that kid alone for his ice cream?  And if I get it again for the other two then I've broken my own rule and the kid who was left out is complaing it's not fair that they got two...


Help single mamas!

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#2 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 04:46 PM
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I find myself saying frequently that such-and-such is not in my budget now, but they are welcome to spend their own money.  DDs have a small savings from gifts or infrequent extra-challenging chores.  For example, I splurged and took them to a Renaissance fair (which I have always wanted to do), and spent money on gas and entrance tickets.  In the past I would have bought them fair food and paid for some rides and games.  This time I packed lunch/drinks and gave them the option of spending their own money at will (they would have to pay me back).  They carefully evaluated their purchases, each choosing only one special snack, where as the little friend that we brought with us spent all of the money that she had brought very quickly without much evaluation (and was frustrated to find it gone), more than three times what DDs chose to spend.   I think our tighter budget will actually benefit them in the area of financial wisdom.

and then when we get to the ocean
we're gonna take a boat to the end of the world

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#3 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 04:49 PM
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Wanted to add that i don't give them specifics about my budget-- that way when I feel like going out for ice cream, there is no rule saying that we can't go!

and then when we get to the ocean
we're gonna take a boat to the end of the world

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#4 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 05:59 PM
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I'm in the same boat, but I have learned a couple of things about myself that help me with the kids. I was afraid that we would be poor and I started hoarding money. I realized that I had a poverty mentality, so I starting thinking more openly about money. I have a few rules:


1. I teach the kids about paying the bills and saving. I show them my bank account because this is our money, and we don't keep secrets.

2. I tell them how much we can spend instead of saying something is too expensive. When we were at the beach, they wanted candy, ice cream, toys, books. I said, "We have $10 for treats. The toy costs $15 dollars, so it's outside of our budget..."

3. I keep a wish list in my wallet. When they see a thing and want it, I write it on the list for a special day. I get their christmas and birthday gifts from the list and I tell my mom about the items so that she can get some too.

4. I give them money to spend, even if it's just $0.50. They know that they can get 2 bubble gums or one kit kat.


I think it's great to teach them about money, and I started doing it before my marriage ended. They will bicker and complain, but it's our job to teach them the value of money and the things they we spend it on. 


Good luck! 

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#5 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 06:33 PM
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I say "I'll keep that in mind." a lot when they see things they want.. if I see it on sale, or at a thrift store I might pick those things up just because, or if it's something more expensive then it can be a birthday/Christmas present.


Sometimes I'll say "We spent money on so-and-so a few days ago, so we don't have money for that today." or "I'm planning on spending money on so-and-so (something they're looking forward to) on Saturday, we don't have money for both." tell them nobody gets everything they want all the time, but you do try and treat them while sticking to your budget.


"I can get a whole box of ice creams at the grocery store for what it would cost to get you each one here." (if that's something I'd consider when getting groceries) Depending on their age, they might be able to understand that... depending on their reaction you might even give them a choice between one now or more later.


My son is 9, and very interested in what things cost. He's picked up the grocery receipt and seen that I spent $200. "On food?!" I told him $200. feeds us for a week... breakfast, lunch dinner is 21 meals for 4 people, and found a restaurant receipt in my purse and we did the math... $50. X only 4 meals = $200. So while groceries are expensive, they are our least expensive option. He's getting the message that when we think about how we spend our money, we can have more stuff.


"I try and do special things for all of you, I can't always be 100% fair on the same day, but over time it evens out." I can usually remember the last time and point it out to them... I don't know that they agree with me, but it does shut them up. 


It's important for kids to learn how to keep to a budget, no matter how much money is available to them... not many people in the world are incapable of spending more than they make! 

~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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#6 of 11 Old 08-28-2011, 09:22 AM
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I too am in this situation....I think it will be good for the kids on balance, but have to be careful in my messaging.  I am trying to interweave the concept of sustainability (being careful in what we buy, buying used and using things up is good for the planet!), and ensure that we also still (collectively) make sure we give to charity! 

Mom to two terrific kiddos, affirming every day that the Universe is unfolding as it should and all is well...

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#7 of 11 Old 08-29-2011, 09:46 AM
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This is an issue I worry more and more about as my DS gets older.  You've gotten some great advice so far, and I'll add my two cents... winky.gif


With DS (who is still pretty young for a lot of this) I try to approach money in three ways: general info on money and budgeting, modeling and encouraging good deeds (whether through volunteering or financial donations or everyday kindness), and talking about consumerism.


Money & Budgeting:  As long as you keep things age-appropriate and positive, I think honesty about your family budget is very important.  Restricting what the family purchases is not mom being mean.  It's a matter of income and expense.  Maybe the older kids could plan a week's worth of meals and go grocery shopping for them?  Something else that would require a bit of pre-planning on your part, but could you give them fake "mom money" instead of an allowance?  Gather up a stash of free ice cream cone coupons (or other stuff they like), dollar store items, etc. Put a "price tag" on everything and once a week they can either "shop" for what they want out of your stash, or they can save up for something bigger.  Make it a family challenge to fill up a jar with spare change, and once it's filled, everyone can decide what they want to do with the money.  Or save up for something specific...you could even throw in how to research items on the internet or shop locally for the best price.


Good Deeds:  This is pretty individual, so I'll just suggest finding something you can do as a family like being a Salvation Army bell ringer during the holidays, or choosing a cause you can all support like Heifer International or the local humane society.  I will share this idea from a blog that I thought was pretty great:  http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/2009/12/17/rice-night/


Consumerism:  This is something I really struggle to explain.  Even when I try to keep it very, very basic and simple, I can tell my 3 yo doesn't really get it yet.  But the best advice I've found on this topic comes from here -- http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/2009/02/children-and-pressure-to-buy.html   The Simple, Green, Frugal blog has several good articles about kids and money if you're interested.

Mama to DS (5)

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#8 of 11 Old 08-29-2011, 09:50 AM
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The Tightwad Gazette has good advice on raising kids within a tight budget. You can find these books at the library.

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#9 of 11 Old 08-29-2011, 02:25 PM
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I always say, "Do you want to put it on your birthday list?"   Or let's see.  My kids always say, "We don't get to do anything."  So then I try to say something like, "Well, if we buy that, then we won't be able to do xyz".  I hate saying, "We're broke". 
When my kids asked when we could go to Madagascar, I had to get real creative!

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#10 of 11 Old 08-29-2011, 11:51 PM
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These are all good ideas.  I'm also somewhat sporadic about allowance - the kids are only with me e/o weekend, so I forget.  However, when I have them (and we're home), we do an hour's chores. At the end of that hour, they make their age in dollars for that work. Oddly, they rush to be the one to do the bathroom (lots of squirting stuff for that), and no one wants to vacuum (loud). For my part, I just consider it a $13/ week housekeeping bill and do my best to get a lot done fast. 


Since starting that, they have money. Then, when they want stuff, I tell them when I don't want to pay for that (or I haven't planned to pay for that), so ask if they want to use their money, or offer to add it to their wish list. (I'm going to start carrying the list, though! Good one!) I also tell them that I will buy all their meal food and school clothes. They don't need to buy that, even if they want a treat (like nori or cat cookies).


My folks always ask for the kids' lists when it's a couple months from birthdays and Christmas, and they are really generous about giving the non-bday kid a gift, too... So, they really like keeping their list up to date. They have seen it pay off.


I have also made it clear that allowance stops at 16, and we have started to notice teenagers working, and talk about how "that's a good teenage job"... babysitting, mowing lawns, housekeeping (which they both want to do! lol), kids at Papa Murphys, etc.

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#11 of 11 Old 08-30-2011, 12:25 AM
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i have a completely different take on this. 


money has been really really tight this last year and a half where even an icecream is a huge treat. 


and so i stay away completely from money issues. dd gets no allowance from me. i have been upfront with her since she was little about what i can afford and what i cant. 


when she was little i'd use the 'put it on the list' category.


i was never called to draw attention to our money situation. i have never really ever discussed the money issue. one year we didnt even have a bday party for her. her 7th bday. this year might be the same. i never give her presents on her bday or other ocassions. she has enough people to get presents from. instead i buy her through out the year whenever i have money to spare. sometimes that means one a week, sometimes it means once in 6 months. being honest from about 5 worked for her. we are more a dooer of things rather than a buyer of things. movies, theater, eating out, etc. 


asking and squabbling for things. normal. normal. normal. life for dd was already hard at around 5. she didnt need to understand the money situation. 


i mean life will teach her that. and it has. she is almost 9. out of the want, want, buy, buy thing. she helps with shopping so has an idea of cost. 


i felt this was not a life lesson i needed to teach. she could pick it up herself. she sees how i dont buy all my books for school. she sees how we happily accept hand me downs. she has herself passed on some to other kids in need. 


for instance dd knows the real cost of food. she knows i dont buy crap. meaning if i have hte money we buy meat from the organic store or we go without. she sees i make kombucha in exchange for local eggs. spanish lessons in exchange for math lessons. we do a lot of borrowing. my friend lends me her calculator, i lend her my laptop. 


she sees when i have a few $$$s in my purse with nothing for tomorrow i finally say F*** it and splurge the whole thing on icecream or mexican candy. yet life works out. 


OP what your children are doing is sooo normal. i grew up rich rich super rich. adn i still did the same thing. so really your childrens behav. is not a reflection of your financial situation but is an age appropriate behaviour. and they soon learn you cant have everything. 


if anything how you react with money is what helps them a lot. hey i'd like to buy that for you too, but i first need to pay the gas bill so we can cook and then see if we have any left over. 


i dont try to explain anything to her. when she is old enough she gets it. for instance she has seen ads. i got her that toy. 'what mama those ads showed so much more. so we only get a few things? that ad lied'. she doesnt fall for the ad trick again. she sees soda ads and goes mmmm sounds and looks so yummy but i know its all chemicals - bad for the body so as much as i want to i refuse to buy it. 


i dont have to teach her about budgeting. when she has a little money in hand she knows how she carefully have to think about what to buy. i always always always encourage her to treat herself. saving is not key all the time. somedays we need to give ourselves a break and what the hell - just have some fun. even if it your last two dollars. 


i have had to have this no big deal attitude towards money because dd has anxiety. she freaks out easily (or at least used to). if i made money the central issue it would totally take her safety net away. 

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