“Can I get a new Gameboy?” “Can I have $10?” “Can I have the shoes that light up?” Whether it’s a new toy, a new game, a new outfit, or a new adventure, it seems kids never stop asking their parents for more. And who can blame them? Some studies have shown that children see more than 25,000 ads a year-and that’s just on television. Add in the Internet, product placement in television shows and movies, and the pressure to have the same stuff as their friends and you’ve got kids who are bombarded with the message that they need more of everything.
Teaching our children the value of money now will save them all kinds of money frustration and trouble down the road.
Here are 5 ways you can help your children develop solid financial communication skills while keeping your own budget intact, simply by saying no:
- Help them sort out their “needs” from their “wants”. Sit down together and make two lists: One for necessary items such as clothes, school supplies, and shoes; the other for wants such as a particular toy or game. Talk with your child about how these lists are different. For example, you might point out that you can’t go to school without shoes, but you can go to school without new Silly Bands. Tell your child that the “want” list can serve as a wish list for birthday or Christmas gifts.
- When you say “no”, mean it. Kids figure out very quickly whether you are likely to change your mind if they bug you enough….you may just give in. Our neighbor kid just said to our kids, “Do you like my new scooter? I begged my dad at the store until he bought it for me.” If you’ve been giving in, it’s time to stop letting your children make the financial decisions. Say no and stick with your decision.
- Say “no” faster then “yes”. Our instant society has taught our kids to be incredibly impatient. Teach your child the value of delayed gratification by saying no for now. If your child is begging you for a new bike, a new phone, a new mp3 player, help her put together a plan for saving for it. Talk about purchases you’ve saved for and how good it felt to know you could afford to buy it.
- Give them a chance to earn it. If your child keeps asking for something, help him earn the money to pay for it. Putting in some effort to acquire something makes the purchase far more satisfying. And you’ll find that when your child pays for something on his own, he will appreciate it more and take better care of it. Instilling the “earn-it-before-you-spend-it” mentality in your children will have life-long benefits.
- Show them how to save. Whenever your child receives any money, have her divide it into three equal piles-one pile for spending, one for saving, and one for giving away. As your child gets older, give her more input on what happens to each pile. And don’t forget to take a look at the interest her savings is earning. She’ll be surprised – and motivated – by how fast her little nest egg can grow.
No matter how old your children are, you can give them a big boost in their financial futures by reigning in their constant desire for more. Teach them now and they’ll thank you later.
Money Huddle Tip: At your next Money Huddle, work out a plan for how you’ll deal with your children’s requests for stuff. Decide together what should be in the “need” category. If you like, set aside a small amount of “want” money in your monthly budget for those times when you want to give your children a surprise treat or gift. Agree to set up a “spend” “save” and “give” system, for your child, by the end of the month.