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Children Have No Money Sense

The following is another guest post from My Canuck Buck.  Thank you so much for pitching in while life is nuts!  Please check out her site when you have a chance! 

Recently, I babysat my 2 nieces (aged 9 and 10) for the weekend. We took them up to see their cousins (1 boy and 1 girl – ages 12 and 11) for a short visit. My nephew had a ball hockey game and afterwards we took the kids out for a snack and to the mall.

I concluded after the “snack” part that I do not have any concept of how much fast food costs these days. For 4 kids, it cost me over 20 bucks!  And they would have eaten more if I’d let them!  Part of the issue was that I didn’t think ahead and tell them exactly what they could and couldn’t have. So, in order to not hold up the line, I just let them order what they wanted, and “Frosty shakes” for a drink cost a lot more than juice or pop.  If I did this again, I’d tell them ahead of time they can only have something from the value menu (maybe even limit it to 1 or 2 choices there so they can pick faster!) and only a small drink (no shake!).  I know it would have been cheaper to bring something, but I wanted this trip to Wendy’s to be part of the outing.

And then we hit the mall. I learned that my little nieces aren’t so little any more and are very interested in clothes, jewelry, and make up.  Normally they aren’t bad about asking for things, but I think having 3 of them together encouraged each other. So – every store they’d go in, they’d ask for something.  I managed to say “No” to everything, although after an hour, they started to wear me down.  Some things were as cheap as 2 dollars, but it was nothing they *really* needed or would value.  I have freely admitted I’m a cheap aunt in the past, but I’m willing to spend money on important things – just not junk!  I’m happy to spend money on outings, or conducting science experiments (Diet coke + Mentos = awesome explosion!), but I want it to be on something important or memorable.

In their defense, the kids did not whine or beg – they simply asked.  And since childhood is a while back for me, I have no idea if I was this bad or not!

All:  How do you deal with it when children ask for things? What’s the best technique you’ve found for getting them to stop asking?

Crystal’s Comments:  I usually tell them to buy it with their own money and laugh at the looks on their faces while they try to explain to me that they don’t have money…yeah, I would be a crappy mom…

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12 comments to Children Have No Money Sense

  • I think the best way to avoid it in that circumstance is avoid the mall in the first place. Or if you are feeling generous, give them a bit of money at the very beginning but warn them that they cannot spend more than that. They may very well still buy the first thing that they see that they want. Later they may realize that the money may have been better saved for a something else they see. It may result in a valuable lesson.

    As for in Wendy’s, you’d need to take control a bit and help narrow down their choices for them. When given free rein, kids are bound to go the upgraded options that cost more money.

  • I understand your dilemma. One one hand, you want to treat your nieces and nephews, but on the other you don’t want to waste your money on junk. Fortunately, my only neice can’t talk yet so she can’t ask me to buy her anything yet, but that day will come soon

  • Haha oh my god Crystal your comment kills me!

  • I’m with Crystal on this as I would be a pretty bad dad because I’d just tell them no.

    I’m not a parent (yet) but I think we fail pretty miserably when it comes to teaching the younger generation about managing money. I think you must start with teaching them how to EARN money and then teach them how they should properly allocate that money (spending, saving, giving, etc).

    Once they understand the concept and then they start to ask, then you reply just as Crystal suggested.

    If you can’t teach them the concept, then my kids will certainly hear the word “NO” a lot.

  • My wife and I have five kids ages 5-15. Our older ones are good at saving and buying things with their own money. My five year old has the hardest time with it and still asks us to buy her stuff quite a bit. We encourage her to keep saving so she can buy it with her own money some day. A few times, we told her we’d lend her the money to buy something at the store and then she can pay us back when we get home. But we’ve discovered she really had no frame of reference for how much money she had at home. So now nearly every time we go to the store, she says, “Can you buy this for me and I’ll pay you back?” whether she knows she has any money at home or not. It has given us a good chuckle, but then we realized we needed to help her make the connection between having the actual dollars in hand to buy what she wants.

  • We avoided taking our children to the mall unless they needed something. It was also true for taking them to the supermarket. Both situations create a negative situation which is best to avoid. My wife would go shopping without the children unless they were needed.

  • Definitely avoid temptations like malls. If it’s nice out go to the park or maybe the movies for treat.

  • I just flat out say no to being asked for things, especially little junk that has no value whatsoever. It’s better to teach them now about saving and thinking about purchases anyway. Then when you do treat them to something it is that much better.

  • Hi all – thank you all for your comments. Crystal is so darned fast :) I didn’t even realize til tonight she’d posted this. I have done you have “X to spend” on occasions where I have been willing to buy them something and that has worked out well. Avoiding temptation is also good – but trying to figure out what to do with 4 Tweens on a rainy Saturday afternoon (we weren’t near my house) is hard. Suggestions for the future would be much appreciated. :)

  • That’s why kids should be given small allowances so they learn to save up for things they want.

  • We have 3 kids of our own and trust me McDonalds is not cheap for a family of five. We don’t go there very often but it’s convenient to stop during road trips and it always costs more than I expected it would.

  • [...] following is another guest post from My Canuck Buck.  Her other posts here include Children Have No Money Sense and In Praise of Hand Me Down Toys.  Thank you so much for pitching in again!  Please check out [...]