From time to time, I plan to implement a new series to my blog called “Penny-wise and Pound Foolish.” In this series of posts, I will discuss some of the things I’ve learned along the way about finances. Sometimes I may share the experiences I’ve had with my children. At other times, I may share shopping tips or how to cut the budget. Or I may share good deals I’ve found as I’ve bargain shopped my way through life.
One of the things I feel is essential for successful parenting is to live within your means. Our culture places so much emphasis on what we do for a living, the size of our house, newness of our car, clothes we wear, etc. If we aren’t careful our kids become an extension of who we are and their self worth (as well as ours) becomes wrapped up in their toys, clothes, extra-curricular activities, etc. They start comparing themselves with others just like we do. And we all know comparisons are not healthy nor are they accurate. Someone always has more, lives in a bigger house, has more toys (whether child or adult toys) and so on. We can not outspend our friends and I question if anyone who makes you feel bad because you don’t spend like there is no tomorrow is a true friend.
And the sad thing is that if we are not careful we will spend ourselves out of our future. How many people do you know who have a beautiful house and brand new car, yet are caught up in appearances and have no emergency fund! If they lost their job, they would lose their beautiful house and brand new car. What a sad thing to have all your self worth tied up in material possessions!
So what’s a parent to do when their child expects to have it all? First of all, you need to have a financial plan i.e. a budget- that essential tool that no one likes to think about and is no fun to implement; figure out how much you can spend each month AND STICK TO IT! Then have a family meeting and explain to the kids that your family is now planning for the future and if all your money is spent in the present then there will be no money to pay for emergencies in the future. Discuss some future goals: family vacations, college, giving and being generous to others and the like. Also have each child vote; would they rather go on vacation this summer or buy that $100 pair of jeans. Give them a choice that they can spend the $100 now or spend $50 for a new pair of jeans and put $50 in a vacation savings account. And make sure they know that they are a member of the family and you are all in this together. You don’t have to scare them and make them think you are going under; they simply need to learn how to prioritize.
One thing my husband and I did when our kids were growing up was to tell them we were having “cash flow problems” (meaning we did not have extra money) when things got tight. We would tell them we had plenty of money for food, our bills were paid, we were blessed but did not have money for extras. I always told them we were rich in love! Emphasize that they are blessed, no matter how much money they have.
Concerning Christmas, this is the most difficult yet wonderful time of the year. Christmas is a magical time and as all parents do we want to bless our children but between store displays and commercials, we start feeling guilty and want our kids to have it all. But the one thing I’ve learned is that they don’t have to have it all-all at once. There again, set a budget and stick with it, no matter what. I always had my kids tell me the three things they wanted most and told them they would get some of the things they asked for and some things they didn’t ask for. That way I would have an idea of what they were interested in but would not feel obligated to break the bank. This also gave me wiggle room to buy books, art supplies, and the things I thought they would enjoy.
I have seen on various social media sights that some parents give their kids an item to wear, an item to play with, and something to read. And that’s it. I like that and wish I had thought of that when my kids were growing up.
My prayer is that this helps some of you as we enter the Christmas season. I know there is pressure to buy, buy, buy, but be strong. Enjoy the family time and make memories! Things fade, get broken, and your children outgrow them but memories last forever!