Even kids can and should learn how to manage their money wisely.
As soon as the book fair was announced at my kids’ school last week, the daily requests for cash began pouring in. “Please can we have some money to buy books?” they begged me. My answer was always no, because I resent being coerced into spending money on something for which we have no need. I told them we’d go to the library instead.
But then, they wore me down. I met them partway, agreeing that they could spend their own money at the book fair if they so desired. They took the contents of their piggybank—an impressive total of $27—and blew it all on a half-dozen LEGO Ninjago books with non-existent character development and idiotic plot lines that irritated me so much, I couldn’t even finish reading them out loud.
Afterwards, I felt angry with myself for caving to their desire for immediate gratification. While it was no money out of my own pocket, I felt disappointed that they had wasted their own precious funds on something so frivolous and of such poor quality as those books. (Unsurprisingly, those books have received no attention since the day they came home.)
I should have insisted on better stewardship of their funds.
There is an excellent article on the Wise Bread website that outlines “7 frugal living skills you should be teaching your children.” These will be my blueprint in the coming years, and I will prioritize the following 3 lessons above all else, now that I’m newly determined to instill better financial practices.
One must learn to separate needs from wants in order to manage money successfully. It gives one time to do important price point and quality comparisons, to await sales, explore alternatives, seek second-hand options, or wait to receive it as a gift (particularly for a child).
Advertising preys on low self-confidence. It challenges the idea that we might feel complete, satisfied, and comfortable in ourselves. It pushes us to doubt ourselves.
“Instilling a strong sense of self-confidence can help kids avoid falling victim to these messages for the rest of their lives — and sacrificing a large part of their personal wealth in the process. Seize every opportunity to reinforce the idea that your kids are fine just the way are and model that truth yourself. Then, when age-appropriate, pull back the advertising curtain.”
This ties into collaboration, too, which is another point made in the Wise Bread article. Self-confident people tend to be comfortable sharing belongings with others, which saves money all around.
Don’t we all struggle with this to some extent? It’s difficult not to, living in a world that bombards us with advertising cleverly designed to make us want to keep up with ever-changing styles and crave newer, shinier versions of everything. Many American children have also become used to physical rewards as motivation.
“While encouraging kids to strive for more is important, make it less about things and money. Instead, help them focus on achieving their personal goals, expanding their experiences, appreciating the moment, and building rich friendships.”
“Be happy with what you have,” my parents used to say. That simple phrase would have come in handy last week, and could have saved my kids their $27, had I thought of it in time. Now, however, it will be staying at the tip of my tongue.