I am sure I am just like every other parent out there who despairs every time there is a need to go shopping with the children. It doesn’t matter if it’s the grocery, department or convenience store someone is inevitably whining about wanting to buy something. That is fine but it’s never their money being pulled out at the checkout, it’s mine.
I’ve tried having the discussion of want versus need prior to getting in the car or arriving at the store but it doesn’t seem to help because no more than 10 minutes later there is something that must be purchased for one of my children to go on living.
So what’s a parent to do to remain calm and sane in these moments? I decided it was time to have the “talk”–no not that one–the one about the value of money. Of course, it all went in one ear and out of the other. A glazed look took over and there was a whole lot of fidgeting at the table. Maybe it was my over-zealousness of describing dollar cost averaging, compounding and the effect inflation has on the value of a dollar. Maybe I should rethink my approach.
I decided both of my children aren’t big idea kids but more hands-on practical thinkers. I knew I would have to be more hands-on so I gathered them around the table with the monthly bills and a piece of paper. At the top of the piece of paper I wrote down the figure of $2,000.00. I then explained that I needed them to decide what bills would be paid, what bills would have to wait and how much we could put towards savings. I showed them where to find due dates for the bills, where the amount owed was listed and they did the math for each bill needed to be paid.
They started by thinking they were rich for having $2,000 to work with but it was only when they put the bills in piles of “pay now” and “pay later” that they actually did the math realized it didn’t leave much wiggle room. They got it! They actually realized that the ATM machine doesn’t give away free money. That there is a finite amount of the stuff and we need to keep an eye on where it goes.
So, for my family this little experiment worked. The kids seem to understand that there is only so much money coming in to cover what’s going out and you hope to have some left over, they look forward to helping pay the bills each month and they rarely ask me to buy them something they don’t actually need.
Do you like my approach to teaching my kids the value of moneyor do you have an approach you would like to share that has worked for you?