Money, money, money

Money, money, money

Jul 13, 2014 | Families Blog | 0 comments

Have you ever heard yourself say, “No you can’t have that. We can’t afford it!” or “Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!” or “Do you want to try paying the bills?!” It rolls off our tongues too easily.
But is it really the best way to prepare our kids for managing their own money – and lives- in the future?

I know a wise grandmother who raised five children on a very meagre income. There were days when she didn’t even know what they would eat for dinner.

But her children never knew how tight things were. She made a rule with herself to never say, “We can’t afford that.” She didn’t want to worry the kids. In her mind it wasn’t their job to worry about the family finances. Their turn for that would come. So she would say something like, “I don’t think you need new shoes just yet.”
She kept their situation to herself and her children were free to be kids. This lady had lots of bank books where she would set aside money to pay various bills. Sometimes the balance in those bank books was very low, maybe only a dollar or two. But the children never knew that. They thought she must have heaps of money with all those bank books!

What I love about this mum’s approach was the way she taught her children to live by values, not by a bank balance. Decisions weren’t based on whether or not there was enough money. Rather, her kids learnt to be content and not to expect new things when they didn’t need them.

I know children and young people who sincerely think their parents are down to their last dollar because of the way they talk. This may or may not be true, but do we really want our children to think the only reason they can’t have something is because there’s not enough money in Mum’s purse? If that’s the reason you give them, what about when you do have cash in the purse? Does that mean you have to say yes to every request?

Children can learn about values and money early by having to manage a small amount of pocket money of their own.
When our kids were little they had a savings jar and a giving jar, and each week when they got pocket money they would put a tenth of the amount into each of those jars. After that it was totally up to them. If they spent it all at once well that was their choice. And they had to live with what that meant.

It wasn’t perfect but was our attempt to teach values of responsibility and generosity. When their giving jar got to a certain amount they would decide who they wanted to give the money to. I remember some intense discussions about who it should be and some exciting expeditions to go and deliver the money to the person we knew who had a need.

We would also try to notice and talk about generosity when we saw it in our own children or in others. We would encourage them when we saw them make responsible choices, or be patient in waiting for things they wanted.

I wonder what we are teaching our kids about money when the only thing they hear is us saying we can’t afford something, or complaining about the bills.

Next time your child asks for something, instead of saying “We can’t afford that”, try helping them to think it through. Do they really need that? Is that something they want enough to start saving for? Would they like some extra jobs round the house to start them off?

Sure, money is helpful but it’s not the most important thing. Let’s focus on teaching our kids to value what is really valuable. Responsibility, generosity, patience and contentment is not a bad place to start.