Your turn: Taming the ‘I wants’ when money is tight

It's hard enough to say no to ourselves when it comes to unnecessary spending — getting that $4.35 latte just because, for example. So why is it always such a surprise when we lose battles against the everyday wants (not needs) of our very determined and savvy children?Teenager with hand up in the air while on the phone

If this sounds familiar, you aren't alone.

Academics and mental health professionals agree that parental feelings about money color how we deal with our children's requests and expectations. One 2014 study by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Texas found that parents would talk to kids about saving and budgeting but not about the actual state of family finances. This puts kids at a disadvantage when it comes to smart money management.

Plus, it's not like there is a lot of slack in most family budgets. According to the USDA (which tracks such things), the cost to raise a child in the U.S. from birth to age 18 is now an eye-popping $245,000.

Instilling good financial habits

Solid financial habits are important to instill early. The consequences of money illiteracy are high, from mountains of student loan debt to ID theft or the inability to get a mortgage. The best advice overall may come in the form of something incredibly simple: If you want something, you have to work for it.

What's your approach?

We'd love to know how you handle the worst cases of the “I wants.” Are you more likely to come back to your child with:

  • a firm N-O with a side of … “Money doesn't grow on trees!”
  • a pointed speech about how …”Money is all about how you manage it.”
  • a laid-back answer like, “You're only young once! Spend away,” as long as they appreciate it.

Let us know what worked for you in the comments below.

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Cookster
Cookster
5 years ago

At Christmas, when the kids were small, we had them draw up a list of everything they wanted. Then they could star 3 things they really wanted. We bought the three items, donated one to charity, and wrapped the other two. Not knowing which gift they were getting still made Christmas fun. We always ate dinner at home and didn’t shop much, so pocket money was not much of a problem. They did get an allowance for their chores, but more often than not, they banked a lot of it. When my kids were teens, labels on clothing were the… Read more »

Char
Char
5 years ago

I tell my grandchildren to put the item on their Christmas List!

cherie
cherie
5 years ago

We’re all about reality – they have seen the money book since they were small
“I am not going to choose to spend my money on that, but instead I’m choosing this” worked well for young’uns
They get it now -all ‘fun’ comes from the money box – anything else is budgeted – they understand that the money box is sometimes empty 🙂

Katie O'Connor
Katie O'Connor
5 years ago
Reply to  cherie

Hi Cherie,
Thank you so much for stopping by. Tell us more about this money book!

Char
Char
5 years ago

I tell my grand kids “no” and then suggest that they put the item on their birthday list or Christmas/Hanukkah list.

Emily @ JohnJaneDoe
Emily @ JohnJaneDoe
5 years ago

We’ve just started our 5 year old on an allowance, some of which must be saved and some given away to charity. Now “I want” is mostly answered with “Save your allowance,” or “That will cost you X number of allowances.” She is still getting the hang of saving, and will say “I’ll ask Santa Claus for it” (delayed gratification. okay) or “I’ll just ask Nana and Pop.” (Facepalm!)

So “I want” is a challenge we haven’t yet gotten a solid handle on. I’ll be interested to see how others weigh in.

Golfing Girl
Golfing Girl
5 years ago

Delayed gratification is something I try to instill. My daughter is 11 and occasionally asks for a smart phone or some other “want” and I ask her if it is worth delaying a beach or Disney vacation for an extra year. The answer is usually a resounding “NO!” For my younger sons this is much tougher, as they are only 3 and 5.

Paul
Paul
5 years ago

Think of the long term, the ‘wants can be acquired when you have lots of income streams, so better prepare first before having something you want.

Toni
Toni
5 years ago

I started telling my kids, that it is all about choices. Around the age of 9, they wanted to go to laser tag games every week or have the latest fun gadgets. I told them (many times in many different ways) that when someone asks about having “this”, I ask, “do you want to give up Karate, in order to have this?” Or, tumbling, or gymnastics, or music, or whatever they may be involved in at the time. I tell them that some things they do require a commitment. If after a reasonable time of the commitment, we ask ourselves,… Read more »

Beatrice
Beatrice
5 years ago

Depending on what it is, I tell my 7 year old one of the following: – We did not budget for that / We’re here for groceries not toys / etc. I’m open about having a budget and will tell him when we shouldn’t buy something because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford his tuition, after school activities, food, gas, etc.I’ve explained that if one isn’t careful with spending money can run out. – That’s really cool, you can add it to your wishlist (which he shares with the grandparents around the holidays and his birthday). Of course we… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 years ago

Overall, I wish I’d done a better job talking to my kids about money. They now are working adults, and I feel pretty certain they have the basics down, but I just wish I’d done my job better. I will say, I never told them “We don’t have the money.” That was all I heard growing up, and I got sick of it. I would say, “Let’s not spend our money like that right now.” Later on, if we went shopping and I couldn’t find what I wanted, I made a point of telling them that since I couldn’t find… Read more »

Hope
Hope
5 years ago

I just flat out tell them we don’t have it most of the time. However, they see us hunting for bargains and I’ve noticed that my 12 year old is usually very money savvy. If I take her to the grocery store, she finds the products with the lowest unit price and she’s the first to look for a coupon on things we might need. They also understand that by helping us save, they usually get more.

Now to get her to understand that spending all of her personal money on Frape’s is a bad idea…

Jerome
Jerome
5 years ago

The one thing we did more or less by accident which turned out to work very well with our five kids was to give them their allowance directly on their bank-account. Just the hassle of getting the money out is almost always enough for them not following every whim. What they thus automatically learned is that saving a bit of money regularly grows into a large (for them) amount. In addition they get some cash money from their grand-parents now and than which they can spend however they want. The other thing we do and which seems to work is… Read more »

Kayla
Kayla
5 years ago

When it comes to toys and things I always answer with “Okay.” and then discuss how much it is, how much he has saved, and how much he needs. He’s six and has gotten that answer his whole life for the most part and has saved up for quite a few things he really wanted, often forgotten about the thing, and sometimes decides he’d rather keep saving for something else. When we are in the grocery store or somewhere with impulse buys, however, I say no so often that he is used to it and won’t throw a temper tantrum.… Read more »

Rebekah
Rebekah
5 years ago

If we need to say no to something, we explain where our money is going and why it’s a no. We’re open with our kids about what we are doing with our money.

Marie
Marie
5 years ago

Say no. Repeat. Warn them that asking again will cause a consequence. Follow through with that consequence.

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