Sunday, November 17, 2013

Talking to Kids About Finances

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Bear: momma, we should get pizza-guy pizza tonight for dinner.
me: sweetie, we don't really have the money for that right now.  but we could make our own pizza.
Bear: {dejected look} that's not the same. i reeeeeeally want pizza from someplace. 
me: i understand... i could go for some pizza from somewhere, too.  but our house is running differently now.  {tearing up} we don't have as much money as we used to, so we have to spend less money on stuff we want so we can pay for the things we need.
Bear: oh, ok.  well, could i be the pizza guy, then?
me: sure, sweetie.  that'll be wonderful. {fighting back tears}
that's a conversation that Bear {5 yrs} and i had last week.  since the hubs has retired from the USAF, things have been tight.  full-time, good-paying jobs are hard to find, which is leaving us in a bit of a hard spot financially.  we've been cutting waaaaay back from our previous mode of spending.  we're being super-conservative because we have to.  and it's uncomfortable and scary and not at all something i like to talk about. but...

how many of you have robbed Peter to pay Paul in the past 6 months?  or wondered how you're going to pay the bills and get groceries?  if you have, my heart goes out to you.  i know the feeling... that rock you get in the pit of your stomach when you're trying to stretch numbers farther than they'll go. 

and then there comes the conversations, like the one i shared above, where the kids ask for something and i have to say no.  now, it's not like, they've always gotten everything they ask for.  with Bear, his wants generally fall into things like a pack of Teddy Grahams or stopping by the bakery for donuts after church.  but now, even those requests under $5 are a stretch in the budget that i can't allow.  so, i ask this...

how do parents talk about family finances with kids?

here are a few quick guidelines that i follow:

keep it in perspective
i don't got into numerical detail, but i do try and explain that we don't buy some things so that we can use that money on others.  for example, with the delivery pizza scenario, i explained later that one night of delivery pizza cost the same amount of money as taking care of one of our children at The Raining Season for an entire month.

keep it kid-sized
don't get me wrong on this, i don't think that kids need to know every nitty gritty detail about what bill is paid when.  but i do think that it's important that kids aren't under the impression that the family can go out and buy anything they want.  but i also don't want them to think we're destitute.  so i try to choose my words and phrases carefully.

keep it safe and secure
my heart breaks for the kiddos who can't escape the reality of their families' finances as they go to bed hungry and bath in cold water.  like i said above, i don't want my kids to fear us being homeless or feeling bad about needing things.  so we talk a lot about what our needs are versus what our wants are.

so, there you go.  my approach may not be for everyone.  i know there are many who aren't comfortable talking like this or about this to their kids.  and that's fine.  i know that there are so many parenting types and styles out there.  but i'm curious... what do you do?

how do if {if at all} talk to your kids about finances?

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