One of my guilty pleasures is watching Suze Orman every Saturday. I know she tends to polarize people faster than a Tea Party Presidential candidate, but I do enjoy her show. Suze was actually the first financial show I discovered. I found it while flipping channels on vacation. At that point, we were deeply in debt, and I seriously needed a Suze smackdown. I’ve learned leaps and bounds about taking care of my finances since then. I’ve also learned to take every famous financial “expert” with a grain of salt. If they make their living from telling you how to manage YOUR money, you can bet they want a slice of it too.
Back on point, my favorite part of the show is viewer calls. Usually they are pretty funny, but sometimes they strike a nerve. A few weeks ago, one such caller really brought home a point about saying no to your children now so that you don’t have to later.
This caller was in her late 40’s, a wife and mother of four. She was a PE teacher, and her husband was an electrician. They didn’t live in a super expensive place. Her oldest child was graduating from high school and planning on college in the fall. The problem with this family was that they were consistenly spending $3000 more per month than they made.
The caller went on to explain how they had a big house that was now under water. They bought basically whatever their kids wanted and gave them spending money. The excess all went on credit cards, but they were almost maxed out. With no more credit, she had no idea what to do. She admitted to often crying about their situation, but had not had a conversation with her husband or the kids about the financial disaster they were creating.
After Suze worked her magic, they were still coming up $1200/month in the hole. Suze’s advice was that the family had to sit down and face reality. She and her husband both had to pick up extra work doing whatever they could. She also told the lady that her older teens, who had part time jobs, needed to contribute to the family finances. They were to cut out all gifts, vacations, eating out, spending money for the kids, anything that wasn’t food or basic necessities. Worst of all, she told this family that they could not, under any circumstances, help their kids with college. The lady was pretty much in tears at that thought, and I can’t imagine how difficult that would be if the kids were expecting family support.
Maybe this whole scenario was staged for TV, but I have a feeling it happens all too often. It’s very easy to feel that your family deserves all the modern conveniences and luxuries, especially if everyone else has seems to have them.
I think it’s incredibly important to start showing kids financial lessons from an early age. Let them make decisions on how to spend money, and for goodness sake, tell them no. It has to be much easier to not buy every trinket or experience from the beginning rather than showing them an unsustainable lifestyle before pulling the rug out right before college. I think it’s great for kids to get part time jobs. However, I would feel lousy telling my daughter she had to buy groceries this week because I spent too much money. As a parent, the thought that you can’t take care of your child is a very hard one to swallow.
However, kids are like modeling clay, and they can be reshaped. I think Laurie at the Frugal Farmer is a great example of this when she talks about how hard it is to change a lifestyle. Your kids might be upset when you tell them no, but I can guarantee they will be more upset when they have to support you as adults because you never saved a dime.
This past week when we were visiting my family, we all went to a mini amusement park. We rode every ride several times and had a blast. Getting Granny all wet on the log ride is just hilarious! The next day we went to the mall to get a birthday present for my niece. The mall had a carousel in the food court, which was $2 a ride. Even though my daughter certainly has her “I want it now” moments, I was pleasantly surprised when she said,
“Mommy, I don’t need to waste money on that merry-go-round. I rode one three times yesterday.”
Sometimes, you feel like they do listen, as that is exactly what I was prepared to say when she asked to ride it. $2 was not the point at all. It’s setting boundaries and saying no at age 6, so that I don’t have to at age 18 when the stakes are a bit more important.
What things have you said no to your children for? How do you feel about teens contributing to the family income because Mom and Dad spent all the money?