How To Tell Your Kids Something Is Just Too Expensive

Dear Home Ec 101,

How do you tell your kids there’s just not enough money for all the things they want? Especially now with school clothing shopping, my kids want $100 pairs of shoes and it’s just not in the budget. Help!

Signed,

Broke in Birmingham

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

It’s not just the recession kids, back-to-school time can be really expensive! I have three kids and if I spent $100 on each kid a new pair of shoes, my entire back to school budget would be blown just on shoes. It’s hard telling your kids no when you’d really like to spoil them rotten. Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way on how to tell the kids that you’re not going to buy them everything under the sun.

“That’s a little more than I wanted to spend.” This is my go-to senteence whenever the kids want something. This says “I can’t afford that” without screaming out to the world that you can’t afford it. My kids know exactly what this means: no, kid, I don’t have the money for it.

“Be sure to put that on your Christmas list.” When I don’t want to dismiss an item out of hand, I tell them to put the item on their Christmas list. If my kids actually wrote down every item I ever told them to put on their Christmas list, we’d have a stack of paper 50 feet high. Luckily, they forget about most things they ask for and the ones they remember about give me a good idea of what they’re really interested in for Christmas.

“How long would it take you to save for that?” I think it’s important to teach kids how to save for things they really want, so someimes I make them save their own money and buy it themselves. My oldest son wanted a PSP. I thought he was a bit young for one at the time that he wanted it, so I made him save his own money for it so he would appreciate it more when he finally got it. It worked out well, several years later and he still has the PSP in good condition.

“How many hours would your dad have to work for this?” My husband and I both don’t work for hourly rates, but I figured up a rough hourly rate based on my husband’s salary and the amount he works. This teaches kids that there’s a very real time commitment in what you buy.

Alright, Home Eccers, you know what time it is: your turn! Tell me how you tell your kids no when they want everything they see!



14 Comments

  1. James Ryan on November 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    been reading alot of your articles on this site, but i like this one the best

  2. Patrice on August 14, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I usually explain to my kids that I can’t afford to buy those things at the moment. I have to save money first before we can buy such things. Or maybe, i’ll buy it as a present on your birthday. Sometimes, I also challenge them to be good in school and as a reward of being one of the topnatchers, they will be rewarded.

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  4. Kacie on August 7, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I love your ideas!

    Parents, don’t tell your young children that you can’t afford something. It can be scary for them, depending on their age. It can make them worry that you are broke and heading for the poor house! Seriously.

    Even if you are, don’t put that kind of stress on your kids. Find some other way to tell them you can’t afford something.

  5. […] Here are some good ways to tell your children that something costs too much. Rather than make your children worry that you’re broke, you can use some of these methods to […]

  6. Virginia on August 6, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Something I read somewhere a while back, and that I use now, is to tell my kids that “We haven’t budgeted for that.” I like that spin on it because it’s teaching them that we have to make choices for what we budget our money for; it doesn’t put us in a victim mode but a proactive role of planning for our purchases.

    I grew up being told constantly that we didn’t have the money for things and quickly began to feel like I was the poorest kid on the block (whether or not that was true). I like the idea of being able to pass on to my kids that yeah, we might not have the money for it, but it’s because we’re choosing to budget our money to other areas.

  7. Milehimama on August 6, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Set the budget ahead of time and then tell the kids – before you hit the store.

    “We have $100 each to spend, and you need new shoes, a backpack, and another pair of jeans”. Then when you get to the store, and he wants $100 shoes, remind him that’s the total budget and you need a backpack and jeans, too.

  8. dani on August 6, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Whenever we went out to buy shoes, or something like that, my mother told us how much she had to spend. If we wanted something more expensive, we either had to pay the difference or do without. As for clothes, she would put it all in front of us and tell us which ones we could have (you can have these 3 shirts, or this one pair of pants…which do you want?)

    Of course, my parents divorced when I was 10, and my dad felt bad about not spending time with us, so a lot of the time it was, go ask your dad, maybe he’ll buy it for you (he usually did).

    Another good thing my parents did was the “wait a month and see if you still want it”. This pertained a lot to toys and such. If we still wanted it in a month, they would either help us pay for it, or get it for christmas, birthday, etc.

    My little sister is 16, and so my mom has come up with an interesting solution to her love of clothing: my mom uses her store charge, it’s usually cheaper, and my sister pays her back monthly, just like a credit card. My sister has a part time job so this works well for them, and my sister learns about budgeting.

    I have seen a lot of spoiled kids out there, so even if you DO have the money, I think it’s still good to set boundaries.

  9. Chele on August 6, 2009 at 8:36 am

    My teenagers are very aware of our financial concerns, only because I have been completely honest with them. They are okay with that. They would rather have the roof over our heads then the $100 pair of sneakers. We are to the point that they really don’t ask for much anymore. I’ve been blessed with that! But my two little ones have no clue what money means, so I have used some of your statements above. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Sue on August 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    With really little kids, just make sure they keep telling you what they are wishing for! I learned early that money was tight and the answer in the store was probably no, so I stopped asking… but I realized later that my mother would have been more than happy to provide beanbags like the ones at my nursery school, had I only mentioned how much I wished for my own!

  11. Jolene on August 5, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    I just tell them that I was willing to pay $X amount of money for that item, so if they would like to save their own money, I will put the amount I was planning to spend towards the purchase.

    My mom did this with my brother. Air Jordan shoes were MUST HAVES. They were $90. My mom’s max budget for a pair of shoes was $20. Once he’d saved $70, she gave him the $20 she would have spent on shoes, anyway.

    We also allow the kids to ask for gift cards for holidays- but only if people ask what they want. My 12 year old wanted a lap top and Sam’s Club had a little dell netbook for $250. She had $150 in her savings account, and if anyone (grandparents, aunts and uncles) asked what she wanted for her birthday, she would just say that she is hoping to get a couple of gift cards to use at Sam’s Club to help buy herself a laptop and then she’d get excited and tell them about her laptop and how much she had already saved. She was never allowed to call anyone up and say… “um… if you are going to buy me a present, I want a gift card.” LOL

  12. gracie on August 5, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    lol, i use the x-mas list thing too! and the’ well maybe for your birthday’, or quite simply ‘no, that is too expensive’, ‘no, i can’t afford that’ or the ever popular ‘but you already have….’

    i don’t feel that there is anything wrong in letting the children know right up front that no we don’t have money for anything past food and expenses for the month, and that ‘____’ is the reason why this month money is tight, we have a roof over our heads, food on our plates and cloths on our backs, we are therefor not poor, and even if we were poor it is nothing to be a shamed of, and it gets them thinking about money, and they have surprised me sometimes in the store with comparing prices or stating why something that they want they cannot get at least from me — and that they might save up for it, or even rethinking it and saying that they can live without it

    my 4 year old will ask for something and i’ll say no, and then i’ll try to turn it into a game and so will she, she will start pointing to everything and i’ll just start chanting ‘no’ even if she isn’t asking for anything

  13. JRae on August 5, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Was wondering why you can’t just tell your kids your budget for their clothing? Like “Well I have $100 to spend on new clothes for you this year. You need X, X, and X. If we get these shoes you’ll have to do without X, X, and X.”

    My parents didn’t do this when I was younger, but when I was in high school my mom started giving me a yearly back-to-school clothes budget of $200. We would go to the Outlets and get everything at once. (Admittedly not the best method, by the end I was always drained and just buying anything to get it over with! Rather than thinking about what I would actually need ahead of time.) I knew I was buying clothing for the whole year so I had to stretch it to get everything I needed/wanted.

    Guess it might be difficult for younger kids before they have math skills, but otherwise it should be a good lesson in budgeting for the kids…

  14. Tabitha on August 5, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    My parents were young and not as well off as they are now when I was at the age of “I want these pleeeeeease? Why not?????”

    Hell I’m at that age still but now I have no one to beg but myself and even I have to tell myself all of the above.

    What worked for me when I was little was “If you really want it, try to save up for it” or “That’s really expensive, and you already have something like that” or “Are you sure? If you get that you can’t get this other thing either.”

    Making me think about my choice, and making me really consider how worth the effort it took to get the toy/shoes/object put things in perspective for me, even at a young age. Hopefully I have that kind of sensibility when I have my own kids!

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