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I'll Make You Pay for That!

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I will move Heaven and Earth to give my children their hearts' desire. But last week I made my 11-year-old reimburse me for a pack of gum.

daughter asking for money

Beth Falkenstein: Yes, I felt petty and cheap, but a pack of Eclipse did not qualify as her heart's desire -- not even the Big-E Pak. Neither does a daily Starbucks, the newest shade of OPI nail polish, or any shampoo that only comes in an eight-ounce bottle.

All those little niceties add up, and believe it or not, I am not able to retire on my blogging revenue (actually, I'm saving it for a down payment on a tank of gas). Therefore, if my kids want ballet lessons, a student trip to Italy, or even a better computer, they're going to have to forgo seeing "Ponyo" a second time ... unless they pay for it themselves.

Likewise, if my kid loses something and needs another one, it goes on their tab. My daughters have to learn somehow that hair clips and socks are not one-use-only items.

I know this isn't news, and I'm merely following the conventional wisdom of countless child psychologists. Making them use their own money is supposed to give kids a healthy appreciation of finances and greater enjoyment of the things they choose to buy. But what these experts fail to specify is exactly when this "ah ha!" moment is supposed to take place. I've been at it for years now -- and I have yet to hear one of my girls say, "I can live without this ... (mechanical pencil, novelty ring, packet of Lisa Frank stickers, etc.)." I tell them they have to pay for it themselves, and they say "Okay." End of story.

And when their money runs out, do you think they regret their impulse purchases? Of course not. They just bide their time until the next babysitting or allowance money comes in and then they're off to the temporary tattoo store.

Furthermore, I want to know what advice these experts would give regarding the damage I am most certainly doing to the image my children have of me. For every time I say "Look! I bought you a new computer!" there are at least fifty times I say "You owe me 99 cents for that iTunes download." I could make a Jack Benny reference here, but then you would know I was old enough to make a Jack Benny reference.

This strategy has to work eventually. And it's for their own good, so I'll keep it up. I can't afford not to. Literally.

next: College Prep -- 13 Years Early
4 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous October 1, 2009, 6:45 AM

It will come eventually. My parents did this with us. Only it included toys and cd’s. Eventually, I began to realize that by buying those things I had spent money that I could have saved for something better, like a car. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly how old I was when it hit. Not knowing their age, I would say they are living in the moment, and are probably too young to want or need anything of any really large expense that they would have to pay for. Who knows, maybe they have some sense of pride that they can buy these things and are happy with that.

squeaky082 October 1, 2009, 12:33 PM

Haha! I loved your story. I have a 10 year old daughter who wants everything but I just can’t afford it. She gets a small allowance & saves her birthday / Christmas money. If there is something that she wants that I don’t see as a necessity, then I tell her to use her own money. Usually she declines buying the item. It’s very different when it’s HER money. I even gave her $50 for her 10th birthday to put towards an ipod that she so despirately HAD to have. Needless to say, 3 months later, she is still holding on to that $50 and didn’t buy the ipod.

Pam Whitlock October 27, 2010, 11:43 AM

Kids and teens are much more thoughtful and careful when spending their own money, as opposed to Mom’s money. MoneyTrail ( is a free, online allowance and money management system that allows kids and parents to keep track of allowances and IOUs.

Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 12:50 PM

Interesting info. Good to read. There’s a single opinion to give about funny t-shirts.

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