Teaching Financial Responsibility

I can honestly say that my oldest four were never spoiled, especially not in the material sense. When our second son was born I was still in graduate school and we didn’t even own a car. We scraped by and never went hungry, but there was no money left over for even the smallest of luxuries.

I’ve often heard people say that they’re reluctant to have more children because it will cost more. But my husband and I have found the opposite to be true. The more children we had, the more our financial resources grew. Don’t ask me to explain it, but that’s how it was.

So there came  a time when we could afford small treats, but we still wanted to be careful with our money. More importantly, we didn’t want our kids to grow up thinking they were entitled to have whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it. Before I took them shopping I laid out the rules clearly. Sometimes they were allowed to buy nothing special. We were going only for groceries and that was it. Sometimes I would allow a small treat, but I specified what that meant ahead of time. I found that it always helped my kids when they knew what to expect. Sometimes I told them they could look at a toy, but they would have to put it back. That worked. At the same time, I made a mental note about what to get them for Eid.

Our three oldest each began working while in high school, and they bought their own cell phones and other things. We’ve helped with college expenses, but it hasn’t been possible to pay for them fully. Each of the first four has had to work through school. (And we don’t take out college loans either. I’d rather they graduate debt-free, even if they graduate a little later.) Our fourth began working in college and also takes care of many of his expenses now, including a trip to Egypt last summer.

The two youngest haven’t worked yet–it’s harder for a teenager to find a job these days–and they have each received a little more than their brothers did (cell phones, my old laptops) because they are the last two. But our 18-year old knows he needs to work in order to go to college and he’s putting out the applications.

Another aspect of teaching financial responsibility is teaching about debt. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but my husband and I have done our best to stay away from debt and we’ve taught our sons to do the same. No credit cards. No interest. Deferred gratification isn’t such a bad thing.

My parents taught me the lesson about working for what I wanted early on. When I was in fourth grade I wanted a softball glove (remember, I was a tomboy). My parents gave me a quarter for allowance each week, and I saved my quarters for that glove. (Though I think one of my aunts pitched in to help me a little.) Meanwhile my mother read the ads and found a glove that was normally $5 but on sale for $3. It felt so good to pay for that softball glove on my own.

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About jamilahk

Jamilah Kolocotronis is the mother of six boys. She is also a novelist. Her books focus on family issues.
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