8/16/2012 3:26 PM ET|
Dumb ways we spend on our kids
Children can be demanding, particularly when it comes to a parent's spending. That's why you need to know when to draw the line.
Every parent is probably guilty of giving in to his or her kids when it comes to spending money.
Whether it's buying a candy bar at the checkout counter or sending a well-timed check to cover the wedding caterer, spending money to make kids happy is a natural impulse, says Leisa Brown Aiken, a certified financial planner in Chicago.
"Parents want their kids to be happy," Aiken says. "And they're really good making you feel like if they don't get it, they're going to be unhappy and you're a terrible parent."
But giving in to those impulses can have serious financial consequences, says Joan Koonce, a professor and financial planning specialist at the University of Georgia.
"Parents are trying to provide (kids) with these things, and sometimes it's a bad situation because they really can't afford it," she says.
Worse,it creates a pattern that repeats itself as children get older, with ever-higher stakes for both parents and their kids. "When they leave their parents' household for the first time, many of them end up in a lot of debt," Koonce says.
Here are some dumb financial moves that children commonly demand and how to push back:
Buying expensive brands over cheap alternatives
Brands and the powerful advertising that pushes them exert a strong influence on kids. The U.S. food industry alone spends billions of dollars a year advertising to children.
And because children are naturally much less critical consumers, that advertising can be effective. Among children 2 to 6 years old, just a 10- to 30-second exposure to advertising can influence food, drink and toy preferences, according to a Stanford University study conducted in 2001 and still quoted in textbooks.
Taken in by advertising, kids will push to spend money on expensive brands, a phenomenon so common scientists have dubbed it: "the nag factor."
"The $1.50 yogurt versus the $4 yogurt isn't the biggest problem. The problem is you've set that pattern, and then when it's middle school, your kid only wants $75 T-shirts," Aiken says. "If your kid was buying $20 or $15 T-shirts, the rest of that could be going in your college fund."
How to say "no": For young kids, a fun way to demonstrate that cheaper brands and name brands are often similar is a blind taste test. Ask kids to identify which is the brand name and which is the generic. Even if they're correct in identifying the products, they'll still notice how similar the flavors are.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Kids face peer pressure, and that pressure sometimes translates into persistent demands to spend money on the same kinds of electronics, clothes and even cars that their peers' parents buy, even at the expense of the family's long-term financial well-being, Aiken says.
"They're in school or they're bombarded with all these marketing messages, and they don't have experience, they don't have the long view. They're kids. The long term to a 6-year-old is 15 minutes," she says.
While you may be able to afford to give in to the pressure now, keeping up with the Joneses leads kids to expect a standard of living they may not be able to maintain later in life, Aiken says.
- Calculator: Are you saving enough for college?
How to say "no": When a child brings up what he or she has seen peers getting, break out your own financial plan. Explain your goals for retirement savings and other things you value more than keeping up appearances, says Laura Scharr, a principal at Ascend Financial Planning in Columbia, S.C.
If that doesn't work, "You start then and say, 'Well, that's kind of a special thing that you want, so why don't you pay for it out of your allowance?'" Scharr says. "If they really do want it, they'll pay for it."
More from Bankrate.com:
- 5 tips for raising money-smart kids
- Find the best savings rates
- 5 debt and saving tips for 20-somethings
Making impulse purchases
Getting kids to appeal to parents is a time-tested way to increase sales for grocery stores and other retailers. According to reports, advertisers specifically place those items at kids' eye level to get their attention.
Giving in to those impulses won't cost you much at first, Scharr says.
"If your kid is between 3 and 9, that's normally the time when they'll be in the grocery store and say, 'Can I have that candy bar?' And what does a parent want to do? Just get the candy bar and make them happy. It's quick, it's easy, it's not that expensive," Scharr says.
But the cost of adding extra purchases to every shopping trip grows as kids get older, she says. If you've taught them that you're an easy mark, you'll soon face demands to spend money on more expensive items -- dessert at every restaurant, video games, expensive clothing.
How to say "no": Instead of springing for every impulse purchase, try saving money you'd otherwise spend on children's extras in a glass jar to fulfill a specific goal, Aiken says. That way, they can see how saving for something they want can give more satisfaction in the long run, rather than frittering away money on small items.
Splurging on a 'dream school'
College costs have exploded in recent years. Tuition, room and board at a four-year institution averaged $21,189 per year for the 2009-10 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
In addition, only 40.1% of students graduated within four years of starting college in 2004, according to U.S. News & World Report. So college costs may increase from what parents expect to pay at the start of their child's higher education.
Kids often pick out high-end colleges as their "dream schools" with little regard for cost, expecting parents to pay, says Scharr.
Giving in to those demands, especially when the costs often come at a time when many parents are rushing to save for retirement, can mean that the latter gets short shrift, says Scharr, who adds that she often hears from clients about putting off retirement.
"They say, 'Here I am now at 57 years of age, and I don't have a lot saved up for retirement, but it was because I had to put my kid through college,'" Scharr says.
How to say "no": Look at what you can do financially and communicate that number in clear terms from the get-go.
For example, you could offer to pay tuition for any in-state public university. If the child wants to go to a pricier school, make it clear he or she will have to come up with the difference by applying for scholarships or taking out student loans, Scharr says.
Overspending on weddings
If you doubt whether a child's wedding can be a major drag on your finances, here's a statistic for you: The average American wedding cost $25,631 in 2011, up from $19,581 in 2009, according to a study by The Wedding Report, a market research firm in Tucson, Ariz.
Despite that, many parents still feel obligated to write their children a blank check, even if they're struggling financially. "I have people who have lost their jobs and then want to go pay for their kid's wedding," Scharr says.
Having their wedding costs covered leaves little incentive for children to control costs. That can lead to lasting financial damage to parents for what amounts to a one-day celebration.
Calculator: Are you saving enough for college?
How to say "no": With wedding demands you can't afford, honesty is the best policy. "It's important for parents to be very upfront with their kids," Scharr says. "The kid's going to understand if you explain to him your situation."
Discuss the other pulls on your budget, such as the need to save for retirement or pay down debt, in concrete terms. While your child may still resent the decision, it's more likely that she would rather scale back her wedding plans than cause financial trouble for her parents, Scharr says.
More from Bankrate.com:
- 5 tips for raising money-smart kids
- Find the best savings rates
- 5 debt and saving tips for 20-somethings
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
"If your kid was buying $20 or $15 T-shirts, the rest of that could be going in your college fund."
Am I the only parent who thinks spending $15-20 on a freaking TEE SHIRT is ludicrous? My God in Heaven.
Giving a 7 year old a smart phone. It's often a way to get them to shut up. Parents nowadays don't seem to discipline their kids. Shouldn't parents know this in the first place?
It's all about the time you spend with them. Not the money.
Another benefit you get by spending time with them is that you get to teach them the things you feel are important, thereby counteracting the input of stupid teachers and young peers. You also get to teach them to truly evaluate the dollar value of a given product, because some items require spending a little more money to get the quality, like shoes. Still doesn't mean that a $200 dollar pair of sneakers is any better than a $60 pair at the outlet mall.
(Before you get too envious or say "stop bragging", I was married for 35 years, but have been a widower for the last five years, at one point I was down to $429 in the bank, but I was able to re-fi and improve my cash flow, and I kept putting out resumee's and applications.) I onmoly mention this to show what discipline can do.
I don't have any children, but my brother has three....the eldest, a male aged 25 still lives at home and has never moved out....his ambition is to play video games and occasionally make his living by writing and illustrating "manga" books:/ The other two are girls, aged 22 and 16. The 22 year old move out as soon as she was 18 and free of high school, going to college (with assistance from her mom and dad), but unable to meet her financial needs in todays workforce as a waitress. She's moved back in with mom and dad. At least she has made the effort to become a true adult, and I think she will make it! The 16 year old?? We'll have to see what happens, but I think she is on the right path. The boy (I won't call him a man until he proves he is), will probably live at home until they can no longer take care of him. Then he will just jump ship and try to mooch off of some other family member.
Many kids today have no idea what discipline is. Even my own. I have three children and it was a gigantic effort to make them follow the path of restraint. They are all very successful now and have stable life's and have gave me eight grand children but I see the lack of any type of discipline in the way they treat there kids. Many people mistaken discipline from punishment. They are not the same. Taking a child's Ipod away because he or she is bad is punishment, Telling him he has to use it 2 hours a day instead of 8 hrs is discipline. My oldest grand child had no discipled. Fours years at a big collage and he's working as a bag boy at the local A&P store and partying every night. He's 27. His parents don't know what to do ! I would love to tell them "I told you so" but I won't. One other of my grand children is so spoiled that no man count ever satisfy he as much as her parents did. The boys she brings home know it to as soon as the date for a wile. She is high maintenance. I only can tell you from my own life's experiences, don't spoil your kids and show them discipline not puni**** to late if you have to do the later.
By saying NO. Just like my parents did to me.
Now, I teach logic, so I am all about building critical thinking skills by explaining the reasons behind my answer. And I would appreciate my child's attempt to refute my rationale. And I would go so far to say, that IF the refutation was valid, I would entertain it.
But at the end of the day, I will generally prevail because I AM THE PARENT. And there is a limit to how far I allow our "enlightened debate" to continue. And since I control the finances, I make the final decision.
And quite frankly, I'm going to retire someday when my children are out "doing their thing" so I have to keep my eyes on THAT prize, even if they aren't thinking as long-term.
Quite a few of my friends are CONSTANTLY being hit up for money by their parents. My parents are not doing that to me. In fact, they just built their dream home. I'm sure that realizing their dream was probably due to the fact that they didn't buy me Esprit clothes, Liz Claiborne purses, and Jordache jeans (I'm a child of the 80's/90's.) And while I was MAD then, I am SO THANKFUL now.
So if you want to entertain your child's nonsense demands, go ahead. Just make sure that they end up in a position to send you that money that you SHOULD HAVE BEEN SAVING.
Best thing for a child after saying no is when they're teenagers and you make them get a job. Nothing warms a parents heart more than to see your child beat after a hard day at work and they know it's not easy, followed by them paying for their gas and maintenace on their car. Can't appreciate a dollar unless you earn a dollar.
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