To Pay or Not to Pay for Kids Expenses?

09 January 2017 Written by   Published in Peaks Financial Fitness

My family officially has our first pets!!! We’ve have had butterflies, rolly pollies, and other insects, but on Saturday, we bought three colorful guppy fish. My four-year-old stared in wonder at the fish tanks full of many kinds of fish. For Christmas, we gave our kids gift cards to pay for their fish. I hadn’t planned on the cost of the rocks and decorations for the tank. Those ended up costing four times more than the fish! As our kids started picking out the decorations for their fishes’ home, I was not sure how much to spend or what money to use. The decorations cost $10-$40 a piece. One piece of coral, which my son wanted, cost $35. I told him that he would need to use his money if he wanted to buy that. He put it back, and we got enough decorations for the whole tank for the price of that one decoration. I decided we would use our Christmas money to pay for the decor since they were part of their Christmas gift. I learned that I should have considered and planned for the cost of accessories of the tank.

Our fish buying experience got me thinking about how we, as parents, decide what we will buy for our children and what we let our children buy. This wasn’t the first time that we had this situation come up. In fact, it comes up frequently. We could go overboard either way: make them pay for everything or buy everything for them. There is no fixed rule: every family decides what they will do. Here are a few issues that we consider:

Are my children learning how to work? If the answer is yes, I am more likely to want to pay for more of their expenses. If the answer is no, I am less likely to pay for their expenses so that they can learn to work.

Are they learning to be good stewards of money? I want to be generous to them. However, if they spend their money thoughtlessly, I don’t feel it is wise to give them money. They will never have enough money if they don’t manage it.

Are they acting entitled and bratty? Recently my oldest daughter got her money ready to pay for a field trip. I was glad that she was taking responsibility and was willing to pay for her own expenses. Because she did not act entitled, I really wanted to pay for the trip. I told her that she didn’t have to pay for it and expressed how proud I was of her. In contrast, last week my four-year-old threw a fit in the car. On the way home, we went through the Wasatch Peaks drive through to make a deposit, and she wanted a sucker. Even though it was free, I did not get her a sucker. I told her that throwing fits is not the way to get what she wants from me. If she had calmly rode in the car, I would have been more likely to get her a sucker. She learned. A couple days later, we went to the credit union again. She had been calm and obedient, and she got her sucker.

As with many aspects of parenting, for me it depends on the attitude of the child and the situation as to whether I will pay for expenses. We are learning as we go, and enjoying all that we are learning together.

What are some things that you consider before paying for expenses? What teaching moments have you had or received from your parents?

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About Nat Craven

  • Natalie “Nat” Craven is a financial blogger, mom, and wife. She loves budgeting, eating cheesecake, and exploring Utah with her handsome husband and four active kids. 

    Nat studied Family Finance at Utah State University. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Accounting from Weber State University where she was awarded a scholarship to research taxation. She became a Certified Public Account (CPA). Nat is no longer intimidated by the tax code—even though it is a complicated foreign language. After working in public accounting for a couple of years, she left the industry to raise money-smart children, but kept up her license and education by doing online coursework. 

    She volunteered and worked for Cornerstone Financial Education, becoming a Certified Personal Financial Counselor (CPFC). There she helped teach personal finance classes and started a financial fitness blog.

    Through the years, she found her passion for budgeting as she realized that no one needs a CPA license or a Master’s degree in finance to manage their money well. Budgeting is a super simple principle to understand, but is challenging to apply. Her blog posts focus on the how we can “USE” our budget to reach our goals. Almost everyone has made a budget, but using it is powerful. Follow Nat on Twitter at @cravennat.

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