What am I teaching my kids about money?

There must be a dozen times every week when I wonder what message my kids are picking up about money management.

Not only do I wonder, I worry a bit about it too.

For most of their lives they pretty much had whatever they wanted. Then, once they started living with a single parent (either me or their Dad), suddenly things changed a bit. I’d have to say that they still have pretty much anything they wanted, but what they don’t have is instant gratification.

Since January 2010 I’ve been pretty consistent with money management, and I’ve totally brought them both on board with our finances and enlisted their support in our journey. As a family, we’ve come a long way.

There are times when they must think I’m inconsistent with my message and my actions. I do worry if I’m sending them mixed messages, or if they’re picking up on the importance of values. For instance, when it’s somebody’s birthday, I love to find a nice restaurant to go to, and we have whatever the heck we want. This isn’t how we normally live. If we dine out somewhere, we typically try to find someplace that’s inexpensive, casual and serves up food that won’t make us feel gross an hour after we leave. If it’s a birthday dinner, we get dressed up, we might take a cab there, and we just forget about how the bill tallies up entirely. I’ve never regretted a dollar spent on a birthday dinner.

Earlier this week, we also encountered my old friend “health care spending”. I suspect that I spend more in this area than most do, but my costs are decreasing now that both girls are (mostly) covered by a benefit package. Still, I would not blink an eye if I had to shell out for any amount of money that meant my children would benefit from a drug, a treatment or something that aided in a diagnosis of an ailment. I’ll walk an extra four blocks to save $1 on a bag of milk, but I wouldn’t hesitate to give the medical lab $175 for blood tests. Do the kids find this confusing?

Sometimes I think I see the wheels turning in their heads and they’re asking themselves “who are you and what’d you do with our Mother?

My youngest will be heading off to her final prom this spring. For me the same deal applies – it’s a very special occasion, you get to be princess for an evening. (Unlike some, however, for me that does not mean limo’s or nights in a hotel, etc).

In the year ahead, I need to focus on making more of a point on being clear about values, and how spending should reflect that. I value my children and their health and well-being, that’s where a lot of spending will go. I also value living in a safe and central neighbourhood, I’m paying for that privilege.

Still, in the last few months, I’ve found the “it’s only money” mantra creeping back into my psyche. That certainly doesn’t reflect my personal values, and I have to reel that in – and fast!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Tracy, I find that it’s a constant balancing act too. But I think what we’re teaching them that it’s important to have some of what they love, to learn to save for that, to not “waste” money on things that aren’t that important to them. And to give them nothing to really rebel against. Just a nice, balanced approach that’s within your means.

    Yay for you on the bike too! I knocked down a whole row of scooters in Greece once. 🙂 Shoulda had lessons…


  2. First, your daughters (and you!) are beautiful!
    Secondly, I think you are doing a great job of showing your girls how your values can (and do) affect how you choose to spend your money. That really is the essence of responsible spending, isn’t it! You show them they are valued by sparing no expense on their birthdays, or their prom dress, or their healthcare needs… while at the same time, showing them that it is good to find deals on everyday purchases so you can put those saved dollars towards the thing of value in your life. I don’t think that’s too confusing at all… Keep up the good work!


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