Money Well-Spent



Does everyone at your child’s school have a smartphone, too?

Our eldest insists that she’s the only 10-year-old in San Antonio that doesn’t have one. While I can agree that smartphones have become central to our society and serve many practical uses, I cannot ignore that they also present several dangers. More important, I cannot accept the “everyone else has one” argument as a valid reason for getting one. Despite what society (and great marketing) tells us, we don’t need to have what everyone else has, and we’re not entitled to it, either.

Teaching our children the value of working hard to earn things has come hand in hand with what we value as a family and how we choose to spend our money. Things that hold real value for our family are experiences, time spent together, education, and anything that will improve the quality of life for us all. We’re happy to spend our money on the things we value, but when our children approach us about the personal items that they want, we like to examine the cost vs. the reward to us as a whole.

We’ve broken it down into three categories:

What we need.

What we want.

What we value.

Just as adults budget for what’s needed (i.e. shelter, food, utilities), what’s wanted (i.e. cable, smart devices, and other “nice to have” things) and what’s valued (time with family, experiences together, education, etc.) our children also need to recognize the value of their time and money. The things we invest in as a family should fall within at least two of these three categories, and if it is a personal want that brings no value to our family (i.e., gadgets), it needs to be earned. This thought process allows us to make decisions as a family, learn how to earn what we want, and is an excellent tool in sidestepping a sense of entitlement.

Since we’ve implemented this train of thought when making purchases, our kids are learning fast that keeping up with the Jones’ in this day in age is almost impossible for those living on a modest budget. Times have changed, and it’s not easy for them to earn the things they want since these gadgets are so expensive. It requires a lot more than just mowing the neighbor’s lawn for a month to make those funds, so how does a 10-year-old child earn that kind of money?

Our family turns back to our values. We value effort and education, so we are willing to reward them for it because it improves the overall quality of our lives. To earn such a high-priced item, our daughter will need to show personal strength and restraint. Instead of buying the small things that she likes, she’ll need to have patience and save her money over time for the big thing that she wants. She’ll also need to show tremendous effort in her schoolwork to reach her goal.

Over time, a combination of the two might help her to reach her goal, and better yet, it will instill a sense of pride and responsibility. She’ll come to realize the value of a dollar, and she’ll learn to take better care of the things she has (because who wants to go through all of that to get another phone?). There are so many valuable lessons learned in this one transaction. It becomes a win-win on all parenting fronts.

By not just giving them what they want, we are preparing them for life. We’re helping them learn to deal with struggle and accept that nothing in this life will come easy to them without hard work. Along the way, they’ll also learn patience, persistence, and they’ll get to experience the euphoria that accompanies getting something they’ve worked so hard to earn. It may even help them to be more grateful for the things they have. These lessons are much more valuable gifts to give than a soon-to-be outdated iPhone.

In the meantime, with the money we’ve saved on overpriced gadgets or toys, we’ll get to create more memories with our children. For the same price as a new gadget, we can buy a weekend away. We’ll be able to have more experiences together, and every single family member will benefit from it. One day, there might be a legitimate need for our daughter to have a phone and she may need help getting it, but until then, we’ll enjoy spending our money on time spent with her.

The holidays are fast approaching, and no one loves seeing the joy of people getting a gift they’ve wanted more than me. But, consider that in the years to come, your children won’t remember the overpriced gadgets or toys they received this holiday season. They’ll remember the moments spent together with family – which one is worth your hard-earned cash?


By Pamela V. Miller

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