As a parent, we’re often told that we are our children’s first teachers. We try our best to help our children become human beings – to avoid entitlement – and to enjoy the world around them.
But to a certain extent, I think children are the teachers, too. There are so many things I learned about myself and my spouse that I never imagined when I first saw that little heartbeat on an ultrasound.
So today, I share with you some of those lessons.
Ten Money Lessons I Learned From My Kids
Preparing to have kids makes you do smart things with your money.
The thought of having a tiny human who is entirely dependent on you for survival is a bit humbling. It makes you think about what’s most important in your life. When we found out we were having twins, we made the decision for me to become a stay-at-home mom, and that required some major lifestyle changes. You want the best life for your child, so when you find out you’re expecting, you start doing smart things with your money like paying down debt, saving money, taking better care of your health, and getting your personal affairs in order.
Having kids sometimes makes you do dumb things with your money.
For every smart money move you made while you were expecting, there are at least two stupid things you do once those kids have arrived. It’s really easy during those early months of parenthood to throw money at problems. How many pacifiers did you buy before you found the one? How many different parenting books, Baby Einstein CDs, and white noise machines did you buy in a desperate attempt to get your child to sleep at night?
And then when they’re older, and you get to really know your kids, you are moved by wanting to do whatever you can for your child. Soccer camp? Sure! A new Nintendo 3Ds? Yep. An expensive birthday party for your child and all his friends? Of course! The priciest prom dress on the rack? You only get one senior prom!
I’ve made my share of rash decisions when it comes to spending money. Which leads me to my next lesson.
The hardest words to say to a child are “No.”
When those adorable faces look up at you and ask for something it is really hard to say, “No.” But the truth is, someone has to be the grown-up, even if you don’t want to be the one. Sometimes you have to be the worst parent ever in order to raise someone the rest of the world can live with.
Expect the unexpected.
I have always been a person who plans things. Friends used to tease me that I had to plan to be spontaneous. Having a set of twins really through all that planning all the window. Kids are great at throwing you (and your finances) for a loop. You never know when you’ll end up with a doctor bill from stitches or your child will outgrow his shoes overnight. And don’t forget to check those backpacks – there’s probably two birthday party invites and a school fundraiser form in there!
Buying multiples of the same item will not stop children from fighting over them.
I was an only child, so sibling rivalry is strange and fascinating to me. I don’t like conflict, and when the boys were little, I would try to keep the peace by making sure everything was fair. Well, life is not fair. Even if you buy three identical toys for three boys, one of them will try to take them all. One will find a way to ruin the experience for at least one of the others. So stop trying to make everything equal and treat your kids as the individuals they are.
Every kid has their price.
I expect my kids to do what they’re asked, but I will admit, I’m not above bribing my children for a desired behavior. Figure out what motivates your child – cash, later bedtimes, special treats or priviledges – and use that strategically. Just don’t use this strategy too often, or you’ll end up with a spoiled brat. Instead, learn what inspires your child and use it to steer them toward the behavior you want.
Splurges can be good sometimes.
You may think that because I’m the Northern Cheapskate, that I’m a bit stingy when it comes to spending money on my kids. But I’m not. I’m strategic in my spending on my kids. I think when you have room in your budget, that it’s good to spoil the kids every once in a while. Watch a child walk through the toy aisle with a pocket full of birthday money. It is fun to be able to treat yourself to something you want without worrying about it. It makes all that scrimping and saving worthwhile!
The best things in life are free.
When I ask my kids what some of their favorite memories are, they’re rarely involve spending money. They remember trips to visit family, afternoons at the playground, and going fishing. They talk about riding bike and swimming and taking walks in the woods.
Don’t get me wrong: My boys love a trip to the LEGO store as much as the next kid. But the majority of the things they love doing don’t cost any money. And that’s a great lesson to carry with you throughout life.
Never stop learning.
My boys are constantly asking questions about how things work. They’re fascinated with coins. They ask lots of questions about careers. They want to know what mom bought at the store and they know to ask me what kind of deals I got. They have an endless thirst for knowledge – not just about money – but about life, and it is a great reminder to me to never stop learning. I’ve learned a lot about life and money, but there is so much more to know. My kids inspire me to keep asking questions.
There’s nothing more valuable than the love of a child.
They say that it costs more $200,000 to raise a child from birth to college. I don’t doubt that it’s true. But when you have the unconditional love of a child, none of that money matters. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be a mom to my three boys. They bring me more joy than I ever thought possible.
Now it’s your turn: What money lessons have your children taught you?