My son went to the grocery store with me yesterday because he wanted to pick out some food for his new diet– he’s recently gotten into lifting weights, has given up sugar, and eats lots of protein and healthy fat.
At 14, his appetite is something I find impossible to keep up with, and regardless of what he puts in his body, the grocery bill is expensive. While I’m excited for this big change in his diet, this is quite the investment. I do think it’s worth it as it’s made remarkable changes to his moods, but he eats a package of chicken in two sittings. A $7 bag of almonds is a snack. A tub of Greek yogurt will only last a few days, and he drinks over a gallon of milk a week. A dozen eggs and a package of bacon only lasts a few days and he adds chia seeds to everything.
Then he starts to complain when we run low on these certain foods– I don’t love that part.
So, as were going up and down the aisles, he was taking note of how much everything costs, which I liked. It was a great lesson. While I never want my kids to have to burden of worrying about money at a young age, I do want them to realize the value of a dollar and how things can quickly add up.
When they ask for something, they will often say,
“But Mom, it’s only $10. Why can’t I have it?”
As parents, we say “yes” to some things, but our kids can’t have everything they want all the time of course, that would make for entitled brats and no one wants that.
There was a time when I would just say “no” and not take it any further lest I make them stress out about money. But as they have gotten older, I’ve gone above and beyond just telling them they can’t have something because I believe it’s a good opportunity to teach them when we talk about money.
I do tell them how much our mortgage is, and they need to be careful not to leave the door open in the winter so we are not paying to heat the outdoors. I remind them constantly to turn off lights when they leave the room. I’ve shown them the cable and Internet bill– I want them to appreciate all things and not expect something just because they want it.
I never want them to feel overwhelmed or stressed about the cost of living, it’s my job to worry about that since I’m the only adult in the house and honestly, when I was young I wouldn’t have understood it either.
Talking about money with our teens is crucial, though. They are on the cusp of going out on their own and I want to set a good example for them, even if they don’t feel it’s fair. I want them to know just because you have $150 to go out and buy the latest sneakers doesn’t mean you should.
I want to teach them there are times you need to ignore their impulses and save your money instead. I want to show them that keeping a home, whether it’s a house or an apartment, is a huge responsibility. And when you work hard for your money, you don’t always feel like blowing a big amount on something. There are times when you need to think about a purchase, or make other sacrifices in order to justify it.
I am very open with them and often tell them we aren’t going to do a certain thing, attend an event, or make a certain purchase this week, or this month, and I back it up with reasons. Not because I feel the need to explain myself or make them feel guilty, but because they need to be aware.
I know they won’t reap all the benefits until they are older, working, and have a place of their own, but I refuse to float along and just say “yes” or “no” to events and purchases without teaching them along the way.
If I see it starting to cause stress or make them anxious or afraid to ask for anything, I will adjust my methods, but so far, this has worked well for us, especially since their father and I have divorced.
And I feel like they are getting it. My son works for his dad on occasion, and when he earns money of his own, he is able to save for something he really wants and is very careful with his earnings.
Of course, we still have those nights when we are running around to their events, and they all beg to go out for Sushi, or their favorite Chinese place, and I have to backtrack and have the talk again—they are still kids and that’s just the way they operate. Nothing is a one-time conversation.
But, it’s worth it because it makes the nights when we do go out to dinner (then chase it with Gelato), feel more special. I can tell they value it, and it changes the whole experience for all of us.