Father talking to his child

How to talk to kids when money is tight

It’s OK to say no to things we can’t afford – here’s how to talk to kids about money so they understand

There’s nothing tougher than when our kids ask us for something we just can’t afford. So it’s vital to be able to talk to them about money.

If their friends’ families can afford takeaways and gadgets, but our budget won’t stretch that far, what’s the best way to talk to them about money?

First of all, we should remember that it’s natural for us to want to give our kids everything they want – or treat them to things we didn’t have as youngsters.

But if we don’t have the cash, we’re just going to make life more difficult for them further down the line.

A really important thing to remember is that we are not the only parents who are saying no – depsite what our kids may tell us! The cost-of-living crisis is squeezing everyone and we should never feel guilty if this means we have to say no to luxuries.

This is also a good way of making sure our kids don’t end up worrying about the family finances. We can remind them that we’re not the only ones in this situation.

Saying ‘no’ though can leave us looking and feeling like the bad guy. So here are a few tips for those difficult moments.

Honesty’s a great starting point. We should explain to our kids that we’re saying no because there isn’t an endless supply of money and we have to choose what we spend it on.

Be direct and list the essentials that we have to pay for, like rent and bills. And explain that spending more than we have in our wallets will push us into debt.

Turning a negative into a positive

Our kids might be asking for something that’s not completely out of reach, like a takeaway night or a family trip to the cinema. In that case, we could make saving up for it a challenge that we do alongside our kids.

Set a date, calculate how much the treat will cost and work out a budget (use the Quids in! budget planner to help with this bit). 

A visual way that might help kids feel good about the plan is jam jar saving. Popping loose change in a jam jar and watching it mount up can keep kids engaged.

We might think having to wait will be a bit rubbish for our kids. But teaching them how to budget, manage money and wait for treats will set them up for life. And they can take pride in knowing they played a part in paying for the treat.

Saving and budgeting apps (some are free) can also be hugely helpful.

Learning the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ is also a huge bonus for children at any age.

For a bigger item, maybe a holiday or an expensive present, we can involve our kids in the research. That will help us find something that’s good value and show our children that sometimes it’s smart to compromise or lower our expectations a bit.

We should also remember that kids move on quickly. What they want this week might not be the same as what they’ll want next week. 

The most important thing to them is that they feel listened to and valued. And we can do that for free!

Image: August de Richelieu / Pexels

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