It’s back to school again – a time when social pressure for kids is matched by financial pressures on parents.
The visit to the school supplies shop is something most parents dread. In addition to all the books and school uniforms that need to be purchased for school, there are all the necessary extras, which can be very expensive. The pencil cases, diaries and bags can range in price from reasonable to high, and your kids may not agree with your choice. So how do you find the balance between keeping your spending in check and allowing your kids some freedom to choose what they want?
A great way to deal with this challenge and to their boost their self-esteem and increase their financial IQ is to involve them in the decision process. Inform them that the budget for schooling is X, which is divided into books and clothing Y and accessories Z. Whilst you may not have much control over X and Y, you can be more flexible on Z. Explain to your children how much is available for accessories, and help them to make a list of everything they need to buy. Allow them to prioritize and decide what is important. Maybe your son really wants a Batman pencil case, and is prepared to take cheap notebooks, pencils, etc. so as to be able to “afford” that pencil case. If your daughter has her heart set on a specific diary, find ways to cut back on some of the other accessories that also need to be bought. If you think the child’s priorities are wrong then discuss it with them, but it is important to respect their opinion and allow them some degree of choice. For older children, let them make the priority list of what is needed for school – apart from the school material, uniform and accessories. You can give them the money to spend however they want, on the condition that all items on the list need to be bought. You will be surprised how resourceful children can be when given this task. (Obviously, parents need to use their discretion to determine whether their child can go shopping by themselves.)
My experience as a family financial advisor has shown that as soon as children are involved in the decision process and are given some responsibility for making their choices, they are less likely to feel deprived; instead of having a parental decision imposed upon them, they become an active partner in the decision making process and consequently are less likely to reject the outcome.
Our tip: Even if you have the money to spend on expensive items, consider whether these are really something that you value. It is important that we teach our children the value of money and spending wisely – no matter what your income level.
The greatest gift we can give to our children is to help them accept who they are, no matter what their financial situation; to teach them to be themselves and not be jealous of others’ material possessions. This will give them a skill for life far more important than keeping up with peer pressure: they will learn to be content with what they have.