When and where does that line get drawn about what you should be spending on your kids?
When our babes are born we immediately jump into caring for their every need, no question;
They’re hungry, we feed them.
They’re stinky, we change them.
They’re tired, we put them to sleep.
As they get older though, things start to change and the divide between needs and wants sneaks it’s way in all stealth like.
All of a sudden those same juicy apple slices that used to make their mouth water isn’t good enough anymore and instead they plead with batting eyelashes for those crunchy golden fishy crackers. So, you get them fishy crackers.
Then some time passes, and you’re dressing them- but all of a sudden they have an opinion about what they’re wearing. That color shirt is just not their favorite mom, and Spiderman pajamas or the Princess Anna dress is what they really want! It has to come with the matching slippers…
Some time later, you’re strolling into Target with your little sidekick and just as you turn the corner, there’s that hot new toy on the shelf of their favorite character EVER (insert their squeal of excitement)! Sure it’s cute and all, but then you think of all the mess they already make with all the toys they already have so you give them the head shake to signal ” not today hun”.
As you try to move past the aisle you see that look come over their face and you know it’s about to go down in living color right in the main walkway for all to see!
Your shopping trip, that started off on a good note, has now taken a deep, dark turn, and you’re now smack dab in the middle of a real life nightmare! They’re throwing their head back scream-crying and flailing their arms and legs like a fish out of water while you desperately try to calm them before store security is sure to be sent to check on you. People are stopping to look at you wide-eyed as if they had never witnessed such a thing.
This was yours truly about a year ago when it became crystal clear that something needed to change. There was no way I was going to let this 3-footer make a simple shopping trip turn into World War III. No way!
That day, I left Target with a screaming child and a mission to find a way to keep this tantrum business from taking over. I had no idea that it was about to change everything.
Our kids watch everything we do and hear everything we say; nothing we can do about that. I mean, I’m sure you’ve probably heard them, at least once, repeat something you’ve said or done that you would have much rather they never let out.
Well, their watchful eyes and satellite ears don’t stop there. They also start to see how we value the things we have and how quickly we move on to the next thing. If they see us buying new thing after new thing, over and over, they’ll have a hard time seeing value in what they already have and grow to want more and more. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that I can give my kids better things than I had, but I also want them to understand the difference between a need and a want.
That night, after the hellish trip to Target earlier that day, I sat on our couch looking at the overflowing baskets of toys, most of which hadn’t seen the light of day for weeks, and it hit me:
I was partly to blame for what had happened that day! Each one of those blocks, dolls, and train tracks represented a time that I just wanted to buy them something that caught my eye.
It was then that I knew we needed to have a chat as a family and come up with a plan together.
I could have easily decided what to do and make decisions about was staying and what was going, but I think that when we include our kids in the process they can learn some really valuable lessons and also help them understand better why boundaries are being set.
Out of that conversation came a few family guidelines about spending that have really made a difference, and can start helping you too:
- For every new item coming in, there must be one similar item going out.
- A specific dollar amount is set for each of you to have as spending money, each month, in CASH (Giving cash helps prevent overspending). If there’s an item that costs more than the money you have then you’ll need to raise the difference.
- Shop Thrift Stores, Resale Shops/Apps, and Yard Sales before big box stores.
- Love it or Don’t Buy It!
There’s so many different names that have been given for this way of living; minimalism, living with less, simple living, etc. To me it’s more about being conscious of how we are living. Swiping a piece of plastic is so much easier than handing the cashier a $50 or $100 bill isn’t it? Yet, we know how quickly a short trip to Target can rack up that kind of a bill.
Now, these guidelines are strictly meant for wants or extras, not needs. So just keep that in mind when explaining to your kids. Also know, it will take several times of repeating these guidelines to remind everyone of what to expect- especially the little ones. Before any shopping trip, go over it to make sure you’re all on the same page. At first, it didn’t stick very long before I’d see them start to eye something, so I’d just say “remember our deal”, and if they were getting really fussy I’d just ask them take a picture of the thing they wanted to talk to us about it later.
Since that day, all our spending has changed for the better and trips to Target are much more pleasant! No longer do I have to come up with a distraction to keep my kids from bee-lining it to the toys section. They know now what has to happen before they get something and most times they don’t even bother with it. In fact, trips to the thrift store to treasure hunt have been our funnest ways to shop these days.