When my husband and I were DINKs (dual income, no kids), we were carefree with our money and didn’t really budget for costs related to Christmas. With the security of dual income and no kids (DINK), we were able to spend freely but if you knew us then, you know we still lived below our means.
Living below our means wasn’t just about cutting costs and saving money. It’s about controlling our money so it doesn’t control us. That was easier to do when it was just the two of us. We didn’t feel deprived but our tween and teen feel differently.
Tweens and teens see what they don’t have, not what they have. We explain that our financial priorities may look different than that of their friends and cousins. My teenager still thinks it’s unfair that so-and-so has the newest iPhone and gaming system and asks if are we poor. I look at him and say matter-of-factly, “No, but you are.”
Please don’t read me wrong, our tween and teen aren’t deprived of a comfy bed, nice clothing, healthy snacks and home-cooked meals that make them strong athletes and focused students. Even though we don’t buy what they think they need right now, we aren’t saying that they can’t have it ever. We tell them if they really want something to save for it. However, money tends to burn a hole in my teen’s pocket and he spends it on a silly game or at nearest food truck.
With Christmas and birthdays coming soon, I tell them to ask for what they really want but I also tell them if it’s a big ticket item that is above and beyond our extended family’s budgets then they can ask for cash towards the item. You may still think I’m a mean mom, but I’ve also told them that I’d split the cost with them if they’re good stewards of their money.
We always make a point to clear out and make room for new stuff. We just spent a good part of the weekend going through the playroom to make room for a desk that my teen hopes to find on freecycle or a buy-nothing site for his gaming PC. We sorted stuff into the categories of keep, trash and sell. The cash they make from the items they sell will go towards new stuff on their wish lists. What is used and unwanted by us may be new and exciting to someone else just in time for Christmas.
What’s on their wish lists? The tween only wants LEGO bricks. No big surprise there. The teen wants a phone, an airsoft gun and a gaming PC. Well, that’s at least what he wants at the moment.
You may think this lesson to my tween and teen is futile but once they get what they’ve longed for over an extended period, they tend to take good care of it and most importantly they are thankful and grateful.