It’s no secret we live in a materialistic world.
We’re constantly bombarded with messages telling us to buy more stuff, even if we have no need for it all.
It’s bad enough full-grown adults fall into the trap of spending more than they can afford. But it’s even worse when children grow up thinking it’s totally okay to do so.
As parents, we need to teach kids about money management, materialism, and how to find happiness without overspending.
If we do that, we can perhaps create a better future for our world as a whole.
There are a few ways we can do this:
1. Teach kids about money management
Budgeting and money management gets more complicated as you grow older, but it all sits on the foundation of a single premise:
Don’t spend more than you make.
When we teach kids about money, we need to teach them about long-and short-term savings. They need to understand that if they spend money on candy today, they’ll be that much further away from being to afford a new toy or video game. In a world full of instant gratification, children need to truly grasp the concept of saving their money for another day.
Children also need to be taught about saving for emergencies. Although “emergency” in kid-terms would be a broken toy or ruined book that needs to be replaced, they still need to understand that, most of the time, money isn’t a commodity – it’s a necessity.
2. Teach kids the difference between wants and needs
As just mentioned, kids need to understand that money isn’t just what people use to buy whatever they want. Adults put most of their money toward ensuring they have a roof over their head, clothes on their bodies, and food on the table.
This isn’t to say parents should make their kids pay their share into the monthly electricity bill, but they do need to know that money should be spent on necessities first, superfluous items second. But first, they need to be taught the difference between wants and needs.
Simply put: A “need” is something you can’t live without, while a “want” is something that – while it may be fun and exciting – isn’t necessary for survival. Kids who grow up understanding this will be less likely to make impulse purchases, and be less likely to overspend, in the future.
3. Teach kids about the psychology of advertising
Going along with the last point, parents should talk to their children about the commercials and advertisements they see on TV and the internet on a daily basis.
An advertisement’s job is to make potential customers think they absolutely need the product being advertised – even if it means sacrificing an actual “need” in their life. As mentioned before, some adults have a hard enough time battling this overwhelming desire to buy, buy, buy. But children actually lack the capacity to understand the psychology behind advertising, and are much more likely to be taken advantage of.
By teaching children to think critically about the messages advertisers send them, we can ensure they’ll learn to spend their money wisely and avoid being sold false promises.
4. Teach kids work ethic
At the risk of sounding cliche, kids need to know that money doesn’t grow on trees.
It sounds simple, but most kids really don’t understand how hard their parents work – because they never see it happen. They don’t see the paycheck their father brings home, and they don’t see the checks written to the utility companies. Since they don’t see all this, children often think money is an infinite resource.
We adults know that money only comes from diligent effort and hard work. We need to instill this idea in our children as soon as they’re old enough to clean their room and make their bed on their own. Instead of just giving them an allowance, make them earn it. Explain how they can earn more by doing more to help out around the house – but also that not everything they do will result in them earning more.
It’s the way of the world, right? The earlier they learn, the better off they’ll be.
5. Say “No” Once in a While
Remember: You’re the adult, here.
No matter how well you teach your kids about money management, the difference between wants and needs, and withholding pleasure, they’re still going to try to get you to compromise as much as possible at times.
The problem is, once you start compromising, it becomes a slippery slope, and becomes harder to say “no” when you really can’t afford a new toy or gadget for them to play with.
When children are upset, they don’t listen to reason. If you say “no” and they start to pout, you won’t be able to teach them anything about money management until they’ve calmed down. For the time being, there’s no shame in falling back on the “Because I said so” card.
It may lead to a short-lived tantrum, but they’ll eventually learn the lesson you’re aiming for – as long as you reinforce it and don’t budge on the decision you’ve made.
6. Practice What You Preach
Above all else, as a parent you need to act as a model for your children when it comes to money management and materialism.
If they see you going to the mall every weekend and returning with new clothes, new shoes, and other superfluous items, what do you think they’re going to do?
Of course, you work hard for your money and deserve nice things. But don’t confuse “nice things” with “things you want right now and will never use again.” Before you buy something, put some thought into how you’re going to use it so that it doesn’t end up collecting dust.
Teach your children that they should only spend money if they’re going to use whatever they buy wisely. As long as they have a practical use for everything they spend their money on, they’ll avoid overspending and falling into the trap of materialism.