Buy something that isn't on your list
Do you ever tell your child that you're absolutely, positively not going to buy anything for her at the mall, but then cave when she falls for the adorable dress-up princess shoes? Or maybe you've broken down and bought some to-die-for boots for yourself, since they happened to be on sale. Good news: Impulse purchases like these do not count as F's on your parenting report card.
Virtually no one walks into a store with a perfectly preplanned shopping list. There might be a totally legitimate reason to buy something you didn't plan for ahead of time. "The important thing is to explain that briefly to your child," says Marsha Goetting, Ph.D., a family-economics specialist at the Montana State University Extension Service, in Bozeman. Once you've started giving your child an allowance and she understands that some money is set aside to spend freely, explain that this is how you choose to use yours.
And besides, it's good for your child to see you be flexible and enjoy what you've earned. That's because being smart about money doesn't just mean knowing how to budget and save -- it also means being able to spend wisely.
Be open with your spouse
More than a third of moms in the Parenting survey admit they've hidden purchases from their partners. Why? Some moms (37 percent) say their husbands think they spend too much.
If you're not telling your partner that you bought yourself a new pair of jeans or you fudge how much you spent on your daughter's haircut, she will pick up on the secrecy. It isn't good for kids to see that kind of distrust between parents -- or to learn that money is something you have to be secretive about in your own family. So stop ferreting away cash!
Then look a little deeper. Why do you spend and not tell? Unless you're a compulsive shopper (which most of us probably aren't), you may simply need to tweak your money habits. Start by talking to your partner about how each of you will spend personal money, says Amelia Warren Tyagi, coauthor of All Your Worth. "Every marriage needs a little bit of free money -- a little money for her, a little money for him -- that can be spent with no questions asked," says Tyagi. "Even if you decide it's only $20 a week, that's fine." This can go a long way toward eliminating secret expenditures.
If you're not up front about the cost of things you've bought for your kids, talk to your husband about the true price of their clothes and activities. Since moms tend to make these purchases, men often don't know how expensive they can be. A frank discussion, receipts in hand, might help end your disagreements -- and your habit of hiding purchases. Not only will that be better for your relationship, but it'll help foster the right kind of attitude about money in your child.