Ask MP: Helping Kids Understand the Family Budget

by MP Dunleavey

Ask MP: Helping Kids Understand the Family Budget

How can I tell my kids we don’t have the money for frivolous things without scaring them?

My kids are always whining for stuff at the store. How can I say we don’t have the money without scaring them?

It’s rough for kids to see something they want and have Mom say no for some peculiar reason involving “cost” and “dollars.” To prevent in-store battles — and fears — have regular, positive, honest money discussions before you even go shopping.

With younger children, the whining often starts after they’ve visited a friend or seen a commercial. Seize the moment. “I know you want X, honey. It costs $25. Right now, I have to spend our money on our groceries and other things. I hope we’ll have extra money for X soon.” At the store, refer back to these conversations. If necessary, speed-walk to another aisle. 

With older kids, plan to have more nuanced, but still positive, money chats. Explain that there is a budget for family expenses, and sometimes you can afford to buy treats, just not now. Make it clear that Mom and Dad are handling things, and sometimes that means waiting to buy something. 

Send MP Dunleavey your money questions at