Posted by Dana Hinders on December 28, 2011
For me, one of the hardest things about living on a budget is having to say “no” to my son. Like pretty much every other parent I know, I’d rather be naked and hungry than feel like I’m depriving him of anything. However, I’m starting to realize that children really are smarter than we give them credit for.
On my son’s last birthday, he was hoping for a birthday party with all of his classmates at Chuck E. Cheese. While I have nothing against Chuck E. Cheese in theory, the cost of this party wasn’t going to leave any room leftover for birthday gifts or a family celebration. Fortunately, explaining this to him ended up being not as difficult as I had thought. Since his first grade class is learning subtraction, we set out some change and talked about how if you spend all of your money on one thing (like a Chuck E. Cheese party) you don’t have enough left to buy anything else (like the Star Wars spaceship he’d had his eye on for months). Even without getting into specific price details, this explanation was enough to convince him that Chuck E. Cheese wasn’t vital to having a successful birthday party.
After a few days of deliberation, my son decided he wanted a pirate themed birthday party at home. I made a homemade piñata, baked a treasure chest cake, picked up a few decorations from the dollar store, and filled goodie bags with coloring sheets and some novelty crayons we made by melting bits of broken crayons into skull shaped ice cube trays. Compared to Chuck E. Cheese or the parties you see featured in parenting magazines, this was a very simple celebration. However, all of the kids had fun and we kept costs down enough that my son was still able to get the space ship he’d been hoping for.
It’s tough to do in a society that is constantly telling us to associate happiness with expensive purchases, but I promise that telling your children “no” when a purchase isn’t economically feasible won’t be the end of the world. Your children are more resilient than you think and giving them realistic expectations will make it easier for them to make responsible financial decisions when they’re out on their own.