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My daughter is on a Lego robotics team this year, and she’d love to have her own Lego robot to practice on. One of her teammates has one at home and she asked if we could get one too. While I fully support her interest in robotics, the price is quite a bit more than we currently have in our “kids activities” budget category, and she certainly doesn’t have enough in her allowance money. It’s so hard to say no in situations like this. I agree with the idea, and I have the money (but the money has other jobs in the budget).
So, how do you tell kids it’s not in the budget?
- Explain the trade-offs. Hopefully, you’ve already been talking to your kids about budgeting and they understand that every decision to spend money means a decision NOT to use money for something else. If you haven’t talked to them about this, do it! Explain that the purchase you’re considering would require taking money from another goal. With younger kids, it can help to make it very specific. When my kids were 4 and 5, we talked a lot about how spending money on toys would mean less money for our Disney World vacation and that helped them to become quite frugal!
- Let them pay for it. If they have their own money, let them pay for all or part of it. This discussion often will show you how serious they are about it. It’s amazing how quickly my kids decide they don’t want something at a store when I say, “Sure, you can have it, if you pay for it!”
- Show them the family budget. If the children are old enough to understand, I think it’s healthy and educational for kids to see the family budget. How else are they going to learn? Show them the category that the purchase should come from, your monthly living expenses, and goals that you’re working toward, so they can get the complete picture. Of course, emphasize that this is private family information, not to be discussed with others.
- Discuss alternatives. For example, if the kids are asking for the super-expensive school sweatshirt, show them some options that are less expensive. Explain to them that they could buy 3 nice sweatshirts at the store for the price of 1 school sweatshirt. This may or may not change their mind, but it’s an educational discussion regardless.
- Offer a deal. If they are still serious about wanting the expensive school sweatshirt, explain that if you pay for it, you will not be buying any other sweatshirts this year. If you would have bought them 3 sweatshirts anyway, and they are really OK with only the one school sweatshirt, then it’s a good deal for everyone.
- Help them earn the money. If the money isn’t in the budget and the child is still desperate to buy the item, help them find a way to earn the money themselves. I don’t mean the money should come from you (unless they could perform a service that you would have paid someone else for). If they’re old enough, help them find some work from friends and neighbors like babysitting, lawn mowing, snow shoveling, or dog poop clean-up.
You may be surprised at how mature your children can be about money when you give them the chance. I often find that I’m more upset about saying no than they are about hearing no! As for my daughter and the Lego robot, we told her there is no way we could do it now, but we can talk about it as a Christmas gift, if she’d be ok with not getting much else. She was fine with that solution, and is enjoying the robots at her team practices in the meantime.
What have you had to say no to with your kids because of your budget? How did they handle it? Comment below with your story!