Well, those are two things that don’t always go well together! Our lives were turned rather upside-down earlier this year and we had to institute a very strict budget. It’s certainly not fun but it’s necessary and we’re doing well with sticking to it.
But I found myself wondering about the impact on our almost five-year-old daughter. Alex was talking about her birthday (in January) and what she might like to have – one of which is a hamster. In the middle of a careful rendition of how she would care for said hamster she stopped and looked at me very seriously and said “Mommy, is a hamster in our budget?” It surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t, since the word budget has been a big part of the adult discussions and vocabulary this year. I just find it amazing how much she actually picks up on when I don’t think she’s paying any attention at all. I explained that I would talk to her father about the hamster and its place in the budget – I’m not sure how hubby feels about a hamster which may be more of an issue then the budget!
Alex is very bright for her age and not much gets past her so I doubt I could pretend that we don’t have to be very careful about finances right now and for the foreseeable future. And perhaps it is better that she understands, and hopefully comes to appreciate, that things are not always easy to achieve – that sometimes you have to wait and save for something that you really want.
I have watched over the last year as Alex has developed a very careful approach to buying things – she is rarely whiny about wanting things and if I say she can have only one item (in a certain price range) she carefully thinks over her choices before making a decision. She keeps a list of what to ask for from Santa and for her birthday and can tell you which things are more important to her and which things would just would be nice to have. And before Christmas and birthdays she helps me sort unused toys and outgrown clothes for donation to, as she puts it, “kids who really need them.”
The realities of our family budget don’t seem to be harming her feelings of safety, security and happiness except for those times when she can’t have something she really wants – and she recovers quickly from that. I wonder what she’ll be like as she gets a bit older and consumerism kicks in full force among her peer group but I’m hoping for the best in that regard!
If anyone has suggestions about explaining budgets and how to handle money to children I would love to hear them!