David Trinko: Teaching financial lessons on ‘want’ vs. ‘need’

By David Trinko - The Lima News

Our 15-year-old daughter had to buy her own shoes last weekend, with her own money.

As she’s told people this, I’ve seen the looks of shock and admonition from friends and family. What kind of horrible parents are we? What kind of a monster makes a girl purchase her own shoes? Are things that tight at home that we can’t afford shoes for our daughters?

None of the above. We’re the type of parents who want our children to succeed as adults, including financially.

According to 2015 statistics from the Federal Reserve, 38 percent of U.S. households carry credit card debt from month to month. For those in debt, the average debt is $9,600. Worst of all, most Americans don’t even know how much debt they have.

We’re among that 38 percent, working hard with our financial planning to get out of that 38 percent. It doesn’t take much thinking to figure out how we got there, though.

We got there by buying what we wanted, whether we really had the money to purchase it or not. Credit comes too easily nowadays. Sure, unexpected repairs and medical bills push us higher than we wanted more quickly, but now we’re there.

Like all good parents, we want our children to learn from our mistakes. We don’t want them to repeat our errors. And the biggest misstep we make is not thoroughly evaluating how much we wanted something before buying it and weighing if we could really afford it.

That’s why we started giving our three daughters allowances that automatically went into their savings accounts. Whenever we’re out and about and they claim they want something that’s a “want” and not a “need,” we check their account balances. If they can afford it, we let them buy it, moving the money over from their accounts to ours.

None of them will be buying a car with the nominal amount of money building up in their accounts, which are a combination of the weekly allowances and birthday gifts of cash. And that’s sort of the point.

A funny thing happened when we started talking about “your money.” There are plenty of things they thought they wanted that they weren’t so certain about once the payment came out of their pocket.

It also cut down on how much we bought on the side for them, convinced an inexpensive item here or there didn’t hurt our children.

Instead, they learn a valuable lesson. Our oldest daughter, for whom we just bought new shoes in May, decided she really wanted a particular type of shoe. She saved up her money, passing over lesser pleasures to earn the money for it.

Then, last weekend, she finally bought them. And she really likes them. A few days after getting them, my wife asked her to go to the garden to pick a few tomatoes for supper. When she came back, she was visibly upset because she’d gotten dirt on her new shoes. She pulled them off and started scrubbing off a minimal amount of mud.

She learned not to just appreciate the item but take care of it.

So yes, we did make her buy her own shoes with her own money. We couldn’t be prouder of her for it.


By David Trinko

The Lima News

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.

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