At this year's LIFE is Good Conference I co-hosted a circle chat (group discussion) titled "How to say yes when the funds are low." Some of the people came with the idea of learning how to spend less money and live more economically, others came because they wanted to find out how to relate to their children as a partner when it came to finances, and others came to learn more about creatively financing when their children's interests and desires, such as international travel, required large amounts of money. After our hour was up some people stayed to continue the discussion. I needed to check in with my kids so I admittedly don't know what was covered after I left but, based on the discussion I was a part of, I felt that the discussion had gotten off track. The group had focused on money instead of saying yes.
As the mother in a family that often does not have savings in the
bank and that lives with debt in the form of a modest mortgage, a pile
of student loans, and credit card debt from those times when the
necessities of life were beyond our income, I can tell you that all the
information you need about how to spend less money can be found with a
quick search on a computer or from books in the library. I can also tell
you that partnering with your children requires knowing your child,
knowing their money style and making sure they have some money to spend
so they have real life experience with money. What this looks like will
depend on your child, your family's income and your child's age. And if
your child needs money for a trip or lessons or another expensive
endeavor a computer search for "creative fundraising ideas" will provide
you with plenty of options.
But what about saying yes? How do you say yes when you live on a
modest income or you are coping with unemployment or other unexpected
changes in financial standing?
I've been mulling that over. The
LIFE is Good Conference is our big family vacation of the year.
Fortunately it comes after we get our tax return so we know we can pay
for the hotel room, but we also know that every penny of that tax return
could be used in other more life sustaining ways or to pay off debt.
During LIFE is Good we say yes a lot. Yes to getting pizza delivered,
yes to crepes that cost $7 each at the Farmer's Market, and yes to
buying soda from the vending machine. We sell things we've made to other
conference goers to try and offset some of the cost but we have already
made peace with the reality that the conference is expensive and we
decide ahead of time not to stress about the out flow of money.
Balancing saying yes to your children and being responsible in spending
the money you have so that the bills get paid and the family gets fed
can feel difficult. People have different comfort levels and what feels
like financial stability to one person may feel like impending financial
ruin to another. Some people always feel like they don't have enough no
matter how large their income while others can live on a ridiculously
small amount of money and never feel poor. Listen to the stories you
tell yourself, examine the messages about money that you absorbed as a
child, reconsider what the main stream media tells you about how much
money you have to make or need to have in savings. Then when your child
asks for something and you start to say no ask yourself if you really
need to say no.
In our family we say yes until we absolutely have to say no.
Some people make up reasons that they have to say no, and that's not
what I'm talking about. We say yes unless we truly don't have the money.
We say yes until we've exhausted every possible option for funding. And
even after that we still don't say no. We always try to say yes. What
that Yes looks like varies. We may say, "Yes, we know how important to
you this is and we will continue to work towards finding a way to make
it possible. And yes we understand how hard it can be to wait." We say,
"Yes, this is something you really want, maybe you could put it on your
gift request list for the holidays or your birthday."
We are honest with our children about our financial situation but we do
our best not to burden them with stress or fear. Each of our children
gets a small amount of money each month to spend or save as they desire.
They have different innate money patterns and we try to support each of
them without being critical but also without praise. They didn't ask to
be born with a certain way of relating to money and we are not going to
make them feel better or worse because they are more inclined to save
or to spend. We trust that they will work out their own relationship and
comfort level with money, and by providing them with money to spend, no
strings attached, they have the opportunity to figure that out before
their choices and decisions have larger implications. They may end up
like my brother who was born a saver and a finder of ways to make his
money go farther. They may be like my sister who is riding across the
country with all of her belongings fitting on her pack pony, trusting on
the kindness of strangers for a place to stay each night and support
for her journey. Or perhaps they will be like
me. I often struggle to spend money on myself and I prefer to live
without debt and with money in the bank, but I am willing to live
without that so that my family can afford more experiences now while our
girls are all living at home.
Some parents feel that they have to make their child earn the things
they want. Other parents put up roadblocks to getting things or feel
that even if they can afford something they shouldn't get it for their
child because that would be considered spoiling. How would you feel if
someone that loved you could easily afford something that you wanted and
yet they wouldn't get it for you because they didn't want you to become
spoiled? Is that what you'd become? Or would you become someone who
felt incredibly loved and understood? You can read more on spoiling
Our bottom line isn't red or black, our bottom line is that if our child
really really wants something we will help them get it, unless of
course the thing they want is a real live elephant. But even then we
won't say no, we will say that while we don't have the room for an
elephant right now perhaps some day they will.