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How the Kids are Involved


Needless to say, we all want to shield our kids from the bad and the ugly in life. But on the other hand, we want them to also see and experience failures while they are under our care so we can act as the safety net. With that being said, the age range of my kids (8-15 years) and the experiences of my childhood (worrying about not having enough money to eat,) have prompted me to be very cautious in talking about our current debt situation. I do not want them to take on this burden, that’s my job.

With that being said, I do want them to grow up to be financial responsible adults and recognize that sacrifices must sometimes be made and that there is always a choice….so here is how my kids have become involved in our debt pay off journey.

1. If you will recall from my budget, a good portion of my monthly bills revolve around kids. Because of my desperate desire to be rid of debt, we have made some immediate changes: a) all music lessons one month early this year; b) all allowance was suspended as of this coming month; c) Busch Gardens passes were cancelled.

2. Because I cancelled allowances, I have agreed to provide paid jobs around the house, especially for the younger two. I hope in doing that I can cut down on some of my landscaping bill, but only time will tell if that pans out. But in the meantime, they will all be more motivated to work around the house in addition to “family chores” which we all do because we all enjoy living here and our home is a responsibility we all share.

3. All entertainment monies have been suspended which would typically come out of groceries and/or kids activities. This includes most eating out, definitely movies, etc. Whenever someone asks for a movie, etc, my response is “do you have the money? are you going to pay?” That quickly shuts them down.

4. Groceries – each child rotates weeks doing the grocery shopping. This has been going on for about 2 months now. They get $150 for 21 meals for a family of 5 + 1 extra 5 meals a week (the neighbor I homeschool,) so essentially 26 meals per week for $150. I did the math for you, that’s $5.55 cents to spend per meal for all of us. That is not a lot. I first wrote about one of the twin’s shopping experiences on my personal blog if you want to see my reasoning for this new method of handling our groceries.

5. As I mentioned this weekend in Doggie Dilemma, the kids will each be attending a couple of camps this summer (if you read the comments for Doggie Dilemma you can see some details on this and I will address it in a later post as well.) Because the cost of camps is covered in a variety of ways, they are each responsible for their own spending money during any travel or camps. My younger two have jars in their rooms that they are working to fill. Tonight they asked for jobs that would let them earn $100…

Even before the debt payoff became my focus, and before I lost a good portion of my income, the twins were responsible for all their own personal hygiene and clothing purchases, so that is not new to them, but it does help me out all the same. I do assist at times with gifts. In fact, for Christmas the eldest, who joined the Navy Sea Cadets said that instead of any Christmas presents, he would like all the required uniform apparel. I think he made a great choice.

The older two know that I am catching up on bills. The younger two know that we have to make good choices with our money and sometimes sacrifice things so we can do all that we want too (the Busch Garden pass cancellation was taken a little bit harder by them.)

Where we are at financially rests solely on my shoulders, I own that. I am working very hard to increase my earnings (more on that soon.) Making good financial choices is a team effort for this family now. And I can’t tell you how much being accountable and advised by you all has already increased my drive and desire to be completely and totally debt free! So thank you!


  • Reply Juhli |

    Good for you! I have heard a suggestion though that the answer to a request from a small child to spend money could be “I’m sorry its not in our budget” rather than we don’t have the money. That is suspected to create less anxiety about the family running out of money (There is money! We have a budget!). Another idea is to follow with “Let’s think of something fun we can do that won’t cost any extra money.” That is a great problem solving technique. I suspect you already do these things as you are so good with bartering your services for children’s activities. Just some ideas.

    • Reply Hope |

      Yes, Juhli, changing my thinking and speaking were BIG problems (well, still are.) I am working really hard to temper what I say and how I say it regarding our money situation and making good choices. Thanks for the additional advice on that, it is well needed!

  • Reply Mysti |

    Make sure you still have a line item to cover the money you are giving them for working. If the 2 younger ones are trying to earn $100 each (or even in total), that is still $100 you have to cover.

    • Reply Hope |

      Very true, Mysti, I thought of that myself. So I’m not really cutting out a line item, but I am getting some benefits out of it with their work rather the entitled children I saw them becoming…and I guess that was the main goal of this change.

  • Reply Kiki |

    Hope, I do think that children need to be involved in family budgeting. I agree, though, that the worries should be shouldered by the adults. One thing I used to do when my four kids were little was to give them a few dollars occasionally when we were out garage saling, something I still love to do. They could pick out their own “new” toys or books. That kept them very happy, and we avoided that entire retail trap that is so costly. It doesn’t hurt kids at all to know that there are limits in a family budget! Keep up the good work.

    • Reply Hope |

      I hadn’t thought of garage shoppng with them…I’ve developed a clutter phobia these past few years, so their “things” are far and few between. But good idea for when they is something they really want.

  • Reply OC Budget |

    Wow, i think that it’s a really good idea for the kids to do the grocery shopping since it would teach them how to budget, learn about price trends, and see each dollar doing its job, etc, etc so that they don’t grow up into adults who end up having debt (i.e. me, lol).

    • Reply Hope |

      Yes, although the biggest lesson we are learning right now is quantity over quality or vice versa. It was the 8 year olds turn this week and he insisted on having steak…that was a GREAT one meal, but the rest of the week is looking really bland…ramen, sandwiches. Ugh! But we will live and he is very proud of providing everyone with our favorite flank steak treat.

  • Reply Mary |

    I think you are doing a great job. It’s not easy trying to live frugally with children. A few comments:

    1) I think there could be a better response when the children want to do something than asking them if they have the money. Money doesn’t equal happiness and there are free things to do in life that are just as fun. There are times in all of our lives where we need to seek out lower cost activities and fun shouldn’t equal high cost activities or even activities with money. I urge you to check out a book called, “Cheapest Family in America”. If I recall, there was a section in the book that blew me away. The family wanted to go to a state fair or something and they showed extremely creative ways on how they were able to go for nearly nothing and it wasn’t hard to do. I remember thinking that it would be tough to do since parking and entry passes seemed rather “fixed” in my mind. I read it a few years ago and I was impressed by the creative ways they did family activities for next to nothing. There were also some great chapters on clothing shopping etc.

    2) I strongly suggest you look at “No More Harvard’s Debt” presentation to the kids about money. He has a presentation he created online that shows kids how money doesn’t equal success, etc. and it’s quite impressive since it’s done for kids and in a way kid can understand. One of the best presentations on money for young kids I’ve seen.

    3) Grocery shopping-I like that the kids are involved in grocery shopping a lot. I am not sure I’d have them doing all of the shopping for a week. I guess my concerns are-do they know how to buy produce and select healthy foods? That would be a lot to learn in short order. Do they know how to calculate the price per ounce for items? Can they find items in the store where the largest item isn’t always the best price/ounce than a smaller item? Are they reading labels to see what is in the foods they eat and buy? And finally, while budget is important, are they able to distinguish between foods that are good for you and within your budget? I am not saying they shouldn’t purchase a snack or two for the week however these are things that take time to learn and I can’t imagine they would learn these overnight. I’d break the grocery shopping down into little lessons to answer the above questions. There is a blog called, “House of Grace” and she has 4 children and has some great idea on kid friendly snacks and she gets the kids involved in making them-mini pizzas where the kids add their own toppings, mini muffins that the kids help make and are kid size, etc. . “Passionate Homemaking” blog (she doesn’t write anymore) has some articles on grocery shopping that are good-she shows a sneak peek into her weekly food budget that is quite good. She is quite frugal and although she makes a fair amount from scratch, you’ll also get some good ideas on how other people do their budget.

    Good luck. You are doing a great job. I think you have a great chance at getting out of debt and I also think yours is one of the hardest because you have 4 kids!

    • Reply Joe |

      What a terrific link (point #2), thanks for sharing. My kids are a little bit young for this, but I can still try to adapt the ideas.

  • Reply Juhli |

    Another thought – once all 4 sons have had their shopping week have a family meeting to talk about what was hard/easy about shopping for groceries. Ask questions about nutrition, pricing, planning out meals, etc. Then you could integrate learning about nutrition, unit pricing, budgeting, menu planning, etc. into your homeschooling depending upon the age level. Personally I think 8 is too young to do the whole thing without clear planning and guidance but certainly not too young to learn the elements and help with the shopping.

  • Reply Joanna |

    I’m wondering if your kids could raise the money they need by working for neighbors. They could pet sit, babysit, walk dogs, do yard work, tutor, clean houses, wash cars, buy stuff cheap at garage sales and sell it on craigslist, or help troubleshoot computer problems (if they’re tech savvy). They could put up flyers at church or put ads in the church bulletin. Hope this helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Kim |

    I urge you to think of some of the emotional consequences of a teenager being responsible for buying some all of their own personal items. My mother did this with my brothers and I. From an adult point of view, it teaches responsibility and self sufficiency. But, from our teenage points of view, we thought our mom was selfish and made us bear some stressful burdens unnecessarily. Ten years later, this is one thing my brothers and I talk about with resentment. My mother also taught us to budget, grocery shop, plan etc. and those skills are HUGE.

So, what do you think ?