Kids and Teens: But Mo-om, Everybody Else Has One!

Jeff Herring

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"Mo-om, everybody else has one!"

Because most teens have not had the experience of getting to the end of the money before the end of the month, the words “I can't afford it" have little or no meaning.

Here's what can happen in lots of homes:

"Mom, can I get a new (fill in the blank)?"

"No honey, I'm sorry. We can't afford it. "

"But Mo-om, everybody else has one!"

"No, we can't afford it. "

"But Mo-om, (lots of words involving hassling and bugging). "

"We can't afford it. "

Repeat this process a few times and here's what you get:

"All right, you can have it, just this once. But don't ask for anything else!"

Yeah, right.

So we can't afford it really means. . .

Kids then learn that “we can't afford it" really means I just haven't bugged and hassled you enough.

Here's a very concrete way to teach kids about money, where it all goes and what “we can't afford it" really means. This one can work for kids middle-school age and older.

Take your paycheck home in $1 bills

Parents, take your next paycheck, take it to the bank and have it cashed in all $1 bills. (The bank tellers are going to just love me!)

Bring it home and call a family meeting. On the kitchen table, make a pile for all the ones. Then separate all the bills into their own pile. For each bill (house payment, car payment, braces, health insurance, electric bill, etc. ), count out the $1 bills and place them in the appropriate pile.

In this way, kids get a very clear visual picture of where the money goes. It gives them a context for understanding “we can't afford that right now. "

All of these suggestions and techniques serve to teach teens about the successful management of money.

Come to think of it, these suggestions could be useful for grown-ups as well.

Visit for tips and tools for thriving during the teen years. For regular weekly tips you can subscribe to our f-ree Parenting Your Teenager Newsletter. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 5 day e-program on The Top 5 Things to Never Say to Your Teenager from parenting coach and expert Jeff Herring.


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