The hardest thing about keeping a budget for the family is inspiring others to do it too. If you are left to defend the family wallet by yourself, your family will soon see you as a cheap scrooge that refuses to spend money on anything. According to your daughter, you don’t care about her because you refused to buy her a new bike, even though all of her friends’ parents bought them new ones. Your kids seem to think that you love them less when you tell them no after they ask you to take them to that expensive new water park that day.
You know that you are not cheap, nor do you hate your children. On the contrary, you want to give them all of this and more, it’s just not always possible financially to handle all of their demands. Your “no” is nothing more than an indication that your family’s budget can’t handle that kind of pressure at the moment. Unfortunately, they usually don’t understand it to mean that. And although they will completely understand later in life, why not try to let them know now?
In very general terms, you can let your kids know what is keeping you from buying those things. Sit down with them and layout the things you have to pay for-being very careful not to disclose specific numerals-and tell them that these are the things that are keeping the family from being able to go to that park. Show them how if you spent the money on the water park today, they wouldn’t have the new shoes they need for school. Tell them what they’d be missing out on.
Now that they understand why you can’t go today, show them your plan to help them go tomorrow. Show them what you and your family are doing today to save money for tomorrow. If there’s a way to save more money by a few family members picking up a few chores around the house (instead of hiring someone else to do them) then bring that option to the table and see if they would be willing to pick up the slack. You’d be surprised what your kids are willing to do if you promised them a trip to the new water-park.
Kids almost always jump on the bandwagon when you give them a good enough reason. If you always planned on getting them the new bike, or taking the kids to that new water park, then they’ll understand better why you can’t go now. And even if the smallest children don’t understand yet, the older ones will convince them. Sometimes we undervalue the power of open discussions of sensitive things like the budget. Even if the children are young, they can get on board with the concepts. Just simplify them so they can come to understand. Then, not only will your children know why you can’t get them everything they want, but they’ll also teach them a thing or two about financial responsibility that they can use when they’re older.