Money and Budgets: Full Disclosure or Tight Lipped?

Here’s the obvious statement of the day: times are tough for almost everyone. Those who never used talking about money problems with your kidsbudgets to manage their money have started to and those who had them before the recession have tightened them up. Some families have weathered the storm with little financial impact and others have had the wind knocked out of their sails.

Personally, we’ve done “okay” the past few years in this God awful recession.. not great but we’re still standing (so far). We’ve knocked on a lot of wood and realized that stressing over it doesn’t do anything except rob us of the little moments when there is laughter and fun times.  As far as money goes, I figure we’ve been thru worse before and we’ll come out ahead in the end. We’re healthy and we’re together. Believe me – a lot of our friends don’t have that going for them.

But, every day, it seems as though we’re besieged with requests from someone for something – usually monetary in nature. There’s the end of year school things: yearbooks, teacher gifts, art projects, camp fees, spring and summer clothing – the list is endless.  Granted, they’re not huge amounts of money but when you put them all together and multiply it by 3, it can turn into a small fortune. And, let’s not even talk about vacations.. there are years it just does not happen. Even when we could all use one.

I don’t mind that I have to do without – I’m used to it. We don’t change our cars every two years or even every five years.  The to-do list of maintenance items around our house is creeping up on huge. I just absolutely hate telling my kids no when they’re faced with kids who get yes 24/7. I’m not saying that I would give them everything even if we were able to – I think it’s important that they realize that getting everything you want is not a realistic expectation. It may be harsh, but I think they need to understand that our family isn’t like the family that’s parented by two doctors salaries but we’re still better off than a lot of others. Still, nothing makes you (or at least me) feel worse than saying no more often than you get to say yes.

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The thing that I struggle with at times like these is disclosure. How much do kids need to know? Is it sufficient to say “we can’t afford it” or do you go into more detail – Daddy lost his job, the mortgage is late, etc.? Is that too much information? More than they can handle? Do you treat it like the sex talk and give as much information as you can until they finally bore of the topic? My biggest problem is that no matter how much or how little I say to them, it doesn’t seem to get thru and pretty soon, the requests start up and once again, I’m left feeling like I’m letting them down.

I’d love to know – how do you manage the expectations, requests and sometimes the denial of things that they want?


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May 27, 2015 at 9:43 pm

Yes, I use “not in the budget” a lot, too. I have a friend who uses “not how we choose to spend out money” which I like, too. I used to say “we can’t afford it” out of habit and wish that I hadn’t because it does make it sound like you’re destitute!
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May 27, 2015 at 9:34 pm

This is definitely a “tough” one. I grew up in a family where we were very open about our finances, so I lean towards just being honest. “It’s not in our budget right now” is one way to put it, because everyone’s budget varies. It doesn’t mean we are destitute, it just means we don’t do everything. If that leads to a conversation about what is a budget, all the better. My husband came from a background where money was not discussed, so he doesn’t like to give explanations. I think this can be harder, though…
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