I’ll start out by saying that I’m not really qualified to write this post because I don’t have any tiny humans….and by those I mean children. At least I’m not qualified in the sense that I’ve never had a kid look at me with a sad face and ask me for something, which I imagine is very difficult to turn down. I am, however, very qualified to talk about saying no to the requests of tiny humans as a result of my occupation as a bankruptcy attorney.
What I have learned form meeting with thousands of people regarding their personal finances is that children are really, really expensive. The child care, the book rentals, the school fees, the clothing and the food are really expensive. And these are thing that they really NEED. But what I have also learned is that there are a lot of things that children want. Children often want to have their own cell phone at 5 years-old, they want their own iPad, they want a new bike, the latest trendy jeans that are $100.00 a pair. Children want to be involved in boy/girl scouts, soccer, basketball, volleyball, horseback riding, photography, swimming, band, orchestra, drama club……the list could go on forever.
Parents want their children to have every opportunity. This is part of being a great parent. However, in their attempt to give their child every opportunity they are forgetting a few things. First, they are forgetting that there are only 24 hours in a day and you might want to spend a few hours a day with your child. Second, they are forgetting that money is a finite object and they only have so much money to spend on their children’s wants. And finally, they forget that it is also a parent’s job to teach their children healthy financial lessons including that money is a valuable and finite object.
Many parents have ended up in my office to seek bankruptcy representation because they were unable to say no to the tiny humans. And when they show up I am happy to help them. And I’m not going to place blame on how the financial situation got to where it is, but I am going to try to help them get out of the negative financial situation give my advice as to how they can stay out of financial trouble in the future. Part of this is giving suggestions on how to handle the wants of children in the event that it appears their financial problems were caused, at least in part, by the tiny humans.
First, realize that it is not healthy for your child to be involved in every school and extracurricular activity. Your child is going to need some time to work on school work and to spend some time as a family. No one will be happy if parents are running around like crazy people constantly attempting to get children from one event to the next. There will be no time for dinner so the family will be eating unhealthy food in a drive through. Finally, all of the activities and their fees along with eating out will kill the family budget. In the end your child may get burned out and quit everything anyway.
Next, think long and hard before allowing your child to participate in a traveling sports team. DO NOT justify the expense of the traveling sports team thinking that the sport will allow your child to obtain an athletic scholarship. Even if your child is that good at a sport, he or she may get injured before college never to play again. Wouldn’t it have been better to save that money for college instead of putting it toward traveling sports? The time and expense of traveling sports are HUGE. There are entry fees for tournaments, dining out, hotel rooms, gas, extra wear and tear on vehicles, etc. Your child should only play traveling sports if you can really afford it. By “afford it” I mean that you have a 6-month emergency fund and you are saving at least 20% of your net income for retirement.
Even as a non-parent I understand that if your child wants to participate in a few activities then it would be great to let them. Competing in sports and participating in clubs are a great way to teach your children outside of school. My advice is to give your children each a budget yearly for extracurricular activities. Once you have given your child a budget allow them to decide which activities they would like to join based on that budget. If your child is old enough, you might also consider this with “back to school” shopping. Perhaps give your child a list of the items of clothing that he or she needs (so your son doesn’t come home with 20 t-shirts and 10 pairs of shorts) to buy, but allow him or her to decide how the money is spent. Your child only has 17 or 18 years to learn how to develop positive financial habits. For most people, getting a checking account at 16 years-old doesn’t give them them proper financial know-how for life. It’s much better to teach children the value of money and how to budget much earlier so they are prepared when they eventually leave the nest.
**Halcomb Singler, LLP, is a debt relief agency. It helps people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code. No attorney-client relationship with the firm of Halcomb Singler, LLP, is created through this blog. Also, please note that Erika Singler is an attorney licensed in Indiana and does not seek to practice law in any jurisdiction in which they are not properly authorized to do so. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and should not be relied upon for the circumstances of any individual(s) or businesses.