Have you seen the toy aisle meltdowns? Young kids sprawled out on the floor, sobbing over a Pokemon deck or Princess Elsa dress? Or, perhaps just as painful, the 100 requests for new toys or gum. Those tend to come with fewer tears, but often the impassioned pleas and negotiations are just as tiring for parents.
I almost never experience that. Why? Because I never say no to my kids.
This might not be the standard approach for a frugal and minimalist family with five kids at home (little kids, no less: ages 2, 5, 6, 9 and 10), but I reached financial independence by 32. The two ingredients to becoming financially independent are:
- No. 1: Learning to earn money
- No. 2: Learning to prioritize spending
I wanted to give my kids their best chance at creating financial freedom as well. So, there are no toy meltdowns because they are responsible for earning their own money and making their own spending decisions. They can buy whatever they want with the money they have earned (as long as it’s age-appropriate). So, I never have to say no.
Work is a learned skill. Staying on task, focusing, applying oneself and completing multi-step tasks all take time to develop. It’s not magically given at 16, 18 or 22–kids have to grow into it. At our home, we start around 2 or 3 with little chores. By 5 or 6, they know how to do basic chores. By 9 or 10, they take over entire jobs, like the laundry or vacuuming.
Intentional spending is another important learned skill. Something we have to develop and grow into. Mistakes will be made, no matter when a person starts learning to spend their own money. I want to give my kids the chance to learn those lessons while they are young and the stakes are lower. We also give them an opportunity to reflect on the money well spent and money squandered. Regret is an amazing teacher, so we never waste that.
“Mama, can I buy this?” one of my kiddos will ask.
I never say no. I might say, “How much money do you have?” “Aren’t you saving for this other thing?” “Are you sure you really want this toy?” “Will you feel sad if you want something else later?” But it’s ultimately their choice.
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Occasionally, there are tears. Mostly tears of regret that they turned down all the work I offered them earlier that week. Most chores are optional. If they want the work because they want to earn some money, I always have a list of things they can do. But I would much rather see those tears of regret on my 10-year-old now than when he’s 26. We are all slow learners. Dozens of money mistakes are needed before we learn the lessons that will make us successful.
The impassioned, desperate pleas never happen, because they aren’t begging to spend my money on toys. They are carefully weighing the pros and cons of spending their own money. A funny thing happens when kids are spending their own money rather than their parents’: Far fewer toys fall into the “I can’t live without this” category.
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