When I was growing up, anytime my mom and I came home from the store with a bunch of bags (whether it was clothes, food or anything else), my dad would grin, wink at my mom, roll his eyes and say “What do you have, buyitis?”
The word buyitis was my dad’s code word for overspending and it was a constant joke between them as they never overspent—EVER! When either of them got paid, the amount needed to cover the monthly checks was deposited into their bank account, some money was put into savings and the rest was taken home in cash and distributed to envelopes according to their budget category. It’s kind of hard to overspend if you are paying cash for those daily expenses. When there is no more money in the envelope there is no more spending in that category!
The cash system they used was a great tool to teach me and my sister basic budgeting skills. If we were sent to the store to buy milk, break or lunchmeat, we were told how much to take out of the grocery envelope. When we returned from the store, the change and the receipt went back into the same envelope. It was a very tactical and practical way to teach us that resources were limited and we were required to manage what was available. It was the epitome of another dad saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
With all the credit and debit card spending these days, it’s easy for kids to think they just need a magic card to swipe and they can purchase anything they desire. Unfortunately, too many adults also have that mindset as they rack up credit card debt or overdraw their bank account.
The term ‘buyitis’ may not work in your family and credit and debit cards are a reality in today’s world. But if you are a dad trying to teach your children solid Catholic financial principles, you can focus on being sure your children learn the following financial principles:
- It is all God’s. We have a tendency to use the me, my and mine words a lot, but learning that God owns everything and we are simply his stewards puts everything into perspective. If we really think about it, everything we have comes from a good and gracious God, including our money.
- It is important to be generous. So often it is easy to be generous with our time or how we use our talents but so hard to be generous with money. Financial generosity is a way to thank God for all he has given to us. After all, if everything comes from God, when we give, we are simply figuring out how much of God’s money we need to keep, not how much of our money we are giving away.
- Put money into the proper perspective. Money is just stuff you use to buy other stuff. It is not a measure of your personal value or a way to keep score or an indication of your value. It’s just stuff and all our stuff will be left behind some day.
- Spend wisely. Giving kids everything they want and fulfilling every whim is a way to teach them to overspend. Instead, give them choices to make so they become familiar with making difficult financial decisions. Do they want a small item today or do they want to save for a few weeks to buy something larger?
- Encourage them to save. If your child is saving for something special, help them save by matching what they earn up to a certain amount, paying them interest or contributing to their savings based on certain milestones. This is a great way to teach them work skills, planning and saving.
- Teach them about needs vs wants. Too many times, we say we need something when we really want that item. Needs are food, clothing and shelter. Anything beyond those three basic items is a want. Kids don’t need everything they see advertised.
- Help them learn the value of work. Work is an essential part of life as an adult and it is important to teach kids the value of hard work well done. It is also important to teach the proper perspective about work—it’s what we do not who we are. Be sure they contribute to the family by giving them unpaid chores to complete every day. Provide them with the opportunity to earn extra income by paying them for work they do that is above and beyond daily chores.
- Let them make mistakes. Experience is the best teacher so let the kids make their own decisions and let them make bad ones. If they mess up, let them experience the consequences. If they spend lunch money on a video game, then they have to make their own lunch with whatever is available from the pantry. No additional handout from mom and dad and no special trips to the grocery to buy them their favorite lunch food. It’s better for them to make a bad decision with $20 of lunch money than when they buy a $300K house! Experience and mistakes will help them make wise decisions, weigh different options, and comparison shop. They need opportunities to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.
- Be aware of advertising. Our American culture is full of pressure to buy everything we see. We are constantly bombarded with advertising on billboards, the internet, magazines, radio and TV. We even wear advertising on our clothes. Teach kids the tricks advertisers use to influence them to buy so they can become wise consumers. A great lesson is to have your child accompany you if you are getting a ‘free’ gift as an advertising ploy. Or watch several commercials with them and talk to them about how advertisements manipulate our emotions.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Parents are the number one influence on their children’s financial behaviors, so it’s up to you to raise your children to be cautious consumers, steadfast savers, and generous givers.
Happy Father’s Day!