“I love that feeling I get when I buy new things. It just makes me so happy to think that it’s finally mine.”
Words spoken by my 10-year-old daughter in our local shopping centre, as her pocket money rapidly burnt a hole in her pocket (I’m pretty sure I could smell smoke). Before these words fell out of her mouth, she’d jumped from shop to shop desperate to spend her money, frantically searching for anything she could justify buying. And I mean anything. Luckily, minimal mam was by her side, and as I tagged along behind her I could throw in the odd ‘do you really need that?’ ‘haven’t you got a top very similar already?’ ‘Why do you need a phone case, you don’t have a phone?’. As if her shopping habits weren’t concerning enough, she throws this at me, too. It was time for a tea break. It was time to talk money.
Why was I so worried about this? Buying something new does give us that happy, giddy feeling, absolutely it does. A feeling that you can only be obtained from spending your money on something pretty, something you need, something you don’t need, and ultimately, making it yours. It has it’s own level when it comes to the happiness spectrum, sandwiched in between eating and being given a puppy at Christmas. Whether that something new is a pair of shoes, the latest bag, or a cheese grater – they can all fill us with an instantaneous joy once the shop assistant hands us the receipt – the holy grail of all shoppers. And yes, it can be fun – a lot, a lot of fun – it can be exciting, pleasurable, and it can flip a bad day into good one within minutes – or so we think. The issue I have with my ten-year-old daughters need to spend is that if you don’t know how to control this need, this want, then spending can turn ugly. And I know the ugly side all too well.
I used to be awful with money, and the main culprit behind my debt demise was this feeling; I chased it. My credit cards, store cards, my overdraft and the fact that I had to move back home at the age of 23 were all proof of that. And if Amelia is already feeling that kind of happiness from buying something new, spending her money on a fluffy keyring just to fill her body with that feeling at 10-years-old then what happens when nagging mam is no longer along for the ride. What happens when she goes with her friends who encourage the activity of shopping? Or worse still, when she starts shopping alone, after a hard day at work, with the idea that buying something will immediately counteract her shitty day? Shit! I’m having a meltdown just thinking about it.
Thankfully, over the last two years my spending has kerbed slightly, and as it stands the only shop I frequent regularly is the supermarket (oh, what an exciting life). Admittingly, I still spend way too much on takeaway food and eating out, but my laziness and reluctance to cook is the culprit of this, not my need to spend (I’m just not enjoying being in the kitchen, right now). But, my old habits of online shopping, late night visits to my nearest shopping centre, and splurging for any reason I could find have stopped. Yes, my capsule wardrobe has helped to steer this transformation massively – most of my money used to splurged on clothes – but once you start applying this ethos to your wardrobe, you find that it soon moves to all areas of your life. So, now I feel more comfortable at approaching the subject with Amelia.
So, back to that, what did I do about my frantic, crazed, shopaholic daughter whose pockets were on fire? Well, I don’t feel like I’ve completely cured her, but there’s been an improvement.
Once we arrived home, I asked Amelia to go into her wardrobe and make a list of what was in there – how many pairs of jeans she owns, hoodies, checked shirts, t-shirts, etc. She was set the challenge that if she could find any item of clothing that she truly thought was missing from her wardrobe, that she thought she would need but that she didn’t have then I would buy it for her. Similarly to the way that I would view my capsule wardrobe, and how I would plan for the next season, you begin to really see what’s hanging right in front of you. Even though Amelia’s wardrobe is bulging and she already struggles to shut the drawers (her inability to fold also plays a factor in this), in her mind, she still needed more. She still needed one more hoodie, one more t-shirt, one more pair of jeans. By jotting it down, the contents were laid out for her to see. There were no forgotten t-shirts shoved in the back or any leggings that she’d missed because they were hidden under a jumper, everything was accounted for. I already knew that Amelia had a sufficient amount of clothing for the upcoming months, but I wanted her to realise this, too. And thankfully, she did. Later in the evening, she came downstairs and declared that she thinks she has sufficient clothes for summer and that she was instead going to save for a gymnastics bar – a much more useful and needed purchase.
Next came the GoHenry card (not sponsored). A GoHenry card is basically a bank card for kids. They’re given a debit card which can be used to withdraw money, complete over the counter payments, and use contactless. Why are you handing a ten-year-old shopaholic a bank card, I hear you say. Well, you control this bank card, and you can restrict the expenditure as you wish, you can set limits on a single spend, a cash withdrawal, and their weekly spend, so if you don’t want them spending more than £20 in one day, you can make the changes to implement that. The best part about a GoHenry account is that it encourages your kids to earn their money. On the app, you can also add a list of personalised chores – keep bedroom clean, do your homework, empty the dishwasher – and for each of these tasks you choose what you believe they should be paid if the task is completed. £1 for high marks at school, 50p if they put their coat away all week. It’s entirely up to you, and I’m sure that each household, each child, will be completely different. For Amelia, she’s paid £2 pocket money a week, and that will go straight into her account every Saturday, no matter what. She can then top it up to £5 per week by completing her weekly tasks, which I must say picks up considerably if she has a trip out with friends planned. We’ve been using the GoHenry card for a while now, and it’s a great way to get your children to earn their own money, appreciate it, and learn first hand the ins and outs of spending and saving. If only they had something as restrictive for adults.
I’ve also started to speak more openly about money. By breaking down our earnings, calculating the cost of living, and explaining what and how much disposable income a family has, she’s beginning to have a better grasp on the real world of money (can’t hurt her maths skills either). Doing things like comparing an average daily wage to the cost of a family trip to the cinema. In past jobs, my daily wage was roughly around £60 per day, and a trip to the cinema can easily cost £30-40 – so by simply explaining this to her she can understand why we maybe can’t all venture to the cinema every weekend, as much as we’d all love to. As soon as we started opening up about finances, she’s become much more comfortable in asking about cost of living, bills, and other expenditures. My weekly food shop now has a running commentary of ‘that costs how much? That’s ridiculous!” or “that’s not badly priced” remarks, and I have to inform her of why organic costs more than normal, or why gluten-free holds a higher price tag and it’s refreshing to know that already she’s taking note.
We’ve also been encouraging her to save her money – why buy a gazillion Smiggle pens when you could save and buy some gymnast equipment or something that has more worth and value. The majority of kids are hypnotised by tatt, and Amelia is no different. But, in the last few weeks we’ve cleared out her room and the number of blank notebooks (did I mention they were fluffy), ice cream shaped rubbers, and crazy hairbands that I’ve never once seen on her head was out-of-hand.
Of course, I’m not talking cash every minute of the day, I’m not bombarding her with numbers and calculations, nor am I taking the fun out of all of her spending (she still visits the nearby shop with her friends to stock up on her sugars), but educating her now is hopefully going to lead her in the right direction in the future – or so I hope!
So, yes, this can be a controversial topic – talking money with kids – but in my feeling is that they absolutely should know about this shit – utility bills (& meter readings), mobile phone contracts and mortgages and interest rates. Surely, by having an understanding about the inevitable crap that adult life will throw at them, it would save so many people so many costly mistakes. What do you think? How do you approach the subject with your kids?