That Is Too Expensive!


The concept behind this article was originally just a brief Facebook post on my Catch and Release Parenting page. I was just beginning to ponder this idea, and much to my surprise, it evoked more responses, shares and comments than any previous post.    

One of the areas I am exploring these days is how we talk — or in some cases, don’t talk — to our kids about money. Specifically, how many times we have said, “That is too expensive”, or “We don’t have enough money for that” in response to a request for something. That may very well have been true, but as my daughters have gotten older, I am realizing that it was the easy answer, rather than the one that might teach them something usable in their own lives.

Was that really the reason for our “no”? Was it simply a matter of available finances, or were there other factors? Was there something we could have shared with them about how we much we value something, or where it fits into our priority scale? If we did have enough money, would we buy it?

When our children ask us if we CAN buy something, we need to consider whether they are mature enough to answer the larger question: SHOULD we buy it? It’s easier and far quicker to say “that costs too much” than it is to explain why we don’t need to go to Disneyland every single year, or why we don’t need another Disney DVD, or why we don’t need another pair of high end premium jeans. That is not an indictment against people who can, and choose to, do those things. They are just examples of some requests that have frequented our household over the years.  

It takes some thought and extra effort to explain that there might be better uses for that money, or that we give to, and share with, others. If we don’t start letting our kids in on our decision making process when it comes to spending, they won’t have the tools when it comes time to make those decisions with their own money. If the primary reason given to kids for why we didn’t buy or do something was the price, than the logical assumption is that if you DO have the money you SHOULD buy or do it. Our kids need to enter adulthood with a better grasp on value than that

The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, there also is our heart (Matthew 6:21). In other words, we give the bulk of our time, talent, and resources to what we consider most valuable. There is a very real process that we go through as we decide not just how much to spend, but whether to spend at all. There is a point in our maturing process when we understand the difference between a want and a need, and from there, decide how it fits into our value system.

For little ones, could we answer with, “We don’t need another one of those, but it is pretty cool.”  Or maybe, “Our money is going to something else this week.”  Let’s save the ol’ “We can’t afford it” for something that we would truly like and plan to purchase someday when the funds are available.

But for our older kids, especially once they hit eight or nine, we can start taking advantage of these teachable moments. Draw the parental curtain back enough to let them in on the discussion. They are always watching, always learning, though at times they do a good job of appearing otherwise. When they enter the adult world, we want them to have seen this process modeled over and over again, and be able to make wise, thoughtful decisions about money based on their value system, rather than just it’s availability.

Article image provided by Stephanie Brubaker

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One Response to That Is Too Expensive!

  1. Lyndsay says:

    I don’t even have to be a parent to get this! I remember you talking to me about this and thinking, HU. That makes so much sense. Why have I never thought of it that way before?

    Thanks for bringing perspective and stating the not-so-obvious.

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