College, school clothes, toys, electronics – everything adds up when it comes to providing your children with their best possible future. What are you doing to give them the life they deserve?
This is a Paycheck to Paycheck Society
Thanks to the wretched state of the present economy, much of society has become a paycheck-to-paycheck society. Once upon a time, our parents scrimped and saved to stash all that they could for their children – even if they didn’t have enough money to buy themselves those things they needed most. Yet, they would gladly go without in order to provide for us, putting away the money required to safeguard our futures. Thanks to the “freedom” of credit, we’ve spent every cent, digging ourselves a hole that will take years if not decades to crawl from.
Spending beyond our means has become a time honored American pastime, spending on anything from daily stops at the convenience store for sodas – because we work hard and deserve it – to buying cars because the commercials make it easy for us to imagine sitting in the driver’s seat with the wind in our hair.
The daily stress of work, school and family responsibilities drives us to look outside ourselves to find the instant gratification that helps us feel whole – a habit that can destroy our wallets rather than massage our psyches. We believe that if we spend money on movies, we’ll feel better. Buying a new car will help us to love our job. Yet, this is erroneous. Our quest for happiness drives our financial decisions, both for ourselves and our future families – often right into the ground.
The worst part about this lifestyle is that we pass it on to our kids. How can we teach our children to discern the difference between need and want if we’re unable to articulate the difference ourselves? Our children look to our example, expecting us to show them the best possible financial road. If we detour from the responsible road, they’ll never learn life’s most valuable monetary lessons – at least not from us.
You don’t want your children to believe it’s acceptable to go around spending money they don’t have by using a credit card they can’t quite afford. It’s important to understand how buying behavior impacts your bank account.
When children don’t understand how their daily decisions affect their wallets, then they won’t learn how those decisions affect their emotional state. We know how difficult this can be for us, but kids can’t necessarily see our internal struggles each time we pull out the credit card, nor do we want them to.
Yet, it is important for them to have a basic understanding. They may not see your internal struggle, the whisper that says, ”I know I don’t need to eat out tonight, but I’m tired and deserve a break. Even though I’ll pay for it later, I’m going to eat out anyway.”
Eliminating that mindset will help prepare your children for a better financial future.
Steps to Recovery
1. Focus on what you have. Use quiet moments each day to sit with yourself and reflect on the things you have so that you can grow more aware, and grateful enough to look outside yourself less for gratification.
2. Budget. Take the time to sit and articulate accurate budgets. This will help you learn to live within your means. Funds that are left over after paying bills can be set aside for savings.
3. Cherish those moments when you do have extra money. When you learn to value money for what it really means to you, it will be easier to keep it close. You can then budget for affordable entertainment on a regular basis, rather than restricting yourself.
4. Learn the difference between needs and wants. If you don’t HAVE to have a new sweatshirt with your favorite team plastered across the front, then don’t buy it. Essentials are always more important.
5. Pretend you’re teaching your future children about money, then use the lessons you want them to learn most as a springboard for your own financial life lessons.
6. Take a long, hard look at your habits, then trade them off one by one. If you’re bad about budgeting, then get better. If you’re bad at looking for instant gratification through shopping, find another way to satisfy that need, maybe by taking a trip to the park, a walk around the block, or spending quality time with your family.
7. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t have the money to buy the things you want. Consistently stick to your budget and you’ll eventually climb out from under the mountain of debt. (Here are some ways to help you get out of debt even faster.) But even better, you’ll be able to teach your children from experience that it can be done – even if it’s better to avoid having to do it at all.
What will you do to prepare yourself financially for children?