We were chattering away on our drive to school when I asked my oldest son about Boy Scout summer camp.
“So, do you want to go this year? Sign-ups are now, so we need to decide.”
“Mom, are you and dad spending too much money on our activities?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I heard you and dad talking about all of the money stuff, and I know camp is expensive. Maybe I shouldn’t go.”
I felt a twinge of guilt. In the midst of running from work to school to activities, my husband and I often converse quickly when we can, figuring out who has which kid, whether or not we need a checkbook, and what’s for dinner.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve also been stressing about the funds to pay for all of the kids’ school fees, after-school activities, new tires for the van, taxes and the random bill that pops up at the moment we seem to be freaking out the most. Clearly, my boys are listening, because the middle son also shared a financial concern with my husband.
Kids are without a doubt expensive, and I know my little family of five is likely in the prime years of expenses. We have preschool tuition for the youngest, after-school care for the boys, activity fees popping up on a weekly basis, and we’re also trying to sock away money for college. Add in a Southern California mortgage, groceries for a family of five, utilities and general life expenses and it’s no wonder we see our income evaporate each month. Yup, we’re living the middle-class American dream!
Still, I don’t want my kids to stress about money at this age. We’re trying to strike a balance of educating them about finances with ensuring they have an appreciation for the privileges we provide. Food, clothes and shelter are the basics, but we also want to fund experiences for all of our kids, helping them learn, grow and find their passions.
We want them to have the chance to explore music, club soccer, dance lessons and camps. We write the checks and shuttle them around. The kids, in turn, know they must do their best in school, help around the house and give it their all in the various extracurricular pursuits we fund.
Generally, my kids are very appreciative and understand these experiences don’t come free. But over the past few weeks, they’ve obviously sensed we get concerned at times with the enormity of financing everything. Since both boys made comments, my husband and I agreed we need to be more mindful about the money talk in front of them. Hopefully we’re just getting hit with everything at once, and we’ll soon find some financial balance in a month or so.
Obviously we elected to have three kids, so we (kind of) knew what we were getting into, but as much as you plan and forecast, there will always be moments when family finances overwhelm. What’s crazy is this overwhelm comes even with two parents working full-time careers and each sporting advanced degrees. I know many families struggle in entirely different ways – some just trying to put food on the table.
I suppose this is why my husband and I try to do so much for our kids. Just like our parents, we hope to ready our kids for a better life and opportunity to someday succeed on their own. So, we’ll keep working and saving and sacrificing – and also teaching our kids how to respect and appreciate money – but hopefully not scaring the crap out of them … yet!
Have you ever freaked your kids out about your family finances?
Do you talk to your kids about money?