How to balance your kids’ needs and wants with a limited budget


Mmabatho, a town planner from Bela Bela who was one of the contestants for the 2018 Absa Money Makeover competition, knows all about this. She says “the biggest challenge has been finding a way of preparing for the future while enjoying the present, and learning the financial discipline – and passing it on to my kids – to make our money work for the whole family". 

These are her top lessons that she’s learnt over the years that help her juggle her boys’ wants and needs:  

Be honest with your kids about money

Let them know from an early age that money is a limited resource and that you have expenses like rent or a mortgage, a car payment and their school fees that need to be paid. Introduce them to the concept of budgeting and include them in the family’s budget so that they know when you’ve reached your budget and don’t have more for extras.

Teach them the difference between a want and need

Because she started teaching the boys about budgeting and letting them know about obligations like their school fees, they know that it is a need. They also know that McDonald’s, which they love, is a want.It’s important to be clear with your children about things like this from a young age so they know they can’t just get everything when they ask for it.

Make lessons age appropriate

Mmabatho speaks to and treat her 15-year-old son like an adult and since the Money Makeover competition, she's noticed a difference in the way he thinks about and asks for money. Now he asks if she is able to afford extras and whether it fits into the budget. If it doesn’t fit into that month’s budget, he asks if it can be included in the next month’s budget."They understand when I say Mommy doesn’t have money for ice creams or for new toys and they don’t throw tantrums anymore", she says.  

Write lists when you go shopping and stick to them

Part of the reason why her children don’t throw tantrums if they don’t get what they want is because they know that whenever they go shopping, there's a list and we stick to it. It has become part of their routine that if something isn’t on the list, she won’t buy it.

You can treat them – but make it once a month and make it clear it’s a treat. 

"As I said, my boys love McDonald’s, so I’ll buy it for them as a treat once a month. I’ve taught them that it is a treat that they can get once a month, and they know that if they’ve already had it that month, they can’t get it again until next month. And now they don’t even ask", Concludes Mmabatho. 

What all of these tips have in common is that they help teach kids the value of money – which will ultimately help them develop a healthier relationship with it that they can carry with them into adulthood (and which will make your life easier – and quieter – when they don’t throw a tantrum if they don’t get that chocolate).



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