One of the key tenets of our approach to helping kids get money-smart is that allowing them to make small purchasing mistakes is just a part of the process. In fact, I’ve advocated for letting them make small, wasteful money mistakes as a way to avoid making big, calamitous mistakes when they’re older. Any successful person will tell you that she’s learned more from her blunders than from her successes.
There are some caveats, though, to this approach, and I’d like to share one I recently encountered. My daughter is currently saving for an iPad mini. We had planned to pick one up two Thursdays ago when I found out just two days before we were going to hit the Apple Store that a new iPad mini would be announced in March. Of course, my daughter was crestfallen (to put it mildly). “I heard what the new one is going to have, and I don’t want ANY of those features.” She wanted – almost HAD to have – that iPad mini NOW. I told her that I completely understood how she felt, but I intervening to keep her from spending the money she’d saved on an iPad mini that was soon to be replaced. I knew from past experience that this was just not a good idea, and she’d just have to trust my judgment on this one. Of course, she countered with the mantra that we’d instilled in her: The money she’d saved was hers to control. “You don’t understand! I was really looking forward to getting the mini iPad soooo much!” I explained that it certainly was her money but that we were still a required part of the process (to get her to the store) for her to get the iPad mini, so she’d just have to wait. I wish I could say that conversation ended there, but it didn’t. Still, I held my ground.
We’re now two weeks out from that pitched battle, and she has resigned herself to waiting for the new iPad. In fact, she hasn’t mentioned it in the past week. I think there are two lessons here. First, being flexible with your money mentoring is important. When you see a glaring money mistake about to happen to your child, particularly when the amount in question is pretty large, you MUST step in, advise and help her avoid the problem. Second, the intense desire to purchase something almost always dissipates over time.
I hope this little story helps you with your efforts. Let me know what you think. And, as always, I’d love to hear about your stories, both successes and failures.