With Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's new Budget, it's clear we'll have to grin and bear. Time to teach our children the same values too – a healthy attitude to money could make their lives a whole lot easier.
1. Repeat after me: “I don’t want what I haven’t got”
This is a message for the young ones. Tough one for kids to grasp, but the sooner we can get them out of the trap of wanting more and more and more stuff, the easier their lives will be. Because the moment you get what you wanted, you want something else again. It never stops. The moment you get the new iPhone, Apple goes and releases a newer version.
A popular toy collection consisting of nothing more than cheap little plastic things, bears the strapline “Once you shop, you can’t stop”. Exactly. Don’t fall for this nonsense. No harm in buying one, but ensure your child understands when enough is enough. “Collect them all!” doesn’t really mean you have to collect them all.
2. Stuff is just stuff – let it go
Stuff doesn’t bring happiness, it won’t cook you a meal, and it won’t tuck you in at night. Fads come and go, toys break. Encourage your kids to loosen their grip on the things they don’t want or use any longer, and give it to someone or an organisation who would be happy to distribute these to kids who don’t have.
3. Don’t freak them out
Little ones don’t understand when you say, “No, we don’t have money.” Rather say, “We’re not going to spend money on that, not today.” Watch your language and emotions and don’t let money be such an issue in your house that kids develop an anxiety around it.
Give your little ones a see-through piggy bank or jar and take your bigger ones to the bank to open a bank account. Let them see how their savings grow and then reward them when they’ve reached a certain goal. If they’d like to continue saving, perhaps you’d like to add a R5 to the jar once they’ve reached a set amount (see it as “interest”), or let them open the jar to buy themselves something – anything.
You could ask older teens to draw up a budget to see what their pocket money needs are. Sit and discuss this – without getting emotional – then set a fee for their allowance, from which they must buy everything agreed on in the meeting. Whether it’s clothes or movie tickets, petrol or cellphone bills, allow them to control some part of their finances while they’re still at school.
6. Don’t borrow money
Well, of course you’ll use your discretion here. But don’t let your kids continually borrow money from you without ever asking for it back. That’s not how life works. Teach them the value of money by helping them to save up for whatever they want and to live within their means.
7. The world doesn’t owe you anything. Get off the couch
The sooner our kids understand that they, and they alone, have to take responsibility for their own lives, the better. If they don’t want to study now, their marks are going to suck. With sucky marks, they can’t get a tertiary education. Without tertiary education, the job pool is even smaller.
8. We’re not the Joneses
The fact that all their friends have flashy gear doesn’t mean yours need the most expensive ones too. If your kids want the latest sneakers instead of those you can afford, they can do odd jobs around the neighbourhood to contribute to the shoe fund. Yes we want the best for our kids, but the best is not spoiling them.
9. Look after your health
Medical expenses can cost you a small fortune if you don’t make use of state facilities. Teach your children to eat healthily, be active, not smoke or drink and not sleep around (or to use condoms no matter what). Our lifestyles can directly cause high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, HIV, some cancers and STDs. Healthy adults can potentially save a lot of money (and heartache).
10. Don’t always get the flashiest
If you are in the position to buy your teen a car or cell phone, don’t go straight for the most expensive model just because you can afford it. Nothing wrong with letting the young one drive around in a small second-hand car. One day, they will appreciate affording their own first car or super smartphone that much more.
11. Gap years aren’t lazy years
If your child decides to take a year out before studying (which is a huge luxury), then give them a few options to choose from: volunteering at a welfare organisation for a year (this builds important skills and looks great on a CV); going travelling, working along the way to fund themselves; repeating school subjects they want a better mark in; or getting on-the-job training and working their way up (bonus points if they company can pay for their studies).
12. Don’t be a Santa, don’t be a scrooge
With good financial stewardship, moderate saving habits and avoiding debt, we can make our little money stretch a long way. But we have to teach our kids that money is just money. It shouldn’t have a hold on us, we shouldn’t let it rule our every thought and affect our happiness. Lots of money shouldn’t be an obsession or life goal.
13. Practise what you preach
Show by example how you as a family help to feed the poor, join in fun activities from time to time that don’t cost much, save collectively and work hard for what you get.
Always focus on the values of your family: what really matters to you? Would you still have happiness if you were forced to live in a little caravan on the edge of a desert, without cellphone reception, wi-fi or pizza deliveries? If not, perhaps time to rethink your values.