Think Before You Buy, Then Think Again!

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Think Before You Buy, Then Think Again!

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Some colorful stuffed animals caught my daughter's eye as we passed the hotel gift shop.  She grabbed my hand and pulled me into the small store and examined each one.  She asked if she could use her allowance money to purchase one. 

I told her that we would be there until the following morning, and that I wanted her to think about whether another stuffed animal is really what she wanted to spend her hard-earned money on. 

Several times that day she asked me the same question, each time I told her to think about it some more.

As we were checking out the next morning, the conversation was repeated but this time it ended with my daughter carrying a small stuffed leopard out of the gift shop.

Sitting on the couch at home later that day she asked me, "Dad, are you disappointed in me?"

"Disappointed in you for what?" I asked.

"For spending my money on a stuffed animal," she replied.

I repositioned myself so I was directly in front of her, took her hands in mine and looked her straight in the eye. 

I explained that I was not disappointed in her, but instead quite proud of her.  Each time she asked if she could buy the animal I had told her to continue to think about it.  She didn't get angry, pout, or give me a hard time in any way.  I explained to her the concept of impulse buying, and how many times something that is bright and shiny at the moment loses its luster a day or even a few hours later. 

She had put thought into her purchase, and decided the animal was worth the cost and would add value to her life.

A lesson in impulse buying is something I really want to teach and reinforce with my children as often as I can. 

The reason being is that I failed so miserably with this concept myself.   Feelings of entitlement, combined with high credit limits, fueled an impulse-spending spree that lasted well over a decade and resulted in enrolling in a debt consolidation program to help clean up the financial mess it created.

Why worry about whether purchasing something was really worth it when it only increased my minimum monthly payment by a few dollars?

When my daughter pays for something with cash, it has immediate consequences. 

When the money is physically removed from her wallet, she sees that she has less money to go to a movie with her friends and less money to buy the latest expansion pack for her favorite computer game.  These are the things I wanted her to think about and weigh against each other.  Once I forced her to do that several times, she came up with what she thought was the right answer.

Sometimes, after a few days or weeks, she may realize that she made the wrong choice.   But it's important to allow her to go through this process and be successful, as well as fail when the stakes are low.

Oh, and that stuffed animal?  It's been her bedtime cuddle partner every night since.

Related Links:

Straight Talk on Debt: Financial Lessons for Young and Old

5 Common Sense Tips for Teaching Your Kids About Money

Lessons my Kids have Taught Me about Money


Travis Pizel, debt management plan customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the A Straight Talk on Debt blog. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

To connect with Travis on Google+ click

You can follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles


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  • Wow. This post was pretty insightful, especially since it's very difficult to teach one's kids about finances, and also because a typical dad would probably have told the daughter not to buy the toy, or would have promptly bought it for her. It's ever so important to be a good role model and teach kids about the consequences of spending on luxuries (= toys) and this article shows that it can be done with patience and a bit of quick thinking,

  • Great Dad moment! Good for you for using such a teachable moment.

  • Thanks for the kind words, Tammy!  It was SO HARD not to just buy it for her - because what Dad doesn't just want to put a smile on their daughter's face?  Hopefully sometimes when she snuggles with her animal she thinks about the decision she made, and whether she thinks she made the right one.  :)

  • I'm always on the lookout for a good teaching moment, Kimberly - not only for them, but for me.  We talk a lot about these sort of things at home, and these moments are the tests that see if they're really sinking in.  There's not a right or wrong answer here...only she will know over time whether it was worth the money she spent, but seeing that she's at least willing to go through the process and think about it means she's at least comprehending some of what we're telling her.  thanks for reading!

  • Great post Travis, it's always cool to hear how other people teach good financial values to their kids. I have a 4 year old daughter and can imagine myself having the same conversation very soon...

  • I also like to read about how other people talk finances with their kids.  I don't think a person can hear too many examples, or have too many ideas to draw upon to  form their own plan as parents.  It's such an important thing to teach our children as it will affect them for the rest of their lives!  thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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