Part of the difficulty is that no two kids “need” the same amount of things.
And yes, I am talking about needs. We basically go by a 10-day system. 10 basic outfits gets them through once a week laundry. Then each kid might have 2-3 “nice” outfits (for the girls that’s dresses for concerts etc.). And of course as seasons go there’s needs for jackets etc. For shoes we basically keep the kids in one pair of athletic shoes, one pair of casual shoes and if needed one pair of “dress” shoes.
Two children went through major growth spurts in the last 6-9 months. They hobbled through summer on what they had but obviously their list of needs was greater than the other two.
One child had just gotten quite a bit of new clothes late in the spring due to his growth spurt so he didn’t need as much. And another one hasn’t grown much and had done some shopping throughout the year at various times.
So how do we budget in a way that seems “fair” (kid perception) but is based on needs not wants? How do we encourage our children to shop for sales and second hand items and encourage thriftiness? How do we put them in charge of more of the decisions while still making sure their needs are met?
Those are the questions we tried to answer this year before we headed out to hit the stores. Mark and I talked through ideas for probably good 45 minutes before we settled on a way to approach it.
1. I went through each child’s closet WITH them and pulled out all the items that no longer fit or were too stained to wear etc. (The nicer items will get taken to a consignment sale and that money will go toward the next shopping cycle.)
2. Together the child and I came up with a list of needs. This included thinking through shoes, belts, underwear, pajamas, etc.,
3. Mark and I then went through that list (not with the kids) and decided what we thought was a fair price for each kind of item. We based the prices off of shopping places like Old Navy, Target, Ross, Walmart etc. So, for example, shorts were $15, tshirts were $10, etc. I even budgeted out underwear and socks if they needed it.
4. We totaled up the amount of money each child’s needs would cost.
5. Their list and the correct amount of cash went into an envelope.
Now the tough part came when we had to consider what to do with the two kids who needed ZERO new tops/shirts and very little else. Obviously we recognize the desire to have fun new things to start the school year off with, but we also want to continue to teach our children the difference between needs and wants.
And of course, money doesn’t grow on trees. We have a limited budget.
One of those two kids has a summer job so he had some of his own cash and had already been talking about using it to buy some clothes.
The other child is what Dave Ramsey would call the “free spirit.” She rarely has money because she spends it as fast as she gets it. And usually not on anything of lasting value – food at the snack bar, etc. She has a hard time saving up for “just in case” or future things.
So we decided that we would give them an allotted “something new” budget amount. Enough to buy 4-5 new shirts.
We sat the kids down and explained what we did.
Then we laid down the incentive. If you could find the items on your list for less than the budgeted amount, then you could spend the extra money on any other clothing-related items you wanted. Likewise if you found a tshirt you wanted for $15, you could only buy it if you had been able to save $5 on other things on your list.
They had to get all of the items on the list (or hold back the budgeted amount if it wasn’t found that day). They couldn’t suddenly decide they would wear the same 3 shirts on repeat just so they could buy $70 shoes, for example.
And away we went.
We started at Plato’s Closet – a consignment shop that sticks to fashionable and trendy clothes and is picky about what they’ll buy. Beza has found stuff from here before, as have I. The boys spent roughly 3.5 minutes looking through the racks before they declared there was nothing for them.
We then hit Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Target, a shoe store etc. I was pretty impressed with how the kids did.
One kid got all the stuff on his list and had about $30 leftover. He put that with some of his own money and bought an extra pair of shoes.
Our “free spirit” (who got the “something new” budget) was able to save enough on her other purchases to buy 4 new shirts before she even dipped into her budgeted amount. So 6-7 new tops for her.
One child did really well finding some things she wanted that were more than the budgeted amount, but then balancing that out by finding great deals on others.
One child was, um, sleeping during instructions? Before we realized it he had spent 50% more than his budgeted amount on several of his items. At the end of shopping he still had stuff on his list and not enough of his budget to cover it. So he will either have find the remaining items under budget or he’ll have to pay back the difference. (I held on to this week’s lawn mowing money until we see if he can make up the difference.)
Overall we’re pretty happy with how it went and I think the kids enjoyed the freedom.
What are some ways you’re teaching your kids to budget and involving them in purchases?