Finance and Taking Responsibility

When financial crisis hits home some children remain in a protective bubble. Perhaps their parents continue to buy those expensive designer sneakers and clothing that represents status. Maybe the children continue sporting or recreation programs with expenses that exceeds the family’s means. One can only wonder, how many dollars a year continues to be doled out for wasteful spending at the corner store or the ice-cream truck. Cellular phones and plans get upgraded to unlimited service instead of demanding children limit their use. Toys carelessly left behind are replaced. It’s an endless list of irresponsible behavior trying to hide what is no longer there.

After all, it’s not the children’s fault that times are difficult. Why should they be denied indulgence? This is a cost that keeps children engaged in their circle of friends and spares them from shame and embarrassment. Shhh, don’t talk about money. Let the kids remain thinking there is an unlimited supply. Parents want to keep their children shielded from financial crisis and to continue appearing capable amid the community and most importantly in the eyes of their children.

Steering a different course once crisis occurs is difficult and requires humility. I know because it is the route I first took years ago when faced with divorce, having to live on a small fraction of what my children and I were use to. Working in a middle school gave me an insider’s view to the relationship of children and money. Knowing what I can and cannot afford, I would be baffled when I’d see children of limited means sporting $140 sneakers or after lunch, day after day, seeing them line up at the vending machine when my own children left for school that morning with only enough change in their pocket for milk having to carry a bagged lunch.

I had to question my frugality, standing court side seeing pride beam from the boy with the squeaky new sneakers. I then understood the status the sneakers represented and I was able to understand and respect such extravagance, perhaps on the part of his grandma who was left to raise him on limited means, or maybe an uncle stepped up taking him for the sneakers, or by chance they were sneakers that had fallen off a truck, this I did not know or concern myself. What I did know was that on the basketball court the sneakers made Luke an equal. It didn’t matter that he lived on the other side of town. This beloved child who didn’t have the braces to correct his massive over-bite, for many weeks wore a smile of great pride.

It was around this time that cell phones gained popularity and my daughter’s father provided her with one, meanwhile to me he was crying poverty. He continued to make the journey each weekend to see his children taking them out to dine in restaurants through a period of unemployment and then there after, all those years, when his pay was 50% less than it had been when we were married. I didn’t see him suffering any financial crisis though my support contingent on his wages lessened further, tightening my ability to provide. He’d replace my son’s worn out $50 sneakers and took him to the $10 barber as needed. The extras I appreciated but felt were owed. I was sure he was gaining funds under the table that escaped the support as he always appeared to be living beyond his documented means.

Ten years later, his exorbitant credit card debt was erased in bankruptcy, while I continue to struggle to get by. I adjusted to live within my means when crisis first hit, only charging necessary purchases during extremely difficult times. I’ve managed crisis after crisis and get angry seeing people being bailed out from their foolishness whether it be through bankruptcy or walking away from their upside-down homes in foreclosure. All these years I have done without and I have even reduced us to living in this old shack I have been slowly converting into a home. It makes one wonder: who has been the fool?

I was lucky to have been saving for a new roof, having some money in the bank back in December 2009, when the job crisis hit home. I’m still unemployed but getting by due to the multiple extensions in unemployment benefits, the child support payments, and the little cushion I had set aside. No matter how difficult the times, each year the children and I take our family vacation. Thanks to modern technology I can job search from anywhere. So, for $100 I planned this summer to take the family for a camping trip on Cape Cod, but my youngest, now seventeen years old, wants to take a trip to Florida to her Godmother’s house, and like years before, she wants to bring along her friend.

Perhaps this means I have done a good job protecting her from realizing that we are in a financial crisis. As the round-trip from New York to Florida by car will cost approximately $400, I told the girls and the accompanying friend (whom all work part/time jobs) that if everyone chips in we can go. This vacation is not on mommy. I can only afford a camping trip on the Cape, but I’d drive and would love to go to Florida instead, provided they share the transportation cost.

I had to humble myself in order to avail my daughter the option of changing our vacation plans. It will be up to them to take on the financial responsibility should they choose option number two.

Do you think this is fair?

Where do you draw the line in these difficult times?

How did you teach your child financial responsibility?

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About Aligaeta

I am a life time resident of NY State. A graduate of Nassau Community College, AA in Liberal Arts and Queens College, BA in English and Sociology. I am the mother of four children, the survivor of divorce, and I love to write in prose. This blog will be a record of my journey... destination unknown. Read more...
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6 Responses to Finance and Taking Responsibility

  1. heikoworld says:

    Well although we live in different countries life is not really any different, although before I continue “I have never been Unemployed”. My daughter is 40 and my son is 45, we never refused them much but if it was a real expense they were always asked to contribute, which they did. When they were younger we (I) never refused them anything, as long as it was something useful, a trip to the cinema as we live in the country always got a yes from me, from my now departed wife she never liked to part with money, that caused many arguments but I reminded her she was never refused as a youngster by her parents, we always had a rule, we never gave one without giving the other, example; when my son got married I paid for their honeymoon and gave my daughter the equivelent in cash, and when my daughter got married I paid for her honeymoon and gave my son the equivelent in cash.
    OK as I said Ihave never been unemployed, it must be so difficult, `IF` I had been unemployed I would have tried my best to give them what they wanted, living in the countryside is far harder for children and teenagers as there is not a lot for them to do.
    All this does have a very small downside, when they get into diffuculty they are always on the phone asking to borrow, but they always pay it back.
    I never tried to be hard on them, after all, they never asked to be brought into this world, ok some people have said I should not have done so much, other`s have agreed they had done the same thing.
    Don`t be hard on you children, as you said you would rather have gone to Florida that Cape Cod, they will thank you in the end for being a great mother.


  2. Aligaeta says:

    It amazes me the various ways people structure gifting. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. jannatwrites says:

    I’ve struggled with resentment at times when I see someone living it up and then declaring bankruptcy, because we’ve been responsible and made do with what we had.

    As for the kids, we do not provide everything they ask for. We don’t have any gaming systems or Apple gadgets. The thing is, there’s no limit to what they want and we can’t (and shouldn’t) go down that road. They earn allowance – that’s how they get candy, gum or toys. The last time we went to an amusement park, my hubby and I paid the admission and brought in bottles of water. The kids wanted ICEEs and junk food – they bought it with their own money. The real food for lunch and dinner? We bought that.

    Another example: we just bought them lunchboxes and ice packs and told both kids that they will be buying replacements if anything is ruined or lost because of their carelessness. (Things wear out in time, that’s fine – we replace that. If an ice pack is ruined because they’re stabbing it with their plastic fork – they replace it.)

    One night, my older son didn’t like what we were having for dinner and he wanted to eat Subway. We didn’t have the cash to go to a restaurant so he bought us all sub sandwiches – and he loved all the praise he got for being so generous. He seemed proud that his money fed the family. Others might think we’re too harsh, but that’s okay.

    Sorry for my too-long comment – to make it short, I agree with you. I think your daughter should contribute to pay for the vacation. It’s more expensive than the one you planned and that’s what she wanted to do, so having her chip in is more than reasonable, in my opinion.

  4. Aligaeta says:


    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. My kids are slobs. I never have been able to master motivating them to clean their own space let alone the household chores. I remember when I was a kid we did our chores on Saturday morning. When my children were younger they went with their father on the weekends. Now that they are adults they help out from time to time.

    No one pays me to cook and clean but I do get a thank-you or a compliment and they receive the same for their contributions.

    I have struggled with the concept of allowance, feeling guilty for not having excess money for them to spend foolishly. I was surprised when a friend of mine, a child psychiatrist from India, expressed her disapproval of the concept of paying ones child to contribute and their contribution to come with the expectation of a payment. With all things considered I found her position on the subject to be a comfort.

    My in-laws are big on cash presents for birthday’s and Christmas so when the kids were younger, if they budgeted wisely they’d have plenty of money six months out of the year. Another reason not to do chores for meager cash payouts.

    My son, Matthew like your son finds great pleasure in being the one to treat for pizza or to leave the tip when we go out. So, I understand your older son taking pride for the subs, good for him!

    • jannatwrites says:

      I can see why some would oppose allowance, but to me, it’s a tool to help them learn the concept of saving and budgeting. It also teaches them the consequences of ‘bad’ purchases. (Even though it’s hard to let them ‘waste’ their money.) The kids have to do their work no matter what, but they have lost their allowance on occasion.

      Your circumstances have been more difficult than ours, so you should not feel guilty at all for not providing allowance. The cash gifts for birthdays gave them opportunities to learn how to manage money. As parents, we do the best we can with what we’ve got.

  5. Aligaeta says:

    What an interesting conversation we have going here!

    Yes, even without allowance my children time after time were given the opportunity to make wise or foolish purchases with their money and the opportunity to learn budgeting. My girls did better with this than my boys who are more impulsive and this continues to be the case as they have reached adulthood.

    Working in the middle school gave me an insider’s view of children who had the freedom to choose their purchases. Mommy wasn’t there to tell them they can’t have ice-cream, cookies, and chips for lunch everyday. When we look at the obesity amongst children I’d have to say their parents unintentionally have given their children the allowance to over indulge. The lunch monitors are not the dietary police.

    My son being impulsive and a junk food lover was guilty of such indulgence. I learned this from his guidance counselor only because I had discussed with her other health risks that can be exasperated by an unhealthy diet and had even brought Instant Oats to her office for him. So my notice of his poor choices were due to medical issues, not any policy.

    You are right. We as parents do the best we can.

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