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My Kids Don’t See My Financial Limitations, Because I Don’t Let Them See Them

Jan 11, 2022

My eight-year-old thinks I’m a millionaire.

I’m not.

To his credit, he did mention how I have probably spent “all my money” on him and his brothers.

I couldn’t help but smile. Because he’s not exactly wrong. But "all my money" is certainly not millions.

At this point in my life, I am basically working to pay the grocery bill!

And I haven't even entered their teenage years yet.


From province to province, money can be stretched only so far. Here's how a family of four in Newfoundland is managing their money.


Holidays Come and Go

With the holidays just in the rear view, I bet I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Three out of five items listed in that same eight-year-old son’s letter for Santa included electronic devices I had to look up.

And when I looked them up, I discovered just how expensive they were.

I had to tell him that Santa does not spend that much money on gifts.

While I thought that was a bulletproof argument, my eldest son chimed in saying that Santa doesn’t need to spend money on gifts because his elves just make them.

And with that argument, he’ll probably be a lawyer some day.

I didn’t pursue a conversation about Santa any further. Instead, I reminded my sons that we don’t always get everything we want, and I reassured them they would most likely receive at least one item on their lists (if they were on the nice list, of course). 

Resetting Expectations

I have been working to recalibrate my sons’ expectations as they are getting older.

Sure, they can be reasonable and insightful sometimes, but they are still children.

On the one hand, maybe it’s OK that Santa’s wish list is filled with wants instead of needs. Dreams are free, as my dad always says. And it’s OK to not always get what you want, because there is a lesson in that.

In my experience, there were a lot of things I wanted as a child (and adult) that I never received.

I do want my boys to feel like they can ask us for anything. And there is a part of me that wants to give them everything, like I’m sure many parents do.

But of course, I know it’s not possible.

Perspective

I know we are lucky and have more than most.

While our tree may not have been bulging with the latest must-haves, my children don’t have to share one piece of fresh fruit per week – like some Manitobans I know.

Our pantry and fridge always have some food in them. Which is a benchmark I feel content to meet.

And while I may not be a natural cook or baker like my mom, I have gained enough skills to put a meal together.

The root positive is this: we don’t worry about where our next meal will come from.

But have I done a good enough job to make sure my boys have gratitude?


Chantal Saville may not make a lot of money, but she has learned how to entertain her child on a fixed budget.


Parents Are Always Teaching Lessons

I think I’m pretty good about teaching my kids to not take more than they need, and to share with others.

Too much awareness about our family's financial situation isn’t something I want to burden my young children with, but I would like them to be aware of how fortunate we are to be food secure.

On my middle son’s last birthday, when he and I got to go out for lunch together, he saw the bill and exclaimed: “That’s cheap!”

But it wasn’t cheap.

It’s these moments of dissonance that make me think I have much more work to do.

I want to teach them the value of money, and raise them to have an appreciation for hard work. But I also want them to see that there is some sacrifice involved when making decisions about how to spend the money we earn.

After all, this is one of my jobs as a parent — to raise them with some confidence, and a sense of resilience for whatever may come along the way.

Grasping how to discuss money with my young kids has made me realize that while many of us will strive to be different from our parents, some ideas, like how "money doesn't grow on trees," will inevitably trickle in. 

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