Financial Problems? Talking to Kids About Cutting Back

Times are hard and you’re feeling the economic crunch. You may even lose your job. Here’s how to talk to your kids about cutting back.

Your company is facing layoffs and you could be the next to go. Money is already tight, and you worry whether you’ll be able to make ends meet.

So how do you explain to your kids that it’s time to cut back – without scaring them?

Talking to your kids
Younger children need a basic explanation. For example, „We don’t have as much money to go to the movies or out to dinner as we used to, but we’ll always have the things we need.“

It’s OK to give older children more information. Reassure them that although they’ll have to tighten their belts, you’ll always be there to take care of them.

Avoid saying things your children might overhear and misinterpret. If you say you may be „out on the street“ if you don’t make the next mortgage payment, your kids may take this literally and fear the worst.

If you notice signs of depression or anxiety in your child, such as slipping grades, nightmares or changes in appetite, talk to your child’s pediatrician.

Getting them involved
If your children feel they’re making a contribution, they’re less likely to feel helpless. Here are some ways they can help out:

  • Choose between activities. When money is tight, most parents cut back on their own needs first. But you may need to ask your children to cut back, too. Do they take piano lessons, karate classes, ballet? Let them decide which of these activities they can go without until things get better.
  • Helping around the house. Put a younger child in charge of turning off the lights or TV when someone has left the room. Children love helping out, and they’ll feel proud of themselves for helping to save money.
  • Cut back on electricity. Explain how keeping the refrigerator shut, closing the front door when the heater or air conditioner is running and turning off appliances can help save money. Encourage kids to turn off their computers and to unplug camera and cell phone chargers when they’re not in use.
  • Monitor water usage. Your kids can help you save on your water bill by taking shorter showers, using a thinner stream of water when washing their hands and turning the water off while brushing their teeth.
  • Get a job. You may have neighbors who need a dog-walker or mother’s helper. These are ideal jobs for older children. Encourage teens to find part-time after-school jobs to help cover their own extra expenses.
  • Pack a lunch. Instead of buying lunch each day, have your children choose their favorite healthy lunches, beverages and snacks to take to school with them.
  • Go the library. Instead of buying books or renting DVDs, have your kids ride their bikes and borrow them for free from the local library.

Tough choices for parents
The time may come when you need to cut back on your child’s allowance, plan a smaller-than-usual birthday party or even move your child from a private to a public school. You may not be able to join the community pool in the summer or go on a family vacation.

These decisions may be tough for your kids. Talk to them openly and explain that their contributions can help keep the family afloat. Chances are they’ll be ready and willing to do whatever they can to help out.