Talk to your kids about your finances

Print Friendly


We have been having some problems with my oldest son (12) not taking his lunch to school.  For the last week he’s had one excuse or another why his lunch wasn’t taken to school or why he couldn’t eat it and he has been charging lunches to the school account. We don’t want him doing this because the school lunches are pretty expensive.

I asked him, "Are you the only who takes his lunch to school?" 

He answered, "Basically… only one other guy does." 

I said, "So are you embarrassed to take your lunch?"


Now, being 12 and in 7th grade, I can understand that if everyone else is buying his lunch that our son might feel out of place. But… I just can’t justify spending $50-$100 for my ONE child lunches at school just because many of the other parents do. 

I was thinking about it, trying to figure out what to do. At the moment, our policy is that if he buys any lunches at school, he pays for them. There are days that if I have been really sick for a while and the cupboards are bare, I will let them buy lunches at school but it’s a rare day when I let them do that.

We’ve been trying to impress on him the importance of living within your means and avoiding debt.

Later that night, Mike was showing me this great chart he found that shows a dramatic increase in federal deficits, with war spending being only a fraction of the overall deficit spending. He commented about how people always complained about the Iraq war costing so much, but how many of the same people don’t seem particularly vocal about the alarming increase in federal deficit spending, which has more than quadrupled since 2007.

federal deficits
Chart by Randall Hoven – originally published in the American Thinker
Data Source: CBO and U.S. Statistical Abstract


Our son was looking over our shoulders as we were talking about it and asked what we were looking at. Mike showed him the chart and said, "This bar graph shows the amount of debt the country has accumulated each year since 2003. What does that tell you?"  

Our son immediately noted the drastic increase in the last couple years. A picture is worth a thousand words. Our son asked, "Dad are we going to have a depression?"

Mike said, "If our government keeps spending like this, we probably will". Then I said, "Mom and dad are trying to pay off our house as fast as we can. We are doing that because with the government spending like this, there are going to be major financial problems that could cause a depression. God has given us money to live on and it’s our responsiblity to use it wisely so that if there is a financial catastrophe like a depression, dad gets sick and can’t work or something like that then we will at least have our house paid for and we won’t have to struggle so hard to have a place to live. We can then spend the money to buy food and other needs if that times comes. That’s why mom and dad don’t want to spend $50 a month on school lunches when we can make them at home for $10 a month

He said, "Oh, that’s a really good idea. I’m going to make sure I save my money so I can buy cat food and cat litter if I need to."  His cat is the LOVE OF HIS LIFE so it’s funny to hear his priorities, but he did get the point.

Sometimes you just need to explain to your kids why you aren’t buying one thing or another or why you choose to spend your money the way you do. Kids CAN handle it! You just need to tell them in a way that is calm. 


P.S. This article is meant to illustrate the importance of talking to your kids about money, not to be a discussion about politics, so we will delete any comments that seem to be the least bit argumentative. 


 From Jill

I just wanted to add a little note. Like everything else, keep things balanced. Tawra’s oldest is almost 13 and is exceptionally smart when it comes to money, saving and understanding it. When he asked a question in this case they calmly answered it.

If their 5 year old was there they would have answered it differently because of his age and his personality. In the same way you wouldn’t give a 5 year old the keys to a car because he doesn’t have the emotional maturity and isn’t responsible enough to drive the same goes for children and money and world news.


Photo by: yomanimus


  1. Deborah Forbes says

    Tawra, I know you don’t want to hear political talk but your house has to be run based on what happens in politics. What happens there involves our households. Thanks for the chart because it enlightened me on just how serious this is. My husband lost his job a year and a half ago and let me tell you it is very tough getting by. This will be a great article to share with our two teenage boys. Thank you.

    I hope you never run into this situation and wish your family all the best. Remember to trust in The Lord — that’s what we’re doing.

    • says

      Deborah, Tawra and Mike have been in your situation more then once. So have I so we know exactly what it is like. My son has been with out a job for a year and a half too. To make matters worse for him he had to have serious knee surgery which made it impossible to even apply for a job because the doctor said he shouldn’t work for 6 months. He finally got a job 2 weeks ago and found out last week he may have to have more knee surgery.

      The things we write about are mostly written from experience. We have been there and done that like many of you which is why we can so often feel your pain.

    • says

      Hang in there! We have had several lay-offs and job losses in our 16 year marriage. It’s always amazing to see how God keeps us going with “no” income coming in!

  2. Jamie says

    I’ve tried to talk about money to my 11yr old daughter. She seems to understand, but the downside is that my in-laws find it necessary to grill
    her on OUR finances…. so we don’t discuss much with her anymore.

  3. says

    Unfortunately the sad state of affairs we find our country in underscores the decision not to let your children have total control over the media in your household. Too much television watching numbs all of us to the realities of what is going on for so many families. As an adult I can monitor and filter out all the “gimmes” and the “highlife” so many of the programs and commercials seem to portray as the normal way to be. Little kids and even junior high kids if they are a somewhat immature often assume money more less falls out of the sky. Watching television together is a good opportunity to educate your children on what is necessary and what is not.

    This is a good article for all of us to see and I appreciate your graph that really shows everything in a very concrete way. Thanks so much!

  4. says

    Christmas is a great time to try and teach children about money.
    One year my husband had been laid off for 6months and the previous 3 months he was on strike.
    Our sons were quite young and they were making their wish lists. Santa was to bring a huge wack of things so I sat down with them both and said that the strike and lay offs in the city were going to make it so Santa had to give all the children toys who’s parents couldn’t buy many. They thought about it and started crossing things off the list. They said that their dad would buy them some so they weren’t too worried.
    Then they said that aunt heather could get them this and aunt beth could get them that and grampa and grandma could get the rest of their lists.
    They then thought for themselves that the two aunts weren’t married so they didn’t have a husband to help them out so they cut the list down more and the two aunts could buy them one gift together. Grampa and Grandma also got a break they only had to buy 2 things.
    They had their own money to buy gifts and they walked the malls for a month looking for really nice gifts for their relatives. But for the two aunts they bought really beautiful bottles of the worst perfume I have ever smelled. They told them not to open the bottles but to look at them every day because it would make them happy to see such beautiful things sitting on the dresser. The bottles are still on the dressers and still full.
    They learned how to give to the fullest and not expect too much when it wasn’t possible.
    One son was 5 and the other was 3 so it is never too young to start them learning just don’t scare them so they fear every time money is being talked about.

  5. Ann-Marie says

    I got an idea to use my children from another parent. I liked the concept and how it taught the children through experience (but it’s not truly appropriate for younger children). This father and mother sat down with their teenagers and went over the budget together. They had pay stubs and recent bills (gas, electricity, water/sewer/garbage, etc) and together had everyone figure out how they needed to distribute the monthly income. Once everyone understood that there was only so much to go around, the father put each child in charge of paying one bill each month. If they had budgeted $50 for something, and the bill came to less than that, the child got to keep the extra. If it came to more, then the child had to come up with the money to make up the difference. These parents tuaght their children before they moved away from home how to budget and plan and to be frugal! These kids were the ones going around the house shutting off unnecessary lights and making sure no one used too much hot water in the shower and coming up with ways to save on groceries. It was a real life lesson that stuck with them. Best of all, it was something the whole family was involved in. I hope to do the same as my children grow!

  6. Tracy says

    I liked your article.
    I think being honest to your children ,what you will provide them .To have food ,shelter and be loved
    and be able to remain in your own home and give them what is affordable ,not be a slave to the debt , purchasing their toys or a car with plastic. It doesn’t give them good lessons in life. Teaching about money and working by doing chores or errands for neighbors or pet sit ,etc. At a young age,which is approved by you.Using cash and living within your means and having your children learn on their own to use money .If they blow all their allowance in a week . They need to wait to next time til they get paid
    before the need to spend more .They should learn to save a percentage and donate some also.

  7. Trish says

    When my children were 12 and 9, their father and I separated. We went from a two income household, to a one income household with rent on top of that. Both of my children were used to asking for items from Wal-Mart and usually getting something within reason until our family situation changed drastically. I would explain to them it wasn’t the fact I did not want to get them something, it was the fact, they didn’t need it and I didn’t have the extra money for it. I told them after receiving my paycheck; I had to budget for the electric bill, rent, life insurance, groceries, gas, car insurance, their lunches and my lunches that only left a certain amount of money. That was to be saved as “just in case” came up. It was our emergency fund.
    After a couple of weeks, they started again, you just got paid, blah, blah, blah. I had enough. I told each one, you have 7.50 each for this week of breakfast and lunch for school. If you think you need it, that bad, spend your lunch money, I am not spending any extra money I might have for the three of us.Each one thought about it, and said ok. I gave them the cash for their breakfast and lunch money for the week. They went and spent it as usual.
    The next morning both asked for money for school. I told them to grab something for breakfast; I wasn’t stopping at McDonalds, and pack a lunch. After a week of doing this or charging their school lunch, missing the ice cream Friday, they thought they finally understood what I had been trying to tell them about our financial situation. It was not until a couple of months later, they started with the usual, I need this, get it mom get it. I looked at them and said you have your weekly money for school. Both looked at me with a serious look on their face and said, “No, I don’t need it, I just want it.” I’m good!” It was only then did I realize they actually learned a lesson that week of being miserable. They really did understand our financial situation. Now both are 26 and 23, are very conscious of where they spend or not spend their money. And every now and then when I am out with one of them, I hear them say I don’t need that, I just want it.

  8. Tracy says

    Regarding school lunch .We had our son spending too much for his lunch when he was in high school. We agreed to buy his lunch but he had to keep his meal under 3.50 each lunch. Some days he would see items that were better or offered as extras. And end up having a $4 to $5 dollar meal for lunch. His school had lunch accounts that you paid at the begining of each month. And out son told us his lunch was almost gone and it was only the 2nd week. So we compromised.
    He could have an extra item only once each week And had to make the lunch budget the whole month. So it ended up costing an extra 5 to 10 dollars verses 20 to 30 dollars for his lunch each month.
    And if he went over he had to used his own $$ to pay for his lunch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 6 = eleven

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>