"But Mom, I NEED that thing."

March 31, 2018

-by Krista Zuber

Let’s face it. We Americans like our stuff. We love big houses, the latest vehicles, and the newest gadgets on the market. Do we really “need” a new iPhone 8 or X when our 6 model works perfectly? Many would say YES, but in reality we want it rather than need it.

As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids important life skills. And they mainly learn by our example. In the last year or so, I've really been trying not to buy things I don’t need. Do I really need another black t-shirt? Will my life be just as fulfilling without Alexa or Google Home? I have even cancelled my satellite TV subscription and extra wifi connection. We use a TV antenna, and so far it seems no one has missed having over 250 TV channels.

Yet, my kids still behave like they should be able to get whatever they want. Mom and Dad have money – we can buy it for them. Recently, my youngest daughter HAD to have a chunky sweater for winter because EVERYONE was wearing chunky sweaters. And I found it in her closet months later with the tags still attached. She wanted it, but clearly did not need it.

Most kids learn about needs versus wants in elementary school during science class. Needs are things that are necessary for survival, such as clothing, nutritious food, shelter, and basic utilities (heat and water). Wants are things we would like to have. And this can be quite a long list. It includes cell phones, TVs, Internet, nice furniture, jewelry, fancy cars, and so much more. 

It’s important to explain the difference between needs and wants to your children so they have a better understanding of spending their money wisely. Even though everyone would like to have the fun toys, we want our kids to know that someday it will be their decision. And they should pay for "needs" first – like groceries, the mortgage, and the heat bill – before buying the things they want.

Chore Check allows children to divide their chore money among three categories: Spend, Give, and Save. Depending on the child’s age, the Spend category could be directed toward “needs,” like a favorite food or buying books to read. Or, for older kids, it can go toward something bigger, such as paying a portion of their cell phone bill. Kids might also want to Give a portion of their money to help others. The Save category can be used to buy those “wants,” such as video games, toys, makeup, or the latest brand-name clothing. 

The ability for kids to say “no” to themselves – when they want to buy something they don’t really need – will lead to better self-control when they are older. They will be more financially stable and able to separate the emotional aspect of buying something from the need for it. They will also be less likely to build up credit card debt at a young age.

Honestly, I still struggle with the “wants.” I love cute shoes, jewelry, furniture, fancy dishes, clothes… Maybe I’ll buy a chunky sweater. Just kidding!