We here in Alberta have been hearing a lot about our economy as of late. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”….a quote made famous by Chicken Little, but one that applies to many doomsayers here too. I know it’s not good, and I have had quite a few of my preschool families affected by the downturn, and I can’t imagine how hard it is for them and their families. I also know that whenever it goes down…eventually it goes up, and we just have to hold on and ride the wave until it subsides.
I know I’m lucky, my husband and I aren’t in the oil and gas industry, so our jobs aren’t directly affected by the job losses and cuts (other than the loss of families and students from my classes),but we have friends and family who are dealing with the threat of losing their jobs. Our kids have friends who are being affected as well. Even though we believe (and hope!) our jobs are safe for now…we thought we should have a discussion with our kids about what it means for all of us, as a family, and as an Albertan.
Kids are smarter than you think. They hear about it on the news, on the radio, from friends, from teachers. Even if you are not directly affected by the downturn, why not take this opportunity to teach your children a little about budgeting, and spending and how to tighten your belts when necessary?
- How much money comes in, and how much money goes out? It’s ok for your kids to know how much money you make. Tell them how much comes into the house..and what goes out for bills. Explain to them that every time they leave the lights on, or run the water until it stops being hot…it costs the household. Explain that if they put on a shirt and wear it for 5 minutes and then throw it in the laundry basket…it gets washed again and that uses energy…which costs money.
- Budget for what they want. Do they want a new pair of the latest shoes? An iPad? A donkey? (don’t laugh- that one has actually come up at our house)…then they need to know how much it will cost, what the the upkeep is, what they are expected to contribute.
- Be honest. Last year, we took our kids to Maui for 8 days. It was an amazing vacation…and very expensive. They want to go again this year. We explained that a) we can’t afford to do a vacation like that every year, b) the dollar sucks right now & c) the next vacation we take is actually going to be one for just the hubby and I because raising four kids is exhausting!
- Create a list of fun things to do together that cost little or no money. Every year my mom-in-law gives us Calaway Park passes for Easter…and we love them. We buy Calgary Zoo passes, and use them. Go for walks, go for bike rides, watch a movie together, play a board game. Have your children come up with at least 10 ideas each to add to your list. If people ask you what to get your kids for Christmas and birthdays- ask for passes to events or places- I promise they will be well worth it in hours of entertainment.
Raise children who know the value of a dollar. Who are money conscious. Who won’t be 25 and knee deep in credit card debt because they are used to being handed everything and don’t know anything but instant gratification. Who learn that when you are making lots of money…not to spend it all wildly but to save some for a rainy day. Who know that when it comes to the economy, what goes up, must come down….but eventually it goes up again.