Explaining Financial Hardship to Kids

Updated on August 07, 2011
S.A. asks from Chicago, IL
18 answers

Hi Mamas,
Money is very tight for us these days. It seems expenses are popping up left and right. I just received an e-mail from my daughter's girl scout troop leader that they have made the reservations for the troop's stay at a horse farm/camp for two nights in September. They prefer all of the moms come along, and I agree with that. I wouldn't want my daughter going without me and she wouldn't want to stay somewhere overnight without me. However, it would cost almost $300.00 for both of us to go and we just don't have the money right now. I know my daughter is going to be devastated when she finds out we're not going. I have tried to teach her the value of money and explain that we can't just buy anything we want, but she still seems to think money grows on trees or that a credit card can be whipped out when you don't have the cash. Well, our credit cards are maxed out and the cash just isn't there for anything that's not an absolute necessity right now. What would be the best way to explain it to her? It's just really hard when these situations come up because she attends a Catholic school and most of the kids don't have to think about financial hardship. She will likely be the only one from the troop not going. Thanks in advance for your advice!

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So What Happened?

Thanks to all for your advice. I would like to address those of you who think my husband and I have been reckless with money. We absolutely have not been. We used our credit cards to cover necessities when my husband's paycheck wasn't enough, and we've used it for emergencies like car repairs, home repairs. We have not just run out and purchased stuff we don't need. Over time, this has added up and we are now in debt. We chose for me to stay home with the kids instead of putting them in daycare. We knew it would be financially challenging, but that is the choice we made. Besides, most of my paycheck would go toward childcare for three kids. We send our kids to a Catholic school because we live in a terrible school district and want better for our kids. Therefore we don't go on vacation, we don't have the latest fashions, we don't have Blackberry's and I don't have a Coach purse. Our kids' education is our priority. I will definitely see if I can find Dave Ramsey's book from the library. I'll take all the tips I can get. And my daughter is 9. She doesn't want to stay overnight without me. Last fall the troop had a camp-out in one of the girls backyards. I wasn't able to go because my baby needed me at night, so my daughter didn't go. Her school goes to a week long camp in 5th grade and she's already said she won't go if I'm not picked to be a chaperone. I know I could try to encourage her, but it would be an awfully long way for me to go to pick her up if she's upset. But maybe I'll give her the option if she's willing to work to earn the money for herself to go.

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answers from Dallas on

In this case, I would have her brainstorm some fund raising ideas. You can sometimes teach financial reality better by having them get involved in the process than just telling them NO. Girl Scouts have a lot of fundraisers and people like to give to Girl Scouts. I bet there will be a way for her to earn the money. It would be a shame for the 2 of you not to go. I would just tell her, Dad and I have gone through the budget and there we just don't have it, what are some ways you can think of to earn the money? Maybe call the troop leader and see if they have any funds available for this? I've been told that's where the cookie money goes. toward financing stuff like this.

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answers from St. Louis on

I don't know how far Streamwood Il. is from St Louis, or even if you can get a slot anymore. Busch stadium lets groups staff a fair amount of their concession stands. My son't boy scout troop used to do this because camping is expensive. What his troop did was 50% of what was earned was troop money, the other 50% was divided by how many people worked. So if two of us worked for my son then two portions went to him for his account. Then when they went camping it first came out of those funds. Those that didn't want to work paid all out of pocket.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I agree with Tracy K--depending on how old your daughter is, I guess, she could easily earn $300 by September with your help. Watering gardens, dog walking, cat sitting, selling things on eBay, mother's helper. I've made that much in a week just selling random, unneeded things from around the house on eBay.

Better that you show your daughter that you can be resourceful and see abundance amidst money troubles, than to explain to her how to accept a sense of lack.

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answers from Canton on

Didn't read all your responses, but I wanted to add : ) In our GS troop if a family cannot afford to attend a function we pay for it/or at least contribute out of the GS fund. Ex... cookie sales/fundraisers. Even if your direct troop doesn't have the money, the main GS office closest to you should be available. I know it's hard to ask, but I would look into it. That's what Girl Scouts are all about! Helping each other when in need. I'm proud to be a fellow Girl Scout and love watching my girls do the same! Good luck! I hope it works out for you.

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answers from Washington DC on

All of our expensive girl scout trips are paid by using earned cookie money... all of it. Our troop leader gives us a plan for all the activities (..and believe me, there are A LOT- I have yet to know another troop that does HALF of what we do), and says how many cookies need to be sold in order to do all those things... and we also have certain causes we donate to she has up there, and she says how many cookies we need to sell in order to do that. We ALWAYS reach our quota (there are 16 girls... the quota was 208 boxes, believe it or not... and we all made it). That gave us a lot of money to donate and spend on camping trips, and other adventures (we spent the night in a light house once!).

So, I'd have to say that the above idea I mentioned should be addressed with the troop leader, also there is a program that sponsors other girl scouts that can't afford to be in girl scouts... we call it SHARE. we donate to SHARE. I don't think it assists girls that go on trips, but it does help with troop enrollment fees. That could help.

Also, we have no extra money really at all. We live paycheck to pay check, basically... I don't suggest credit cards. It makes it temporarily "okay" to live outside of your means. I cancelled all of our cards years ago. I suggest you do the same. Now, for convenience I only use a check-card.

Not going on that trip would really bum her out. Is there a grandparent you can ask? And maybe you shouldn't go. My daughter has been on plenty of trips with her troop w/o me. I have gone to some, but she does very well without me and most of the girls don't have their mom or dad come. They all do well w/o. My girl just turned 8 a week ago, but she was 6 when she went on her fist no-M. trip.

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answers from El Paso on

I went to Catholic schools K-12. Until I was in probably 7th or 8th grade, we had little to no money to spend on things for fun. My brothers and I were each allowed to have ONE extracurricular activity (the entire year) that cost money. I played softball. One fee, up front, for the whole season. I really don't remember my parents saying much about it. It was just a matter of fact, "We can't afford ..." and the blank would be filled in with whatever we were wanting. My mom would also say, "You don't NEED it." And yes, there were times I was disappointed, but I think I have a better concept of needs vs. wants than I might have had otherwise. But, I do agree that trying to come up with something fun to do that costs little to nothing could be a good idea. You could camp out in the back yard or something like that. If she has friends that aren't in the troop, you could have them over to camp with her or something like that.

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answers from Atlanta on

I think you need to sit down and read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.....financial hardship doesn't happen overnite and your evil relative Murphy always seems to show up and stay for awhile and then only then do you realize just how much trouble you are in ;()( It's like everything else in life you don't realize it's spinning out of control until you hit rock bottom. We started the whole Dave Ramsey thing about a year ago and although we didn't follow everything step by step we did the most important suggestions. Murphy will show and always shows at the worst available times-EMERGENCY FUND. Although I wouldn't consider THIS particular situation an emergency it may have enabled you to save and give your daughter this opportunity. Can you sell some stuff in order to come up with the money? We had no money to put into Dave's university. Heck I didn't even have enough to buy his book! Therefore I went to the library and found his book and my husband and I both read it together. A chapter a night. We have paid off several medical bills and we have our $1000.00 emergency fund set up. You just need to read the book after you read some of the chapters you think to yourself Oh my gosh-why have I been so stupid???!!! Look I don't go to work to just hand it over to a creditor -that's being a slave and I'm tired of that lifestyle. We still have three credit cards to pay off actually 2 because 1 is about to be paid off. Then we have the cars to pay off -Dave actually suggest ridding of those but for us it just didn't make sense to do so-that was "our" situation" though. But believe me if we had yes it would have freed alot more of our money. Seriously check into this and you know what let your daughter in on it too because her behaviors will be formed with how she see's ya'll spending the money. I have already decided before I send my two daughter's off for college that they will be required to attend or at least read Dave's book. Had I known or had the mentality that I have now at the age of 35 when I was younger......well I would most likely be a millionaire-lol!

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answers from Chicago on

i'm thinking that, given this particular situation, I would not mention finances right now but that you have another commitment and try to find something else that she would love even more that doesn't cost much. An overnight at Grandma & Grandpa's? A sleepover with a friend? Going out and painting pottery, whatever! Think of something that would entice her and then tell her sorry that you need to keep this commitment but that maybe she could go next year?

Then, on another time, I would sit down with her and talk with her about money and how you have one bucket of money and another bucket for expenses, as does everyone but that your bucket of expenses and your bucket of money is about equal and so there isn't a lot of "extra" right now and that you all need to be responsible. Have her take part and help you. Let her know that you need her help to do this and she will willing think of ways to help you. It still may not be easy but at least when things come up, she will understand better why you are saying no.

Good luck. Hope this helps.

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answers from San Francisco on

Talk to the girl scouts before you talk to your daughter, both your troop and the counsil. There are always scholarships available. Girl scouts is not meant to be an elitist activity. Every girl scout event I've ever been to, even ones only costing $20, had written on the flyer "scholarships available upon request.".

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answers from Chicago on

I was a child growing up in a broke house ... and I mean broke to the point that all we could affoard for groceries one week was a large bag of add water pancakes since we already had a thing of syrup in the cupboard. Honestly, that was what we could buy that week. My mom kept me as a part of the budgeting for the house. I KNEW what her pay check was each time, I knew what the rent was, the house bills, child support etc. I think more and more kids need to be involved in their families budgets.

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answers from Washington DC on

She needs a good lesson in finance and she is old enough learn. One of your other questions says she's 9.
So I would tell her the truth. Tell her you can't afford it and why.
Also if you can afford for one of you to go at $150, where is that money coming from? It needs to go to your credit cards. She sees that you spend willynilly and so to her $150 is nothing.

She is also old enough to go by herself unless the troop leader doesn't want to be responsible for more than her own daughter. Girl scouts is to help them learn to be independent young women. But it is also to teach responsibility and if the money isn't there the responsible thing to do is not go.

Another mom suggested Dave Ramsay. It will help. I paid off a $20K credit card debt this last year. I have never been so proud but I did it. It took 4 years. Now, I am working on another one, it is not nearly so high, but high enough and I want to get to be debt free except the mortgage. It takes discipline and one of the things we had to give up was extraneous Cub Scout and Girl Scout outings. Along with eating out, setting my thermo at 79 and 80 in the summer and 65-68 in the winter.
It's not easy but you can do it

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answers from Chicago on

she is old enough to hear "we don't have the money to pay for it".

My kids 4, 5, & 7 want to go to Disneyworld, and we told them it's a lot of money and we will have to save for it. So they (all on their own) decided to collect all their money & put it in a big vase. Also if they find any money on the street, in cushions etc they put it in the vase. Now they decided to gather all their toys they don't want or play with anymore & have a garage sale and they will put the money in the vase.

I would love to have a 9yr old be my 'mommies helper'. So tell her to put herself out there to earn some money for her trip.

Also DO NOT feel guilty that you cannot pay for her to go. Be very 'matter of fact', kids cannot have everything in life & I am sure you are providing a very good life for her.

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answers from Cleveland on

I'm sure this is hard now but it's life and she's learning a valuable lesson. My husband couldn't do a lot of the things all the other kids in school did and it just made him determined to always work hard etc. I grew up being told I couldn't do things bc of money and I'm glad. We luckily can afford most things but I sometimes lie and tell my kids we can't bc no good comes from kids thinking money grows on trees. I think the ideas of making it her bday and Christmas present or going alone are good ones but if they don't work, remember this is all character building. I used to want to shelter my kids from everything but as they're getting older, I'm finding I have no problem telling them that life is hard. They don't want me to go to work - well, that's life. They have a great life and maybe it's not perfect but again, that's life. Your bio says you stay home with your kids so likely they have a great life too in the grand scheme of things. Remind them of that and they'll realize it one day. Keep teaching them that you have all the important things in life. Trips like this are going to keep coming up. Likely some of her friends will go on fancy vacations that you guys won't. So no avoiding it. My parents made no bones about the fact we couldn't afford everything lots of other people in our expensive town could. I'm glad and even as a kid I started to "get it". My parents constantly told me about people living beyond their means and how it catches up to them and they weren't going to do that etc. It was a very valuable lesson they told me over and over again so it really sunk in.

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answers from Chicago on

My daughter's girl scout troop took the trip you are mentioning in early June. While I did attend, there were 3 or 4 girls in our troop (of about 12 girls total) who went without their mothers. Everyone had a good time. If you can send your daughter comfortably she should be just fine without you -- its only dinner Friday thru brunch Sunday. Good luck.



answers from New York on

I loved Nicole D.'s response. You don't really have to be specific as to why she won't be able to attend. It will be a valuable lesson for her to learn to dance to her own drum even though she is a part of a group.

You don't mention how old your daughter is but the girl scout troop where we are often offer scholarships for some of the less priviledged members of the troop. It is done in a way that is respectful of the recipient and the recipients family.

If your girl is 10 or older, she should be capable of going without you. However if she is under 10, I would just put a pause on this kind of trip for her. We just have a strict policy of no overnights without family before your 10. Gives the 10 year old something to look forward to.

Do something special with her locally. You don't know who won't be going and who will. Not everyone will be practicing keeping up with the Joneses and going on a trip they can't afford and not everyone can afford it or their schedules don't revolve around the kids. Not saying that is your case but hopefully you get the point.

Somethings that are huge to kids aren't really that big in the scheme of things. I hope this helps.


answers from Austin on

If you cannot afford it you cannot afford it.. Just tell her. We have money to keep our house have food, pay our bills, but right now we do not have money to go to horse camp..

I know when a special occasion like this arises we would speak with our daughter and ask her if she "really wanted to go".. If yes, we would ask her if she "would like this to be her Christmas gift or Birthday gift.?". If yes, that is what we did. We still gave a few things for Christmas or Bday, but not as much as normal..

Or we would mention this to the Grand parents and they would pitch in.. Of course we have 3 to 4 sets of Grandparents (long story), who would each pitch in at least $50. each, so we are very fortunate.. We would tell them this is their Bday or Christmas gift to daughter and they were thrilled to help..

If your daughter is in Girl scouts that means she is at least in 3rd grade? I went away for 2 weeks for Girl Scout camp and had a blast the summer after 3rd grade.. My mother and dad were the ones that had the problem, hee, hee..

I bet if you can afford to just send her and she is good friends with a few of the other girls, she is going to do great.. Her self confidence and independence will amaze you,.

Just a thought..



answers from Decatur on

1.Enlist whatever you can sacrifice for the $300. 2. Can you sell old stuff at home to raise the money? 3. Can you think that the money would come to you in the next week. If you do, the money will be there.

Kids are kids. their lives would never come back.



answers from Chicago on

Call the Girl Scout council and ask about scholarships before you make your decision. It's worth a shot, isn't it?

If you decide to pursue the scholarship option, I'd love to know about the process and the outcome. Good luck.


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