Teaching the Value of Money

Updated on July 26, 2011
C.M. asks from Bartlett, IL
10 answers

I'm not sure if this is typical of the age group, or if we need to do something different.

My daughter is 10, and LOVES American Girl Dolls. She has been the luckiest girl and since she was 6 her great-grandma has bought her an American Girl Doll for Christmas and sometimes for her birthday. She has nine American Girl dolls, which I think is unheard-of. That being said, she treats them all wonderfully and we are proud of her for that.

We've tried to teach her the value of earning money, she gets allowance and we stopped buying her things when it's not her birrthday or Christmas and we make her save her money for things that she wants. That being said, she squanders her money on junk often. Part of me wants her to learn the lesson on squandering her money young--but it never seems to sink in! I could just forbid her to waste her money, but I don't see how that would help because she's not learning anything. I will often point on later on when she says she wishes she could buy XYZ that she needs to save her money, not waste it. I'm at a loss on how to teach her since she never really "feels" the loss of the money until a later date.

This all came to a head recently. She was SO LUCKY and managed to get a total of $125 for her birthday. She wanted to go to the American Girl Place since she loves the dolls so much. I had wanted to make her save some of the money, but the relatives who got her the money made it clear that they wanted her to buy a gift for herself with it. So we let her take all the money to the store.

We made a day of it since the store is downtown. Now, she's 10 and perfectly aware of how to add and subtract money, etc. I thought $125 was an amazing amount of money and I know if it was MY money I would have carefully looked over everything in the store and then picked out the things I wanted the most. Well she tore through that store and wanted EVERYTHING. I tried to guide her into looking at everything first, but she kept putting things in her bag. At the end we looked thorough everything in her bag and I started adding everything up. Well, of course she had picked out way more than $125 worth so I explained that of these things, she would have to pick out what she wanted the most. Well, she didn't want to "give up" anything! I was getting so frustrated trying to explain that $125 isn't LIMITLESS money, and no, she could NOT get X and Y because they were too much money together. She was whining at that point and UPSET that she couldn't have more. I seriously wanted to march her out of the store without getting anything! Her father was there and had a talk with her and the whining stopped but then we had a pouty kid with us on her special trip.

I wanted to put everything back, I really did. But we had invited one of her friends with (who witnessed her fit) and we had made a whole day of coming downtown.

She's spoiled. I know that. Spoiled mostly by her grandparents and great-grandparents. We don't spoil her as often, she did get an iPod Touch (refurbished) for her birthday but she had been wanting one for 2 years and we really made her wait, and then she got an older model.

I know other kids who have wonderful, expensive toys and they AREN'T brats. She was the last of all her friends to get an iTouch and if I hadn't found such a great deal on the refurbished one, she still wouldn't have one.

Suggestions on what to do? Remember, we can't keep her relatives from buying her expensive things or giving her money. I would like to make her save 1/2 of her money next time, I had hoped she was more mature this year and would have appreciated the AG store trip and had fun with it instead of turning into a brat about it. She will outgrow AG dolls soon, so we had hoped to make a magical trip for her. I feel like she's greedy.

Any book suggestions as well? I was actually thinking there might be an American Girl book on it!

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answers from Seattle on

We have 3 jars on her dresser. Each labeled are labeled with either spend, save, share. Any money she gets have her divide it up. Just a suggestion.

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answers from Houston on

YOU are the parent. Sure, relatives can send gifts/money but in the end you still get to control what she actually gets and how much money she spends. You don't need a book to learn to put your foot down...unless its on that book to make a loud noise.

I have no idea how much money I ever got when I was a kid...whenever I got money my parents MADE me put half of whatever I got in my "piggy bank" - no ifs, ands or buts.

She's 10 - if you let this keep going and let other people control what goes on in her life and your household, it will only get worse very soon b/c she is is already in the double digit age and that's when you will really lose control.


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answers from New York on

My daughter is 13 and is similar but this year for her b-day she had to have stuff from her favorite store at the mall so when she went tearing through there like a banchee and went over her amount, I stood there as the cashier and her decided what she was putting back. I don't care if she was there w/the Queen of England. When I go grocery shopping and only have $100 for groceries that's what I spend. If I allow my daughter to get whatever she wants because people spoil her, where is it ever going to end? Nowhere!

My mom died 3 weeks prior to my oldest daughter being born so trust me, everyone in my family, along w/friends of my mothers spoil my daughters, but my husband and I have to pull in the reigns. If we don't we will be in for some serious trouble and trust me, there have been many hurt feeling over this because we have had to say something many times. It's not that it's not appreciated, but all the money in the world or all the gifts will not bring back my mom or give our daughter the love she would've given. We would rather people just spend time w/our girls and give them memories rather then always feeling they have to go over the top for them.

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answers from Denver on

my mom never made me save gifted money. my mom did make me earn every penny that I had in my pocket that wasn't gifted, though. when I was a kid I had to do all the laundry in the house, sweep & mop the kitchen and foyer, scrub the tub- toilet- and vanity, vacuum the house front to back, and dust every surface in the house. I earned a very small sum. But- because I worked so hard for those pennies, I did not squander them, and I made my gifted money last that much longer because of it. Now, don't get me wrong- I didn't lack for the basics- but if I wanted luxuries or fancy stuff my mom made me earn it.

I might mention also- because of the attitude my mother took with me and money I was very industrious. I cleaned neighbors houses (mostly elderly widows), and did light yard work, walked dogs, and babysat (when I was old enough).

Perhaps you need to re-adjust her expectations by changing yours.

best wishes-

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answers from Minneapolis on

Hi C., I feel for you. I've seen my girls get whiny and pouty in stores too, and it makes me crazy. I appreciate seeing the other's Mom's ideas too. I would say that while you are working on these issues, don't bring friends along on shopping trips. One thing I do not allow is for my girls to bring friends when they are out to spend some of their birthday or allowance money. It just makes me uncomfortable and doesn't feel right to have a friend witness my kids buying for themselves. True, they have gift cards and money that relatives want them to spend themselves something. It's not wrong, I just don't think it good to do that kind of shopping in front of a child's friend. If the friend wasn't there, you could have just left with her and not have bought a thing due to her behavior. Of course, there would likely be tears and tantrums, but it would have been a good lesson that you couldn't really teach her while you had to consider your child's friend's experience as your guest for the day. Another thing you can do is have her write thank you notes specific to each relative that gifted her the money before she gets to open or play with any of the doll accessories. She can write to them specifically what dress or doll hat or whatever she chose at the store, so there is more of a connection to how she actually did receive these things other than just, it was my birthday so now I have a huge amount of money. I hate the little pieces of junk my kids buy with their money too. I've heard the philosphy that you should just bite your tongue and let them experience have the free choice to spend their money one whatever for the learning experience, but I have to admit, I purposely avoid taking my kids around places they will want to spend money just because they have some and they want to spend it right now. I don't like to see shopping for junk or any toys become a habit for entertainment.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There is an AG book about money! It's terrific.

It seems to me that maybe she acted like a brat because it worked before. Next time - before you leave the house, remind her that she has a set amount of money to spend. Remind her that you will to be adding to her cash pile. Then, let her choose her items and go to the cash register by herself. Let them tell her that she doesn't have enough money. When she looks to you to make up the difference, you just remind her that you discussed this before you left the house and that you don't have any more money. She won't have a choice but to leave some things behind...

Take her to the grocery store with you. Give her a calculator -- make her add up the things you put in your cart. Tell her how much you have to spend. Tell her that you need to know when you've reached your limit. (I'd throw a few "extras" in there to make sure I hit the target early. Then show her how to make choices.)

Don't forget - she is 10. At 10, the world still revolves around them and their wants and needs. Make sure she does community service and gives back by volunteering. My kids have been serving others since they were little. They need to learn compassion... My kids worked at soup kitchens and a volunteer farm. They've picked peaches and corn on some of the hottest days of the year to help out a local farmer. (He paid them, but they didn't know they were going to be paid. They just knew he needed help and they went to help.)

Teach by example. When you go shopping, remind her that money doesn't grow on trees. If you can, you might get a paycheck's worth of cash and show her how it gets divided up -- mortgage, insurance, food, clothing, electric, phone, cable, etc. Show her how little is left over and remind her that you still have to save for college and appliances or whatever. I fixed it so there was less than 10 left for fun things... :-) It made quite an impression.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong about letting her spend all her birthday money. You can teach her about saving money in other situations.

It's obviously too late to do anything about the AG Place event, but I totally would have let her just take the whole bag to the register and let the cashier tell her she didn't have enough money (well, only if there wasn't a huge line or anything). Kids will often throw a fit in front of their parents but will listen when a "stranger" tells them something.

I like the idea LBC had about taking her to the grocery store. Teach her how budgeting works.

Does she get an allowance? Does she have to buy things for herself (clothes, jewelry, toys, whatever)? Have her keep a "checkbook" or balance sheet...so she can "see" where/how she spent her money when she wants to buy something later on. Get her in the habit of managing her own money (within reason, of course) instead of you doing it for her. It's very empowering and educational!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Actually, I think there is an American girl book! 'The Smart Girl's Guide to Money' or similar. I saw it at Meijer

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'm curious as to why you just didn't let her march her items to the check out and let her deal with the embarrassment of having to deal with the fact that she didn't have enough money to pay for the items she wanted? This is what I did with all my kids and now they are pretty good with money.

If you want her to start saving, you may need to show her how to do that effectively for her. Some people are really good at it and some aren't. She will learn like we all do by trial and error. Understand that it is normal and alright for her to make mistakes along the way. We all make mistakes. She will be no different but we learn more from our failures than we do our successes.

It's her money. So you have to figure out what motivates her to save.

You are on the right track but you may need to be less hands on with her learning from her experiences rather than bailing her out before she has the experience.



answers from Hartford on

Dave Ramsey has some wonderful suggestions on teaching your children about money. He believes children should get paid for chores and 1/3 should be for spending 1/3 for donating to a charity of her choice and 1/3 for saving. Maybe if you prep her before you go to the store by looking at the prices online will help her to realize what she can buy with her money. If she has a fit, she has a fit, the important thing is that you don't give in. Dave Ramsey has some great ideas, I would check his website out. Good luck!

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