Say No To Your Children Now So You Won’t Have to Later


One of my guilty pleasures is watching Suze Orman every Saturday. I know she tends to polarize people faster than a Tea Party Presidential candidate, but I do enjoy her show. Suze was actually the first financial show I discovered.  I found it while flipping channels on vacation. At that point, we were deeply in debt, and I seriously needed a Suze smackdown. I’ve learned leaps and bounds about taking care of my finances since then. I’ve also learned to take every famous financial “expert” with a grain of salt. If they make their living from telling you how to manage YOUR money, you can bet they want a slice of it too.

Back on point, my favorite part of the show is viewer calls. Usually they are pretty funny, but sometimes they strike a nerve. A few weeks ago, one such caller really brought home a point about saying no to your children now so that you don’t have to later.

This caller was in her late 40’s, a wife and mother of four. She was a PE teacher, and her husband was an electrician. They didn’t live in a super expensive place. Her oldest child was graduating from high school and planning on college in the fall. The problem with this family was that they were consistenly spending $3000 more per month than they made.

The caller went on to explain how they had a big house that was now under water. They bought basically whatever their kids wanted and gave them spending money. The excess all went on credit cards, but they were almost maxed out. With no more credit, she had no idea what to do. She admitted to often crying about their situation, but had not had a conversation with her husband or the kids about the financial disaster they were creating.

After Suze worked her magic, they were still coming up $1200/month in the hole. Suze’s advice was that the family had to sit down and face reality. She and her husband both had to pick up extra work doing whatever they could. She also told the lady that her older teens, who had part time jobs, needed to contribute to the family finances. They were to cut out all gifts, vacations, eating out, spending money for the kids, anything that wasn’t food or basic necessities. Worst of all, she told this family that they could not, under any circumstances, help their kids with college. The lady was pretty much in tears at that thought, and I can’t imagine how difficult that would be if the kids were expecting family support.

Maybe this whole scenario was staged for TV, but I have a feeling it happens all too often. It’s very easy to feel that your family deserves all the modern conveniences and luxuries, especially if everyone else has seems to have them.

I think it’s incredibly important to start showing kids financial lessons from an early age. Let them make decisions on how to spend money, and for goodness sake, tell them no. It has to be much easier to not buy every trinket or experience from the beginning rather than showing them an unsustainable lifestyle before pulling the rug out right before college. I think it’s great for kids to get part time jobs. However, I would feel lousy telling my daughter she had to buy groceries this week because I spent too much money. As a parent, the thought that you can’t take care of your child is a very hard one to swallow.

However, kids are like modeling clay, and they can be reshaped. I think Laurie at the Frugal Farmer is a great example of this when she talks about how hard it is to change a lifestyle. Your kids might be upset when you tell them no, but I can guarantee they will be more upset when they have to support you as adults because you never saved a dime.

This past week when we were visiting my family, we all went to a mini amusement park. We rode every ride several times and had a blast. Getting Granny all wet on the log ride is just hilarious! The next day we went to the mall to get a birthday present for my niece. The mall had a carousel in the food court, which was $2 a ride.  Even though my daughter certainly has her “I want it now” moments, I was pleasantly surprised when she said,

Mommy, I don’t need to waste money on that merry-go-round. I rode one three times yesterday.”

Sometimes, you feel like they do listen, as that is exactly what I was prepared to say when she asked to ride it. $2 was not the point at all. It’s setting boundaries and saying no at age 6, so that I don’t have to at age 18 when the stakes are a bit more important.

What things have you said no to your children for? How do you feel about teens contributing to the family income because Mom and Dad spent all the money?

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of


    1. I don’t know that paying for an education is a terrible thing unless they have no retirement of their own. In that case, you may get to return the favor someday.

      1. It’s not terrible if you can afford it, but knowing what I know now they could not. They balked at the price of my private college in comparison with the in-state university option, but didn’t stand up to my preference.

        They paid the debt with a windfall, but without that they (and I) would probably still be paying even as they approach retirement.

        1. It’s good that you had that experience for when you have kids. I certainly want my daughter to be whatever she wants, but not at the expense of going into huge debt.

  1. “If they make their living from telling you how to manage YOUR money, you can bet they want a slice of it too.” Ha I love that! And so true..”you need to save your money and quit spending, so buy this book and I’ll show you how to do that!” 🙂 This article touched a nerve for me, because this perfectly explains my brother and how he was so enabled that as an adult he pretty much became manipulative and would basically throw an adult tantrum to get what he wanted because he was so used to people catering to him. I often wonder if I will ever have the nerve to write a blog post about it, but truthfully I’m scared for many different reasons (long story). But the point is Suze, as annoying as she is, is right.

    1. I have a dozen posts I could write about my family but it’s really hard to do that. Even if they drive you nuts, they are still your family. The inlaws, not so hard! Suze is annoying, but it’s like a car wreck; I can’t help watching.

  2. Well, I haven’t had to say no to my son because he doesn’t even talk yet, but his mother and I don’t have problems saying no. We were never spoiled as children and we had to work for the things we wanted. I plan on teaching my son that as well.

  3. I know that I learned a ton about how to handle money from my parents and a lot of it stemmed from them having to say no quite often. It has made me a more frugal person and one that will not go into debt. They gave us enough of what we wanted for everyone to be happy, but were not afraid to say no if they didn’t have the money.

  4. Really great lesson here. I’m all for giving our children a good life and providing them with happy experiences. But it’s so important to be able to say no for so many reasons. At the top is the need to keep your family financially secure. Going into debt to buy your children toys is putting their safety in very real jeopardy. And as you say, how can they ever learn the very real lessons of money management if they never have to consider trade-offs when they’re young? Giving into short-term wants may feel like you’re providing for them, but doing it too often robs them of the things they need most.

    1. Even if you were mega rich, I don’t think things make a great childhood. If a kid gets everything he or she wants, they never really learn to appreciate anything.

  5. While I do not have children right now, I definitely want to go in with the mindset of being able to say no to them, though I can imagine how incredibly difficult that might be. What parent doesn’t want to give their kids everything? In the end, though, it could really hurt them long-term and force a tough decision like not being able to help them out at all with college.

    1. I want my daughter to have all the knowledge and life experiences I can possibly give her. Tons of toys and things, not so much.

  6. “Your kids might be upset when you tell them no, but I can guarantee they will be more upset when they have to support you as adults because you never saved a dime.” Kim, this is the exact line that drives us to tell our kids “no” now. No, it’s not fun. It sucks. We just made the choice to cut out the kids’ earned income in order to save another $70 a month. It sucked. I hated it. They weren’t too thrilled either. But we want to be in a position where we can take care of ourselves and help them when they have their own families. That two dollar ride that your daughter said she didn’t need, those little things really do add up, either on the side of spending or on the side of being financially free. Saying no to your kids now is probably one of the very best things you can do – for them, and for yourself. As an aside, there was awhile when I was a teen that things were so bad that I did have to buy groceries for our family. I don’t remember how it made me feel as a kid (too many years ago, LOL), but I do know I don’t want our kids to have to go through the same experience. Excellent post, Kim, and thanks too for the mention.

  7. We went through the whole no experience just this past weekend and it really can be a nice teaching tool for kids. I find that it helps them see that we just can’t have something just because we want it. We really want to instill that in our kids and think that starting early in that is key.

    1. I feel like I am beating my head against the wall sometimes, then the light bulb moment will happen and you know it does sometimes sink in.

    1. I can totally see how it happens. You buy a house bigger than you can afford, but feel you can swing the payment. Then you furnish it and update it, all on revolving credit. You have at least two car loans, probably more if your teens drive, and likely at least one for a big SUV to haul the kids around. Husband loses some work as an electrician and you start charging to keep up your lifestyle. People often never look at the big picture but only figure what the payment will be until there are so many that you have no cushion. Then if income dries up, you’re screwed.

      I tend to worry all the time about making the right choices. I certainly hope we can teach her the right way to do things. At least she’ll never remember us having to pay off credit cards or consumer debt.

    1. I don’t want to be so cheap we give our kid a complex. I think there is a happy medium there somewhere. Finding it can be challenging at times, though.

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