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. My parents said no all the time, and now they get to spoil the grandkids and love every minute of it. I think it’s a parent’s job to show some restraint so that kid’s learn the value of things. Plus when you’re retired, you get to do what you want if you’ve made wise choices.

  1. My parents would never ask for money, I know some families who get more children to maximize the welfare checks they get, which is almost as bad as having your kids work to sustain your lifestyle.

    1. People say that a lot, but it isn’t true. It doesn’t happen. One of Ronald Reagan’s speech writers made that up. And since then we’ve had welfare reform, even if it had happened when welfare was more generous than it is now. The truth is that an additional kid costs more than any additional amount of welfare you would get. So anybody who tells you they had an additional kid for the welfare is deluding themselves.

      No credible economic study has ever found evidence of people in the US having more kids in order to get welfare or to get more welfare. People also do not move states to get more generous welfare checks. People’s marital status may be affected, however, although again, that was something that changed with the welfare reforms in the mid-1990s.

      1. I’ll rephrase my response. While I don’t think people set out to have a kid just to get a bigger check, I do think people who continue to have kid’s on Medicaid and welfare do not think through the costs associated with having the child because they know the government will help them out. If they had to pay $5K per delivery, I’m sure more family planning would take place.


        it fricin happens ALL the time! Want examples? I can give you PLENTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Oh it breaks my hearts that teens are getting part time jobs because parents can’t make ends meet, and i don’t think we can claim a lack of education anymore. I think the real problem is a lack of self control, and staying attuned to our financial situations.

    1. It is pretty sad if you can’t tell your teen to get a job to buy things they want but because they have to help pay the electric bill. I believe in teaching responsibility but having kids means you should be able to support their basic needs. I understand bad things sometimes happen, but spending too much is not a good excuse.

  3. Great post, Kim! While I admit that I’m not a huge Suze fan, the caller’s story is sadly one I see too often myself. Somehow too many parents believe that if they tell their kids “no” they will feel deprived and suffer greatly, needing years of intensive counseling or something. The truth is “no” can be the most powerful and positive answer you give. A family on the brink of losing their home and everything they own is far more traumatizing to a child than getting told they can’t have a doll, etc. More parents need to say “no” and also give a reason why.

    1. Absolutely! It was traumatizing for my husband and sister in law to see their parents lose a home, and they are adults who haven’t lived in that house for two decades.

  4. It probably was a staged phone call (let’s be honest – all the shows do this), but that kind of situation really does go on. A friend of mine works with someone who buys each of their kids a new iPad every time a new one comes out. Is that really necessary? When I hear about stuff like this it doesn’t impress me or make me think they are rich; it just makes me sad because you know they are screwing themselves over for the long haul and will be out of money soon someday.

    1. That’s a great way to teach kids that everything is disposable and how to satisfy the need for instant gratification. That makes me sad too.

  5. I will never make my kids contribute. My dad would never let us do that. My mom on the other hand, has always asked for money. When I was 12, I still very vividly remember her asking me to pay for a new TV that she wanted in her bedroom.

  6. I probably did not say no to my children that often, although I usually gave them choices. It is the basis for sound decision making. For example, you can spend $10 on rides, which ones do you choose?

    1. I think that’s a great way to teach financial lessons. Letting them choose gives them a stake in the game rather than carte blanche to do whatever they want.

    1. It really kills me when parents don’t prepare kids for real life. At my husband’s school, there have been parents who pull their kids out and switch schools if their kid gets in trouble or needs extra help. What a great way to prepare them for getting fired from every job they might attempt!

  7. Anything educational my parents never said no. I grew up seeing them entering the receipts everyday to make sure not to over spend. So when I wanted to get out of the paycheck to paycheck that is what I started with. After being on my own I did go crazy with my spending but I guess the basic principles ingrained in me was what helped me not get into debt at any point.

    Now my husband and I have to justify any non-essential purchases to each other. I am hoping we will extend it to our kid(s) and teach to think before spending.

    1. Making them think does pay off I believe. If they never understand there is actually money behind a credit card, it sets them up to fail. Even if they make mistakes, there will be a good background to fall back on.

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