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When Your Kid Messes up With Money

Written by Teri Cettina on December 5th, 2012 Posted in Kids & Money

My 11-year-old daughter recently went on quite a spending spree.

She gets a very modest allowance—$6 a week. So when she got home from an outing with a friend and her nanny, I was surprised to see her plop a big bag of goodies on the kitchen counter. Among the loot: A bottle of kid perfume (strawberry gummy bear-scent, no less), some gaudy jewelry, several packs of gum, and a Claire’s makeup set with—I kid you not—64 shades of eye shadow! (Does anyone need that many colors, much less a tween?).   Photo by pasukaru76.

We had a long, ahem, talk about her shopping trip. Her mall haul might seem typical for a young girl, but there were a few wrinkles. Our family rule is that our daughter only makes significant purchases she’s with us—not when she’s with someone else’s nanny. Also, our daughter isn’t allowed to wear or buy makeup yet. Finally, I knew she couldn’t afford what she bought.

It turns out that she emptied her piggybank without telling us. It’s a segmented one, with slots for spending, saving and donating. She took the money from every section and emptied it into her little polka-dotted purse.

She even took her “donation” money, which I considered a huge no-no. On top of that, she borrowed money from her friend. I hadn’t even thought to make “no borrowing” a family rule. I didn’t find out about the loan for several weeks. By then, I was practically spitting nails over this whole shopping incident.

Where had we gone wrong? My husband and I had clear conversations with our daughter about money, and our family’s rules for saving, spending and donating it. Were we raising a spendthrift, even though we thought we had taught her the “right” ways to handle money?

Shortly after this happened, I chatted with Susan Beacham, CEO/ founder of MoneySavvy Generation. She reassured me that our daughter is completely normal—thank goodness! Better yet, Susan showed me that my daughter’s mistakes are actually helpful “sign posts.” They let us know where she still needs guidance from us. I write more about Susan’s advice on handling kids’ money mistakes over at Equifax.com. Follow me over there to read more.

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