By Gina Abuyuan
In my most recent post, I listed down qualities or “practices” that solo parents may be doing to be raising pretty well-rounded and well-grounded children. Aside from showing them—inadvertently or advertently—a more “real” view of the world, and teaching them to be more responsible and understanding, solo parents somehow also produce more conscientious children. Whether this is a reaction rooted in guilt (since the child sees the parent having to exert double the effort in everything), I don’t know. I’m no psychologist, so this can all be attributed to observation.
One of the areas I see this trait in is money and material possessions. Even with the world at his feet and everyone around him eager to make up for his lack of a mother via gifts or cash, J, my partner’s son, shrugs it off. I’ve heard him say more than once, “I have enough.” Sometimes we even have to force him to think of things for us to buy him when we go abroad or even to the supermarket. Once, when I brought him an assortment of potato chips, he asked me whom they were for. His reason? He didn’t ask for them, so they must be for somebody else.
I still have yet to encounter a problem with him going overboard his budget. Since he’s already in college, his allowance is substantially higher than his half sisters (on his mom’s side), and his would-be stepsister and brother (on his dad’s side, through me). That’s not to say he scrimps, but it’s apparent he’s a smarter spender and saver than most 20-year-olds with their own car and access to a bank account.
I see the same cautiousness about finances in my daughter. It’s not that she doesn’t want anything, but saving up and spending for something she lusts after is second nature to her. Three years ago, at 10 years old, she saved her Christmas money to buy a Mac optical mouse worth P3,000. The year after that, she bought her own Skullcandy earphones. This year, after selling her first wave of silicone ballers (and paying what she owed me in full the very moment she could), she bought her own DS, and treated herself to a few pieces at Forever 21. (It made me think—what was I doing when I was 13? Lying in my bed daydreaming about Duran Duran, that’s what.)
So what did my partner and I do—aside from triggering in them a certain sense of responsibility due to our situation—that made them more careful about money than normal? Here’s what I think:
* We encouraged piggy banks or money jars at an early age. I prefer a transparent jar so kids can see how much is being saved. Let them lift the jar from time to time to see how heavy it’s getting. Take a few coins out to buy some candy to show them the concrete relation between money and a product. (I haven’t opened bank accounts for my kids yet, but my partner has. Maybe I should soon.)
* Make them earn it. I didn’t do the “do your chores” bit, since I believe kids should pitch in without getting paid; besides, with what my daughter earns with her ballers, you think she’d even want to wash the dishes for P50? Nah. When my daughter said, “I want to earn money,” I asked her to figure out what she was good at, and make money from that. She’s quite adept at graphic design, so boom. Ballers. Next up: bags and shirts.
* I keep my kids’ money gifts, but when we go out and they see something they like, I remind them about the amount that’s with me. I ask them to think twice about whether they want to blow all of it on that certain product, or if they can live without it, or if they’d like to look around more. It discourages impulse buying.
* We’re careful about our own attitudes about money, and how they might influence the kids. We’re generous when we can, we’re honest about tightening the belt straps if need be. Eating in Mang Larry’s in U.P. doesn’t mean we can’t have as a good time if we eat in Burgoo’s. We don’t like swiping the card, and my partner has illustrated to my daughter and to his son the horrors and problems of people mired in debt. We never say “money is the root of all evil,” because money can be good—it just depends on how you use it. I’m particularly sensitive about the phrase “wala akong pera” because that creates waves of energy that will make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, so I call my daughter’s and partner’s attention whenever I hear that. We also like to point out stuff in the news—the AFP scandal, for instance—and use them as opportunities to remind them that stolen money or ill-gotten wealth means you’ve deprived other people of their due, and it’s likely to come back and bite you nastily in the ass.