Kids Wasting Money

I must have been some kind of war survivor in a past life because I hate waste. Most people, in theory, don’t like to squander, but I’ll go to great lengths to avoid it.

You would know that from a gander in my fridge, where there are several condiment bottles standing upside down with an inch left inside, and a dozen Tupperware containers filled with leftovers.

This does not translate to penny-pinching or miserly ways, mind you. I’ll still overpay for a handbag or a hot pair of shoes, but I’ll wear them until they disintegrate or find a new home.  I am a regular on the Vets used clothing/house items pick-up circuit, I recently hosted a successful clothing swap, and I am a chronic re-gifter.

I’m giving you some context so you understand my anger and frustration when my children waste.  It took me a while to be ok with my babies throwing unwanted food on the floor. By nature, toddlers are wasteful because they aren’t aware of the world around them. But by the time kids hit 7 or 8, can’t I expect some sense of responsibility and prudence?

Last week, 12-year-old Jacob got new sneakers because his were too small and he had worn through the toes. He picked a snazzy pair of Nikes with neon green details and laces.  All seemed well until the third day after purchase, when the new shoes were left clogging my hallway and the holey ones were back on his feet, with no discussion.

When pressed, he admitted he didn’t like the costly shoes he had chosen after trips to three stores. Who knows if someone at school made fun of the color or he just decided they were no longer cool, but those shoes are dead to him now.

My 8-year-old, Aden, is in a bad activity-quitting phase.  For years, he was my easy-going one who signed up for anything, regardless of whether friends were involved or he was familiar with the place or teacher. In the last few months, he has begged me to sign him up only to quit guitar and basketball.

Last weekend, I had RSVP-ed yes to a football fundraising party that all his friends were attending, yet he decided that morning he would rather pout than punt.  I told him he had made a commitment, I had paid for his ticket, and his brother was going so he was going. Despite my pleadings, the coach’s cajoling, and his friends’ inquiring, he dug his heels in and refused to play the whole time. I was annoyed but knew there was nothing I could say to make him play so I ignored his stunt and let it go.

What is a parent to do when a kid makes a decision and then changes his/her mind, and that choice costs money and effort? On the one hand, growing up is about learning to make good choices and we should give them room for mistakes.

But shouldn’t there be consequences to bad choices that cost money and time? I still have to buy Jacob shoes, so do I take the money out of his piggy bank? Do I punish Aden for not wanting to play football with his friends?

Both those penalties seem too harsh, and yet I’m still bitter about the waste. Please weigh in on this topic in the comments. Would love to hear what you think before I earn my title as meanest mommy ever, yet again.

7 responses to “Kids Wasting Money

  1. My girls do the same thing and it drives me bonkers. You are not alone! We had a similar shoe situation with my oldest, a 9 year old. She HAD to have a certain pair of tennis shoes (I thought they were ugly, and I even told her they were kind of tacky, but I’m trying to let her spread her wings…ugh) and begged and pleaded with me until I finally broke down and got them for her. A week later, she couldn’t stand them and was asking for a new pair because those just weren’t her thing any more. Call me a Mean Mommy, but I told her that if she wanted a new pair of tennis shoes, she was more then welcome to get some…if she paid for them herself. I explained to her that the shoes I bought for her were far from cheap, and at the rate her feet grow, I can’t afford to buy her a new pair every week. I told her I would buy her a new pair after she grew out of those. If she was willing to shell out the $40 for a new pair, she was more than welcome to. She griped a bit, but got over it. Her feet, however, seemed to grow at an alarming rate and we were soon into a new pair of shoes anyway! But, it took a few months. The next time around, she opted for something less tacky. 😉

  2. Ruth-Ellen Amen

    So, here’s my thought, based on my mom’s advice to “never forget what is was like to be a child”. Think back to when you were your kids’ ages and try to remember what you did or didn’t do in similar situations, and then ask yourself: Is a sense of what things are worth something that comes with age? Is there something else going on that only they are aware of and not ready yet to share with you? Then, maybe your answer about how to handle these situations will come to you. Having been on both sides of this coin, I can sympathize with you AND your kids!

  3. I like Jacob’s new shoes!!!

  4. Brooke – I say figure out a way for jacob to pay for his new shoes. That kind of stuff drives me crazy. They have to learn. We’ve all been there and I’m sure I’m talking tougher than I act.

  5. Good to know I’m not alone Laurie! The paper thing also makes me nutty. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  6. Laurie Zlotnick

    Didn’t mean for that to be anonymous Brooke – it’s me, Laurie Z.

  7. I have absolutely no answers but I can commiserate with you and assure you that are aren’t the only one suffering this. Owen begged us to take violin lessons so we signed him up for the school year; halfway through he started complaining and every week he begs to skip it. Alas, I make him go but it isn’t easy. Both my kids waste paper like crazy, using it to draw or cut up but if they make one tiny mistake must get a new piece and absolutely refuse to use the back of an already used piece. Drives me insane!!!!!! I’m like you, I like to stretch the value of something as long as possible and hate waste. My kids apparently don’t share this ideal with their Mom.