Snare the iPod, spoil the child?

When it comes to kids, what’s the dividing line between privileged and spoiled?

With seasonal holidays just around the corner — and the gift-giving that goes along with it — I’m wondering: when it comes to kids, what’s the dividing line between privileged and spoiled?

Part of teaching children financial literacy is getting them to distinguish between wants and needs. But if they receive all the gifts on their wish lists and then some, are we undermining that lesson? Will they grow into adults who expect that all their demands will be met, regardless of their ability to pay for it?

My own thoughts on this are divided. On the one hand, I take the time to explain to Adam that most everything in life costs money — from the food he eats, to the clothes on his back, to the heat and electricity that keep our house warm and lit; and that his father and I work hard to pay for those things as well as all the extras. But on the other hand, toys, games and videos are fun (even for grownups!) and friends and relatives obviously prefer to give Adam presents that he really wants.

So here’s what we do in our family. First, we limit gift-giving to Chanukah/Christmas and birthdays. If Adam asks for something at a different time of year, we tell him he can save up his allowance to buy it. Second, if he receives any monetary gifts, we deposit the money directly into a savings account that we’ve set up for him. Finally, when he gets new toys, we encourage him to go through his older toys and choose some to donate to charity (although we’ve had mixed results with this — usually we need to choose for him).

We’ve also considered other options, for example requesting that donations be made to a charity of Adam’s choice. Some websites, such as EchoAge, will even administer this process for kids’ birthday parties — half the money collected goes to charity and the other half is given to the child to purchase one meaningful gift.

What do you do in your family to ensure your kids know the value of a dollar?

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.