Amie is 8 years old, her brother Steve is 12. Steve wanted a new skateboard for his birthday and tickets to the big game. Amie’s mom finally thinks she’s old enough to take care of a pet, but she still doesn’t have the kitten she longs to have. When they mention the skateboard or the kitten, their mom and dad sound annoyed and say they just can’t afford it right now. What’s going on?
Lots of families are having money troubles these days. For some, it may be felt in small ways, like going to the movies less often or using more coupons at the grocery store. But for other kids, money problems are causing bigger changes, such as a parent taking on a second job or the family having to move to a different, less expensive house.
This can be hard because kids usually like everyday things in their life (school, home, friends, weekend activities) to stay the same. grown-ups are often that way, too. Kids also like treats. Who doesn’t? But money problems can mean fewer treats and other changes. For instance, if your mom gets a second job that can mean she’s not at home as much as she usually is.
If money problems are affecting your family, it might help to understand that lots of people are having the same trouble. Sometimes, money gets tight because something happens to just one family — like someone getting sick or someone losing a job.
But the kind of money trouble going on right now is happening to many families. In fact, if you watch the news or read a newspaper, you’ll see stories about it every day.
Two big things have happened in the past 2 years: The price of gas went up a lot and a big problem occurred with loans that grown-ups get to buy houses. Higher gas prices make it more expensive to drive places and might be why your family isn’t going on many long trips. Some grown-ups who used to drive a car to work are now taking a bus, train, or riding a bike.
Gas prices also make everything else more expensive. That’s because a lot of things (food, toys, drinks, clothes, etc.) get taken to stores by trucks or trains that use gas, too.
The problem with home loans is more complicated. The end result is that the monthly payments that people make on home loans — called mortgages — have become more expensive than some people can afford. And because of that, some banks are going out of business or being sold to other banks.
Banks loan people money to buy houses. If adults can’t afford to pay these monthly payments, the bank has to sell that home and the family will need to find another place to live. Anytime a kid has to move it can be tough, but it would be especially hard if a family was forced to move.
Money problems are adult problems, but they can affect kids. A kid would naturally be concerned if his or her family has money problems, but kids don’t need to solve those problems.
That doesn’t mean you can’t help out, though. Sometimes it helps to try to be very grown up and not complain or get too upset when you can’t have something you really want. If you need to get some complaining out, you might write it down or talk to someone who will understand, like a big sister, grandparent, or school counselor.
You might also create a “Wish List” of items you’d like to get when things are better, or at birthday or holiday time. When you want something, write it down. Next to it, write how much you want it on a scale of 1 to10.
When grown-ups worry about money, it can come out in different ways. Some people seem tired, upset, quieter than usual, or are more likely to yell. Sometimes, parents argue with one another about money troubles. It’s great if you can try to talk with your mom or dad about what’s bothering you. If you can’t talk to them, try to talk with someone. Usually, talking things out makes us feel better.
It also helps to remember that times will get better. House prices and gas prices go both up and down, so what’s bad now can — and likely will — get better down the road. In time, the grown-ups that care for you will find solutions to their money troubles.
Being a creative kid can make things a little better right now. Try these ideas if you need a boost today.
Hold a yard sale
Most households have a lot of stuff they no longer need or want. A yard sale can clear out the junk and raise money at the same time. You’ll need to ask your parents first, but it makes a great family project. You might ask if you can keep the money from any of your items that are sold.
Be of service
Your mom or dad might be willing to pay you something for being extra helpful, such as babysitting a brother or sister, or for doing extra chores. With your parents’ OK, you could offer your services to a neighbor or friend in need. Are there leaves on the ground, snow on the sidewalk, or a car that needs to be washed? You’re just the person for the job!
Find fun that’s free. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started on your free and low-cost fun!
.Volunteer at an animal shelter.
.Have a tea party for your friends.
.Go to a park in your area that you’ve never been to.
.Be a guest chef and cook a low-cost, but yummy, dinner for your family (spaghetti or rice dishes are usually cheap).
.Have game night for your friends or family. For a change of pace, .play old-fashioned board games instead of video and computer games.
.Make it movie night at home with a DVD and homemade snacks.
.Visit free museums or visit them on days when it’s free to get in.
.Make a collage or create a scrapbook of favorite photos. This makes a great gift!