Teaching Kids About Needs vs. Wants

Years ago, when I started teaching my kids about money, they had an insatiable desire for things. Dolls, stickers, stuffed animals, bouncy balls, or candy. It seemed that every place we’d go, the kids would find something they wanted us to buy. They felt they "needed" it, they had to have it but really they just wanted it. It became clear that it was time to teach my kids about needs vs. wants.

I had the resources to buy them what they wanted and was having trouble saying no, especially when I was so new to being a parent. I wanted to give them everything they wanted because I loved them and it would make them happy. And in some cases would make them stop crying.

However, I knew that there was no way I could sustain this kind of spending. It got sticky when I had more than one child wanting something; then feeling the need to spend equal amounts on each of them.

That’s when I drew the line and began giving them spending money.

I would be responsible for the things they needed and they would be responsible for the things they wanted. It empowered them and took the pressure off me to make the spending choices.

The next step, teach the kids the difference between wants and needs.

A need is what your family needs to healthy, safe lives. This includes food, water, shelter, clothes, medicine, and transportation.

A want is what your family spends money on for pleasure or enjoyment. This includes the newest iPod, toys, ice cream, or video games.

I found an activity at I Can Teach My Child  and adapted for my kids and me.

I went through magazine, store circulars and newspapers and cut out products to for them to sort into one of the two categories. We used "shopping bags", one was for needs and the other for wants, and then we went shopping. Once the kids finished, we talked about each of the items  and why they thought each belonged in their respective bags.

If you don’t have time to do this project at home there are some great worksheets online you can print out use with your children.

Understanding the difference between wants and needs help my children be better stewards of all we, as their parents, and God has entrusted to them.

This post is apart of a 31 Day Series on Kids & Money.

Yesterday's Post: Day 16 -The Big Picture – Creating a Financial “Portfolio” for Kids