Under Pressure: Teaching Our Children a Lesson in Wants vs. Needs

“Mom, can I have a DS? Please! Everyone else has one.”

I have heard this off and on for a couple years. My son really wants a Nintendo DS Handheld game system. He has asked for one for every holiday and birthday for years.

I have been reluctant to purchase one for a few reasons. First, he doesn’t need it. He does have an older model Gameboy that was given to us for free. Second, I would rather he spend his time reading, playing outside, interacting with his family and using his imagination. Also, I just don’t have the money. However, the biggest reason I have not been interested in buying one is because of his reasoning.

“If everyone else has one, I want one!”

For my son, the feeling of being like everyone else is driving his desire to have this toy. This is the same thing that happens to adults when they try to keep up with the Joneses. The pressure to be like everyone else begins at a very young age. It can continue into adulthood.

It’s when we give in to the pressure, that the problem with debt follows.

If you’ve been in debt, think about it. How many items did you buy because you heard about someone else who had that same item? What about that new dress you just bought? Did you buy it because it’s just like the dresses “everyone” is wearing? Did you buy a pair of Crocs because everyone else had them even though they are very ugly?

How do we prevent giving in to the pressure? 

First we must look within our self. What are we, as adults showing our children? As with all things financial, we must set a good example for our children. We shop second hand stores. We don’t immediately go out and buy what’s new and being hyped. We maintain a conscientious effort to avoid statements like, “Mr. Jones got a brand new 56 inch flat-screen. I really want one now.” Instead, we keep comments like, “Did you see the new TV Mr. Jones just bought? It’s ridiculous, no one needs a TV that big.” or “I would buy a used one for a better price and save myself some money.”  (Plus buying used is better for the environment.)

Children learn by watching their parents. Setting a positive example is crucial.

Another way to avoid the pressure to keep up with the “mini-Joneses” is by having conversations with our children specifically about issues like this one. Talk to your children and explain the importance of waiting and saving up for items we want. Also discuss with them the idea that we do not need to have what everyone else has.

The lesson of wants vs. needs is one we all need to learn. Learning it sooner rather than later will ensure a secure financial future.

For my son, he is still not getting his DS this holiday season. However, I am considering it for his birthday in January. I’ve been told of a store that sells used gaming systems with a guarantee for half the price of a new one. This will be the route I go if I do decide it’s time for him to have one. If I do buy it, I will certainly make sure he saves his own money to buy games. This way he will learn the lesson of wants vs. needs sooner in life than I did.

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