Stuff My Daughter Wants

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I think I’m in trouble.  Despite the fact that I’ve been explaining our financial situation to my 4-year-old daughter since she started talking, she’s just now starting to understand how money really works.  She’s used to hearing things like “we don’t have the money for that” and “sorry, but that cookie isn’t in our budget right now.”  However, I think we’ve hit some sort of turning point.  All of a sudden, she realizes that we actually do have the money to buy the things she wants and that we’re just choosing not to.  This new realization has turned my sweet child into a master of manipulation.  And unfortunately, her growing list of “wants” is starting to include some big-ticket items.  Here are some of the things that my daughter’s dreams are currently made of:

Stuff My Daughter Wants

An In-Ground Swimming Pool- Apparently the blow-up giraffe pool we set up in our driveway is no longer good enough.  My daughter thinks we should spring for the “real thing.”  “We want to swim every day and it would be easier,” she reasons when I tell her that the cost of a swimming pool doesn’t currently fit into our budget.  She will even throw in things like “you’re the best mommy in the whole world” or “I would really love to swim with you in  our new pool.”  What does a parent say to that?

A New Park-I got her a swing-set for $50 off of craigslist a few years ago, and it’s becoming apparent that my daughter wants an upgrade.  “My friends have bigger parks than me,” she says as she explains how her current park no longer meets her needs.  “I’m growing up and I need a bigger swing and slide to play the right way.”  Although she has a point, I can’t bring myself to buy a ginormous swingset for our yard considering the fact that there are several “real” parks nearby.  The main park in our town is even within walking distance of our house.

Cable Television-  We recently lost a few of my kid’s favorite shows off of Netflix.  The most important ones we lost were Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob Squarepants, both of which my kids watch almost daily.  My daughter’s answer?  “Let’s get real TV like grandma.”  In my daughter’s mind, the loss of a few good shows means that we should start dishing out $50 or more for cable or satellite television.  The chances of that happening are currently zero.  I have a feeling that this may be a point of contention when my kids get older.

I have no plans to budge on any of these items.  However, I’m scared.  If she wants me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on “wants” now, what is she going to want when she’s twelve?  Fifteen?  Eighteen?

How about you guys?  What do your kids want?  Do you ever feel bad when you tell them no?

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  1. My son’s only 14 months old, so I haven’t hit this stage yet. Even just adjusting to saying no to certain behavioral things has been difficult though, so I can definitely understand why this is hard. Seems like a good opportunity to talk about the things you’re saving your money for and reinforce the spend vs. save debate. I think it’s only natural for kids to test boundaries, and the best thing you can do as a parent is stay firm when the boundaries really matter (but also be flexible when they don’t).

    1. Agreed. She’s actually really good at hearing “no.” She doesn’t throw a fit….she just keeps trying =)

    2. Agreed. She’s actually really good at hearing no. She doesn’t throw a fit. She just keeps working different angles =)

  2. My sons would just tell me to get more money from the cash machine because it always had lots of money.

    When she gets a little older and better with numbers she will be able o budget her own allowance. If you think saying no to a swimming pool is hard wait until you have to watch her blow an entire month of allowance on a cheaply made toy that you know will break as soon as she gets home then she will have no toy and no money and you can’t bail her out or she will never learn. For my son it was a $19 science kit that promised amazing things on the box and was just some baking soda and vinegar packets and some plastic test tubes and safety goggles.

  3. I don’t have kids, but I can imagine how difficult it would be to tell them no. An in-ground swimming pool is every kid’s dream, though, so you can’t blame her for that one. I’m sure the one thing she’ll really want is a car when she’s 16, that should be an easy one to see coming 😉

    1. I wouldn’t buy pool….but I wouldn’t rule out a house that already had one in the future.

  4. Well since my little guy just turned 1 yesterday his wants are still pretty simple. All he really wants right now is “doggie.” Good news is we already have one of those and he thinks she is the greatest thing in the world!

  5. Haha luckily I don’t have any kids yet. I’d probably be in the same boat as you, but maybe at some point they can start earning money and spend it on what they want. Then they can realize how many of their wants won’t fit in their budget. Then again, I don’t have kids so what do I know?

    1. No, I agree. They’ll probably be able to earn money doing chores at some point. We aren’t there yet!

  6. Those are pretty typical! lol We don’t want to keep up with the Jones but our kids do. We have one big item – a trampoline in our backyard. You could just upgrade to an above ground blow up type pool with filter maybe?
    It does get harder – imagine your kid’s hockey team all calling each other on Christmas day to find out what phones the others got! Pressure for parents because you don’t want your child discluded. Or you buy expensive shoes but they get holes in them, you decide you’re not going to go expensive this time but moderate but your son still wears the ones with the holes in them even when it’s raining because he likes them better!
    It does get tricky!!!

    1. My kids would love a trampoline! I’m sure it will get harder….especially once my kids get picky about clothes! Right now they don’t really care what they wear….I hope it lasts a while!

  7. Sounds like it’s time for her to start getting an allowance.

    I don’t say, “We can’t afford” but “We don’t need.” We don’t need a swimming pool. We don’t need a swing set. (It helps that our HOA has both. Well, it doesn’t have a swing set anymore, but it still has a playground.) And the fun part of both the pool and the playground is playing with other kids, not the equipment itself– that’s easier to do at a public park.

    Even if Netflix is no longer streaming those shows, you should be able to get them on dvd. Without commercial interruption!

    1. She does get an allowance….sort’ve. She gets a quarter every morning that she doesn’t wake us up the night before. Believe me, all of those quarters add up.

  8. Oh my what a cutie! It would definitely be hard to say no to that face. We don’t have children yet, but it would definitely be hard to say no!

    1. It is sometimes =) But, I can occasionally be a pushover. Every once in a while she gets a “yes” to some of the smaller things she wants .

  9. I think it’s normal. (She’s adorable, by the way!) When she starts earning her own money (and having to buy her own things and save up for them) she’ll benefit from the example you’re setting now.

  10. Sounds like she is understanding very clearly what is going on. So the next step is understanding way you guys choose not to get those things. You have to start them young but it sucks missing Dora the Explorer. My son wants all things expensive when it comes to clothing. We are just at the mall over the weekend and he picked up some $235 shoes. I just looked and laughed. Told him get a job and see if he still thinks they are worth the cost.

    1. $235 shoes?!?!?! Wow! All of the shoes I own don’t cost $235 combined!

  11. Haha, such a precocious little lady. When I was that age, my big thing was “why?” I needed to know the reason for everything and “because that’s what I said” didn’t count as a reason. Is she old enough to understand that with mommy working from home she gets more time with mommy, but there might be less money for in ground pools?

  12. Ohhh, you’ve got a smart one there, Holly. :-). Luckily for us, our kids are old enough now where they understand that at this point in the game, we really cannot afford it, so we’re good for awhile until the debt’s paid off, LOL. Stand strong on those value-based spending decisions, girl. You can do it!

  13. I would love to have a pool as well for those hot humid days when I’m working like a mad man. I know many homes in our neighbourhood have in-ground pools and kids to go along with it. They have parties on the weekends and other kids and parents come to play. A pool is great if you have the time to service it and take the cost but it’s a great entertainment feature and brings people together. I can see why the kids would want to have a pool and not just the blow up pool like my mate next door has haha.. yes he sits in it with his beer in the summer.. he’s in his 40’s at least. I’m not a parent but I’ve been a child and I have parents who taught me about wants and needs. I’m sure that the both of you will teach her all she needs to know and she will grow up a brilliant girl with her finances. Cheers

    1. I would actually love a pool (if I actually wanted to pay for it)……our yard isn’t really made for it.

  14. I don’t think, ultimately, you have anything to worry about. If your daughter continues to bargain this hard (and recognize the right words to say to illicit emotions from others) she will likely rule the world and thus support you in your elder years. Also, I want to read HER blog. First post: “What is thrifty?…Seriously, What Does that Word Mean?”

    1. Who knows what her blog would say, lol. It would certainly be about Transformers (her favorite show) and cupcakes (her favorite food).

  15. Lol! We go through this all the time with our little ones. Our 3 year old thinks it’s as simple as just getting cash out of the ATM and our 5 year old now understands (at her level) that even though we may have the money we’re not going to spend it. We had that happen this weekend actually and it was neat to see her process it. She did not understand at the time why we wouldn’t buy the thing she wanted until we did the thing we had been planning on. It was really neat to see the light bulb moment for her.

    1. That’s sweet. Yes, I think she’ll catch on one day! =)

  16. This is great Holly and resonates with every parent reading this. Currently my kids are dying for us to bring back DirectTV. My oldest daughter keeps pointing out the mailers we get in our mailbox each week. I do feel bad many times when I have to say “No.” But then I realize that when I tell them “No” I’m actually teaching them some valuable lessons: a) you can’t always have what you want and b) sometimes you have to wait until you can afford it. Those lessons will hopefully stick with them the rest of their lives.

    1. I think they do. I used to get so mad when my parents wouldn’t let us get soft drinks when we went out to dinner as kids… I totally get it!

  17. That’s too funny!! Just the other day, we were out shopping and my wife pulls out this dress that she liked and my little 2-yr old daughter says “mommy, put that back!” – I guess she’s learning to say no to us, too haha. Having said that, an in-ground swimming pool doesn’t seem thaaaattt unreasonable lol

    1. On a beautiful today, it actually doesn’t sound that bad =)

  18. Ooh, that’s a toughie. Maybe you can give her small chores to do around the house and compensate her, so she can understand how hard daddy and mommy work to earn money?

  19. Uh-oh! It’s amazing to see how they absorb so quickly what their friends have…what Grandma has. Good luck! :))

  20. My parents were rich and I only got what I needed! I had to save for my wants and I turned out just fine. Teach your child about choices and in that context you can explan how you make choices.

  21. M daughter is only 7 months so she hasn’t got to that stage yet. It will be interesting to see how I react to the first, “Daddy I want…”

  22. Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries says:

    Wow! She has some amazing people skills at her age! Instead of whining or crying about you saying “no” she sweetens the deal by saying something more compelling. She’ll turn out to be a very well-spoken adult.

    Leslie and I don’t have any kids right now, since we’re waiting until we’re debt free and can both be stay-at-home parents. The experiences of teaching future kids about budgeting and money sound like they’ll be quite the adventure!

  23. She is adorable! And I love how she tries to butter you up saying you’re the best momma in the world. I don’t have any advice, but please share so I can learn from you in the future. 🙂

  24. What a darling daughter you have! I remember asking my mom for something I wanted and when she said we couldn’t afford it, I responded “can’t you just write a check?” She explained what a check was and why it we couldn’t just write them for whatever we wanted. It was my first memorable money lesson. It sounds to me like you have it under control despite your daughter’s attempts to barter. Hang in there!

  25. Eww, these thing sound fun. Why don’t you get an in-ground swimming pool? It is too much to pay a couple thousand, plus yearly upkeep and expenses? Come on, you guys are just too frugal 😉

    1. Umm…..she wants an in-ground pool. That would be like 50K!!!

  26. Average Jane says:

    My step kids (8 and 11 years old) complained loudly when we told them we were going to get rid of cable tv. That was 2 months ago and I haven’t heard any complaints now that we have actually done it. In full disclosure, they live full time with their mom so they get all the cable they want most of the time. But they have adapted easily to the fact that at “Dad’s house”, we don’t watch tv any more.

  27. I wouldn’t be able to say no to that cute face lol. I remember being 4 and wanting a real-life My Little Pony. I kept asking and my mom kept saying no and eventually I stop asking until I see something else I want. I belive the game gets worse when they’re in their teens 😛

  28. All I have for you is….I’m so glad my dogs can’t talk! Good luck with that adorable little sweetheart though, you’re gonna need all of it!

  29. One suggestion for the loss of your kids TV show is to check out HULU. They may have picked them up there.

    As for things my kids want, a swing set ranks very high on that list. However, our neighbor has a swing which my kids play on all the time and on top of that my park isn’t to far from the house either.

  30. ah, yes the pool wish.. I remember I asked for that a couple of times as a young child too. I never had a “real” swing-set, but I still had the coolest though. We had this huge tree in our garden, that my dad put up a homemade swing, and it went really fast! Ah, childhood memories:-)

    1. Haha. The swingset that I bought is pretty cheap though. I’m actually trying to resell it on craigslist right now. Nobody wants it!

  31. Your daughter is adorable and I can imagine it was quite difficult to say “no” to that precious face! Hmmmm… she has some good reasons for wanting an in-ground pool. She’s definitely a clever girl. 🙂 It is hard to say “no” all the time, especially because she is now at an age where she needs the “why”. When my girls were her age, I reminded them of our family goal (usually a vacation) to remind them why I couldn’t buy it and to distract them with thoughts of all the fun stuff they would get to do.

    1. That is always what I say. We can’t do all the things we want….we can only do some of the things we want!

  32. Interesting change in perspective, that everything within a budget should be bought. Perhaps it’s time to go more in depth about the nuances of savings? Great post.

  33. No kids – it’s my husband I have to try to keep in line! 🙂

  34. We don’t have kids yet, but I’m sure we’ll get tons of these requests. I was pretty guilty of having long, pricey wishlists as a kid. And it took me a while to realize how money was earned. When I was four or five, I honestly thought that being a toll collector was the best job in the world…you get to keep all the money, right?

    Your daughter is adorable, btw. Look at that hair!

  35. We went through a similar phase when if I told our daughter I didn’t have any money she say, “Well, just go to the bank!” I honestly hate Spongebob, and even though we do have Dish Network, we don’t ever watch that at home. Granny does let it play all the time, though, so I hear your pain. I bet the library has some Spongebob or Dora DVD’s if you can stand them. If it makes you feel any better, my sister does have an in ground pool and about every toy you can imagine for my niece. As a result, it isn’t fun for her to go swimming at home and she wants to go to the big pool at the country club, where they also have a membership. When you have everything, you don’t value it at all in my opinion.

  36. Maybe I’m just mean, but whenever my 6.5 year old son asks me for something (no matter that size), I always tell him that if he can save up enough money, then he can have it. He DOES understand that big ticket items would take him YEARS to save up for (or his whole life, lol), so after deciding to save for the next biggest thing (like an Ipod) for a few days, he then decides on his own that it’s too much money and would take way too long to save up for and then changes his mind. But I never have to say no, and HE’s the one that tells me it’s too much money. 😛

  37. My swing was a rope hanging from a tree branch and a piece of wood. Come on Greg, let’s DIY!

  38. No kids for me yet, but this is a bit of a scary idea. I guess I will tell my kids the same thing I tell my wife “we are poor”. I figure if I don’t change that answer, no reason to revisit whether it is true or not.

  39. Ha! LOL – our grand daughter is the same. For God’s sake don’t expose her to American Girl dolls and accessories. Those doll clothes are more expensive than real kid clothes.

    p.s. you better learn to say no and stick to it when you’re the parent ’cause when you’re the grandparent, you barely stand a chance in hell of saying and actually sticking to “no” – ha!

  40. Awww,, how cute.. 🙂 Kids during that stage really knows what they want but don’t really understand the essence of it. Though I still don’t have children, I know that is difficult to explain and make them understand that we can’t always give what they want especially when it involves a huge amount of money.

  41. Oh, my gosh. Netflix got rid of Yo Gabba Gabba (must of been the same wave of deletions) and I thought we were going to die. Luckily Grandma came through and brought her stash of DVDs over. It was rough for a few days there. Family Video has free kid rentals…maybe you could get some Dora there?

  42. Well, it’s always difficult to handle kids and their needs (or wants) and they will always find a way to manipulate you to getting that from them. I think that it’s your job as a parent to find out what’s really a need and what is not… and if you really have the power to say NO 🙂 But you clearly know what’s best so you should have no real problems… eventually 🙂

  43. Your daughter sounds adorable (and funny)! I too want an in ground swimming pool, but we can’t fit it in the budget, haha. Kids want everything, she’ll grow out of it.

  44. Awwww….4 year olds are the best, aren’t they? I have one too. She sounds like a dreamer!

  45. Holly, first…your daughter is adorable and bright enough to understand the art of manipulation. 🙂

    Both of my girls heard, “Mommy doesn’t have enough money for that right now, maybe we can get it for your birthday/Christmas,” quite often when they were growing up. We really didn’t have the money – even for small things. When they were around 9 yrs old we started letting them spend their birthday and Christmas money from Poppy. They were old enough to understand that money would need to last all year for their wants. You have to let them spend it for them to realize how quickly it goes. They have to experience buyer’s remorse a few times for it to sink in. I was always willing to help them return things they decided against later since that is part of the learning experience. It was really hard that first time my oldest spend all of her money on one expensive outfit and shoes. She added up what she had left and realized she wouldn’t have any for books and we returned to the mall the next day. It was her choice, though.

    It absolutely sucked not having the money to buy my daughters everything I wanted for them – or to take them on the wonderful trips I was able to go on as a little girl. We all survived and both girls are amazing, brilliant, thoughtful women (you know…because I’m not the least bit biased!) who have each saved thousands of dollars to help with their college educations. Excuse my french, but because we didn’t piss away money on crap when they were little, we can now pay cash for their education or cars or laptops or whatever else they/we need.

    1. Exactly. I subscribe to the same financial philosophy! I’m trying to get away with it now especially since they’re young and don’t really know any better! I’m sure it gets harder as they get older!

  46. Yeah, it would be really difficult to say no to your child, especially when they are giving you the cutest look ever. But do not give in. lol We are firm in saying no and tell them that we can’t really afford it. Maybe the TV but not the pool.

  47. My girlfriend’s son wanted to invite the Gangnam Style guy to his 7th Bday Party at the skating rink. Great Idea. Prob not gonna happen…

  48. Sometimes its tough to say no, but I look at it like I’m teaching my children the difference between wants and needs.

    When my oldest was about 5 we started giving her an allowance for chores. She needs to save 10%, give 10% to charity but then she can spend the rest as long as she keeps a ledger of what is being spent. The same rules apply to Birthday and Christmas money. Now that she has her own money if she wants something (notice I say want, not need), then I tell her she can use her own money. After pondering this she usually decides she’d rather not spend her own money on whatever the item is. Suddenly when its her own money its not as important for her to have whatever it was she wanted.

    Now, I’m not going to say that she doesn’t still ‘waste’ money on something I think is ‘stupid’, but I feel like as long as she is ‘wasting’ this money with her 80% that she’s allowed to spend then that is her perogative. By letting her ‘waste’ some of her money she learns a lesson on how she should think more about purchases. She realizes this when she ‘suddenly’ doesn’t have money for something she truly wants.

    I find that this is a good, safe way to teach her about the value of money. Hopefully by the time she gets older and is ‘on her own’ she’ll have learned more than your ‘average kid’ about budgeting, saving and the value of a dollar.

  49. I’m not sure I could say no to that face! CUTE!

  50. Julie Marston says:

    My daughter wanted an in-ground swimming pool for 3 years in then end we had to compromise on the best above ground pool I could afford. I can honestly say it has been a great buy, it was relatively cheap in comparison with an in-ground pool, and fits up to 8 people easily. We had dozens of BBQ and pool parties last summer for her.

  51. It’s really difficult to tell children “no” but we have to do it, cause in the real life they will hear it often.

  52. Love your daughter, she also like nice things, just like my daughter.

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