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Money Troubles

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Money Problems Can Mean Changes

Melody is 9 years old, her brother Shane is 11. Shane wanted a new skateboard for his birthday and tickets to the big game. Melody'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?

When families have money troubles, it can mean small changes or big changes. It could be that families go to the movies less often or use more coupons at the grocery store. But it also could mean that a parent takes a second job or the family moves 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. Grownups are often that way, too. For instance, if your mom gets a second job that can mean she's not at home as much as she was.

If money problems are affecting your family, it might help to understand that other 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 there are also times when many people are out of work because of problems with the economy. In recent years, money problems have affected lots of families.

Grownups' Problems Affect Kids

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 stuff 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 to 10.

Are Your Parents Stressed Out?

When grownups 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 grownups 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.

Have a Yard Sale

Most households have a lot of stuff they no longer need or want. A yard sale can clear out the clutter 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 (or Pretty Cheap)

What if you're bored and broke? 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!

Reviewed by: Michelle New, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2011

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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