Parents should never tell their kids they 'can't afford it' – and here is why 9 months ago

Parents should never tell their kids they 'can't afford it' – and here is why

Yikes – guilty.

How many times have you stood in a toy shop/play centre/airport/market stall with some delicious looking muffins or brownies and told your kids you can't afford whatever it is that they are looking for – just to end their endless begging?

I know I sure have.

However – a money expert now says that while it is pretty common to throw this phrase around, it can actually end up having unintended consequences for your kids and their attitude to money.

Money expert Lacey Filipich revealed to Kidspot that while we have all faced spending choices that seem out of reach, defaulting to the 'I can't afford it' answer is actually a lie. Many a time, our reason for not buying is not that we can't buy it now, rather that we don’t or won’t spend money that way at that point in time. That you’re not going to buy that particular thing because it’s not the best use of your resources.

Here is what she has to say:

"And so why, then, am I picking on the phrase ‘I can’t afford it’? After all, regardless of what words you use, the outcome is the same. You don’t buy the thing. Whether it’s because you can’t or don’t might seem trivial. Saying can’t is just a shortcut to get to the same point, right?"

No, says Filipich – there is actually a crucial distinction.

Powerless with money or in control?

"The difference between can’t and don’t (or won’t) is the difference between feeling powerless and feeling in control," says the money expert.

"Using the word can’t eliminates active choice. It’s a shortcut we often use to end another exhausting nagging session, but it’s not a good one. We want kids to recognise the financial options available to them. We want them to recognise that things are within their reach - even luxury items."

Most importantly, says Filipich, we should aim to teach children to make good choices about their money so that when they discover that actually, yes, they can afford a thing, they actively decide if it’s the right thing to do.

"Saying can’t robs them of that chance to make a good choice."


Instead, she says, we should try:

  • That’s not in our spending plan.
  • If we buy that, we’ll have to give up X
  • I don’t think that's a good use of our money.

When conversations like this happen in front of or with your kids, you get the chance to embed some financial know-how and empowerment.

"Your kids are already learning about money from you in the same way they learn language: through watching you, listening to you, and copying you. They’re doing it right now. Your words and actions are already building the patterns of their future behaviour."