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Area parents encourage kids to be financially competent, conscientious

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- At age 6, Tyler Kieckbusch is becoming a discerning consumer, who weighs options carefully -- thanks to the money lessons his parents are trying to instill.

Tyler Kieckbusch
6-year-old Tyler Kieckbusch gets some advice from his mom, Alicia Kieckbusch, on a recent shopping trip. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- At age 6, Tyler Kieckbusch is becoming a discerning consumer, who weighs options carefully -- thanks to the money lessons his parents are trying to instill.

When Tyler was 4, he "had to have everything," said his mother Alicia Kieckbusch, Grand Forks. She did not enjoy the power struggle that ensued on shopping trips or other outings when he was bent on coaxing his parents to buy him something. So, she and husband, James, started giving their son $20 a month to do with as he pleases, with some limitations.

The strategy "seems to be working very well," she said. "There is no more whining, crying or fit-throwing, and he is now more appreciative. It has made things much more pleasant."

It has also changed Tyler's idea of what he "needs," she said. He can better grasp the notion of foregoing or delaying purchases in order to save for something he really wants.

He is learning to compare like products, judging quality and features in light of price, and to decide if and when to buy based on how much money he has and other items on his wish list.

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Kieckbusch said she explained to Tyler, in his recent quest for an iPod, for example, that he could buy an inexpensive model, "or maybe buy a better one later that costs more... But once (the money) is gone, it's gone."

His parents will sometimes keep his money secure for him, otherwise, he said, he would "buy, buy, buy."

She expects that, in school, he will learn the basics of handling money -- like writing a check, she said, "but financial training -- managing money -- is really up to families."

The Kieckbusches do not tie an allowance to doing chores around the house, she said.

"We did not want him to think he was getting paid for these things. They are a part of life. As an adult, no one is going to pay you for doing your laundry (or) putting your dishes away... Doing chores is part of being in a family."

'Power' shift

She and James "encourage him to make wise decisions and to think about how badly he wants the item or the experience before making an impulse purchase." The Kieckbusches have found this strategy to be "very helpful when going to community events -- such as the fair, the store or on vacation," she said.

"We would set parameters for what we will pay for and let him know that anything beyond that will come out of his pocket," she said. "It takes us (parents) out of the equation, and it is no longer an argument about buying or not buying something."

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Giving Tyler the power to choose how to spend his money meant he would live with the consequences of his decisions, she said. "It wouldn't be 'Mom and Dad didn't let me do this.'"

Kieckbusch says he decides if an item or experience is worth spending the money that "he has worked hard to save."

tLearning from mistakes

Sometimes, she has had to hold back when Tyler decides, for instance, to buy a cheap toy she knows will probably break.

"I try to steer him away from (purchases) that he'll turn around and regret later," she said. But "we let him make mistakes" and learn his lesson with money.

"That's hard to do."

Kieckbusch wants Tyler to understand the consequences of his actions where money is concerned.

Breaking his brother's comb, he was required to replace it.

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"When he had to pay $1 for a comb, the point was taken," she said. "He gets the reward/consequence concept -- positive or negative. He always has."

When he does decide on a purchase, Tyler handles the transaction himself.

"He pays for it and gets his change back," she said. "He has the whole experience. The clerks are usually very sweet; they'll ask him about it, to get him excited about the purchase."

Teen advantage

Paula Garnett, of East Grand Forks, Minn., is the mother of daughters, ages 19 and 16. Garnett started putting money away for them at their birth, she said. She funneled $15 from every paycheck into each child's account.

Growing up, her kids "did not even realize that they had a savings account until they started asking for allowance."

Garnett didn't agree to give them more money outside of the regular contributions from her own paycheck, she said, but told them "if they wanted to do more chores, I would help them out from time to time" with movie tickets and the like.

When the girls started baby-sitting and "real" jobs, she had them to save half of their earnings, which they considered "unfair and cruel," she said. "They hated me!"

"I let them hate me for a while, but now they realize that all that other stuff didn't matter," she said.

When her oldest, Bailey, was ready to buy her first car, she was "shocked and amazed that she was able to pay cash for it," Garnett said.

Two years ago, "they thought they just had to have Jet Skis," she said. With their own savings, each daughter bought a used one on her own.

Her younger daughter, Brooklyn, bought her first car with cash and, recently, bought her second car, a 2008 Dodge Avenger, aided by a $2,000 loan signed by her parents.

"It has all come from saving her money and the $30 a month that I have given her," Garnett said.

"She is so excited, and people are jealous that my kids are able to do so much."

Teaching money management involves "some discipline and fighting," Garnett said, "but, in the long run, both girls are super proud of themselves."

It helps them realize "that lip gloss, movies and clothes are great" but bargain shopping "can be a lot of fun as well" and help them save for purchases like a car or college, she said.

The value of money

What Kieckbusch noticed when she was a college student and worked at a major electronics retailer cemented her desire to teach financial responsibility to her children.

"I was shocked and saddened to see how many kids -- 11 or 12 years old or teens -- would say they wanted something costing $150 to $200, and parents would grab it and swipe their cards.

"A lot of families were willing to shell out large amounts of money. (The kids') sense of entitlement was pretty big."

Kieckbusch hopes her financial lessons will teach Tyler "the value of money, and to have more appreciation for the things he has," she said.

She and her husband have also started contributing $20 a month to a fund for their other child, 20-month-old Easton, and will pass the same values and lessons on to him.

Related Topics: FAMILY
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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