“This pair is 14K, Dad. With the pants, it costs 16K.”

That is a 14-year old teen tagging his Dad a pair of racing shoes that he wants.

While I am fond of this kid I flinch as I imagine myself in his Dad’s literal shoes.  The kid obviously has no idea that his demand costs almost as much as a mid-level Philippine employee’s salary for a month.

If that was my CJ I would be inclined to say “I’d help you find a part-time job at Jollibee or something.” But my mother instinct pokes my gut. Yes I can buy it but…. NO!

There is no way I am parting with 16K for shoes and pants that will be seldom used. Heck, I could hardly grasp “k” next to a number to save my life.

So when should values of working, earning, saving and enjoying life be instilled in our kids’ cute heads? Fourteen years old and yet clueless about some of life’s hard realities is rather late. But not too late either. Children had better realize early on that money is not conjured by a flick of a ladle.  WORK is prerequisite.

Divorce has changed my circumstances.  I said goodbye to CJ’s trust fund the moment I signed those papers.  CJ has been stripped of any support from his Dad.  I have been trying to practice a few things while staying out of debt since having to raise CJ on my own:

  • Deposit CJ’s savings on the same day I receive my salary.
  • Recently I have been eyeing mutual funds in his name as well.
  • Hide the ATM card.
  • Avoid malls like the plague.

Except fine dining which I still do now and then, I have cut back on holidays abroad as well as scientific and artistic entertainment. With a major revision in my mental set up and self-imposed discipline, I learned to navigate my way around limitations and deprivations.  It was difficult, but I did not die.

For lessons in compassion, I put cash in CJ’s hand and let him give it to a beggar himself.  In church what he drops into the offering bag is often at par with the worth of the gadgets he gets for good behavior.

The sooner kids are made aware that (unless they are heirs of some business empire) money is to be earned, the sooner we may cease to be subjected to the horror of outrageously expensive items.

In Victoria Peak last year CJ threw an award-winning tantrum. Reason? I was slow in buying him a 100-HKD Ultraman that he spotted in a toy shop. Embarrassed, I gave in. But I swore I would clean up that act as soon as the last tear on his face dried up.

Now he pauses before whining every time he is reminded that Mom is away working so he can eat and go to school.

Financial tips at the Mommy Journey