Many of us may be too liberal with what we spend, or overly permissive with our kids. A new WalletHub survey released this week shows that moms are 3.6 times more likely than dads to give their kids a credit card. But is that because women are more permissive, or because maybe we’re just more tuned into child safety than dads? (For example, you’ve got to have a credit card to get an Uber!)
While a study like this may seem to reflect women’s tendencies toward financial capitulation, other data tell a different story. Research from investment firm eToro shows that women are more likely to set a budget – and stick to it – than men. And 52% of women said they are risk-averse with their money, compared with 41% of men.
So, what gives? Why do some women feel like they are giving in when it comes to finances, particularly when it comes to their kids?
For Naomi Tisseverasinghe, a single mom of three kids and a member of HerMoney’s private Facebook group, it comes down to guilt. “I’m forever fighting off the mom guilt, especially when it comes to money. My kids never ask for anything and are quite aware of my limited finances, but I always feel bad because they’ll notice their dad being very cheap with them even though he’s quite wealthy. It breaks my heart,” she says.
High five, Naomi, I feel every bit of that sentiment. Recently, my 16-year-old son purchased his first car (with money he’d saved on his own) and, two weeks later, the clutch on the car needed to be replaced to the tune of $1,500. Ouch. My first instinct as a parent was to step in and pay the hefty bill for him. I mean, he’d done the hard work of saving thousands of dollars to buy the car in the first place, right?
So what’s the right move?
Art Markman, PhD, Professor of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and author of the book, “Bring Your Brain to Work,” says women aren’t pushovers per se. “There’s a long history behind the old ‘go ask your mother’ joke when a kid asks his dad if he can buy something or have a treat,” says Markman.
Women, Markman points out, have traditionally taken on a disproportionate amount of household and childcare responsibilities and, as such, are more in tune to how much of the family budget needs to be spent on activities and other expenses.
“It’s less about who is financially permissive and more about the fact that, for couples, budgeting brings out the tension in the difficult trade-off between short- and long-term financial goals,” says Markman. And, when you are struggling with “right now” spending versus meeting long-term goals, sticking with a budget can be hard.
In the case of my son and his expensive clutch repair, Markman says it’s helpful to imagine how many hours you or your teen will have to work to pay for an expensive item. Determining how much money you make on an hourly basis can help you quickly figure out whether or not purchasing an expensive item is worth it. I won’t lie — realizing that my son was going to have to work 150 hours this summer to pay for his clutch definitely fanned my desire to give in financially.
Ultimately, though, I stood firm and did not shell out the money for my son’s clutch repair. And, I am happy to report that he managed to hustle at his summer job and paid the mechanic in full. (I did, however, slip him a gas card as a reward for his hard work. Some habits die hard.)
If you are looking to curb your financial pushover ways, Markman has three suggestions:
ACTUALLY CARRY CASH FOR A WHILE
These days we live in an era where money is abstract, especially with regard to credit cards. “Money doesn’t feel like it has much value, and we devalue money in the presence of something we want to buy,” says Markman. He suggests carrying cash as a physical reminder that you have to fork over your hard earned money to buy whatever your latest impulse happens to be.
SLOW YOURSELF DOWN
The desire to make an of-the-mompurchase can feel all-consuming and the emotional response to that big ticket item is real. Markman suggests giving yourself a “cooling off” period before parting with your money. Whether that means walking away from that cute dress in the mall or waiting a week to hire a housecleaner, putting the purchase on hold for a short while can help put your financial picture in focus.
CONSIDER THE OPPORTUNITY COST
Markman suggests asking yourself what you would have done with the money once it’s spent. “Money is a limited resource and, once it’s gone, it’s gone for good,” he says. Taking a moment to ask yourself, ”If I spend money on this product right now, is the product more important than the other things I want to do in my life?” may help you curb your pushover ways.
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