How to Say “No” When Your Kids Ask for Money

If you’re a college student with children, you are not alone. In fact, 4.8 million undergraduate students (26 percent) were also parents in 2011 according to the latest data reported in a 2014 Institute for Women’s Policy Research study. As a student/parent, you face unique challenges while working to pursue your dream of a college degree, including balancing home/school schedules and responsibilities; finding appropriate childcare arrangements; and perhaps most importantly, making sure you have enough money to meet both your household and school expenses. This last challenge can be especially stressful if your children are asking for money during the time you can least afford it. Here are some ideas and suggestions for how to say “no” without all the guilt.


Explain that you can’t afford it right now

For many parents, it’s often seems easier to give in to their children’s requests rather than deal with negative reactions. But children are usually understanding and receptive to an open and honest discussion about your family situation. Take a few minutes to calmly explain that you are studying hard so that you can get a better job one day, one that will make you happier and that will hopefully provide more income for the family. Remind them that it costs money to go to college, and in order for that dream to become a reality the family has to make some sacrifices right now. Make them feel part of the journey by asking them for suggestions about how to cut back on household expenses.


Have them save on their own

If they ask for something specific, help them develop a plan to save the money they will need and offer to match any money they earn or save on their own. Place a chart on the back of their bedroom door where they can track their progress towards the goal. Consider giving them a small allowance, if you don’t already do so. If you can afford to part with a little more money, ask them to earn it by doing go some extra chores around the house or giving them small rewards for giving you some uninterrupted study time.


Be clear about your reasons

It’s never a good idea to tell your child that you can’t afford to buy them something if the real reason is that you don’t approve of what they want to spend the money on. For example, if they are asking for money to go to a movie that you don’t want them to see or to purchase a video game that’s too violent, be clear that you do not think it is appropriate for them. Suggest alternatives that you would be willing to chip in on or help them save for.


Find free things to do instead

Children are bombarded on a daily basis with alluring advertising and images of the latest toys, gadgets, fast food restaurants and places to go. Instead of giving in to these pressures, set aside some time in your busy schedule to do enjoy free things in your area by checking out events at your local library or offered through local recreation centers. Also, search online for ideas and suggestions on fun and inexpensive things to do at or near your home. For example, Lowe’s offers free “Build and Grow” workshops for kids on weekends. If it’s chicken nuggets they crave, offer to make them at home and serve with dipping sauces you may already have such as honey, catsup or ranch dressing. (My 23 year old still asks me to make them for him!)

Hopefully these suggestions will help you feel more comfortable when having to say “no” to requests for money that you don’t really have. The important thing is to remember to keep your long-term goal in mind. Staying focused and sending a consistent message, will help you feel better emotionally and keep you on a path towards your long-term goals.

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