Michelle Singletary: Allowing children financial freedom can pay off

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There is merit in giving your children financial freedom with some limits. Keep an eye on their spending, and at times you may have to redirect them to a better choice or jump in when the costs of a financial mistake are too high.

I’ve always struggled with how much financial freedom to give my children.

I’m a life-long penny-pincher, and I wanted my children to embrace frugality, too. So I forbade certain spending. I didn’t want them to grow up being spendthrifts.

But as I’ve matured and gotten better at parenting, I’ve realized that sometimes I have to let my children make financial decisions that won’t be wise.

Even writing that makes me grimace.

When it comes to their money, should parents let their children learn from their own mistakes?

For the longest time, back-to-school shopping for my three children created a lot of stress for them and for me. I wanted to spend as little money as possible, and my children, mostly the two girls, wanted to fit in with their friends. They begged for more trendy — i.e. expensive — clothes. My son didn’t care what I bought.

Then one year my husband and I decided to give the children a set amount of money for school shopping. We’d give them the cash, and they could buy whatever they needed for school within that budgeted amount. So if my daughter wanted an expensive pair of jeans that would consume the majority of her allotment, that meant fewer clothes in her wardrobe.

It worked. When they were spending our money, they didn’t pay attention to what stuff costs. They were all too busy complaining about how cheap…

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