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How to use your bills as a blessing (yes, really) to prepare your children for #adulting

| February 05, 2018
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How do you feel when you receive another bill in the mail?

For many of us, we feel anger that we have to give our hard-earned money to someone else. For families that live paycheck-to-paycheck, it can trigger a very stressful reaction too.

What if there was a different way to use your bills as a tool for practicing gratitude and teaching your children how to become financially responsible adults?

There is, and I’m going to share three ways to have some incredibly powerful conversations with your children that will help you – and them – see bills in a more beneficial way. Not only will these conversations help you develop a more positive mindset about bill paying, but they will teach your children many valuable financial literacy lessons as well.

Bills are something we get to pay, not have to pay

The next time you listen to someone (or even yourself) speak about bills, listen closely. What phrase comes up more often than not? You’ll find that it’s “have to,” as in, “I have to pay my electricity bill this month,” or “I have to pay my mortgage this week.” This “have to” mindset will only further a deep-rooted hatred of bills.

It’s time for parents to reframe the way they discuss bills and shift from a “have to” to a “get to” mindset.

When we pay our bills, we receive tremendous benefits in return, such as a house in which to live, WiFi that enables you to be more productive with your work, a warm house and electricity from which to light and power our home. We are exchanging money in order to enhance our quality of living.

Begin by swapping out the “I have to pay my bills” mindset for the significantly more positive, “I get to pay my bills.” For example, try saying, “I get to pay my gas bill this month,” or “I get to pay my mortgage.” It may seem a little silly at first, but you’ll quickly realize how your mindset can shift from negative to positive just by altering the way you speak.

By making this shift, not only will your mindset change for the better, but your children’s viewpoint will as well. A 2014 developmental psychology study conducted by Vanderbilt University found that parents influence their children unintentionally through their own daily actions, such as conversing with other adults while their child is present. By simply altering the way we speak, we can have a major impact on our children’s financial outlooks. 

Therefore, it is critical for parents to be mindful of the conversations they have about bills around their children. Instead of complaining about the volume of bills, parents can reframe the discussion by maintaining a positive mindset and focusing on how fortunate it is to sit in a warm house, to drink clean water or have cars to drive. After all, basic standards of living are a luxury to countless others around the world.

Having this important conversation with your children can be as easy as engaging them in the bill paying process, especially when they reach the middle-to-high school age. By sitting down with them and explaining what bills are paid and how, they learn a valuable life lesson.

Need vs. wants: Helping your children understand the difference

With children, it’s never too early to begin to help them distinguish the difference between needs and wants so they can make responsible financial decisions as adults.

Your monthly bills provide an ideal opportunity for you to teach this lesson to your children, as you can share each one with them and explain what makes some expenses necessary and others not. Of course, paying bills such as your mortgage, rent, water, electricity and gas is crucial for having a good standard of living. But are services such as cable, Netflix and Spotify really something that we couldn’t survive without? Often, we perceive these things as necessities, though in all reality they are luxuries.

Teenagers also frequently view the entertainment-related bills as essential services. However, having this conversation with them helps them understand how to prioritize their expenses when they become older. Upon college graduation, many young adults might have to compromise some of their wants to pay for their needs. For young adults, this might mean sacrificing their Spotify premium account to pay for groceries, or a cable subscription to help afford rent. While it might seem like an impossible feat to some, it will be a lesson worth learning at a younger age.

Using bills as a way to benefit others

Lastly, when having these conversations about bills with our children, we use this time to help them see bills as a wonderful opportunity to help others.

As I explain in my order of money philosophy, the distribution of money should follow this order: give, save, invest and then spend. By instilling the value of giving back to others at a young age, your children are more likely to grow up to be charitable adults.

Talk to your children about how other families may not be as fortunate to have enough money left over after paying their bills each month to purchase enough groceries, clothing, school supplies and other essential items for themselves. Look for ways to make charitable donations that will help these families receive the necessities they need.

For more information on how to have important financial conversations with your children, please click here to contact me to learn more about my complimentary workshop, Raising Financially Fit Families, which I present to groups and organizations of all sizes.

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