Are Your Children Driving You to Make Impulse Buys?

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 16, 2021

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A mom playing with her daughter at a kitchen counter while the other mom dances with their baby in the background.

Image source: Getty Images

If you're not careful, your kids could end up dragging you into debt.

As parents, we're wired to want to give our children the world. But our desire to please our children can drive us into debt if we aren't careful.

In a recent CouponFollow survey, 38% of parents said they were very likely to make an unplanned purchase for a child. Meanwhile, 73% said they were moderately or very likely to make a purchase for a child on a whim. If you've been known to do the same, you could be setting yourself up for serious financial problems.

Innocent purchases can add up

As a parent who hates saying no to her children for reasonable requests, I can sympathize with the idea of wanting to make your kids happy. But busting your budget to make that happen is a move that could hurt your personal finances.

Too many impulse buys could cause you to rack up debt or force you to dip into your savings when you should be leaving that money alone for emergencies. And that's just not worth doing.

On my end, when I make impulse purchases for my children, it's not at their request. Rather, I'll see something I think they'll like or need and buy it, especially if there's a discount to be had.

But there have been plenty of times when I've been driving my kids home from one activity or another and we pass the ice cream store, leading to someone inevitably shouting, "Can we get some?" And I have a difficult time saying no to that. I mean, it's ice cream. It's not like they're asking for Ferraris.

But one month, I checked my credit card bill and found that I had actually spent around $80 on unplanned ice cream treats. That came as a huge shock -- and prompted me to rethink my budget.

Budget for impulse buys ahead of time

Nowadays, I actually have money earmarked each month for child-related impulse buys. What I decided to do was spend a little less on family entertainment to free up money for those random kid requests that can easily add up.

Instead of spending $100 to visit a zoo or museum as a day trip, my family now does one less outing like that per month. Instead, I treat my children to little things along the way, and this is a change that seems to be working for them. Frankly, they don't even notice that we've replaced one costlier outing per month with a free activity like hiking. And that's better for my wallet, too.

If you have a tendency to spend money impulsively on your children, you may want to rework your budget to allow for those purchases. It's hard to say no to your kids, and if you can afford to accommodate the occasional reasonable request, there's no reason not to. The key is to make sure you're not hurting your family's finances in the course of pleasing the little beings you love with all your heart.

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