Do You Have The Money Habits Of A Two Year Old?

Our two year old boy is so much fun.  He discovers new things and finds new interests every day, and he loves sharing them with us.

He’s also learned the words ‘want‘ and ‘need‘ and isn’t afraid to pull those out any time something tickles his fancy.  And when he ‘wants’ or ‘needs’ something, it’s a broken record until he gets what he wants or until we redirect his attention elsewhere.  “I Want Snack, I Want Snack, I Need Snack, I Need Snack”

You get the picture 🙂

You see that behavior and you automatically think “That’s just a phase.  Everybody grows out of it.”

Or do they?

Because I got to thinking about it, and it kind of scared me because many people don’t get out of that habit and that’s exactly how they get into overwhelming debt.

Think about this line of thinking:
“Wow, that TV is really cool.  I want that new TV.”
“That TV I saw earlier was awesome.  I really want that new TV.”
“Trying to watch the big game on this junky old TV is nuts.  I need that new TV.”

It’s “I want” and “I need” all over again!

The only real difference, in fact, is that the two year old often can’t get what he or she wants, but the adult can whip out a credit card and satisfy their want/need!

It just goes to show that the behavior of repeating “I want” and “I need” might subside over time, but the actual wants and needs are still there.  Controlling them is the biggest key.   Teaching our children the ability and the benefits of self-control is paramount to future ability to make prudent financial decisions, because let’s face it, the “wants” and “needs” are here to stay!

So while it’s a little too early to have the ‘stay out of debt’ and ‘spend responsibly’ conversations, it is eye-opening to realize that there are a lot of lessons that we’ll need to teach our children!

Have you seen little kids behavior that translate into habits that can carry over into adulthood?  Discuss!

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9 thoughts on “Do You Have The Money Habits Of A Two Year Old?

  1. It's okay to "want and need" if that's all it is. But it's the follow through that's you have to worry about. Learning that you can't just "have" something without earning it. It provides for the intro of goals, good work ethics, those value of money lessons. All those things that can eventually get you to follow through on your "wants and needs" responsibly.

  2. What about practicing the habit and discipline of delayed gratification? That's an idea we should all adapt. If you want it, attach it to a goal that will advance you (i.e. paying off a debt or a fitness goal). To know were you are financially, it helps to use a tracker too like wealth-e solutions by wealth-e soft ). If you input your data daily and keep it in front of you, you'll be more aware of your financial picture.

  3. Troppus,

    I think "habit and discipline" are two nice words, but when the doughnut is placed in front of me, both of these crumble.

    I'm a doughnut lover through-and-through.

    So, I believe a successful financial plan relies on neither "habit" nor "discipline."

    It relies on systems.

    A good plan keeps cash out of your hand and makes saving automatic. Someone on a diet stocks only healthy food in the fridge. A workout junkie reads only health magazines. I craftily choose not to stock doughnuts on my pantry shelf.

    None of these game-winning strategies use either habit or discipline (okay, I'll agree that after a while these strategies hopefully become a habit….). Instead, the system involves drowning yourself in tools that will make you successful.

    I think keys in the article are:

    – Don't carry the credit card.
    – Carry minimal cash.
    – Communicate often with people who also have frugal spending habits.

    Then your children will see successful habits at work. Sadly, they'll also never learn to love doughnuts. Sigh.

    Joe –

  4. I think I have spending habits of a miser. I am hooked on savings! My only indulgence is travel, but I use frequent flier miles for airline tickets. I really work on getting the most value for the money. It is very much a game. In fact my friends defer to me for putting together a trip.

  5. I have the spending habits of a soon to be millionaire who wants to retire at 40. My friends don't understand me at all.

  6. I am mocked for not living more for today. However, one person that makes comments like that the most went bankrupt recently, so not sure I should take her opinion to heart!

  7. Isn't having difficulty distinguishing wants from needs at the root of most financial problems?

  8. My husband has issues keeping his wants under wraps. The first couple of years of our marriage I foolishly thought that if we got him what he wanted he would be satisfied and just stop wanting other stuff. Hahahaha. Silly me!
    After nine years I've got him mostly figured out and when he goes off on a woe is me tangent I can re-direct him by discussing our long-term goals and all of the incredible opportunities we will have being financially independent.

    That said, I think it is extremely important to make a big deal out of money. When you start out in life with nothing, $100 seems like a ton of money. Once you actually start accumulating money that same $100 seems less substancial and you make less of a big deal out of spending it, and spending it, and spending it. But those 100's add up one way or another! If saving $100 is such a sacrifice for you, then spending it should be also! Keep a modest, humbled view of your money and it will return the kindness with a big payoff.

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