By Marnita Coleman
Special to AFRO

When you are living on a budget, one way to manage your children’s appetite for entertainment and impulsive buying is to introduce what, in my house, we called the “f-u-n fund.”  The “fun fund” is money set aside for your children’s use, pleasure and discretion.

It bothered me when I would take the girls shopping and everything they saw, they wanted. Now,  shouting “mommy, may we have this? Mommy, may we have that?” is a kids thing, but by the time I would answer, they switched to asking for something else. It made me a little uncomfortable because sometimes I didn’t have a budget to get them the items they wanted. When this was the case, I did not want to discourage them by saying “we can’t afford that,” or “I don’t have the money.”

1949: This AFRO archive shows two youngsters, Joan Perry, 7, left, with Harry Sudler, 6, heading out to grab a milkshake after church.

Let’s keep it 100: I did not have a problem telling my children “no.” I simply disliked saying no because of lack of funds. I was still very careful to watch the words I used and I was cautious not to insinuate that we were broke. I chose not to have a negative confession, so, I tried to let them down easily with palatable answers like “‘not at this time, let’s consider that on the next trip to the mall, or let me think about it.” At the time, they didn’t know these were all code for there is no budget for that stuff.

Like every decent parent, I enjoyed giving my children nice things, which is why I felt some kind of way when I couldn’t. I sought the Lord for His wisdom on the best way to handle their impulse buying and desires for entertainment and outings. He gave me the brilliant idea of the “fun fund.”  

The fun fund was just that: fun money designated for the kids’ delight.  But, it came with additional benefits including teaching my kids how to manage disposable cash for entertainment purposes. It taught them how to save for the more important events and how not frivolously spend all their money as soon as they received it. The fun fund was used for trips to the movies, McDonald’s, and even checkout line impulses. It really didn’t matter what they used it for, the point was that it was managed by the kids and not taken from the household budget. They were empowered because of it.

The fun fund was a clear, plastic cookie-jar that sat atop of the refrigerator in the kitchen and we all contributed to it. It was placed where the kids could see it and access it at their discretion. When they wanted to hang out, I would direct them to the fun fund because it determined what they could and could not do.  

For example, when my kids wanted visit their favorite restaurant, but did not have enough for appetizers, entrée, beverages and dessert, they would decide amongst themselves to forego the appetizer, keep the entrée under a certain amount (under $10 dollars), drink water with lemon, and get a reasonably priced dessert (possible to share). And, they were mindful to keep a balance in the fun fund for other things that might come up.  

The fun fund is an excellent approach to teaching leadership, decision making, and budgeting to your children. Try it and let me know how it works at your house!

Marnita Coleman is an author and host of The Marnita Show, a parenting show heard daily across the globe.  For more parenting, log onto TheMarnitaShow.com.

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