Dear Dr. Tightwad:
Our kids are constantly telling us that unless they have a certain brand of sneakers or a certain kind of toy, their friends will think they're dorks. We want them to fit in, but sometimes we can't afford what they want, or we just don't want to buy it. What should we do?
A. If you feel this way, then don't give in to your children's requests.
When you were a kid you probably played the same extortion game: "Gee, Mom, I'll just die if I don't get a (fill in the blank)." But you survived and so will they.
After age 10 or so, children start to bear the brunt of peer pressure. But it's also important for them to get a sense of your own family's finances and values.
It doesn't hurt to give in on small things, or even on a few big ones that are really important to your kids. But no child should feel entitled to his or her own videocassette recorder, telephone, etc.
Be honest with your kids and explain why you can't afford something or don't choose to buy it. In fact, it may be more important for you to sympathize with their wishes than to satisfy them.
Eda LeShan, author of "What Makes You So Special?" (Dial Books; $15), a book for kids on how to deal with peer pressure, advises that you tell children you understand why they want to be like everyone else, but emphasize that they're going through a phase and that it's important for them to be themselves and do what's right for them.
Dear Dr. Tightwad:
My kids often get money as birthday and holiday gifts, and we're always battling about whether they should save it or be allowed to spend it. Whose side are you on?
A. I'm on both sides. If the gifts are substantial or the kids don't have any other source of income, it's OK to make them save a certain percentage and let them spend the rest.
If they already save part of their allowance or other money they earn, let them spend the money on something they like. That's probably what the giver would have wanted anyway.