David Trinko: Accounting for how kids use their money

The conversations in our house recently have sounded more like the discussions inside an accounting department.

If our 16-year-old drives her sisters to the basketball game, would the tickets be an approved expense, paid for by our fictitious corporate holding company Trinko Inc.? Approved.

If this is considered a sister-hauling trip, will the household pay for the gas? Approved.

What if she stops at a convenience store to buy snacks for those same sisters? We need more information.

It’s interesting watching how young minds think about money.

Three of our four daughters have jobs and earn their own money. We’ll keep brow-beating that 10-year-old that she needs to start earning her own keep.

The 16-year-old is the queen of wanting to only spend her money on herself, which sounds fair on its face. It gets more complicated when she invites her sisters along on after-school trips for Slushies or ice cream that her parents don’t consider necessary or even wise, given what they do to dinnertime appetites.

Our 15-year-old, on the other hand, is very generous with her limited expendable income. She doesn’t believe we should pay for most things in her life. In fact, she’s absolutely convinced every expense could be the one that kicks our family into financial ruin and subjects us to life living in a van down by the river.

Our 22-year-old lives on her own, so generally we don’t hear much about how she spends her money. When we do, I usually make some comment about needs vs. wants, whether it’s out loud or under my breath.

I struggle when it comes to disposable income. Frankly, my family didn’t have a lot of it when I was growing up. There were seven of us kids, and our parents provided the necessities for us. There just wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in their budget for a lot of superfluous expenses. If we wanted to go to a sporting event, for instance, we’d spend money we’d earned or received as gifts. It’s just how it was.

In hindsight, I’m glad for that fact. It helped make me financially independent. I learned how to evaluate what I really wanted. It instilled work ethic in me, and I’ve had a job consistently since I picked up a newspaper route in my early teens, back when newspapers allowed kids to do that sort of thing.

Unfortunately for my children, it also makes me a tad miserly. In other words, I’m cheap. As my one daughter said recently, you only ask Dad if you want to hear no.

Fortunately for my children, their mother has veto power when it comes to financial decisions. She sees a bigger picture and a more kid-friendly way of looking at these expenses.

The good thing about all of this is our children will likely learn a bit of this from each of us and apply it to their own lives. Sometimes they’ll apply Dad’s penny-pinching ways. Sometimes they’ll use Mom’s generosity. They’ll develop their own money morals to decide when it’s right to lean which way.

It all balances out in the end when you’re a part of a family’s accounting department.


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.