Two years ago, my husband and I were both putting ourselves through nursing school. As full-time students, we didn’t have a steady source of income. Realizing that our family of four deserved a break from the hectic life that came with being full-time nursing students while also full-time parents of 7-year-old and 5-year-old boys, we planned a trip. We knew we’d be on a tight budget for this vacation and that there would be little room for any extras. We were able to stretch the budget by choosing a destination within driving distance rather than purchasing flights. Additionally, visiting my brother and staying with him for two nights cut down our hotel costs. We also planned for all breakfasts to consist of inexpensive items we could eat in our room in order to limit dining out to only two meals daily.
As our trip approached, we considered which attractions and activities to book. We had several great options but knew that it wouldn’t be financially prudent to do everything on our list. We presented the options to the kids to get their feedback on their favorite ideas. Our children loved all the ideas and begged not to have to leave anything out. Although the kids understood that we couldn’t pay for everything, they were disappointed. After their repeated attempts to convince me to pay for all the choices, I flippantly responded, “You can pay for it if you want it so much.” I didn’t expect to be taken seriously, but the next thing I knew, my boys had combined their piggy banks and presented me with a total of $212 in coins as my oldest said, “Please book us that fun dinner where we get to see the knights joust.” My husband and I discussed the idea of taking their money to afford the dinner show. The kids seemed set on it. We made sure to thoroughly explain to them that their money would be gone; no takebacks. At 7 and 5 years old, both boys assured me that they understood and that this was genuinely what they wanted to do. With that, we booked 4 tickets to the dinner show courtesy of our children.
Initially, my husband and I felt guilty that our young kids would be treating our family to an expensive dinner event. Like most parents, ideally, we’d love to be able to provide anything at any time without regard for finances, but that wasn’t our reality. I’m proud of our kids for making a mature decision. We knew it would be an event everyone would enjoy, and because this was a memory-making experience, we believed it was worth having our kids pay for if they were willing.
Now, my husband and I both have stable, full-time jobs that we love. Although I was conflicted about relying on our kids at the time, I can look back now and say it was the right choice. They had no regrets. They purchased an experience that they’ll always remember (as opposed to some trinket or souvenir that would ultimately be cast aside for the next best thing). They treated us as well as themselves. They learned about saving money and making an informed decision to spend it. They learned that we’re always here for support but that there are some things we just can’t do. My kids still talk about that dinner show and have never once mentioned the money they spent.