money and children

Images I’ve always been a believer in boundaries.  They are important in life for raising kids and even managing a company.  Everybody needs them.  It keeps you grounded.  Parameters are helpful.  I am also a lover of fixed costs.  No surprises. 

This past week I was talking to my friend about how we deal with money and our kids.  She was intrigued.  Everything is a learning opportunity and money is certainly one that children need to learn how to manage as they become adults.  I have never been a fan of doling out $20 here and there because nothing is learned except that you have to continue to go back to the well. 

We have been on budgets for as long as I can remember.  My kids knew about our budgets since they were young and it should come as no surprise that they are now on budgets too. 

After graduating college, Fred and I traveled around the country for 5 weeks in a Toyota Corolla.  When our journey ended we moved to NYC to seek our fame and fortune.  We both had jobs ready for us.  We found an apartment and were ready to roll. 

We pooled our finances and got a joint checking account because I believe we saved fifteen dollars a month having one account.  Even though we had been together for a while Fred had never experienced shopping.  I will never forget when I came home after a small shopping excursion with a pair of new shoes.  Fred freaked.  He came from a family of all boys in a military household and shopping was definitely not high on his list.  I came from an upper-middle class Jewish household where new clothes were as essential as food. 

Fast forward a few years, Fred goes to graduate school, he comes back to NYC and we get married. While he was in graduate school, I was in charge of the money as I was the one making anything significant.  After his graduation Fred says to me, I want to take over the finances which was fine by me. What he did was brilliant.  He created a spreadsheet that we now refer to lovingly as Fredsheets of our income and costs.  He put us on a budget.  In reality, he put me on a budget that he could live with.  It wasn't that I ever went wild and put myself in debt because honestly I wouldn't be able to sleep as night but it was his comfort level.  As long as I stayed on budget, Fred could care less what I purchased.  If I came home with a fabulous jacket that ate up the entire month, he couldn’t be happier because he knew I would never go off budget.  I could carry over from the last month but never over spend.  I can proudly say that at the end of the year when we tally up the numbers, I always hit them. 

The budget has certainly gone up and down over the years, but I still stick to it today because it works. My friends always got a good laugh about the budget but it is perhaps one of the keys to our marriage.  I did not want to hide what I bought nor did I want to hear any shit about what I bought. We use budgets for everything. 

We now have the kids on budgets.  It is teaching them how to manage their money.  When each of them hit 9th grade, essentially high school, they got a debit card.  We deposit money the first Monday of every month in their account.  That is their money for the month.  It is used for entertainment and getting around the city.  Each kid has absolutely blown the bank when they started out but forcing them to suck it up until the next month rolls in has definitely taught them all a lesson. 

When Jessica turned eighteen, and she went off to college, we created a different budget. She also had some money from her bat mitzvah that she had invested which she was allowed to liquidate. We agreed on a monthly number.  When she got a bigger budget that truly covered everything from clothes, to entertainment, to life, it was exciting but not as easy as she thought.  Being able to manage her own life and money gave her independence.  At the end of each month, I see what was spent and send an account of the money on what can be carried over or not.  Emliy and Jessica are both on this budget plan.  The one thing that is not on their budget is travel and of course family vacations which is a luxury that we want to support.

This has absolutely taught the kids the value of a dollar and how to manage money.  When they begin to work and have a salary, my guess is they will fall back on what they grew up on and know exactly how to pay rent, buy clothes and still have money left for entertainment. 

I love the budget!

Comments (Archived):

  1. ellen

    My husband did spreadsheets also. I found them very entertaining but also useful.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Perfect description

  2. Meghan

    This is great. My husband and I are still trying to figure out our system. I love budgets and he’s never had one. I’m trying to convince him of how much more we can do by budgeting and saving up. I can also see myself doing this with kids when the time comes. I’m sending this to him. Thanks!

    1. Gotham Gal

      the beautiful thing about the budget is that you really do get more for the bang because you know where every penny is.

  3. ns

    When do the kids get actual paying jobs? Earning your own money is the best lesson possible.

    1. Gotham Gal

      our kids have worked through high school. unfortunately they aren’t paying jobs which are hard to come by these days. but they are learning about work ethics which is key.

  4. Erin Newkirk

    Such good advice! Maybe Fred should start a business on the side sharing these budget templates. I think Fredsheets is a fantastic name for this endeavor. 🙂

  5. Enzaliving tag line = entertaining and useful (this made me smile)what you teaching your kids is so valuable, 101 life skill

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. Natasha Gajewski

      i clicked thru… where are the sheets?  🙂

      1. Gotham Gal


  6. TanyaMonteiro

    sorry that was my post below, little tech glitch

  7. Rohan

    Great great story! 🙂 Thanks a lot for sharing! 

    1. Gotham Gal


  8. Mark Gavagan

    The First National Bank of Dad by David Owen is a great book about raising financially capable and independent kids. (I’m not affiliated with this book, author or publisher in any way) 

  9. Sunchowder

    Both of you are brilliant.  I love the idea of a FredSheet! 🙂

  10. Laura Yecies

    It’s interesting – most people see budgets as a restriction but it really give you freedom – when you’re within the budget you don’t need to worry

    1. Gotham Gal

      exactly which is why i love a budget

  11. LGBlueSky

    I could use a FredSheet — please share, with numbers redacted, if you can, as this would be a great place to start.  

    1. Gotham Gal

      I don’t have a fredsheet but here is the basic idea. Be honest about your spending. If you take out so much cash a week, don’t push yourself to take out less just make that part of your weekly spend and put it in the budget and then stick to it. After rent/mortgage, electric, phone (basic fixed costs) and perhaps what you want to put into savings each month, what is left? That amount could be the amount you spend each month for clothes, gifts, extras. Now that number is part of the budget. List the fixed and necessary costs first based on your monthly income and then work backwards. Over the years my monthly budget has changed based on income and the fixed costs of where ever we were living and of course kids. We would see what is left after those fixed costs and perhaps set a budget for vacation. The key is sticking to the realistic numbers you put on your chart.make sense?

  12. Dory

    Absolutely brilliant.

  13. TanyaMonteiro

    how about a daily worth post on the topic?

  14. panterosa,

    I am curious if you have gotten your kids on I started this year using mint after many hellish years of Quickbooks for business, and personal, which my CPA required. While mint doesn’t have features QB does (and quicken), and which they should definitely implement for year end reporting, the basic ease is worth it, especially within the month time frame.Interested to know how you have your kids tracking their budgets.

    1. Gotham Gal

      We had our kids on wesabe which went under and didn’t work that well. is great but I don’t use it. The kids have access to their credit card and banking information to track where they are monthly.

  15. Steven Kane

    i’m a huge believer in budgets, and also have maintained family spreadsheets for decades now (4 sheets – budget, giving, savings/investment asset allocations, cash flow)how do you handle the topics of “how much is enough?” and “how much will i get when i am out on my own”? do your kids know that their parents have enough to presumably give them financial support when they leave the nest? eg, as allowance or as bequests? how much transparency do you give your kids into the family true finances?

    1. Gotham Gal

      They know that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.They are well aware of our financial situation. We have discussed ways that we will be able to help them navigate their move into the adult world by giving them a bulk amount to use as a backstop for a life they have been accustomed to but that comes with the string attached that a job, a life focus is part of that. The budget from the get go will hopefully give them the tools to understand how to navigate that money intelligently. There will be conversations once that happens too. The transparency is absolutely there. Expectations are discussed as much as expectations on how you do in school.They should each do something that makes them happy if it is being an artist, a mailman or a store owner. It is about being responsible for your own life.

      1. Steven Kane

        makes sensewould love to get more of your thoughts on this, offline… over a drink or coffee next time i’m in nyc

        1. Gotham Gal

          lets do it.

  16. Keren

    Fred just linked to your post, so I’m commenting here. My friend and I just created a website around this idea precisely. Habits are taught at home and if you don’t teach your kids about money, they aren’t going to develop the habits you are hoping for. There are some fascinating statistics out there about this topic; I think this is the best one – 56% of teens attribute their knowledge of money management to their parents, BUT only 26% of parents feel equipped to teach their kids about basic personal finance. Our goal is to get parents comfortable talking to their kids and show them what they need to do for every age their kids are at. My partner is the money guru, I’m the clueless mom, we both work and are doing this on the side, so it has taken us FOREVER to launch, but it’s finally here. We hope it will help the next generation be smarter about their financial decisions and not make the mistakes that contributed to where this economy is now. We’d LOVE if you would check us out and give us some feedback (or buzz). Moms and financial services, how could you not love a business that’s about that – Early Earners. 

  17. William Mougayar

    That’s a wonderful way of putting that story together, and very inspiring. I came here because this was linked from Fred’s blog on the same subject. 

    1. Mark Essel

      I stopped by prompted by William’s comment after Fred’s link. Glad I did.I like the way budgets have worked well for your fam

      1. William Mougayar

        It does show they are totally synced up.

        1. Mark Essel

          It also shows that no force can come between a lady and her shopping.Michelle buys what she wants when she feels the need, but I have to nudge her as an admitteded over consumer. She’s more budget conscious than me.

      2. Gotham Gal

        they work and that is the key.

        1. Rhonda Morrell

           I have really enjoyed reading both links! I like the part about you not having to hear shit about what you spent because you were honest about it LOL!  Too many couples hide their expenses from one another and what you and your hubby have done together is awesome. I have one child and have taught him about the “budget” but he sometimes still (even tho he is now off and married…he still sometimes manages to get me to change my “budget” so that I can “help” him out when he is off budget LOL! )…..

          1. Gotham Gal

            it is all about the budget….it actually helps you use every penny wisely.women do hide stuff from their husbands like they don’t see the bills…what’s up with that?

  18. Pam

    Love this post! I can totally relate… I too come from a jewish family. My husband doesn’t. We started using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of our budget when we merged our finances. It keeps my husband from being terrified that I will spend all our money and it keeps me from feeling like I am not allowed to spend money how I want to. You are so right on as far as noting how liberating having a budget is. I never thought I would say that but it’s true!

    1. Gotham Gal


  19. John

    One of my favorite financial people in the world told me in college, “As a student you have something of amazing value.  You know how to live on nothing.  When you get a job, don’t just go crazy and spend it all.  Learn to live modestly.”Then, later he added, “The biggest value to living modestly is the gift it is to your children.  If you live modestly, then it leaves it open for them to do anything they want.  They don’t feel like they HAVE to become a doctor or a lawyer because they need to continue the high life like they’ve been living.”I think these relate well to budgets since budgets can really help you live modestly.