“Helping Kids Distinguish Between Needs and Wants”

This article is posted on www.fathers.com/dadcents which is the website for the National Center for Fathering.

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The Luxury Marketing Council of Florida says that luxury spending has seen an annual growth of 20-30%, where general retail spending has seen an increase of 5%. One Encarta Dictionary definition of luxury is “an item that is desirable but not essential, and often expensive or hard to get.” Translation: needs are up 5% per year, and wants are up 20-30%!

One of the most challenging traps for our children (and for us) when it comes to money is distinguishing between our wants and our needs. But if we can keep this straight, we’ll be well on our way toward equipping our children to make wise buying decisions for years to come.

ImageSo what is a need? Food, shelter and clothing. Generations of people have lived and continue to live with very little money—only a fraction of what most of us live on. That’s the baseline for where we start talking about needs. Living on very little money is not fun for anyone, and that desire for an easier life or the things other people have is what often gets people into financial difficulties.

Obviously, wants are things that our children would like to have. Usually wants come disguised as needs. I need clothes, and this name brand that is 50% more expensive will make me cool. Kids want to fit in with classmates. The problem is that the non-name-brand clothes provide the same basic benefit. They provide protection against the weather conditions.

I don’t have a problem with name-brand clothing, especially when I can buy the clothing at the same price as the generic or discount store option. By shopping around and being patient, I can often find name-brand items—Nike athletic socks or Polo button-up shirts, for example—just as inexpensively as comparable options that are generic. Also, it’s appropriate to account for the difference in quality during the decision-making process.

Because of advertising, peer pressure or a range of other factors, we too easily blur the lines between needs and wants. We convince ourselves that our wants are really needs. I guess I’m talking about us dads now. But our children are watching and learning from what we do. Raising our children with a healthy awareness of their needs and wants means addressing this question ourselves. We need to take a hard look at our financial decisions and priorities.

Is it wrong to have some things that are “wants” and not “needs”? Probably not, although that’s really a question that you, your family and your budget will need to settle between yourselves—and each family’s priorities and financial situations are different. But I will say that it’s dangerous to start thinking about pursuing things that are “wants” if there’s no bigger plan and a limit for your spending in place. It’s just too easy to go overboard.

So, like with many areas of fathering, your modeling is huge. To be more proactive in teaching your children about wants and needs, I recommend having regular conversations with your kids as teachable moments come around. Whenever they use the word “want” or “need” in reference to something, question them on why they used that word. Is it really a need, or a very strong desire? What likely caused that desire?

If your children can get a good grasp of the difference between needs and wants, it will be a big benefit to them for the rest of their lives. We can usually communicate the ideas pretty simply, but applying the ideas to real-life wants becomes very complex. So it’s vital that we’re intentional with this. And there’s no substitute for spending time with your children so you have those needed teachable moments.


  • When you shop for groceries or clothing with your child, find two items that are virtually the same except for the brand name. Talk about the difference in price and which one you want versus which one will meet your need, and what other factors (quality, fit, taste, etc.) affect your decision.
  • The next time your teenager wants a new pair of jeans or shoes, give him the money to buy a reasonably priced pair. Then tell him that he can keep any money he doesn’t spend on the item. This will allow him to weigh needs and wants, priorities, and many related issues as he makes his buying decision.
Monday, March 29th, 2010 Uncategorized No Comments

Teaching generosity!

Monday, shop January 18th, was a significant day for our family.  The significance came from the celebration of Martin Luther King day and the opportunities to serve our community.  Martin Luther King was a great servant to our country and community organizers have utilized that memory to inspire others to serve in his honor.

I was able to take my wife and oldest daughter to Manhattan to volunteer in some of their community activities.  We choose to help an organization that sends school supplies to kids in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The organization is called Help us learn…Give us hope.  We were able to pack about 50 boxes of school supplies to send overseas.

Before we began to pack boxes I explained to my daughter what we were going to do and what the supplies would do once they reached their destination.  During my explanation a big smile came across her face and her eyes opened wide with anticipation.  I was truly blessed as I watched the enthusiasm in my daughter as she helped me pack the boxes.

I really want to encourage dads with this post.  Did I do anything amazing that any other dad could not do himself?  No, I simply was intentional in helping my daughter learn about being generous with her time.  Since we had the day off from work and she had the day off from school it would have been very easy to stay home and play or do something else she would consider “fun.”

Dads, again I want to encourage you to look for ways to enjoy time with your kids and be able to pass on important lessons at the same time.  As I mention in my book Dad Cents, most lessons are caught and not taught!

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 Uncategorized No Comments

10 Principles of money to teach your children in 2010

Money has a huge impact on your children now, for sale later in life when they are adults and maybe even parents as well.  You have a tremendous responsibility that can effect generations to come.

  1. Ownership – Your kids understanding of their ownership role with money and possessions play a role in a how they treat their family and others.
  2. Managing – Managing is the active part of ownership.  Give your kids an allowance so they can begin to learn how to utilize the money.
  3. Trustworthiness – Developing trustworthiness in your children now will provide opportunity as adults.
  4. Accountability – Give your kids responsibility with money or possessions and hold them accountable.
  5. Generosity – Your children must learn to think of others with their money.
  6. Effectiveness – Your example in getting things done (being effective)so your children learn to get things done will be significant to your children.
  7. Faithfulness – Not only saying you believe something but following through.
  8. Efficiency – Teach your children to figure out the best way to get things done and invest their money.
  9. Disciplined – Teach your children to resist the temptation of quick pleasure versus hard work to attain a higher goal.
  10. Contentment – Teach your children to be happy with the material possessions they have.

Dads, decease the current trend is to take care of the earth but we have an even greater responsibility and that is to take care of our family.  Have a great 2010!

Monday, January 4th, 2010 Uncategorized No Comments

Year end!

God has continued to bless and cause us to move forward even in these challenging economic times.  We are striving to build savvy dads by turning the hearts of the fathers to their children.  This year brought two major projects to the forefront.  Beginning Savvy Dads Conferences on a national basis and completing of our first book titled Dad Cents.

“When your kids leave home do you want them to know more about money than you did when you left home?” is the question that I love to ask dads.  I always get the same response, “sure!”   I will then follow up with the next question, “What are you doing to make that happen?”  I am usually met  with a response of I am not sure, nothing or just a blank stare.  Every dad recognizes the problem but very few are doing much to solve the problem!   My book, Dad Cents, will give dads the tools they need to teach their children the biblical principles of money.

I could fill several pages telling you about the ways God made it possible to publish this book.  Let me give you one example.  Once we decided to self publish the biggest obstacle (in my mind) would be the finances required because  getting the book to completion would require $20,000.  I began to seek the funding but also work with the editor on the content of the book.

After 6 months of little progress in finding funding, and growing weary,  I received a phone call.  The person on the other end of the phone, who had no idea of how much was needed, told me they were interested in helping finance the publishing of the book.  Much to my surprise, they asked me if I needed $20,000 to finish the book!  At the end of October I received the first books from the printer.  To God be the glory!

This year we conducted two Savvy Dads Conferences one was held in Topeka and the other in Wisconsin.  God used both conferences to remind me of the significant needs of dads.  At one of the conferences a dad and son that attended together were both impacted by what they learned from Dr. Ken Canfield.  Another attendee was out in the lobby after the second Saturday morning session and I inquired if he was liking the conference.  He told me yes and that he was going over his notes because he had already learned more than he could implement immediately!

Dad Cents is the only book of its kind which equips fathers/parents to establish biblical concepts about money into the lives of their children.  The Savvy Dads Conference features the nation’s premiere speaker on fathering.  According to Gary Smalley Ph.D. and John Trent Ph.D. “No one is speaking with as much knowledge and authority on fathering issues as Ken Canfield.”  This is where we need your help:

  1. We need to get the book (Dad Cents) into the hands of dads and
  2. inform churches about the possibility of hosting a Savvy Dads Conferences.

We have several opportunities during this coming year with your prayer and financial support  to make this happen.  We have been approached by a national Christian television show that proposes to feature a segment about Dad Cents and Savvy Dads.  Another opportunity is to produce a Savvy Dads video conference that could be available to any church or home in our country via the internet.

Our ministry goals for 2010 include:

  1. Getting the Dad Cents book into the hands of fathers/parents
  2. Finding church partners to host Savvy Dads conferences
  3. To expand teaching opportunities for men via the internet

We need additional ongoing one time and monthly support but would like to expedite these projects as they would be over and above the regular budget.  To accomplish these goals will require  $20,000.  Would you help make this happen?  Please prayerfully consider a onetime, monthly, or quarterly gift to the ministry.  All gifts are tax deductable.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Burst my bubble!

Kablam! is the sound heard when a punch balloon, for sale like the one seen in this video, advice explodes.  We heard this sound twice over the last two days at our house!  My oldest daughter was responsible for both balloons popping.  On accident, viagra sale she successfully broke both of her sisters balloons.  She felt terrible both times the balloons exploded as she cried and was very remorseful for her actions.  I actually was watching her one of the times and they were both total accidents.  But once again, it was teaching time!

Whether or not she intended on popping the balloons, she was still responsible.  We have a family rule that if you break something, whether accidentally or on purpose, you pay to replace the item.  We believe in teaching our daughters to take responsibility for their actions.  Saturday morning we jumped in the minivan and made the short drive to Walmart.  We finally found the punching balloons (they are not in the toy department but instead are in party supplies.)  Since we had to ask for help in locating the balloons we had a Walmart associate with us as we discovered the balloons.  But as we picked up the bag of balloons it was very evident someone had taken one of the balloons.  The bag had a big hole and only three of the four balloons were still in the bag.  Fortunately for us this was the last bag in the store.

As we walked to the cash register I inquired to the Walmart associate if we  would be able to purchase the balloons for less than the $2.00 marked price since one balloon was missing.  I told her I would be willing to pay $1.00 and she accepted my offer!  Here is a copy of the receipt.

What a day!  Two lessons from one balloon popping.  As we drove home I asked our oldest daughter again why we purchased the balloons and who paid for the balloons.  She told me because she popped her sisters balloon and she paid for the balloon.  I then asked her if she would rather pay $1.00 for a balloon or $.33?  She told me $.33 and we discussed how I was able to negotiate with the employee because even though the product was not whole in our case it was acceptable.

I want to encourage you to be intentional about teaching your children biblical principles of money!

Sunday, December 20th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments


Benjamin Franklin said “Contentment makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”  Contentment is an interesting topic that few seem to have a grasp of.  Where is your level of contentment?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

The Grocery Store

My wife went out of town for four days and left me with our three wonderful daughters. We kept very busy while mommy was gone but inevitably we had to go to the grocery store. Why do I say inevitably? Well, you see, I am banned from going to the grocery store with my daughters. I am great at saying no to my daughters everywhere except the grocery store. I always come home with more than is on my list because of the prodding or eye batting of my beautiful girls. Mommy was not home so I thought, oh well, we can have a little fun.

I asked the girls what they wanted for lunch and they quickly responded with pop! “I want root beer” was the first answer and the other two quickly responded “me too, me too”. We made our way to the pop aisle to look for the root beer. My oldest daughter mentioned she wanted the root beer in the “itty bitty” cans. (Note: the “itty bitty” cans come in a six pack and each can is 8 ounces.)  So as we searched for and finally found the “itty bitty” cans I noticed their price. I quickly looked up and saw the price of the two liter of the exact same brand of root beer. My financial instincts told me it was “teachin’ time!”

This particular grocery story places the price per ounce on the price label for each product. I asked my oldest daughter to look at the price per ounce of the two liter and then the price per ounce of the “itty bitty” canned root beer. She told me that the two liter was 2.4 cents per ounce and the canned pop was 36.7 cents per ounce.  As she finished telling me the differences in price, (she is 7 years old) I could tell she did not understand the disparity.

Illustrations seem to be the best way to connect with my daughter so I jumped in to the teaching moment to imprint this situation on her ever forming mind.  I asked her to pick up the six pack of “itty bitty” cans and I picked up three 2-liters.  I simply asked her this question, “if you were going to spend $3.00 would you rather have the six “itty bitty” cans in your hands or the three, big 2-liters in daddy’s hands?”  Even at seven years old her response was immediate.  “I would rather have all of the root beer you have daddy!”

I want to leave you with this encouragement.  Spend as much time with your children as possible because teachable moments rarely can be planned, they just happen!

Shane Barkley
Author of Dad Cents
Friday, November 27th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Soccer and money


My 6 year old daughter started soccer this year and neither the coach nor I know much about the crazy game of soccer.  Growing up I played what once were considered the All-American sports baseball, sickness basketball and football.  As a new soccer dad I learned the games at younger ages are usually referred to as “herd ball.”   The first time I heard the name I thought to myself “this ought to be amusing”.  I quickly determined that this name was aptly given because every kid on the field wants to crowd around the ball and kick!  If you are ever distracted from the game finding the ball is relatively easy.  Look for the mass of kids and you are tracking the game once again with very little effort!

I have played a little soccer for fun, buy have watched soccer matches while in college and on television so I do have a pretty good idea of how a soccer match should be played.  But without having played soccer on a team transferring the knowledge in my head to the girls on my daughter’s team has been a real challenge.  During practice the coach and I try to give the girls an example to use in following our instruction.  Our biggest problem is actually showing the girls a good example.

Another challenge we face is explaining the rules.  For their entire lives the girls have been playing every game they know with their hands.  Now at six years old a game is introduced in which you cannot touch the ball with your hands.  Well, kind of.  If you are the goal keeper or after the ball goes out of bounds you can touch the ball with your hands.  A throw in is one of the times you can touch the ball and during the throw in you have to stand with both feet firm on the ground and throw the ball with two hands, yes hands, over your head to one of your teammates.  Try to explain that to six year old girls who have never played before!

Rules, rules, rules.  As I began contemplating the game of soccer and the difficulty we were having I began to imagine God looking at us.  As God’s children He has given us rules to use in the “financial game of life.”

We often wonder why our soccer team has such trouble following the rules of the game.  I had an “ah ha” moment as I realized how kids are different from their parents.  Our children do not know the rules whereas we know the rules of the game but do not want to follow the rules.  The game is to be played our way by our rules!

The “finanical game” is a challenge for everyone at any age, income or gender.  Jesus gives us instruction about being a good steward in the book of Luke.  We are to give to the poor, prepare for service, be readied at all times, faithful and wise stewards (Luke 12:35-48).  How are you following Jesus’ instruction? I look at that short list and know that I have failed in at several of those areas lately.

I want to conclude with a thought from Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required…”  Have you ever wondered how much is much?  If you have children, you have been given much.  So I ask you this question, “How are you teaching the “financial game” of life to your children?”

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments