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Having Fun Without Spending Money: How to Help Kids Become Money Smart Series (Part 5 of 5)

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Having Fun Without Spending Money: How to Help Kids Become Money Smart Series (Part 5 of 5)

Jan Gamboa Ocampo


I have come across a very interesting article by Gary Foreman in the Credit Cards website. His article was actually in response to a question posted by a follower. The follower was confused as to where her money goes. She has a reasonable salary and thinks she doesn’t do that much shopping. She has also tried tracking her expenses for a month and didn’t see anything wrong.

Foreman acknowledges the fact that it can sometimes be really hard to understand our finances. The standard budget planning process starts at tracking each and every transaction. But turning that pile of information into something real and useful can be quite tricky. He further adds that the struggle isn’t caused by the data itself, but by our lack of understanding it – not so much on the financial level, but on an emotional level.

I believe this is true. Many of our financial decisions and purchases are motivated by psychological and emotional factors. Here are eight according to Foreman in his article Know the 8 emotional spending triggers. According to him, most of us spend to:

  • protect our image.
  • spend up to our income level.
  • achieve the emotional high of spending.
  • feel powerful.
  • satisfy our wants as soon as possible.
  • protect our standard of living.
  • overcome past problems.
  • convince ourselves of self-worth.


In this article, I will focus on the third one. Have you ever felt down and decided to cheer yourself up by going shopping? This is what others call ‘retail therapy’, the most popular form of emotional spending I believe. A stressful week at work, difficult interpersonal relationships or even financial stress could put you on course for a retail therapy session – or two! And this is backed by evidence. Do you know that research shows shopping actually increases the level of chemicals in the brain that regulate happiness – it activates our reward responses. However, the happiness that buying provides is usually short-lived, and the problems that result from overspending only cause guilt and stress.

I believe that we can help our children grow up to be rational spenders instead of emotional ones. Of course, this is no guarantee. There are a lot of dynamics involved in the psychology of emotional spending. When our children grow up and become more independent, they’ll be influenced by a much bigger circle of people – peers, media, social media, etc. The only thing we can do is hope that the foundation we’ve built for them will be strong enough to withstand changes brought about by these other sources of influence.

If there’s one thing I believe that can help children grow up to be rational rather than emotional spenders, it’s to let them experience fun without having to spend. A lot of people equate fun with eating out, watching a movie, shopping, and other activities where money has to be forked out. I fall into that trap too. When money is dwindling, I stay at home and mope around. But when it’s payday, my feet are lighter and my smile is bigger. I then invite my husband and son to the mall or to a resort. I hear my usual words, “It’s payday! Let’s have fun.”

Family Playing Board Game At Home With Grandparents Watching

I now realize that this, no matter how trivial it may seem, can have an impact on my son’s financial future. Imagine if he grew up thinking that we could have fun only when there’s cash on hand? No, I definitely wouldn’t like that. I want my son to rack his brains for creative ways to have fun without spending a dime. Now, this is easier said than done.

My generation had an easier time – we didn’t have cable and the internet then. Cartoon shows were only every Saturdays and for only an hour! So when the TV was off, we had to think of ways to entertain ourselves. So we went to the garden and played pretend. We went to the neighbour’s house and played. We rode on bikes and built forts. We played. But it’s an entirely different story nowadays. I don’t want my son to be a couch potato and spend the whole day in front of the TV or the computer. I believe he needs to engage in fun activities that will stimulate him. Go to the zoo? Since we live away from the city, we have to spend on gas, entrance fees, and snacks maybe. Swim in the nearest resort? Same thing – you still have to fork out some cash. Play in the local park? Yes, that’s possible but we have to wait until it’s not too hot. I’m thinking more along the lines of what he could do at home or somewhere near.

So I’ve collected some ideas together and compiled them in a printable you can download and use. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, put the cards face down and ask your child to pick one card. You and your child will have to do that money-free activity during the day.


To download the Printable Ideas for Money-Free Fun Activities

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About the Author

January G. Ocampo has been working in the education industry in the Philippines for fourteen years before she decided to work from home. During her time as an educator, she had been a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and eventually an owner of her own preschool. She currently works as a Course Facilitator and Administration Assistant for an RTO based in Perth, Australia. She is also a freelance writer who likes to do research on and write about topics that will make her a better wife and mother.

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