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How to Say 'No' When Your Child's Activities Drain Your Wallet

For older children, and especially with teens and pre-teens, a discussion about the cost of activities should take place, Tayne says. Teens and pre-teens are learning that they have to work to buy things, and that's a good thing.

Learning that you have to earn money to spend money "not only teaches them the importance of patience and waiting for the things they desire, but also the concept of money, along with fiscal responsibility and accountability," Tayne says.

If you haven't already said "yes" to too many activities, it's a good idea to sit down with your child and explain to them how much money you're able to put toward lessons and camps in future, says Donna Tonrey, a marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia.  

"It is important for parents to decide the budget, then let the child know how many activities can be chosen. The decision starts with the parent. So if the parent has enough to cover two activities and there are three to choose from, the parents can help the child in the choice while making it clear there will only be two activities."

For parents who are afraid of putting their foot down when it comes to something their child loves, Tayne says it doesn't have to be a negative experience or conversation.

"The best approach is to empower your children by asking them to choose their top two or three activities that they wish to participate in, which will help you gain better perspective of which activities are a priority and which ones can be put on a waiting list," she says.

Parents can also look at any discussion about after-school activity spending as a chance to open a broader dialogue about limits and boundaries, Tayne says.

"We can't have everything we want when we want it. If children don't learn the virtue of patience at an early age, a parent could find themselves in a very difficult situation when that child is older and it comes time to say 'no' to a big-ticket item they are wanting," she explains.

No matter your child's age or the budget you're working with, Boyd-Soisson says that there's always a deeper message to be heard when it comes to spending money.

"It's a good lesson to learn that things that don't cost a lot of money can be the most enjoyable -- such as spending time with family."
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