Tip #5 Tell Your Kids the Cost of that Cell Phone

Jun 03

A cell phone is the gift that keeps on taking… money out of Mom and Dad’s wallet, that is. Most purchases for our kids, no matter what the price, are a single hit on the wallet.  Sometimes it’s painful, but once it’s done, there’s no need to think upon it anymore. The cell phone, however, needs constant payment – it tugs persistently on your purse strings.

For a frugal-minded mother like myself, that is reason enough to dismiss all my children’s pleas to get them their own cell phone.  My 11-year-old is most vocal (EVERYONE has one!)  Lest I appear close-minded, I have actually relented and given him permission to get one. As long as he pays for the monthly fee.  Since his single revenue stream is via Moi for a smattering of chores that he does around the house, I know the day of cell phone reckoning is like a galaxy… far, far away.

I know that many parents disagree with me.  Based on a study by The Kaiser Family Foundation, almost one-third of 8- to 10-year-olds own a cell phone. That proportion doubles for kids between 11 and 14 years of age. Most parents, likely, start out offering their child a cell phone for emergency uses only. And, that’s a reasonable thing to do. Others may provide it as a means of communicating to their child when the parents are divorced.  Also, very reasonable.

Whatever the reason, most parents will readily admit that their child has found many uses for their newfangled device above and beyond the basic 9-1-1 call.  Or the reminder from Dad that he’s doing pick-up today. And, as I mentioned earlier, unlike an iPod, a cell phone has a monthly price tag that can escalate rapidly thanks to Canada’s preposterously high phone and data rates.

So, here’s the scoop: If a parent believes his or her child is mature enough to handle the power of a cell phone, certainly that child is old enough to learn the financial basics behind it.

Whenever my son resurrects the big ASK, I remind him of the monthly cost.  I am happy to share my pain.  See – this is how much money the big mean phone companies take from Mommy every month for my iPhone.  In fact, it silences him pretty quickly.

Our kids are growing up in a society where monthly bills start younger and younger; and, I believe parents owe it to their kids to start preparing them for the financial hurdles ahead.  While I didn’t incur my first monthly expense until I was in university (what I fondly refer to as my Bell Hell years), some households are already paying close to thousand dollars a year on their kids’ phone bills long before those high tuition bills start.

I’d rather my kids go without every digital perk while they’re too young to know what they’re missing. Better for them to learn the true cost of this privilege so that when their day of independence arrives, and the expenses start piling up, they will already know what they can and cannot afford. They’ll know what’s privilege and what’s essential.

And, I hate to say it, but the smart phone is (gulp) not essential.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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