I Need Lunch Money Mom
Teaching Kids How to Stay Within their Lunch Money Budget
by Lorraine Brock
It’s that time of year that as parents we will hear the weekly, “Mom, I need lunch money”, from our kids. Normally my struggle is teaching my kids to stay within our allocated budget by purchasing the basic plate lunch and not buying individual items. It is well known that buying a la carte costs more: hamburger $3, side of fries $1.50, scoop of fruit salad $1.00, two chocolate milks $2.00. What seems like the perfect meal for your child, becomes a $7.50 budget buster for one day.
An even more challenging dilemma as a parent is dealing with a kind-hearted child who gives his lunch money to a buddy in need or buys lunch for a friend who cannot afford it. Seven years ago, this was one of my sons. My youngest, who is now 16, cares deeply about helping those in need. One day I checked his online lunch account to see the balance and realized he had spent his $40 budget in three days. I was stunned. Surely my son could not have eaten that much food in such a short period of time.
I sat down and talked to him about the situation. He said honestly that kids he knew were hungry and did not have money to buy lunch. The frustration I had felt was replaced with pride in my son, however, his lunch account balance was still -$2.45.
At another time, he received $20 for allowance. A few days later I received a phone call from another mom letting me know that my son was giving her son money for food. I’m not sure if it was for groceries or for lunches, but either way my son was going to feed his friend. The question became how to find the balance between teaching my son the value of our money and allowing him to fulfill his need to give. I decided to find a solution that would allow us to stick to our budget and yet would help my son know that hungry students will be fed.
The first step was to pack a lunch from home for a while instead of putting more money into his lunch account. I then spoke to the Cafeteria Manager and was told that any child that is hungry can get a basic sack lunch even without money in their account. The family either pays the costs when they can, or can apply for assistance with meals. No child goes hungry. This was a wonderful opportunity to teach my son about saving money for our family and how our community takes care of those in need.
As a 16-year-old, my son does not give away his lunch money so freely because he eats everything in sight and still wants more. Teenagers in high school often borrow money from each other for extra food. It’s funny how it has changed from giving to taking, and because we did not tell him giving was forbidden, our son still possesses the desire to help those in need.
Talk with your child about their lunch allowance before school begins. Organize a plan to go over what a healthy amount of food looks like, what their weekly budget will buy, and what to do if their funds run out before the week is over. Setting healthy boundaries now will help ensure you won’t hear, “That’s not fair.” Consider having lunch foods and snacks in the pantry at home for days they must pack a lunch. Talk also about what to do when your child sees a problem or a need and wants to fix it. Offer to discuss possible solutions before saying no. Even better, ask your child to come up with some alternative solutions on their own. Enjoy these years of your kids saying, “I Need Lunch Money, Mom”, since soon it will be, “I Need Gas Money, Mom.”
Lorraine Brock is a professional organizer, family coach, speaker, and founder and owner of Get Organized! Get Organized! is a professional organizing company in the Dallas, Texas area. Get Organized! specializes in organizing and de-cluttering homes as well as implementing systems in the home for better family management. A popular media guest, Lorraine has appeared on Dallas’ two top morning television shows: Good Morning Texas and Good Day Fox, and has been featured on various radio outlets. She has been hallmarked in many local, regional, and national print and online magazines, such as the Dallas Morning News, The North Texas Kids Magazine, SheKnows.com, and Daily Candy Kids. To get more information about Lorraine, visit www.GetOrganized.ws.