What Kids Say About: Money Worries

People losing their jobs. Higher prices. Families struggling to pay their bills. It's hard to avoid the topic of money and the economy these days.

We asked more than 2,000 kids about it and about half said they were worried, at least, a little bit — 15% said they don't worry, but 22% said they worry a lot and 14% said they were totally stressed.

Nicole, 12, of Pennsylvania, wonders if her parents will be able to afford the mortgage payment. That's the money that must be paid each month if your family owns a home.

"I am scared that my neighbors might have to move. He lost his job," said Claire, 11, from Michigan.

DCB, 12, from Texas, asks: "How long will it continue?"

Most Kids Think It Will Get Better

It's a good question and one that's on the minds of young and old people alike. No one knows for sure, but here's what kids predict will happen next:

  • 26% say things will get worse
  • 46% said things will be tough for a while but will get better eventually
  • 5% said things will get better quickly
  • 23% said they have no clue because it's all so confusing!

How right they are that it's a complicated stew of stuff. There's the auto bailout, the mortgage crisis, crashing stock prices, and up-and-down gas prices — just to name a few ingredients. No kid could be expected to understand it or know what to do about it.

It's a good idea to talk with your parents if you're concerned or have questions about how these problems might affect your family. More than half the kids who took our survey had already discussed the topic with mom or dad. Some felt worse after the talk (17%), but nearly a third of kids said they felt better. About half felt about the same. Money is a tough topic for any family. There are always lots of needs and wants, and tough financial times mean hard decisions.

The good news is that our survey did show something very positive: Kids are willing to help! It's a good time to remember what you are — and are not — responsible for. Kids aren't expected to pay the mortgage or figure out your family's finances, but we think it's great that kids want to pitch in. When you do your part, you're thinking of your family as a team, which it is.

A whopping 81% of kids are willing to save money and spend less. Not just that, but many kids said they were willing to take specific steps. Three out of four kids (75%) were willing to earn extra money through babysitting or other odd jobs.

Kids Like Energy-Saving Ideas

Just as many kids were willing to go green to save green. In honor of those environmentally-minded team players, here are 10 ways to do just that:

  1. Turn off lights you're not using. Ask your parents to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last longer and use less energy.
  2. Turn off the water when you're brushing your teeth.
  3. When you can, walk or ride your bike instead of driving in the car.
  4. Unplug the chargers for your phone and MP3 player when you're not using them.
  5. Put your computer to "sleep" instead of leaving it on with the screensaver running.
  6. Use rechargeable batteries for your handheld computer games, MP3 players, cell phones, and digital cameras.
  7. Choose reusable travel cups instead of disposable paper or plastic cups.
  8. Take your own bags — preferably reusable ones — when you go to the grocery store.
  9. Drink tap water instead of buying bottled water. If you don't like how your tap water tastes, a low-cost filtration system could make a difference. Get a reusable water bottle so you can take it with you.
  10. Organize a swap among your friends. What can you swap? Books, toys, even clothes. It's a way for everyone to get something new without spending any money.

Looking for more ways to spend less and save more? Here are a bunch, followed by the percentage of kids who said they were willing to take that step. Some cost-cutting ideas were more popular than others, as you can see. Would you be willing to take a cut in your allowance? Hats off to those who were!

  • Eat out less often. Choose less expensive restaurants when you do dine out. (63%)
  • Help out more around the house so your family doesn't have to pay for services like childcare, lawn care, or house cleaning. (60%)
  • Pack lunches more often. (54%)
  • Skip expensive weekend fun and substitute cheaper activities, such as renting a movie, having a board game night, or going to a low-cost event, such as a high school football game. (51%)
  • Spend less on clothes and shoes. Visit thrift stores and swap clothes with friends. (47%)
  • Closely monitor your monthly cell phone minutes and texting limits so you aren't charged extra. (46%)
  • Organize a yard sale. (44%)
  • Reduce my allowance. (36%)
Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.