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

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Horseback riding lessons, dance class and band camp may sound like great ways to get your child interested, engaged and out of the house, but extracurricular activities often carry a hefty price tag. If you're finding the cost of your child's activities difficult to manage, you aren't alone. Experts say it's not always easy to discuss the financial burden of such activities with your children, but it has to be done.

"The best way to say 'no' is just to say 'no,'" says Erin Boyd-Soisson, professor of human development and family science at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa. "Say: 'Look, we only have enough money for you to pick one or two activities to be in.'"

Boyd-Soisson says honesty is always the best policy, and parents should be upfront with their children that there are money concerns at play. Simply saying "You need to narrow down your list of activities" is a missed opportunity to teach your child a real-life lesson.

"Children can feel tension, even if they don't know what that tension is. It's better, in most cases, if they know the source of that stress. It might make them more anxious if they don't know why they have to eliminate an activity, because they have running through their heads any number of different, terrible scenarios," she says.

Also, being honest with your children about financial pressures teaches them that money is not an endless resource, Boyd-Soisson says.

"They learn about prioritization. They learn that you cannot always do everything. And, they can begin to think more on what their own abilities are, and what they most like to do. It teaches them time management as well."

If you feel your child is too young to discuss the financial impact their ice skating lessons will have on the family budget, that part of the conversation can wait, says Leslie Tayne, a debt management, debt resolution and bankruptcy avoidance attorney in Melville, N.Y.

"The best way to say 'no' often depends on the age of the child," Tayne says. "For young children, you can offer them alternatives so they feel like they have control; however, any alternatives you propose should be something you can afford to do."

Should your child resist any change to their activity schedule, you can tell them that you may consider the activity at a later date. Reiterating that "today the answer is no," and "I am sorry, but we cannot do that today," should work well with younger children, Tayne say.