DEAR HARRIETTE: This summer, my husband and I went overboard on spending money. Between vacations, summer camps and overzealous back-to-school shopping, we have found ourselves pretty low in the barrel. Our children have been asking for new clothes and toys, and we are unable to deliver. We are focusing on keeping food on the table, the mortgage paid and saving again. How can I talk to my kids about having less money to spend in terms they can understand? They are elementary- and middle-school-aged, and they seem to think we have a huge surplus of income. -- Scraping By, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR SCRAPING BY: Financial adviser and author of "Do I Look Like an ATM?" Sabrina Lamb thinks it's important for parents to reveal to their children what the family household income and expenses are. She says that if you are not honest and open with your children, they will not understand what the family's financial reality is. I like the idea that you should show your children the family budget so that they can see in black and white how much money is coming in and how much is going out.
Your family may want to include a summer budget in your discussion so that everyone can see that you spent too much during the warm months and have to streamline now to recoup. If your kids see it plain as day, it will be harder for them to try to make demands that you cannot fulfill. Just remind your children that whatever you share about your financials is confidential, and you expect them to keep the family finances to themselves.