Should She Have Skin in the Game?

Colleen says her daughter is taking an eighth-grade trip for about $650. Should she contribute to this trip at all, or should Colleen cover the cost? Dave thinks it depends.

QUESTION: Colleen from My Total Money Makeover says her daughter is taking an eighth-grade trip for about $650. Should she contribute to this trip at all, or should Colleen cover the cost? Dave thinks it depends.

ANSWER: What we did was based on the fact that the kid is behaving and is walking out attitude, and at the eighth-grade level, that’s always a challenge. They’re getting good grades, and they’re not giving us fits at home—that kind of stuff—one of the rewards in our household was we would pay for things like this—an eighth-grade trip or a missions trip or something like that. However, we had other requirements on them that were draining their cash like they needed to be saving for their car. We would put these two things in the same sentence. “We’ll pay for this, but you need to understand the reason we’re doing this is we’re going to really expect you to pour on the coals because you’re going to have to pay for half your car.”

We matched for their car, so everything was focused on the saving side toward the car. Then we matched that and we really helped them set goals and pushed that. Anytime there was a discussion like this, yeah, we pick up the $650, you probably pick up your own spending money for the trip because you definitely have some skin in the game, and that’s based on three or four things. One is attitude. Two is grades. Three is the quality of your spiritual walk—how you’re doing here overall as our kid. Four is you’re going to be dumping money toward the car, so we’ve got you covered on this. This is your reward for all of those things. It’s not a sense of entitlement. That’s part of attitude.

I don’t recall except maybe one trip that we didn’t want a kid to go on requiring them to pay for it. Requiring them to pay for it pretty much ensured on that trip that they didn’t go. That wasn’t a major eighth-grade school trip though. Our kids did some trips from time to time—different things like that—that we funded as they were growing up, but it was all part of an overall view that they were winning in the other areas of their life. You’re not going to have problems in four different areas and then I’m paying for stuff. You lost all of that—you lose those brownie points.