Saahil Mehta, a decluttering coach in Dubai, believes in gifting his two children - Yuvraj, 8, and Alisha, 6, experiences rather than material possessions to celebrate special occasions. This could be in the form of a visit to a theme park or a staycation in a new hotel.
“As a result, their desire to buy things has reduced. This is our way of addressing their fundamental needs,” said the 40-year-old Indian expat in the UAE.
“I have been teaching them financial literacy since a young age so that they understand what is required and their desire for materialism goes down.”
The father also chooses to live by example and practise what he preaches. He only spends on experiences and does not lead a flashy lifestyle.
Gifting them experiences
One such recent experience was in December 2019 when Mehta took the family to visit the Indian city of Dharamshala where they spent time with underprivileged children in a school. This was an eye-opener for Alisha and Yuvraj, as they realised that what was normal for them was a treat for those kids. Mehta recalled noticing that the children’s uniforms, socks and shoes were in bad shape and they could barely afford education.
“They were sustaining themselves on charitable donations. For those kids, it is a blessing to be able to attend school. This experience taught my kids a valuable lesson of gratitude and to count their blessings. It taught them the life lesson of giving,” observed Mehta.
I have been teaching them financial literacy since a young age so that they understand what is required
During the holiday, the Mehta family donated lunch and stationery kits costing Dh5 per head to 250 children. This helped Alisha and Yuvraj understand the cost difference in schooling. “They are aware of how much we spend on their education in the UAE. The difference in costs helped them do a comparative analysis,” explained the father of two.
Payment for domestic chores
Back home, the kids are encouraged to do basic chores like making their beds, opening curtains, switching off the AC, etc. This way, they are taught that everyone has to chip in to keep the household running on a daily basis. When they do other tasks beyond the essentials, such as picking leaves from the garden or massaging the mother’s shoulders, etc., Mehta pays them a small amount (Dh10 for instance).
“We try to encourage the habit of earning in them. They realise that they need to work hard to earn money. I encourage my children to put all the spare change they earn in a money jar,” Mehta pointed out.
Once a year, the Mehta family undertake a decluttering exercise where they donate unused clothes and toys to the lesser privileged. “Since we practise this as a family exercise, my children are natural at decluttering and not amassing unwanted possessions.”
Pointing out a flaw in the education system, Mehta said children do not get any experience in financial literacy until they attend university. The father is planning to introduce the concept of a family bank to his children. “The fact that interest will accrue on an amount every year intrigues them,” he shared.
He is also keen to make his children aware of financial pitfalls such as spending beyond their means, excessive use of credit cards, not setting a budget, etc.
“For instance, they occasionally order movies on Amazon or Apple TV. Since all the transactions are done with a credit card, the kids don’t understand the concept of physical money being transferred. So, I have set a budget for them to spend on such needs. It’s up to them to use it prudently,” said Mehta.